An update on our activities over the past few weeks during our house-sit in Cazeneuve.
It’s been around three weeks since our last blog post, and we’ve been keeping busy, but not in adventurous ways that we feel are worth sharing more regularly. Our days are full with learning, activity and exercise, with the odd venture out to visit a local town.
Recently we had one such day-trip out to visit Agen, our closest city. First we swam a steady 2km in their wonderful 50m competition pool, before finding a spot to park on the riverside and walking into the centre. We passed under vast rows of pollarded plane trees set in the riverside park, their gnarled white branches contrasted heavily against the uniform blue sky, like arthritic knuckles reaching into the void. We wandered through tight medieval streets and the modern, wide pedestrianised centre, enjoying the sights and the buildings of Agen in bright sunshine. The cafés were bustling with people and we were immediately impressed with what the busy town had to offer.
One morning we decided on a leisurely cycle, a wide triangle on a voie verte taking in Villeneuve-sur-Lot, Casseneuil and Sainte-Livrade-sur-Lot. The air was a cold 4 degrees, and we wrapped up well before we headed up over the hill, a steady 2km long climb that led into a flat ridge cycle before being followed by a fantastic flowing descent of 5km. We picked up the voie verte heading north and arrived in the medieval centre of Casseneuil a few easy kilometres later. After a short explore, we headed south along the banks of the river to Liverade and through, back over the hill again to home. We later discovered on our return that we had lost our camera somewhere on the cycle, it having jostled its way out of a side pocket, unknown to us. After a thorough search of the house we concluded it was definitely missing, but outside had turned from borderline sunny to a grey, sodden deluge in that time, so we didn’t venture out to look.
The next morning we visited the Mairie in Allez-et-Cazeneuve and the Hôtel-de-Ville in Liverade to report our missing camera in the hope some kind citizen may hand it in. We also left a note at the central police station, but they had very little interest in our petite drama. After we reported the camera, we then ran the last 11km of the track we had cycled home the day before, in two portions, checking along the verge, ditches and hedges for any sign of it, but to no avail. We can only hope it was swept up by someone walking along the path before the previous night’s deluge and that they will hand it in next time they are in town (perhaps next Friday, on market day), but we’re not holding our breath for it to reappear. It’s always disappointing to lose photos of a good day, along with our well-used and loved compact camera.
We are passing our days in generally similar ways, with a welcome routine of reading, exercise and rest. We have a few hours of French most mornings. We watched the opening weekend of the Six Nations snuggled up with a few beers, content that both our teams got off to a winning start even if Ireland left it very late to nick it from the French. We had a not entirely awful go at archery in the garden. We played a few games of table-tennis and pétanque, had a few pool swims, a couple of cycles and runs, and have pottered in the garden, between rain storms. We’ve been visited by both le chien noir and la chienne rouge. Below is my (corrected) French homework story that tells a little more of how we spent our week, should you be interested. The dreaded green pen wielded by our tutor Rebecca did not get its fullest workout this week, so something must be improving in my French-feeble mind. Peut-être.
This week, rather than our usual Tuesday morning swim, we awoke to a bright, clear sky and decided to postpone for a day and undertake a long local walk instead. We drove a short distance to Lacépède and followed the marked trail out of the completely dead village, through sleeping plum trees and empty, ploughed fields. The path was thick with leaves and mud after the recent rains, and was difficult to progress on. Being so muddy underfoot made the hilly portions tricky and sliding, but we squished around 11km of lovely rolling countryside with no sign of anyone else. We reached a small reservoir with bird-watching huts and some interesting, colourful sign-boards describing the lives of local bees that we photographed to fully translate later in our next ‘French hour’. We arrived back in the village just as the rains began to fall, followed closely by a wandering dog who seemingly wanted to be our very best friend.
After one pool swim, we finally drove up and visited the medieval centre of the nearby village of Pujols. We had often looked at it from the comfort of the large Jacuzzi bath post-swim, but had as yet not ventured up the hill. We had left it long enough since our last beaux village visit to regain the excitement and interest of a new place, and were pleasantly surprised by its neatness and beauty. The sun appeared for a few moments, lighting up Villeneuve-sur-Lot below and the white stone façades of the ancient streets, giving it a wonderful glow. We saw the church, the covered marketplace, the detailed model of the town in the tourist office, the truncated once-circular well-stone now cut back to a semi-circle to allow vehicles to pass, the remains of the original ramparts and finally la porte des Anglais, the English Gate, named for the route the English soldiers fled along from a lost battle during the Hundred Years’ War. We passed through it too before making our escape from the frigid, icy air back to the car and home.
Recently, the days had been sharper, fresher, colder than before, with a deeper mud grey blanket of cloud spread across the sky. Twice we have had a light falling of tiny flakes of snow, forced out of the chilled clouds with obvious reluctance, not at all like the proper snow we have been reading about back in the UK. For a few quiet moments it was beautifully still and tiny white flakes swayed gently in the air, glistening with reflected light and looking quite magical. Then as quickly as they appeared they have gone, but the chilly, biting air remains. Several times we have stood outside for a few long moments reflecting on the changing moods of the days and weather, taking in deep red, moody sunsets, before scampering back into the comforting warmth of the awaiting boulangerie for some warming tea.