Happy 2022, January News from la gare de Sos
Happy 2022, January News from la gare de Sos

Happy 2022, January News from la gare de Sos

Brrr, Janvier, il faisait froid!  January, it’s been cold.  Colder than last year but very little rain, just 3 damp days all month.  Definitely sunnier at the start of January, some grey days towards the end – quelle horreur! There were some days when the cold fog in the valley didn’t lift at all, others started in minus figures but then the sun was shining by midday and the sky was gloriously blue & stretching blue for miles around until the sun dropped behind the trees, opposite the platform, around 5pm-ish.  One day, well, evening actually, Lee even wore long trousers! Our lovely railway lamps are on a timer to come on at 6pm but it’s already staying light ‘til nearly 7pm so we can add “alter the lamp timers” to the job list. And what a long list it still is.  Read about The Pump House progress and future plans for more improvements here and what we get up to when we’re not up to our elbows in sanding or painting or burning rubbish.

The first damp day of the year was Saturday 8th Jan so we decided to have a trip out in the car, details to follow, and to partake in Tracey’s favourite thing, a car-picnic. Years of Tracey’s 70’s childhood were spent having car picnics, with Nan & Grandad passing “paste” sandwiches out of bread bags to the back seat, followed by a fondant fancy or a slice of Battenburg.  These simple pleasures replaced in France with brebis filled croissants or a baguette torchon with rillettes (and of course, she’s now allowed to sit in the front).  We also take our flask of tea when it’s cold and often stop at our bakers enroute to see what delicious little gateau might be on the counter.  This month we have indulged in several “galette des rois” – flaky puff pastry cakes filled with sweet almond frangipane – not a bad substitute for a Mr.Kipling Battenburg.  Fabulous on the palate, shocking for the waistline.  I think I mentioned this last year, just watch out for the little plastic charm, le fève, hidden inside, that will shatter brittle teeth!  Rambling over, back to the trip and the reason for it.  We have both recently read a book about the resistance in this part of France –

“Moondrop to Gascony” by Anne-Marie Walters –

“On a cold, moonlit night in January 1944, Anne-Marie Walters, just 20 years old, parachuted into southwest France to work with the Resistance in preparation for the long-awaited Allied invasion”

It was raining, we’d worked hard all week and so we sacked off the idea of working over the weekend to drive around re-tracing Anne-Marie’s pedalling and finding the memorials that have been erected to honour those involved in the resistance in this region.  By the light of a full moon, agents of The Specials Operation Executive parachuted into Nazi occupied Europe – what chuffin’ courage! We were both reminded of Tracey’s Nan’s tale about the blackouts during the WW2 bombings of Birmingham and how, after her piano lessons, she had to try to find her way home in the dark, stumbling off pavements and how scary it was, saying that she would pray for a “moonlit night” to guide her home.

Anyway, a little less adventurous, our trip took us to Castelnau sur l’Auvignon via Francescas.  Anne-Marie was a courier for the resistance here, usually travelling by push bike, so we took the roads that she pedalled carrying her messages or radio equipment, francs and even explosives.  In Castelnau, there was a huge memorial and lots of information boards – see the photos below. We loved it, having just read the book, to see the places described, to see where the SOE hung out and stashed their armaments was thrilling and emotional – brave, brave people. 

And talking of bravery on a much, much lesser scale, Tracey thought that she had been brave, going out for a walk on a Sunday with Daphne, with gunshots ringing out around the valley – In fact, we both just thought that the last shot sounded like a bazooka rocket launcher heading for the station – not sure we’ll ever get used to these Wild West Weekends when the hunt syndicate is out & about – wonder what carcass is being hauled onto the bull bars ready for barbecuing later? I’m sure we are ridiculed for wrapping Daphne up in a high-vis vest and a flashing collar but we don’t want to get shot and thanks to David Attenborough we’re pretty devoted to our pets and the wild animals too. We sit quietly in awe when the deer come and we’ve seen several lately, around the back of the pool house, gentle, sprightly and frolicsome.


In health news, Lee’s lacerated finger has healed over but the feeling and movement isn’t back completely and he says that it’s always numb & cold – see the photo of it against the blue sky below.  He’s squeezing a tennis ball in the evenings as a strengthening exercise, but an aggrieved Daphne thinks that all tennis balls belong to her and wrestles it from him.  And we are gradually working out what we can and can’t claim for via our french health card for free – most standard prescription items are free and Lee ended up contributing about 30 euros for his treatment – the efficiency of the whole process from the A&E care through to xrays, surgery and the aftercare, ’twas peanuts.  The quantity of dressings that we were supplied with after the op has stocked our first aid box to overflowing and, “fingers crossed”, (those who are able to anyway!) probably won’t ever be used.

In travel news, we’ve had a couple of lake trips this month too, lovely walks with Daphne on thoroughly sunny days – anyone who likes fishing lakes is spoilt for choice around here, within half hours drive away.  See the pics to follow. Lac de Clarens at Casteljaloux is like a version of Center Parcs in the summer – a sandy beach area with access to lake swimming and a host of other activities, like zip wires across the lake, zip wires through the trees, pedalos and other sporty things.  This time of the year, it’s quiet, calm & peaceful and a great place for a dog walk and picnic.  The other small fishing lake is fabulous too at Castelnau d’Auzan and you won’t see anyone there in the winter, except, it seems, Tracey, Lee & Daphne.  There’s an outdoor swimming pool here too, open in the summer months.

Remember the storm last year that blew up our tv?  We finally got to go to Auch to collect the repaired Sony TV and combined that with a nose around Auch cathedral and then a film set village called Lavardens for another car picnic and a stroll.  The majestic staircase in Auch is worth seeing, photos in front of D’Artagnan obligatory and the cathedral is enormous with some impressive stained-glass windows. Standing in front of the cathedral’s two towers and hearing the bells chime at midday was grand, especially as we seemed to be the only souls around and had the sight and sounds all to ourselves.


Work on The Pump House continues, we’re on the kitchen now.  Tracey sanded the stairs and banisters and wax-oiled them, they look pretty special.  Lee and Paul completed ceiling repairs and painted the downstairs in “Elephant’s Breath” – a warm mid grey colour that appears slightly different depending on the light – sometimes it has a hint of coffee-ness about it and other times a very slight lilacky-ness.  See Lee on the gator taking the rubbish away to be burnt.  We still have a lot to do to get the kitchen in place and we have started renovating an original clunky industrial sliding door with two cast iron solid wheels that slide the door along the rail.  Then we have all the downstairs wooden window frames & doors to sand & paint inside and out.  Then we can think about furnishings and sorting out the patio area and probably a new parking area before our first guests arrive, phew!  We’ve hard pruned the catalpa trees at the side of the station and the fruit trees at The Pump House.

Locally, the village has had a real boost with the opening this month of the village restaurant, Le Bistro Sotiate, below, after changing ownership and being closed for several months.  We’ve had one delicious evening there, discovered a new local red and will be visiting that vineyard asap.  We totally recommend the Bistro, with a plea to visitors to have a drink in the bar first to help support our little bar in Sos. To have the bar and now a great restaurant on our doorstep too, we’re very lucky and passionate about supporting both. 

A while back I wrote about how scared I was of the fish stall at Sos Wednesday market but I am pleased to report that I have now tried two different types of white fish – Merlu and Limande – both delicious and both so easy to pan fry after dipping in a bit of seasoned flour. Fish without bones is “poisson sans arêtes” and it took me a while to grasp what the poissonnier was saying to me, hearing “arrête” which means Stop, not “arêtes” and was puzzled at what it was that I was doing that he wanted me to “Stop”, looking all around me and down at Daffers, frowning in confusion and general panic, holding up the queue. This is no problem in rural France, nobody tuts or shuffles closer and everyone seems to respect your time completing the transaction. You might want this phrase as well though when you’re at the fish stall or at the butchers buying a chicken “enlever la tête” – take off the head!

We have had our first advert in a publication called Rail News and are very happy to be receiving enquiries about holidays here.  The pandemic has been unsettling for us all with regards to travel but anyone seeking somewhere quiet and private, away from hustle & bustle, la gare de Sos offers a nice clean holiday rental with lots of exclusive private space to share with family/friends in a low populated region of South West France. As it stands currently in France, you do need proof of vaccination to access bars & restaurants – we’ll keep readers updated with this situation. Shopping in the outdoor markets is great fun and you could survive here quite contentedly using the local facilities that we enjoy here in Sos. We can’t wait to share this place with previous guests and new ones and will be checking out train options and flight schedules to report for anyone interested.  It looks like the earliest Saturday route with Ryanair to Bergerac starts at the end of March from Liverpool and then from early June from Bournemouth. It looks like Jet2 have Saturday flights from Birmingham, Manchester, & Leeds/ Bradford all into Bergerac from the end of May.

So, it’s still chilly as January draws to a close but our phones are promising lots of sunshine into February and who needs sunshine anyway – the Sapeurs-Pompiers (local firemen) have just arrived with their calendar – oh, do come in, s’il vous plait, said Tracey – It’s heating up already!!! Thanks for reading, best wishes to all and see you with an update at the end of February folks.

Lee, Tracey, Daphne & Clarence (who hasn’t had a photo taken recently because all he does is sleep in winter – usually on top of the clean washing basket)