September, the gateway to Autumn and a month of reunions for us….
September, the gateway to Autumn and a month of reunions for us….

September, the gateway to Autumn and a month of reunions for us….

Bonjour mes amis,

 September, the gateway to Autumn and a month of reunions for us, started warm, got warmer, then settled into a jolly nice manageable temperature each day with pleasantly cooler evenings and then, “wham”, on Saturday 24th Autumn arrived!  The dreaded leaf picking season is nearly here and as I look outside the Warehouse window, the plane trees are shedding their wretched crunchy leaves which are piling up on the grass and around all the doors. I wouldn’t have such a downer on them if it wasn’t for Inspector Green insisting on collecting them all up.  I’m sure I wrote the same last year and will moan again next.  Wait till he gets his track down, I’ll be on a 24/7 “Leaves on the Line” roster during Autumn.  A couple of nights the temperature went down to 5 degrees – quite a shock to the toes – and whilst it’s not coat weather for us Brits in France yet, the long sleeves and the cardigans have come out of the wardrobe (and one of us, wore socks in bed!) The locals are well wrapped up for Siberia already. Mr. Macron wants us all to be cautious with our heating in light of the energy crisis and a large proportion of French, according to the local press, are in favour of limiting temperatures in public buildings and businesses as well as in their homes – I think they are asking us to limit the temperature to 19 degrees. We’ll get through September without the heating on but not sure how long into October we’ll hold it off – the wind is definitely Autumnal and we have showers and grey skies as I type but interspersed with blasts of sunshine when the clouds open up. See the yellow Autumn crocuses that are in front of the Station and will eventually spread and spread right into the grass verge, where Lee will be mowing them down. And look at all those plane tree leaves which we will eventually be raking up (can you hear my disgruntling?)

Next photos were the very start of September, the last local evening market at Lavardac.  The family staying in The Station from the UK joined us and with help from our Belgium friend supplying a table and chairs from his camper van, we all managed to sit together and enjoy the atmosphere, the food & drink & the addictive churros.  This was the last summer fete and it was well attended, they even ran out of the very decent duck fat chips – quelle horreur.  The entertainment was mainly line dancing which is very much enjoyed by les Francais.  Apologies if this plants an ear-worm but they all go crazy over a song that we sing as “oh, What a night…. late December, blah-blah sixty three”..…..and so on but they sing a French version “Cette Année La”.  I’m fairly sure it’s a British or American original (Big collars, wide flares, perched on stools – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons?) but you’d never think so the way the French version is belted out by all with the ability to form sounds – the British contingency did their best to sing/shout the “original” version anyway with a formidable, yet fruitless, determination to be heard. See the same family photographed in Fourcès, after some of us were brave enough to get the push bikes out and cycle 10 kms there and 10kms back and this trip involves serious hills.  The big boys took the motorbikes for a spin and met us there for croissants & coffee sitting outside in the circular “square”, a lovely day and a big Thanks to The Edwards Clan.

We then welcomed our first guests to bring a pet on holiday with them – their beautiful Hungarian Vizsla, Niamh, joined our friends Sean & Mary from the UK to stay in The Pump House.  We don’t permit dogs to stay in The Station but they can join the family when staying over the road in the old pumping room.   We were all having a meal together in Fourcès, (again) when the familiar BBC alert notification could be heard pinging inside bags and pockets. A couple of minutes later after a lot of swiping up, swiping down, glasses on, glasses off, the diners at the Auberge in Fourcès were aware that Queen Elizabeth II had passed away.  She was toasted with a Pousse Rapière at our table and, back home, the flag was shook out, raised and lowered outside la gare de Sos.  Daphne was pretty good with another dog around and Niamh was wonderful on all our walks and at the restaurants.  Thanks to Mary for accompanying Tracey on a visit around the amazingly preserved Cistercian Abbaye de Flaran, which houses permanent and temporary art collections and hasn’t particularly inspired Lee to want to visit.  See the photos – while we were wandering around, a young girl, also looking around, spontaneously started singing something choral – it sounded amazing – imagine the sound with a whole choir singing in there. There’s also a photo of the BBQ in use at The Pump House on the patio and photos of the most delicious dessert, a lime cheesecake, at The Bistro Sotiate in Sos, plus drinks at Nerac, a pizza at Poudenas and a grand picnic with glasses of Normandy cider, so good that Lee is seen swigging it from the bottle. We ate pork pies with a flask of tea after wine tasting at Chiroulet, sat behind L’eglise d’Heux, admiring the view and picking a bunch of sunflowers that were still in flower. We made the vets appointment for Niamh to get her worm treatment and paperwork stamped before their return trip to the UK – a bit of a faff, but do-able. A great week catching up with friends and enjoying the dog walking.

Another set of friends and some new customers made epic train journeys from the UK on 10th September – one couple travelled from Penzance, overnight on the sleeper to Paddington, Eurostar to Paris, a taxi dash across Paris from Gare du Nord to Montparnasse and then a direct train to Agen via Bordeaux.  The other couple took the alternative Eurostar route via Lille, travelling form the North East of England, with a change at Bordeaux, avoiding the Paris transfer. That’s three sets of visitors recently that have made the trip by train and it’s something that we’re keen to promote.  If anyone is interested in the train journey to Bordeaux, Toulouse or Agen, the latter being the nearest SNCF station to us, we can pass on our guests experiences of the best routes / trains to book etc.  We also want guests to know that everything is here to make travelling light easy – towels for the bathroom, towels for the pool, a washing machine and drying & ironing facilities, dressing gowns, soap, loo rolls and flannels.  We’re also happy to shop so that late arrivals have food in the fridge and wine waiting.

Another load of photos – taking our friends out and about to eat and drink – the local Floc de Gascogne went down very well – a sweet aperitif made from the regions grapes and blended with young armagnac.  See Larresingle – a small and beautiful fortified village – called the little Carcassone of the Gers – with thick stone outer walls, magical courtyards and medieval houses – if someone from the 16th century came back to Larresingle, they wouldn’t know they’d been away – another film set location that’s certainly worth a visit. Thanks Mr & Mrs G for a great week, and especially for swimming club – ’twas great to be back in the pool for a daily swim, and that photo of Daffers is wonderful. For the benefit of any future train travellers from the SW of England, Mr & Mrs G left here around 8.00 am and were home at Penzance before midnight, with the kettle on.

Towards the end of the month, before Autumn arrived though, we were finally able to welcome Lee’s parents to la gare de Sos.  Frank & Bridget were delighted to be reunited with Daphne and Daphne was delighted to see Granny & Grandad.   They were so happy to see the Station at last and couldn’t believe that they had the whole place to themselves to rattle about in. They enjoyed seeing our lovely village Sos and sampling some French cuisine and local produce like sheeps cheese, eaten with juicy sweet Agen prunes and drinking the local “Floc” as mentioned above. They had lovely weather to boot.  In Mezin, we popped into the café for an aperitif – Lee’s Mum was facing the Boulangerie, looking at their signs and asked us “What on earth is Pain Surprise?” See the sign pic – there are so many like this in France – Plaisirs de Pain , Grand Pain, Mini Pain etc etc – we had a good chuckle anyway. Note the photo of Daphne getting a sneaky chip under the table at Les Contes d’Albret, a traditional farm auberge where Bridget enjoyed duck breast and the rest of us had beef bourgignon with probably the best chips around here. The bottle of red wine is from one of our favourite vineyards, Chiroulet, and it’s just perfect to drink now that it’s feeling Autumnal. All our visitors that we’ve taken to Chiroulet have enjoyed the wine tasting session and hopefully enjoyed their wine purchased back at home with pleasant memories of this special bit of France.

We managed to squeeze in a last summer BBQ at la gare, with our French & Belgium friends, The International Eating Club – one last outdoor gathering before we all hunker down indoors to play cards, watch films and quaff liberal amounts of red wine throughout the Autumn.

This last week of September, Lee & Tracey have both had medical appointments to keep – we’ve had something medical on every day.  On Monday, on the way back from Auch, we called in to the hilltop village of Saint Puy to look at the chateau Mon Luc where the tasty Pousse Rapière drink is sold.  Drat, we forgot, it’s Monday, everything is closed.  Despite not getting a peek into the chateau, the village had amazing views all around – we watched a very moody sky, felt the cold wind on our faces and got out our flask of tea and watched the landscape for a while.  The Gers department seemed to have suffered more than our department during the heatwave and the landscape was looking parched, yellow and a bit bland to be honest, no green grass in sight.  The twisty, turny route towards Condom and then home, took us via a tiny little hamlet where we discovered a chambre d’hotes (B&B) on a working farm with a lovely, terraced restaurant – one to try next summer.  They raise their own buffalo for cheese and other dairy products which we would have purchased, but it was Monday and it was closed.

We were hungry by now – “let’s call in at that new Indian takeaway at Condom”, said Lee.  A splendid idea, so we did. We thought we could smell chicken Korma as we approached the statue of the four musketeers……alas, non, It was Monday, it was closed!

And finally, two pics of the Station pets….Clarence checking the temperature before going outside and a plump Daffers profitting from a blast of sun on the gravel drive.