Le Tour de Sos at la gare de Sos!
Le Tour de Sos at la gare de Sos!

Le Tour de Sos at la gare de Sos!

It’s late on the last day of April as Tracey is toiling on the keyboard, wondering where to start with this month’s news.  We’ve just had an amazing day in the village with Sos hosting our very own “Tour de Sos” – a whole day of Team Time Trials for Juniors, Women & then the Men’s racing and lots of merriment and sloshing back the rosé has taken place. I know that April has been very busy & productive at la gare de Sos and I know that I ate half a chicken at lunchtime – everything else is a bit of a blur so sorry if this news is a bit jumbled up.

Le Tour de Sos

Here’s the photos from Sunday 30 April – we had great fun and the organisation of the event (called Chrono 47) was fabulous, all volunteers, standing all day at the barriers where roads were closed, and folks decorated the village as if le Tour de France was coming through.  We met up with friends to enjoy the racing, cheering on the teams and, in the process of being very loud, we met a 21 year old English racer who has moved from a Sheffield Cycling Team to cycle for Team U Charente-Maritime – you heard his name here first – Adam Mitchell.  I’m sure when he pulled on his lycra suit & streamlined helmet on Sunday he didn’t expect to have a fan club of middle aged women from Yorkshire, Shropshire and The USA hollering his name and clapping in support, in rural Gascony.

This has made us very excited for Le Tour de France which comes very close to us on stage 4 and stage 7 this year and with only 2 days climbing in the French Pyrenees, we need to start planning our trip to the mountains, ay ay yippee!

Weather, Visitors & Visits

So the pool temperature has steadily climbed throughout April and is now a comfortable 24 degrees – when we find time to enjoy a swim, it’s been a real tonic.  Our heating is off in our Warehouse and it stays around 19 degrees indoors but the end of April has brought sticky & muggy weather with sunshine and showers.  We’ve had highs of 29 degrees during the month and no frosts like last year which has helped the Spring flowering – everyone with wisteria in their gardens has the most fragrant & abundant blooms at the moment. We need the rain to bring the water table back up, following last year’s drought, and to wash away the pesky pollen dust which always comes in April and turns everything yellow.  We have learnt our lesson and don’t clean the windows or the outside furniture and pool glass until it’s all over, nor do we put washing out on the line.  The pool wasn’t that warm at the start of April when Tracey’s sister and children arrived for a week’s holiday at Easter but the sun shone every day and cool water doesn’t put kids off a swim does it.  They also enjoyed a local accrobranche centre where they climbed trees and zip wired about a forest for a couple of hours – Cap Cauderoue at nearby Barbaste, a bit pricey at 20 euros per child but it really is an exciting challenge and the young nephew can’t wait to return to do the Parcours Noir – see the pics below. In the Summer, there are all sorts of other activities too, archery, canooing, pedal carts, mountain bikes – https://cap-cauderoue.com/

See our bike ride to Poudenas where you can now do a circuit of the free outdoor gym, with views of the chateau above – what a fantastic spot to do some exercise. A lovely family holiday where we all had some relaxation time and ate far too much Easter chocolate.  We introduced our niece to the films Amelie, Chocolat, The War of the Buttons and The Bourne Trilogy in the evenings and she took home a Joanne Harris and a Robert Ludlum book from la gare de Sos library – we were encouraged to see a young ‘ un with a love of reading and impressed that she wanted to read an actual book too. Happy Reading “M”.

Then Lee went off into the Auvergne region with our friend Paul, just as the weather turned wet & windy, to spend 2 muddy days digging out some narrow-gauge track.  He got a good deal on the price but he had to remove it from the seller’s garden and then transport it back to Sos. Fortunately, he’s met a fabulous young chap, Vincent, who runs a local engineering firm and has a grab wagon. He agreed to undertake the long trip to collect the rails and the wagons and here’s the photos of the delivery to la gare de Sos and of Lee & Paul grafting in the rain – look at the contrast in the weather between the two regions. Vincent even insists that we speak English so that he can practise his – sometimes, we’re left shaking our heads at peoples’ helpful attitude and feel so privileged to live amongst exceptionally amenable people (with the exception of the administration department for trailer registration – we’ve conceded defeat – anyone interested in buying an excellent UK Ifor Williams trailer, get in touch – See the photo, it’s piled with the sleepers for the eventual laying of track here – Clarence is not included.)  Notice how narrow the lanes were in The Auvergne – his lorry was wider than the road but none of this posed a problem to him – top man.

Don’t mention the Trailer

Lee had a visit from a retired colleague who was holidaying in his fabulous VW Camper in our region – it was lovely to see Lee reunited with a work colleague and he loves giving the guided tour of la gare de Sos. We had a lunch together, with a local red wine and Tracey’s homemade fruit tart, sharing French, Welsh & Scottish touring adventures and they brought us a Bara Brith – come again soon PSJ!

We had another visit from our other nephew who has just finished University – he left his dissertation until the last minute and was still typing it up when he arrived here – I won’t type the words that his Uncle was saying but what a relief when he finally pressed the SEND button, until the wifi dropped out and we all had a little panic,  but it finally got submitted in the nick of time – “The Effectiveness of Bamboo Joints to Withstand Cyclic Loads Produced by Seismic Activity” – Honestly, how we mustered up the patience to listen to the sagas of bamboo laboratory testing and how we actually engaged in a bamboo conversation, I don’t know. We look forward to his results in a months time and if anyone wants a graduate civil engineer on the payroll, he’s looking for a job for approx 12 months before doing his Masters. Anyway, we had plenty to celebrate with him over his ten day stay and he helped us with one or two jobs and fortunately he was there when Lee fell 3 metres from a ladder…..yup, another accident in the accident book at la gare de Sos – not the users fault though, a failure of the aluminium extendable ladders – one minute Lee was on the ladder, half in the roof hatch of the old toilet block, passing insulation to Owen, next he was on his back on the solid concrete floor, his leg trapped between the ladders which had scissored his leg.  Another trip to Condom A&E where he was told by a very apologetic nurse that there may be a bit of a wait and that they were very, very busy – the information board informed him that there were 6 people in front of him! He was seen, x-rayed and diagnosed with a crush injury, no broken bones thankfully, within 2 and a bit hours.  Incredible service.  It’s a pretty bad crush to his ankle and lower leg which has been getting blacker and blacker since the accident – he’s on ice packs and cooling alcohol patches for pain relief but, as you might expect, he hasn’t stopped working.  I was talking to Vincent about this accident and told him that I had ordered some two way radios so that we can call each other if ever one of us needs help – he wasn’t sure what I was explaining so I role-played a “Come in Rubber-Duck” scenario – “ah, you mean Talkie-Walkies” he said. We had a good laugh about the English saying Walkie-Talkies and the French saying it in reverse.

See the photos of the garage project, on the last leg now – the laundry room is built and just needs finishing – grouting the metro tiles and plumbing the garage toilet back in, the garage floor is painted, the hatch that two or three of the motorbikes will be hoisted through is complete, the wonderful Revo lamps are installed as well as a new motor for the roller door. The photo of the rockwool insulation in the old toilet block was taken by Owen 30 seconds before Lee’s head disappeared downwards. Tracey has been uber busy preparing The Station and The Pump House for paying visitors and, as the yellow pollen dust has subsided, realised that the windows in both buildings needed a good clean. I wasn’t expecting Mr G to be to heading back up a ladder, but here on May 1st, International Workers Day Off, we were both cleaning windows, inside and out, Lee going up ladders – Tracey reluctantly footing the bottom step – International Idiots Day more like!

Le garage and Laundry Room nearing completion

Outgoing & Incoming Skies

See the picture above of the outgoing sky at Bristol Airport and the incoming sky taken at the same time here at la gare on 17th April – a lovely week of weather for Owen until Tracey decided to take him into the mountains for a change of scenery and then, well, we could have been in Wales.  You take a chance in the mountains in Spring with the weather but it didn’t stop us from having an amazing dry hike along an old railway line from Lourdes to Pierrefitte Nestelas – 20kms of gentle incline walking and it gave him ideas for proper hiking holidays in the Pyrenees – this was just a little taster and we did it all by public transport – The bus from Sos village at 09.25 in the morning to Pau cost us 2.30€ each! Then we took the train to Lourdes, beautifully scenic as you follow the Gave de Pau, a fast flowing torrent of a river originating in the mountains at Gavarnie. A quick dash through Lourdes to pick up the railway line walk and we made it to Pierrefitte Nestelas, a little mountain village at the head of the Cauterets valley for 19h00, a great walk which would have been fabulous on bikes – next time – and all the way getting closer to those snow capped mountains.

The following day was damp and we had time to spend in Lourdes and Pau – Lourdes was very wet, humid and rammed with pilgrims; you couldn’t get anywhere near the grotto or the mythical waters in The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.  This is a town of BIG faith and enough plastic souvenirs to rival Blackpool. I guess you have to have the faith to feel something meaningful in Lourdes – if you don’t bring your faith then I don’t know if you would find it here.  Lots of other random photos of Owen’s stay at the end of this newsletter – we visited the cork museum in Mezin, yes, a cork museum – (bamboozled by bamboo and then confounded by cork), we rode the bikes along our local railway line to Mezin and ate in a little tea room ran by two delightful ladies who could not believe that we wanted to eat outside in April, we walked the local railway line with Darren, the hairdresser, and Daphne, we had the best homemade burger with sweet potato fries in Pau, drank our flask of tea on the Boulevard des Pyrenees in Pau and visited Condom hospital!

We had both acquired our spiritual top up from the hike into the tranquil, monumental mountains, the fresh air, the scenery, the cascades, and abundant nature all around us, especially the vultures & kites as you get closer and closer to the Hautacam & Cabaliros mountains and just taking some time out to walk and talk & think about those huge glaciers that formed this incredible landscape.  My one take-away was the young care-givers and attendants – their dedication to pushing the sick, feeble and frail in their wheelchairs, in the rain, from their accommodation to the Sanctuary and back again was humbling- I want to believe that folks find their healing and comfort here and I guess that anything that humbles your soul reminds you to be thankful – a little prayer to help us all along –

“St Bernadette, priez pour nous” (and for all those who fall off ladders……… pray for them too)

The Cork Museum in Mezin

Meals with the Nephew, the last one, the steak in our local Bistro Sotiate, he said was the best. Forgot all about the gourmet crisp sandwich I made him while hiking!

Bergerac Centre – 5 minutes from Bergerac Airport – the flights from Bristol cost £17.99 each waythe 10 day car-parking charge cost twice that, what madness.

Out & About – railway line cycle, Condom River, Mezin, The Free Funicular railway and Boulevard des Pyrenees in Pau

A few Spring shots, deer here again , on the cleared embankment and the Station Pets – Daphne currently has a limp – her front left paw / leg – probably a trip to the vets coming up

And Finally, I promise – answers on a postcard please to Lee – What on earth is this…….

à bientôt

Lee & Tracey