Summer 2023 at la gare de Sos…c’était magnifique…
Summer 2023 at la gare de Sos…c’était magnifique…

Summer 2023 at la gare de Sos…c’était magnifique…

Hello all and welcome back to the 2023 newsletters from la gare de Sos. We had a pretty full on, industrious season this year and, amidst the cleaning and ironing, the general maintenance and the August heatwave here, as well as a June flood, “we” found time was at a premium and some prioritising was needed. Mr. Green, who experienced this wonderfully busy summer side by side with his wife and has the photos to prove it, nevertheless, has a little grumble when he doesn’t get a gare de Sos newsletter drop into his inbox each month. I have tried to ignite his creative writing side with positively encouraging phrases like “you could bloody write it hun” but he holds William MacGregor School in Tamworth responsible for this deficiency in writing motivation. So to our third French summer of “It makes beautiful”, “We have hot”, “We catch sunburns” and our often used “Sweating like oxen” – literal translations of expressions & idioms for summer converstations here in France – what I really liked was when the clocks changed in Spring and we heard “Passer à l’heure d’été” = “passing into summertime” – wow – doesn’t that seem like a long time ago now? To those who shared it, enjoy the memories and to all our readers wherever you are reading, we hope you can indulge a bit in these photos, especially if it happens to be grey, cold & wet.

A few station exterior & interior pics, The Pool Area, Des Fleurs and over at The Pump House…sadly, children, we have to report that the avocado has gone to inflatable heaven.

Lee has been scouring France for some affordable rolling stock for the long term garden railway project here and we headed off to Brittany in mid-June to la gare de Gouarec to see a little narrow gauge tourist railway between Gouarec and Bon Repos, a transport network which disappeared in 1967. Lee had been communicating with the French owner, Christian, for a while about his plans for la gare de Sos, (fortunately this chap speaks excellent English after exchange holidays in the UK as a youngster and he knows his railways) and he thought he may have some rail, carriages & a loco that might interest us, so the camper was duly packed up & off off we went. Here’s some pics of the tourist train set up, followed by the camping & sight seeing in beautiful Brittany. We are considering the purchase of the green Diema German built loco from 1963 that spent all its working life on a peat farm in Ireland before ending up at Gouarec for the last fifteen years. Lee was very impressed with the air cooled German engineering – the loco started up first time and sounded splendid. The cost of transportation is a big factor in our decision though.

And here’s some pics from Beautiful Brittany….the southern coast at Damgan, inland at Gouarec by the Nantes – Brest Canal and at our friends railway station at La Chapelle Pouilloux -L’origigné in Deux-Sevres, who also have a garden railway. Thanks for a splendid lunch that day Deb and the enormous bag of cherries! The Nantes-Brest Canal has Brittany’s section of EuroVelo route 1 alongside it and it would be an amazing cycling trip; we certainly saw plenty of cyclists while we were there in June and the campsite was right next to the canal towpath – tranquil, very pretty and cyclists were well catered for, and at 7.50 euros per person per night with gloriously hot showers. The campsite at the coast, right next to the beach, was a tad noisier with beach parties starting around midnight each night – just as we got our heads down in the van! Lee & I swam in the warmest Atlantic we’ve ever experienced – it was warmer than our pool back home and a far cry from our chilly dips in the Atlantic in Cornwall.

I forgot to mention that Lee & Paul made good use of the new workshop and winch to fit new roof rack on our camper that has better secured our roof tent – the old rack had a right bloomin’ rattle. Notice the tool board has been populated with more tools but what’s that big gap for? For the tools yet to be bought of course!

And so to “work” – we started welcoming our summer guests and had a great week with the railway gang from March, Ely & Cambridge…Daphne got lots of fuss and spot cheeky Clarence in the window of room 102! Many meals shared, a bike ride for bread from Sainte Maure, cards in the evening and a fabulous wine tasting trip at Domaine de la Haille at Montréal du Gers. Your wine is safe here Ang & will be put in the fridge for your first glass of chilled white when you arrive in 2024.

Tracey’s friends arrived at the start of July and we visited Eymet in the Dordogne and gave a vegan restaurant in Condom a try – “L’1 pour Tous” – for any visiting vegans and vegetarians we would recommend this place – a nice friendly welcome and a creative chef. A very rare find in SW France where duck reigns supreme on all menus.

And then it was time to head into the magical Pyrenees mountains for the 2023 tour de France. The van was re-stocked and we found a great little municipal campsite at Arette. It was a bit damp, the air was fresh, the landscape verdant and there were fewer fans around staying at the foot of the big climbs – the col de Soudet and the Col de Marie Blanque instead of wild camping further up the cols with the crazier fans. We were able to see the tour at 2 locations on stage 5, at Aramits in the morning and at Arette in the afternoon, while Adam Yates was wearing the yellow jersey and before Mark Cavendish crashed out. We spotted them both. Tracey rode a short sprint section up and down hill on her old bike before they closed the road off – news of my new bike later. We got to see a flat stage 7, just an hour away from us at Grignols, as the tour was heading into Bordeaux – that day was ridiculously hot at 36 degrees – how do they do it, we were in absolute awe, as always, as our feet were sticking to the melting tarmac. This same weekend, we lost a dear friend in Shropshire and sat quietly reflecting on the plans we were making earlier in the year for a visit to us in France – we feel a bit helpless across the miles when we can’t be there for friends in need and so as we watched the mountain tour coverage back on TV we had thoughts of another hill, The Wrekin, where Nick grew up we and toasted our pal and thought of Lisa.

OK, so we love watching cycling and we’d love to do serious cycling ourselves but we just don’t have the fitness. We live in a valley bottom which means we have one of three steep hills to climb if we want to do a ride out other than the railway line. We “ummed and ahed” for a long time about electric bikes – Lee wants something sturdy looking but Tracey wanted something really light weight that can be ridden just like a normal bike but with pedal assist for the hills and voila…Tracey has this from Italy, Lee is still researching his perfect e-bike. Spot the really cool battery. I absolutely love it – no gizmos, just a battery level indicator and it gives just the right amount of zoom for getting me up the hills, after that, I just pedal like normal, with a big smile, instead of a grimace. Happy pootling is back on.

The Summer Night Markets were so lively, colourful & just fabulous this year and we ventured to Francescas, Mezin and to Frechou as well as our Wednesday night bash at Sos. The food on offer, the wine, the music & dancing created an amazing ambiance enjoyed by all ages. The whopping plate of lamb couscous at Francescas was delicious. The karaoke, I admit, was a big mistake but it’s the wine!! And the wibbly-wobbly dancing at Frechou – yup, the wine! The guests that experienced La Peña Baiona (A French rugby tune) have probably got the earworm still stuck in their head and we’ll never forget all those crowd surfing children being passed through the air along a line of adults sitting on the floor – we were expecting something like the “oops upside your head” moves, not infants flying through the air – what larks at Sos. It’s a real shame when the night markets come to an end because it signals the start of the end of summer but what a summer it has been. Thank you to all the summer guests for visiting our old railway station and supporting our lovely region – it really does contribute to the economy here and keep our little crumbling but irrestistibly charming villages alive. We haven’t fogotten our September visitors – Autumn newsletter to follow. “We’ll” probably move to a seasonal newsletter now but, if you’re interested, we do post updates on our “stationvacation” facebook page – ( hope that link works – I can’t for the life of me, turn it into one of those FB symbol buttons)

Some guests enjoying themselves immensly in the pool at la gare de Sos and out and about locally – the hammock that we strung up between the catalpa trees was a hit this year with the young uns, as was the (snigger-snigger) AVFC flag! The trip on the Tourist Train from Nerac to Mezin has been experienced by 3 lots of guests this year – it only runs in the summer months but seemed to be well supported this year and we’re pleased to see this – it’s the line that Sos was on, back in the day, when the tracks continued on from Mezin to us. When Lee & I started visiting this region in 2003, there were still grain trains using the line to Mezin. It really could do with a bit of vegetation management as you’ll see from the photos further down.

Chemin de Fer Touristique du Pays de l’Albret, gare de Nerac, avenue 19 mars 1962, Nerac ( note to guests – this is a cash only tourist attraction and was 16 euros for an adult return, 10 euros for children under 12)

A selection of other local photos – some courtesy of guests here so thank you for sending them on to me – a BBQ and band in Sos village square – oh my days, look at how much food they provided – a great night with friends. We found a turtle swimming around the pool one morning, where it came from we have no idea – we scooped it up and let it out into the drainage ditch. We also had to scoop out a small snake with the BBQ tongs! The moat at photogenic Fources, the fountain square at Eauze, flowers in bloom at Montreal, a meal on the platform, Lee eating, the hay baling done at la gare and, of course, the pets…toodle pip.