What not to do!

Yesterday we had to go to Bergerac to pick up the hire van to go and fetch our boxes from the boat in the north of France. Plan was to pick up van, pop to other side of town to pick up a couple of blow up mattresses and then hubby and eldest would head north. The 10 minute trip turned into a logistic nightmare as where we needed to go was blocked off by Tour de France road blocks as the race was arriving in that afternoon. We eventually headed out to the ring road to try to go around town rather than across which ended up with us actually on the course for a bit with people already installed everywhere. I decided to take a photo of one of the decorated bridges as it was coming closer. Bit of an opps moment as I didn’t notice the Gendarme (policeman) until I’d taken the shot (on the right) – oops!


They eventually set off an hour late only to get blocked again and having to turn around and take a different route once they hit Perigueux! Needless to say it was a late arrival! The good news is they have cleared customs, collected our gear and are on the way home 🙂

Amazing food in the Dordogne from our March 2015 trip!

As I mentioned in the post about our house hunting trip in March we have been wowed by the quality of the food in the Perigord and I though some of our finds during that trip deserved their own post!

Joël and I manage a lunch out on our own one day while house hunting. We found a great little restaurant in Issigeac called Casa Del Seyrat, they did a fantastic lunch menu and even though we arrived at the very last moment to be served the owner and staff were lovely and had a great chat with us as we were leaving when they heard we were here to find a home!:

For entrée I had a lovely selection of crudités (salad bits) and J had a soup. For main we both had the steak with an incredible red wine and shallot sauce, carrots in a cream sauce and of course frites!

For dessert I nabbed the last piece of the tart made with the local (ish) ‘prunes de Agen’ (J had to manage with a gorgeous chocolate mousse which I was too busy to take a picture of!). It was amazing!

At the end of another long house viewing day trip across in the area around Sarlat we were driving back along the river and decided to stop for dinner.  There is an amazing village in the rock overhanging the Dordogne river called Beynac-et-Cazenac (look it up it is really amazing!).

We wandered up the hill and found a restaurant called ‘La Petite Tonnelle’, they had a set menu for 2 courses for just over 20 euros so we decided to try it as it looked lovely. I’m so glad we did, it was the nicest meal I’d had in a long long time. We all decided to go for the main and dessert, except for my mother in law who chose the fish soup starter (which I forgot to take a picture of!). The boys had the confit de canard (confied duck) with a pesto, white beans and puree (artichoke maybe, I can’t remember), I was jealous when it came out and hoped I’d made the right choice with mine:

Hubby and my mother in law had the veal which looked divine as well:

I chose the lamb and I was wowed over when mine came out:

The little pyramid was filled with spiced butternut and a red capsicum / pepper sauce it was really really delicious and the lamb just melt in your mouth.

Our little man wasn’t eating yet but enjoyed being out with us!

The wall of the restaurant was the wall of the cliff with water seeping out right next to us – very cool!

The meal finished with divine chocolate fondants – a picture says 1000 words!

It is a shame we didn’t get any photos of the village in the light but this was our walk back down the hill from the restaurant back to the car:

We also enjoyed all the local produce and cooked up a storm! One night was one of my all time favourite meals, magret de canard (duck breast) with green beans and potato gratin – delicious!

And my MIL made a lovely homemade tarte tatin which we had with crème fraiche:

And finally with the arrival of spring it was a real pleasure to stop one Sunday and not go house hunting and have our first meal of the year outside:

I did manage to put a few kilos on between staying with my MIL in the UK and the month in France but thankfully have got them all back off over the summer!

House hunting in the Dordogne – March 2015

A quick recap of what we have been up to this year. We left Oz at the beginning of February and flew into the UK so we could stay at my mother in laws while we found our feet and bought a car. After three weeks we headed off to France for a house hunting trip (with grandmére in tow to help with the kids).

I wanted to find somewhere central to stay and we found a lovely gíte mid way between Perigueux and Bergerac. If you are ever in the region Thomas and Marion were just lovely and the gite charming and really well equipped http://www.gite-mamet.com/ . If you are there on a house hunting trip or off season it has a lovely wood burner as well as electric heating and they are happy to do long winter lets. It was perfect for our house hunting which took us all over the Dordogne, we clocked up about 2,000 km in the month we were there.

We saw some lovely properties, some out of our price range and a lot that were in our price range not habitable enough for us. We wanted a property that needed a lot doing that would therefore be affordable and that we could make our own but with at least a kitchen / bathroom / 2 bedrooms habitable even if basic. I had a list of what we needed from our new French home and it was something like this:

  • On the edge of a village or hamlet just outside a village
  • Village to have all the basic amenities, primary school, shop, baker, bar as a minimum
  • Not too far to bigger towns
  • Garden big enough to have veggies, chooks etc
  • Preferably a detached property

We started feeling a bit overwhelmed and worried when we hit the final week of our house hunting trip at the end of March and still hadn’t found anything. I went back through all the properties that I’d discounted (mainly due to price). There were a few in and around the same village so I made some appointments in the final week. One agent who showed us a property that we loved the location of, in a hamlet on the edge of a village (with all on my above list and more!). The house wasn’t right for us (no where near enough stone for our liking!) but the location was amazing, great views, set among houses on decent blocks of land (half to a couple of acres), only a kilometre out of the village, I even said to J I’d be tempted to consider the house due to the location. As we drove away there was a lovely old stone barn next door with gorgeous stone work and garden all around and I said to the other half ‘I wish that was for sale’, it was ticking all the boxes! When we got back to the gite I checked our appointment for the next day and I couldn’t believe it but it looked like it could be the same building. We met the agent the next day and sure enough he drove us to the same barn but all the photos had been taken from the back hence why we weren’t sure when we first saw it. Things slowed at this point with negotiations to buy it as it was slightly above budget and the agent went away for a few days and we went back to the UK for our family holiday with my family. It looked like it wouldn’t happen but after a couple of weeks of negotiations from afar we managed to come to a deal!

The trip itself in March was great, we had a lovely time with the kids and the MIL, I particularity loved having a wood burner again and sitting by the fire with my crochet!

We visited the amazing Château de Castelnaud with it’s museum of medieval warfare, the long climb to the top of the stairs gave us an amazing view:

One of my favourite parts of the castle were the lovely herb garden with 4 different areas for aromatics, medicinal, and not sure what the other two were now, that they had found plans for and recreated. In the centre was an almond tree which was just coming into blossom when we were there.

I also loved the kitchen which was set out as it would have been back in the day:

The boys favourite part was all the to scale medieval trebouchets and other war equipment (Louis enjoyed running around with the wooden bow we bought him!):

Of course we couldn’t resist a photo opportunity at the end:

I’m not sure the baby quite knew what was happening bless him!

Other days out included the famous caves at Lascaux with their amazing cro-magnon cave paintings, some of the oldest in the world. During the month we also had some amazing meals and lots of yummy French bread, cheese and patisserie and enjoyed spring arriving while we were there (it was bleak and freezing when we arrived but by mid March we had some lunches outside with the temperature getting up into the 20’s!). It was such a pleasure being back in France but also discovering a whole new area with it’s own amazing culinary and historic wonders! A successful trip all around which found us our new home!

Whale Watching – September 2011

Oh dear my blogging is a little random and I’ve obviously not kept up with it as I’ve just found this post in drafts!!!

Mum came for a visit last week back in September when we were still living in Hervey Bay and we had a girly day and went whale watching – it was fab – we went on a nice boat that only had about 40 people on it (as opposed to the big one we went on last time that had over a 100 but was great for toddlers at the time!). I thought I’d share some pics of the day.

Here was one of the first whales that we saw:

Mum and baby whale:

Here is the first time I saw whales actually breaching – there was a clipper ship that sailed over to see what was going on, it was very cool and came quite close. The splash was the whale hitting the water – was so hard to get the timing right and I’d stupidly forgotten my camera and only had my phone!:

Luckily we had a great time with a lovely couple from Sydney who were kind enough to send me a great shot that they took with their fantastic camera, I can’t stop looking at the photo and remembering how magnificent it was to watch in real life:

The boat itself was a big cruiser – you could easily and happily live aboard with a great kitchen (sorry mum – galley!), bathroom, 2 en-suites to the main bedrooms, big living areas and great decks fore and aft.

If you ever get a chance to go whale watching please do it is good for the soul!

Looking back to May 2011 – Fraser Island – Day 1.

We’d never been over to Fraser Island so when we heard James and Naomi were coming to visit we knew it was a fantastic chance to do it – so it was a hugely exciting trip for us all. Josh had recently been over on a school trip and we didn’t have room for us all in the 4WD so that worked out well as he was more than happy to stay with a friend. We got off at Wanggoolba Creek which had nothing other than the ramp to get off the barge and it was straight onto the dirt roads which were fantastic – freshly graded and really easy driving.

First stop was Central Station which was the main logging area back in the day. It had a kind of open-air museum with all the old buildings, and a rain-forest micro eco-system with a stunning creek and a board-walk through the rain-forest.

The water in the creek was so clear it took us a minute to even realise it was there! We were told by a guide we ran into that Fraser Island has some of the purest water on earth due to the filtration through the sand.

CreekThe board-walk enabled us to get right up close in the forest without damaging the fragile eco-system. There were longer walks you could do but we were very aware we only had the 2 days so had to keep moving so just took the shorter option.

BoardwalkStunning flora was everywhere we turned – and it was wonderful having the talented Naomi to take the pics!

We were then told by the same guide to skip Lake Mackenzie (the famous one where all the pics are taken and I believe I saw Billy Connelly dive naked into on one of his travel shows!) and go to Lake Birrabeen instead so we headed there from Central Station. There was one couple leaving as we arrived to this:

Steps to lake

Lake B FraserFraser is famous for it’s perched lakes, formed by organic matter breaking down and forming a crust over the sand which enables a lake to form. The water is so clean and so clear after being filtered by the sand that you can see the brown tannin stain in the crystal clear water from leaves breaking down – just incredible! The sand was so white it just didn’t seem real and it even felt a bit strange (and squeaked when you walked). We had our lunch here, being very, very wary of any dingoes and keeping Louis in arms reach at all times – there had been another attack on a child only a few weeks earlier.

Tree by the lakeA rare photo of the ‘little’ brother and I (I still smile when I remember their visit and can’t wait to catch up with them back in Europe!)

We had to keep moving so carried on across the island as we were camping on the eastern side and needed to be wary about the tides as we had a set time we could safely get up the beach. The roads were surprisingly good having just been graded – we were there mid week following 2 extra long weekends, where they had stopped issuing permits to go out there it was so busy. We were so blessed with our timing as we practically had the island to ourselves! We had a quick pit stop at the last of civilization at Eurong for a coffee before getting out onto the beach.

WOW is all I can say – we were all euphoric it was just the most amazing experience from the second we hit the beach. The Pacific Ocean pounding the beach to our right and the sand stretching ahead as far as the eye could see – we all had silly grins plastered on our faces and kept laughing with the sheer joy of it as we speed up the sand highway!

75 Mile BeachOf course we made James get out and get a pic!

Car on beachThe map insisted that we don’t go swimming along this coast as there is huge packs of large and deadly sharks that patrol the beach, it also warned that we needed to keep our eyes out for and give way to planes landing on certain stretches! Errrr – J – please avoid the one ahead!!

After managing to get around a rock outcrop (you can just about see it in the first picture of the beach) without getting too wet we soon saw something on the beach ahead – The Maheno – wrecked on the the island many years ago and slowly rusting away – just amazing.

MahenoHere is a rare couple of the hubby, Boy 2 and me

We had to keep moving to be at the campsite well before high tide where the beach becomes unsafe and undriveable. We chose one of the few dingo fenced sites as we weren’t taking any risks traveling with Louis.

Darkness falls quickly in Queensland so we only just had time to get our tents set up and organised before night fell and we settled down for a BBQ and an evening playing Yatzee!

Thank you to James and Naomi for the pictures 🙂 – we decided that 3 cameras on the island was overkill so we left ours behind!

Looking back to May 2011 – brotherly visit from the UK!

We were so excited to have brother James and lovely sister-in-law type person Naomi visit us from the UK back in May. Initial concerns, before their arrival, about not being able to understand a word that Naomi said in her lovely Welsh accent were largely unfounded – no doubt in part due to me now being an avid Torchwood watcher and therefore quite used to hearing Gwen since last meeting Naomi! The only slightly sticky moments were when she sped up after a few wines but that would have gone both ways no doubt!

We started their visit as soon as they got off the plane by taking them to the Boat Club here in Hervey Bay – we figured it was difficult to fall asleep if you were having a beer overlooking the sea, Fraser Island and the marina!

Boat Club Hervey Bay

Naomi and I were most excited to see someone with a fun cocktail and our sensible white wine spritzers suddenly looked a little boring – nothing that an umbrella wouldn’t fix 😉 !

Next day we headed to the beach to show them the difference between a Welsh and Queensland one:

Hervey Bay beach

Not sure if we had them convinced with that first beach so we organised a trip out to Fraser Island for later in the week!