Thursday, 11 October 2012

French country living

Time for the squash harvest

Sadly, the grape harvest is mainly done by machine these days
We are back on board in Mortagne after being away from the boat for more than a night for the first time in 16 months. But it was all for a good cause - to celebrate my father's 70th birthday, in Provence. Now we plan to stay here until early spring before continuing north. We have started to settle in and meet people, including the lovely Hamard family, who are just back from sailing around the world via Antarctica and Newfoundland with four kids (some great pics here). Jim's even managed to pick up some work in an old flour mill that is being converted into flats. We've also bought ourselves a tandem to extend our land range - public transport is not really an option around here.

Our new transport mode
Our first tour was to the nearest big supermarket, 15 km away in Gemozac, and the land was not as flat as it seemed in our friends' auto! We got a good workout on the gentle rolling hills and will have to train up a little before venturing to Cognac (50 km), Rochefort (60 km) or even La Rochelle (90 km). However, already our second tour to the pretty medieval village of Talmont-sur-Gironde involved a lot less muscle pain. Cycling on a tandem is much like sailing on a pretty boat - it generates a lot of goodwill and smiles from people.

Cycling along the Cote de la Beauté
Medieval Talmont sur Gironde
Along the ramparts of Talmont
Eglise Sainte Radegone, Talmont
Jim's new workplace, the old flour mill in Mortagne
Compared with Spain, living costs are higher here - we can't really go to cafes for a daily coffee any more, never mind a weekly meal out. However, the local produce, wine, bread and pastries are very good and cheap and there are also other compensations: It's incredibly calm and peaceful, cats are very amenable to being stroked (in Spain you could hardly get near a cat and here we already have several feline friends, including three chatons) and we can communicate a bit better, with the school French slowly returning.

The weather is still good with temperatures around 18-20C, albeit with occasional rain, but we've already borrowed a fan heater for when it gets colder. There is a major weather divide at the River Loire and we hope that by staying south of it we'll escape the worst of the winter weather. 

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