By mid afternoon on Saturday members started gathering at les Tournasols, a collection of Gites spread out adjacent to a lovely lake close to Eauze. We were greeted by Florence and Michel, the owners, and assigned our new homes. That evening we enjoyed drinks and an enjoyable meal courtesy of Pam and John, and Piet in one of the larger Gites.
We all enjoyed our surroundings, and a half hour walk round the lake revealed that it contained a lot of fish, those which jumped were quite large. A number of large Terrapins were basking on fallen trees on the edge of the lake, and several Coypus were seen, together with a large (1 metre plus) snake (fortunately dead). As well as the lake, there was a large heated/covered swimming pool which a number of us made use of, especially when the weather warmed up!
On Sunday we visited the beautiful Palmeraie du Sarthou, a large, well stocked and landscaped, tropical garden, containing many surprises. These included a well preserved farmhouse complete with furniture, furnishings and farm implements from18th century. There were several ‘crashed’ light aircraft in the grounds, an old boat, elevated and inverted to form a sunshade and a little gazebo/library. There was a strange incised downhill track, which turned out to be a fossil excavation site where mussels dating from when the Gers was under the sea, these and many other finds were on display. These were not the only ‘prehistoric’ creatures on display – at every corner we were confronted by imaginative animal and bird metal sculptures all beautifully welded and displayed. Following our tour we enjoyed our picnic in cosy tropical surroundings.
We then drove to a nearby, but not so easy to find, rose garden. The English owners who had created it in only 12 years, ship their roses around the world, and are the sole supplier of some varieties. Sadly we timed our visit between the two flowering seasons, but still the size and variety of roses was most impressive, and it was still colourful with lovely scents. That evening, as our group size had grown, we split our dinner, and those in the lakeside Gites enjoyed a ‘Safari Supper’ with aperos, plat (a tagine), and dessert outside different Gites.
Monday, The first day of June saw the golfing ‘crocks’ back in action, Ted, John and Phil played nine holes on the nearby golf course. An electric fence around the edge of the fairways, as well as deterring animals, deterred us from looking for errant balls, but surprisingly our lost ball count was an improvement over our previous excursion ! We managed to draw, each winning three holes, and each managing some good shots (eg Ted holing in one from off the green !) Our best ‘hole’ was the 10th where we enjoyed an excellent lunch at the clubhouse ! Whilst the golfers had been having fun, the rest enjoyed a healthy walk to and around Eauze, which provided some navigation challenges ! Our evening was spent eating and drinking all together in two ‘Tonnelles’, courtesy of Ted, Jenny, Valerie and Liz.
On Tuesday most of us enjoyed an excellent walk,an 8km figure eight around a lovely ruined hilltop castle and village (la Gardere). Our picnic lunch, offering great views beside the hilltop carpark was rather spoilt by a local, playing nasty music at full volume – he clearly objected to our presence! That evening Pam curried our leftovers, enjoyed by all in the tonnelles, especially on the warm evening. We saw a magnificent ‘Moonrise’, rounding off a most enjoyable evening.
There was a splinter group on the Tuesday with Liz, Piet, Deirdre and Chris going off for the day to see old friends of many longer term members, Marion and Michel Lapadu, who have a lovely house near Monein in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Marion used to lead the Choir and conduct other musical events and comes originally from the north of England but has lived in France since meeting Michel all those years ago in the north of France where they were both teaching. Michel speaks English perfectly and they are both such fun to be with.
Michel has a collection of vintage cars and we were privileged to be driven by their daughter in a 1932 Ford Shooting Break to a wine tasting in a local vineyard known to Michel where, as usual, we all learnt something new. This is Domaine Montesquiou where we tasted five wines and made some purchases. It was particularly interesting to hear about the history, the interplanting between the vines and the fact that “blending” is done at harvesting rather than an assemblage after the vinification. We returned to their house for a sumptuous lunch in their beautiful garden with views over the countryside. Some photos tell the story.
And the second half of the week …….. One might say that “Tick, done it” would sum up the second half of the week. Some went to the Pharmacy to be issued with small implements to safely remove the beasts plus antiseptic cream while another discovered that a cold tub of ice cream caused the beast to let go immediately and drop to the floor (of the boat). There was much debate as to the source of the invaders which remains undiscovered.
Moving swiftly on: A nice walk of Wednesday morning ending up in Larressangle which is a very pretty fortified village with 2 cafés, one firmly closed and the other closed while we were there having only just opened. Madame had more important things to do. Some of us had our picnics there while others found a brasserie not too far away where it had been ascertained under duress that lunch was available. Very good it was reported to be. Funny people round there! The afternoon saw us with an appointment at Chateau Cassaigne to taste Armagnac, wine, Floc, prunes in Armagnac and other local products. An invitation to explore the gardens and the vineyards was well worth taking up. The traditional barbecue took place in the evening taking the form of an Aussie sausage sizzle.
Thursday is the day of the market in Eauze and, as last year, there was a walk to Eauze in the morning along the old railway track. During this walk, a new restaurant was discovered in a beautiful rustic setting. Plans were quickly changed and we booked in there for the evening. The boat trip from Condom took place in the afternoon. Very pleasant and mainly amusing although getting delayed in the lock became rather tedious. It was unclear whether this was due to mechanical failure or the absence of the lock keeper! We did get through eventually and fortunately there was ice cream to cool us down and remove ticks.
On Friday Jenny conducted us on a lovely walk round the outside of Eauze. This had been done last year in the rain but we had beautiful sunshine. The afternoon was relaxing back at base with communal evening meal of left-overs including delicious fish pie for starters and sausage curry for mains.
In conclusion, it was a lovely week and many thanks are due to Jenny and Ted for discovering Les Tournasols in the first place and all their organisation for this second visit. The weather was so much better than last year and the lovely pool had good use.
Report and also photos by Phil C and Chris R, photos also by Pamela P
We will be staying at the same place as last year which is Les Tournesols, 6 minutes away from the lovely market town of Eauze. The accommodation is in small independent chalets with double bedroom, simple kitchen (two ring burner), fridge, microwave and shower room. On site there is a heated swimming pool.
Each day we go on walks or visit the interesting villages and sites around. There is also a golf course minutes away. In the evenings we often get together for a meal and we will probably have a meal out. Lunches are usually ‘bring your own picnic’ and in the evenings we often get together for a meal and we will probably also have a meal out. Of course, you may decide to do your own thing!
The cost is 41 euros per couple per day and if anyone prefers to stay for just the second half of a week, that may be possible.