It seems like a perfect day to write my blog today, being as it is a freezing and blustery last day of February, maybe a combination of the ‘Beast from the East’ and Storm Emma from Portugal and we are caught in the middle of it! Still, we’ve got plenty of gas and the heating is on, so, although it is only 1ºC outside, we are keeping the van at around 20ºC, leaving the heating on during the night at around 10ºC so that it is not too painful to get up in the morning, for we have experienced temperatures as low as -8ºC overnight! Just when I thought spring was only round the corner. Well, it looks like spring has been put on hold…
We ended up spending 5 lovely and mainly sunny days at Labruguière, during which we enjoyed some nice walks around the lake of the Plan d’Eau d’en Laure and on Sunday morning we went on a short one-hour hike following one of the foot trails towards the Black Mountain (Montagne Noire), relishing great views of the surrounding landscape.
We also took the free bus to Castres on the Friday to visit Goya’s Museum, which was very interesting, exhibiting mainly Spanish artists from XIVth to XXth century, including Velàzquez and Murillo. On the way out, we strolled gently around the beautiful gardens designed by Le Nôtre, most famous for designing the gardens at Versailles Palace.
It was a lovely and warmish day, so we sat outside a bar in the town square for a beer and a hot chocolate, but I was most disappointed as the so called hot ‘chocolate’ turned out to be more like hot milk with hardly any taste or colour of chocolate, and I was even more outraged when the bill came up to 7.80 euros for 1/2 pint of beer and my milk: daylight robbery, pure and simple. At least the town is beautiful: perhaps that’s what you pay for!
To compensate, the barrier at the motorhome aire was malfunctioning and had been taken away by the time we returned to Labruguière and hadn’t yet been fixed by the time we left on Monday morning. We had paid for 3 days from Wednesday to Friday, so we had had 2 days for free, saving 14E.
It was only when we arrived at our next destination that Adonis pointed out that we hadn’t retrieved our bird feeder from the tree by our pitch at Labruguière, so I hope the birds there are still enjoying the seeds we left behind, especially in this Arctic weather when the ground is hard and there are not many insects about.
After Labruguière, we went a little further north west, past Castres, to stunning medieval Lautrec, where we spent 2 days at the free aire by the leisure grounds and lake again at charming Base de Loisirs Aquaval, a perfect base to go and visit the village, being only about 10 minutes walk: perfect for a couple of days as there are no electric hook-ups here, just the borne for emptying facilities and filling up with water and electricity for an hour for 2E.
On Monday afternoon, we walked up to Lautrec itself and the viewpoint by the windmill, from which one can admire the breathtaking views of the surrounding area. The village is part of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (the Most Beautiful Villages in France) scheme, and it absolutely deserves that title, with its half-timber houses and ancient alleyways and square: a feast to the eye!
We left Lautrec this morning hoping to stop at Brens, just south of Gaillac, but we didn’t like the aire and, as it was still quite early, we thought we would try another aire about 8km south west at Lisle-sur-Tarn, on the way to Toulouse from Gaillac, but again we weren’t all that impressed with it and decided to continue driving south west, past Toulouse, and here we are, parked by the Arriège river, between plane trees and a nice view of St Pierre and St Phebade Church at Venerque. There was snow on the ground when we arrived, but it has melted now. I hope the weather warms up a bit tomorrow to have a proper look at the place, but for now I am quite happy to stay indoors reading and crocheting. The sightseeing can wait!!!