New Year's day for us started in Malras, a champagne breakfast with Fiona & Earl & friends. Staying over after their party were Kath, Danny, Clive, Di, Mike, Jane, Andrea & Haggis. A nice way to start 2009 we were the only couple not bringing a dog to stay over. All five dogs got on so well, and enjoyed their own celebrations.
John & I later in the day enjoyed a lovely walk around the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire it is an ancient Benedictine abbey. The beautiful abbey and its church remain largely intact and this village was on our way home, so could not pass up this lovely New Years day for a stroll, before returning to Carcassonne Port.
Fiona & Earl worked so hard to get their home in Malras ready for Christmas and for our stay with our family next month. John enjoyed helping Earl for a week, knocking some walls down, moving a boiler and helping with their new bathroom, outside was as much work going on in the village.
Mayor of Malras and the local villages are working hard on up grading this village. Clochers de Malras. Malras was host to the Toques & Clochers on 24 mars 1991 and will again host this wine festival this coming April The wine festival is taking place the weekend before Easter, all the people who live in Malras are very busy this month and the next coming months, updated their village ready for the 1,000's of people who will be visiting this village.
My neck this month "was a pain in the neck" always worse pain in the winter. I visited the doctor here in Carcassonne, after being x-rayed, I was diagnosed with arthritis in my upper spine too, which is getting worse. Physiotherapy the doctor ordered, this is the only way of controlling the pain, along with medication for pain. I was so miserable at times. No cure Dr said "learn to live with in your capabilities" Life must go on.
I am banned from any computer work & my art had to stop till all inflammation settles down, WHEN I often shouted. I decided to join weight watchers with my friend Beate and walk. Never one to sit still, even in pain, hopefully I will shed a few pounds to help my spine and walking talking takes your mind off pain.
We had one morning of snow this month and as usual it was very pretty to walk around this city especially with my camera, how could you tire of views like this.
We spent most of this month in Carcassonne, nice not having to fly off any were. John worked hard in the engine room, checking & cleaning every thing he came across, even painting the engine room, every spare moment he worked hard in a very cramped space.
The Moet will be ready for the coming cruising season we hope - though our cruising season is not yet planned, we think another year in the South of France! Especially when we have sunny days like this to look forward to.
This photograph is one of the views from inside the cite walls, far into the hill's nestle hundreds of little villages yet to explore.
We had a couple of nice days out touring by car, some good walking spots we stumbled up on. John had some favourable weather enjoying some good cycling. The Montagne Noire hills, is one of his favourite bike rides, stopping off in Lastours, 17km away from Carcassonne.
We loved walking in the Clamoux valley to the east of Lastours some magnificent gorges around this village, sadly the light and the sunshine came to an end as did our walk, this village is a must see again. Good restaurant worth trying here we were told, perhaps on our next visit we can climb up, depends on the old knees John said to me! Or we drive.
John struggled at times with the wind, when out cycling, at one point he reached 65 km an hour with the wind behind him.
South-western France saw the fiercest storm in a decade which blew in from the Atlantic, it was one of the worse storms to have hit Carcassonne, 1.7 million people were without power in South of France, much destruction was caused all over Europe, winds up to and beyond 107 miles per hour.
This photograph was sent to me by our friend Andy of their holiday home near Buzet, in which the swimming pool came very near to being part of the Garonne river, the Torrential rains thank goodness stopped in time.
No one was injured or killed in Carcassonne (15 lost their lives in Europe during this storm). Very little damage to our boats in the port, a lost TV mast. The Mayor of Carcassonne and police closed the Airport, railway station here, also all shops were closed, everyone was sent home. The roads were closed before the storm hit. John & I were in a major supermarket which was also asked to close, our journey back to the boat in the car was hair raising, all the roads were already littered with debris. Thankfully we were back to the safety of our boat just in time. Many windows in the town were blown out and hundreds of chimney pots where blown into the street.
We had some good entertaining days out throughout January on Moet and on other boats, lots of coffee out too. It turned out a very busy month indeed. Many shopping trips especially choosing wine for our family of six all arriving on the 1st & 2nd Feb. I wanted to be ready for John's 60th. A cake baking day for John's birthday planned - a big helping hand was given by Beate.
The cake chosen was "Sacher-Torte" this is a chocolate cake, invented by Franz Sacher in 1832 for Klemens Wenzel von Metternich in Vienna, Austria, we were re-inventing John's cake here in the village of Feline-Minervois.
Alan & Beate were so helpful to me this month, especially joining in the fun of arranging John's birthday. Beate & I arranged a day to bake John's cake + lots of cookies, what fun we had, hard work baking every thing in one day too. Alan bless him cooked us a lovely lunch.
A timeless cake recipe, we enjoyed shopping for the ingredients, pure melt in the mouth good chocolate. This cake which originated in Vienna. This recipe was now adapted by Beate with all of her experience, she made this for several of her friends & family.
Our problem was at the end of the day we could not taste, we will have to wait for John's big day.
The cake made, now it was time to meet Fiona & Earl and add the finishing touches for our visitors.
The special event we were getting ready for also coinsided with a very sad time for Fiona, Earl and all their families.
Fiona's step dad Brian died today in Toulouse hospital. We were outside their house in Malras waiting to start work, they were at the hospital. We last saw Brian New Years Eve just only days ago. The heartbreaking news was hard to bare for everyone.
Fiona & Earl are an amazing couple, they wanted our family holiday & John's birthday to go ahead as planned. Fiona asked us one favour "enjoy the house and your family".
How life can change from one moment to the next. Fiona needed time to arrange a funeral with her mum.
Some times we are powerless to help in a person's grief as it brings up grief of our own. Fiona's kind words helped me today.
Earl John & I worked together the last day of January, here in Malras - remembering.
Tomorrow our family will be together again for a celebration, Fiona's family are coming together in their loss.