Posted in Blog, Inspirations, The Garden

Our Courtyard Hearth — Warm Evenings After the Sun Goes Down

Fire lit, ready for the evening
Fire just lit, early evening

Forget what’s on the tele, or those emails that need sending — just fill your glass with a full bodied bordeaux, or your pint mug of fresh mint tea, pull up your lounger, kick off your shoes,  and let the conversation take you wherever you wish.

Staring into the flames of a well built wood-fire is time well spent. It may seems idle at first, but I reckon it can be the spawning ground for many of your future plans — ideas form as the fire flickers — your imagination leaps and soars as each new zephyr in the night-time air fans the embers into life for one more time…………

Courtyard hearth

“Simple to Make — Simply Wonderful to Sit Around”

“This Is Truly What Evenings Were Made For!”

Old Dry Wood Burns Well

Posted in Blog, OUT & ABOUT

An Afternoon Walk—Espinas to the Abbaye de Beaulieu, and back again

L’Abbaye de Beaulieu, in the valley of the Seye, a few kilometers to the north west of us, were hosting a summer exhibition, “Les nomades du silence” by the celebrated sculptor, Jephan de Villiers. We wanted to visit so organised a little walk one afternoon with our neighbours, stopping off at the Abbaye along the way.

L'Abbaye de Beaulieu


“Even during the holiday periods, you can walk for miles and rarely meet other folk” —

Since moving to this area 20 years ago, we have been spoilt by all the wonderful walking right on our doorstep. You never see any discarded litter and the byways are usually well signposted.
When planning a new route with the map in unfamiliar country, you tend to focus upon the printed rights of way, but in reality, when you don your boots and hit the trail, you discover more routes and pathways that exist, that simple look like odd lines and squiggles on the map.

Here’s a map of the area, and some photos to give you an idea of the countryside—we’re in the Tarn-et-Garonne, department 82, north east of St.Antonin-N-Val.

Espinas & Abbaye de Beaulieu mapWoodland near Espinas
The village of Verfeilleafy laneEmpty countryramblers

Posted in Blog, OUT & ABOUT

An Evening in Biarritz — with an ipad

biarritz eveningIt was Denise’s birthday recently. What to get her? Since the release of the ipad3, there was never any other solution. I knew this was right up her street. I was always hogging the camera, so this was the ideal present.

AND, I got to grab the old ipad, he,he!

So here we are in Biarritz—for the first time. Weather hot and sunny. The hôtel was just a few strides from the beach, by the Casino, and we could walk leisurely around the old town, through the narrow streets full of little trendy gift shops backed by impressive victorian villas and grand apartments, down to the old harbour, with its boats, and old fishermen’s cottages.biarritz-night02

biarritz-night04As night fell, I was tucking into sole while Denise had chosen fresh tuna and risotto.The breeze had dropped and the lights made it all very picturesque.

Taking night-time shots with my SLR digital I’ve never found satisfactory—I don’t like to use flash as it always seems to ruin the ambiance and delicacy of the view—but without flash, the long exposure time means blurry images.

The ipad was very simple to use—you do need to try to be as still as possible when shooting—we dumped quite a few images that were way too blurry—but considering the lack of light, I really liked the results. They give the right atmosphere and “feel” to the evening.

“a picture is worth a thousand words”

In common with all images that we post on the web, these photos have been “corrected” — I always open my images in a photo editor and check overall exposure, crop if necessary, size down to 1000px wide, then sharpen a little before “saving for web” to get the final file size down to around 120kb.  I use Photoshop, but smaller, simpler editors will all handle these functions equally well.

But I do feel strongly that it is worth taking a little extra trouble to learn a few simple photo-correction techniques before uploading images to the web—as the saying goes—”a picture is worth a thousand words” and it’s a shame to spoil well-written content with underexposed, or poorly cropped images.

“Le Port des Pêcheurs” is wonderfully photogenic, with the boats in the harbour, backed by rows of “crampottes” —  little fishermen’s cottages, colourfully restored, each sporting its owners name painted over the door. I’ll be posting some more photos of the old fisherman’s port soon. Meanwhile, we’re looking to revisit Biarritz when we’ve more time—there’s a lot yet to see and do in this lovely little corner of South West France.