Ten full days at Mas de Mahystre is a real treat for us. Winter brings different colours and experiences in St Come, with plenty of time for cooking, eating, chatting, backgammon, walking and reflecting. Especially at Christmas…
Highlights are always:
- Nimes Les Halles food market on Christmas Eve, carefully choosing the chapon, oysters, cheese and veg, amidst the festive hustle and bustle.
- Christmas Eve lunch by Les Arenes in Nimes
- Walks in the garrigue above St Come with our dog Ringo (please admire his special Christmas coat!)
- Hours spent by the fire with a glass of vino battling fierce games of backgammon
- Decorating the tree
- Catching up with special neighbours, friends and family
- Taking time to cook up feasts
- Time for each other
- Just being at Mas de Mahystre together
We were incredibly fortunate to spend two weeks in France over Easter. Thanks to Philip Pullman‘s brilliant audiobook ‘The Subtle Knife’, the drive from London was completely gripping for all the family. Despite the rather soggy Spring before our arrival, the sun broke through and warmed our bodies and souls for the whole holiday – we were truly lucky. Last Easter, we arrived as the wisteria was fading but this year we appreciated the beginning of the bloom. Rather charming, we thought…
We descended on our hideaway in France for the Easter holidays, filled with the joyful anticipation of ten days of freedom. Our welcoming and bountiful terrace greeted us with the best wisteria display yet.
It is undeniably relaxing to gaze at a southern french blue sky, through the wisps of deliciously scented, tumbling wisteria, buzzing a happy hum.
We exploited the unusually warm April weather and spent the majority of our days right here, on our terrace where the outside world stops for a while and anything is possible. Under a wisteria sky, it is easy to pause and ponder.
Under a wisteria sky, solutions will be found.
Even in London this summer, I have spotted many butterflies since we arrived here at the end of June. My Dad was an enthusiastic butterfly collector as a boy and still loves butterflies today, so maybe his passion is contagious. For me, butterflies are entrancing works of art; fragile and free, they add dazzling delight to our gardens and lives as they flutter by.
Here is a butterfly who rather likes our lavender.
We snatched a week for ourselves at our hideaway in France a few weeks ago. Oh a week is not enough! We are thrilled with the new terrace around the pool and we love the difference a salt water pool makes.
And the new sun loungers are very comfy and go flat for those who want a bronzed back!
I love the early morning stillness by the pool, when the world is silently preparing for the day.
And the pool terrace looks pretty from upstairs too.
We’ll be back soon but in the meantime, I hope everyone enjoys their summer at our hideaway.
I have finally realized that certain things in life cannot be changed. My legs will never be long and beautiful and much to my chagrin, they will always be a touch more footballer than model but life goes on regardless.
The weather equally escapes our control. Most of the time we grimace and bear it but on holiday we want to be grinning……Nobody wants rain during a treasured break, particularly if you are venturing somewhere with a sunny reputation. Who wastes precious bag space on Ryan Air or Easy Jet to bring their rain coat and wellies when you are heading to the south of France?
We can’t change the weather but we can change our reaction to it. Let’s be honest, moaning does not make you feel better and for most people, it won’t improve your holiday. When guests rent our house, I obsess about the weather, desperate for their holiday to be perfect but there’s nothing I can do to influence the power of the skies.
After a wet Spring in the south of France, the flowers are brimming with happiness, the heat is on and I’m sure the sun will beat down for the rest of the summer but if on the rare occasion the sky has a little cry, here are my top five tips to beat the grey sky blues in our area:
1. Go and find a delicious indoor market, or food hall. In Nimes, Les Halles, is sensational. Go wild and try some local delicacies you’ve never tried before. Once you have filled your baskets with tasty local produce, zoom back in the car and cook up a feast. Equally delicious inside or out.
2. Find a fantastic restaurant, order several bottles of grown up grape juice and solve the world’s problems. Maybe the sun will be shining after the coffee and cognac, even only metaphorically.
3. Seek out the local Aquarium or Planetarium. Kids love them and at least you know you won’t be missing out on precious sunbathing time. Montpellier has a fantastic newish development called Odysseum. Great rainy day, family entertainment all in one place – Aquarium, Planetarium. Ice-rink, Climbing centre, Cinema – just thank your lucky stars it’s raining!
4. Both Montpellier and Nimes have some wonderful museums but there are many more museums in the Languedoc. Inspiring places to hide from a deluge. You are spoilt for choice.
5. Ignore the rain and carry on regardless. Unless there’s a storm overhead, the rain needn’t stop you. One rainy summer day, we went canoeing with friends near St Guilhem le Desert, a magical medieval town in the Cevennes. I have no doubt if the sun had appeared it would have seemed even prettier but we didn’t let the clouds ruin our fun.
At least the weather changes daily, where as I am stuck with my little legs for life!
In the Languedoc, nearly every village has a summer fete or Fete Votive as they are called, where the beautiful white Camargue horses play a starring role and small, angry bulls charge through the streets, lined with testosterone fuelled young lads, desperate to prove their machismo. Mad music pumps up frantic four day parties and all generations are united in their desire to let their wild locks down and have frivolous fun. More on these village fetes soon from our Wild Life correspondent but now I want to tell you about the king of these tauro festivals.
The Feria de Nimes began life in 1952 and now attracts over one million visitors annually. Nimes offers two of these flamboyant ferias every year, the Feria de Pentecote (Whitsun festival 15th -20th May 2013) and the Feria de Vendanges (Wine festival 13th – 15th September 2013), which is more of a local, family affair. Both Ferias are extravagant, entertaining parties celebrating bulls, music, dancing and food.
The Feria begins with a Pegoulade or giant procession bursting with dazzling dancers, marvelous music and illuminated floats, which wind through the boulevards of Nimes before arriving in the great Roman amphitheatre. It culminates with a spectacular fireworks display, fun for all the family.
Although typically associated with Spain, bullfighting has taken place in Nimes since the early 19th century and still plays a major role on the bullfighting circuit. Even if bullfighting is not to your taste, the festival is still an eclectic experience not to be missed. Grab a glass of sangria and soak in the celebration of art. Take the kids and watch the impressive horse show in the glorious Jardins de la Fontaine. Wherever you turn, the streets and squares are bursting with bodegas, (temporary outdoor bars and clubs) and music and merriment resound around this rich Roman city. It is a fascinating and intoxicating glimpse of a passionate culture.
So, if you have time to play in May and September, get thee gone to the south of France, where these glorious months are made even more colourful by the Feria de Nimes.
For more information, click here for the fantastic Nimes Tourist Office website.
Every year a local artist is commissioned to design the official poster for the Feria. You can buy current and past posters in many different sizes from the Tourist Office – a perfect piece of memorabilia and light enough to take home on the plane.
A charming Roman city oozing sophistication, beauty and culture.
I love the tiny, twirling, twisting pedestrian streets filled with boutiques eager to be discovered; I love the cafés piled onto pavements; the shady squares pulsing with restaurants hidden around each corner. I adore the dramatic fountains which dispel the summer heat.
Remarkably preserved Roman buildings suitably bewilder at every turn and I especially love sitting in the shade, with a glass of chilled rosé in hand, gazing in awe at Les Arènes, one of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world – just like being on a film set, yet better because it’s the real deal. I love gaping at the beautiful Maison Carré (above) while devouring ice-cream in the adjacent café. Strolling, exploring in the Jardin de la Fontaine.
The music of the city. The vibe, the elegance, the way of life……..
The indoor food market, Les Halles, is bursting with irresistible local food and atmosphere – better than Harrods food hall any day.
The Ferias of Nimes held in May and September every year, are unique parties celebrating bulls, music and food – not to be missed.
Forget the ghastly tower blocks on the outskirts and head straight for the pedestrian old town with lots of underground parking – easy.
Here is a new App about monuments in Nimes for when you are strolling around.
Where is Nimes?
25 minutes by car from our house via a stunning cross country route – worth the trip for the views alone.