Friday, July 30, 2010

Answers from Son 1


Here are the answers

n°1 was a...


n°2 was...A cup of coffee!
The light was just a trick!
n°3 was...
my doggy's nose!
n°4 was...
my mums hair!
So the winner is (drumroll please)
Claire and her boys who got 1, 3 and 4 and who guessed that n°2 was a warm drink.
They got 3.5 points!
clap, clap, clap, bravo

Note from Floss:
So Claire from Are We Nearly There Yet, and the boys - congratulations and I'm glad it was you! My boys will be thinking about a little prize they'd like to send your boys, and for your prize, would you email me, please, with your address and let me know what you'd like out of the following: some vintage buttons, some vintage lace or some vintage French postcards.
I enjoyed that (apart from when people thought my fringe belonged to an old man, but I won't take it personally!)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Memories of the weeks and the years...

This is our souvenir of our week camping in the Ariege - local honey, bought at the night market. It's delicious, and going fast!But the reason I didn't get round to posting about it yesterday, as I'd intended, is that yesterday's memories were from much longer back... Ben and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary!
The pink ribbon on our front-door wreath was around the drop waist of my 1920s 'going away outfit'.
And yesterday I hung the under-dress from that very outfit up with the wreath. It normally hangs on my wardrobe door.
Ben and I celebrated with a lunch out in one of his favourite restaurants (he goes to so many with clients, poor man...) and then spent an afternoon wandering round Toulouse, just doing the kind of things you don't do with sons in tow - looking at pictures, exhibitions, architecture, the river, the canals, the caf├ęs etc.
We had a wonderful afternoon, and are wondering if the next 20 years will be as interesting and unpredictable as the last...

And as a great anniversary gift, we discovered that Son 1's dog Raja has an easily-treated tummy bug, rather than a chicken bone or other object stuck in her intestines, as we'd come to fear - she's already on the mend.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What a week we had!

More than a week since we came home, I'm only just finishing off my extened tour through our holiday photos. Thanks so much for 'coming with me' as I've recounted our local travels - my mum and dad have been able to see what we were doing ever day, and this has been a real blessing to the whole family - it's been great to have so many other readers joining in the fun too!The photo above is taken looking down on one of the notorious Pyrenean 'cols' - the high mountain passes which feature in the Tour de France. We climbed at first by car, which is clearly cheating...
... but we made up for it with some serious climbing (just for fun) once we parked!
We then drove on to a wonderful chateau with this intriguing eagle key plate.
Inside, the former Cathar castle had been turned into a bird of prey centre. These centres are fairly common in the Pyrenees, but are always worth a visit.
In this one, two medieval bird-handlers treated us to an exciting and very informative display.
In France there's a wonderful lack of concern with some of the more ludicrous aspects of Health and Safety,
and the birds can come close...
... very close!
So finally, it was the end of the week. Ben replaced the punctured tyre on his trailor, which had been mended at the local garage.
Son 2 had a final fishing trip in the stream.
The tent came down.
And Son 2 inisited I took a photo of forced child labour.
It was a magical and very peaceful week. I will show you some souveniers, and some other memories from further back, tomorrow!
PS Don't forget to try Son 1's camping photo quiz below - he's offering a prize!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

camping quiz

Hello son 1 here .
I've taken 4 pictures from when me and my family were camping.
Now, you've got to work out what they are and my mum is going to offer a prize to the person
who can find them all!
If more than one person manages to find all 4, then we'll do a lucky dip out of the hat.
You can answer by posting comments on this blog.
Picture n°1 seems to be a dab of ink.

n°2 is tricky so I'll give you a clue:
this is warm and wet.

What in the world could n°3 be?

Who's hair is this?

I'll have the answers by next week so bye.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Minibeasts in the Ariege - with Son 2

Son 2 is our real mini-beast fan. Here he is introducing a little French neighbour to the wildlife of our campsite stream. This ice cream tub came in really handy for housing a temporay collection of creatures to be observed. There were lots of tadpoles.
Son 2 gave them lots of stones to hide under, kept them in the shade, and let them out at the end of the day.
One morning he shouted excitedly that he'd found a newt! "Is it tiny?" enquired Ben. Son 2 agreed that it was pretty small.
"Then you can call it my-newt!" concluded Ben, cheerfully. After some reflection on the source of the hilarity, Son 2 got the joke, and indeed called this young newtpole 'my-newt' for the rest of the day.
On another morning, Ben found this snail as I was hanging out the washing. Ordinary looking snail?
Not when you see it up against Son 2's hand - this one's a whopper! It's a common enough species, apparantly, although we'd never seen one before. We had to work quite hard to talk Son 2 out of bringing this one home to join his snail collection...
... but in the end the snail successfully ensured its own (surprisingly speedy) escape.
Ben found these amazingly sparkly blue chafer beetles too.
The males live near streams, and we never found a female - they are much duller in colour, apparantly.
Son 2 snapped a photo of this moth with a face-like profile in the toilets! Now, if you're a bit squeamish about flying beasties, steel yourselves for the final few photos...
This is Ben's man-size hand, so you realise that this curious fly on our tent is really quite big (more than an inch long). It turns out to be a stonefly. Its larvae live only in very unpolluted rivers - what a good sign! Son 2 and his little friend found several of its transparent, scorpion-like larvae in the stream.
Then on a visit to the bigger river down in the valley, the boys found these curious 'shells' on the rocks. If you weren't spooked by the last photo, you might be by the next...
The boys left the monstrous skins they'd found on our picnic table. It helps to have a strong stomach...
So it's goodbye from me and Son 2,
and goodbye from the alien-stonefly-larva!
Pop by tomorrow for a camping photo-quiz prepared by Son 1. He's offering a prize!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Oh look, another yurt!

This holiday turned out to be all about yurts...First there was the pastoral yurt, on its platform with its vegetable garden, high up on the south-facing hillside.
Then that night there was the festive yurt, which was actually a base for face painting.
And on last Friday we encountered the prehistoric yurt, at the Pyrenees Prehistory Park.
I've had a decades' long fascination and reverence for prehistoric art. In my teens I spent hours perusing books and magazine articles on the cave paintings of southern France and northern Spain, and when we arrived in the area I suddenly discovered familar placenames to our south - many of the internationally-known sites are in the Ariege!Look at the ancient horse. Who drew it and why? How did these paintings survive, and how many other wonders have been lost, or are even yet to be found?
The two paintings above are from the cave at Niaux, which we toured several years ago with Ben's parents. It's one of the last really spectaular caves you can actually visit, without too much fear of damaging the paintings. But because of the incredible prehistoric heritage of the area, and to avoid too much pressure on the actual sites, the French government set up this prehistoric park not too far from Niaux, at Tarascon sur Ariege. Here, children can paint their own prehistoric paintings on the wall...... or direct their father to do it for them, if the only available space is too high up!
The finished baby mammoth. I'm so glad they didn't ask me to paint it...
Some prehistoric cleaning facilities for early painters.
You can also learn to use a prehistoric spear thrower (it makes the spear go much further).
Once again, dad was the star (I think he was the only one to actually hit an 'animal').
Son 1 demonstrates the technique.
Son 2 was more motivated by exploring a 'cave system', where he found this bear's den.
And I liked the herds of bison and mammoth which roamed this part of the park in a statuesque manner.
The final highlight of the day was when this very dedicated animateur showed us how to knap flint to make tools, and demonstrated how prehistoric people could have made fire.
Striking two flints together is a myth, aparantly. You get light, but no heat. Flint against iron pyrite, sparking into the dried flesh of a certain common tree fungus, is the thing, we learned. In the areas where you can't find iron pyrite, then a bow to rub a stick into a piece of wood does the trick nicely. It's surprising how books (even excellent ones) have bred ignorance about this kind of thing. Only experimental archaeology has shown them how it realistically would have been done. What an informative day.