After Agde we headed off to stay with Helen and David (again! how lucky are we!) in a tiny hamlet near Lavelanet in the foothills of the Pyrenees. 

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We had a fabulous time.  Helen is a fantastic cook, hence we ate way too much.  They drove us around the area to show us the local Cathar castles, including the outstanding Chateau de Montsegur,

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where they burnt 225 Cathars, who refused to renounce their faith

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and then onto the extremely well-preserved Medieval town of Mirepoix for lunch at a lovely and eccentric vegetarian place (rare as hen’s teeth in France) called Le Cardamone. 

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I am not sure I wanted to go into this establishment

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and I found a cow on roller skates!!!!!

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We then visited this lovely lake

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Tim and I had a go at producing a Tunisian style chicken couscous meal for them in the evening (I even sussed out how to make the aubergine dip to go with the bread, olive, salad and harissa starter), which went down pretty well.

On the Sunday we were in for a real culinary treat, as Helen prepared a top-notch roast lamb dinner, together with all the trimmings.  Their lovely French neighbours Christiane and Jacques joined us, bringing Christiane’s exquisite version of a sticky toffee pudding.  I thought I was going to explode, but I would have died happy.

The afternoon was spent chilling out and watching Lewis Hamilton win the Grand Prix, followed by even more delicious food.

One highlight of the stay was the blackbirds nest that had been built in a pile of tree trimmings at the end of the garden.  There were three chicks in it, in full view and weirdly tame. Neither the chicks nor the parents seem to care at all as we all kept trooping up to inspect their progress.  It intrigued us that nothing had manage to eat them so far, considering that they were so exposed.  Helen has named the three babies…Cilla, Roger and Tony. (Black/ Blackburn, gerrit?)  When asked how she knew who was who she said that Cilla was the one with the biggest mouth….

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The three days at Helen and David’s beautiful house in a BED and being looked after so well was kind of the icing on the cake after a wonderful three months.

After the last time, coming back to the Chunnel over two days, we decided we would rather break it up a bit more.  Our first stop was at Niort and we were pleasantly surprised to find such an attractive old town. 

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At first we were concerned that the place had been hit very hard by the recession, but then we realised that the closed shops were there because they had moved to the newly renovated and buzzy area near the market. 

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Tim had his first pint of Guinness in 3 months

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and I liked this little chap

I wasn’t at all surprised that this shop had shut

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Who wants a grungy fringe?

As we journeyed north it felt as if spring was following us

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We then stopped in the tiny town of Saint Saens, just off the motorway north of Rouen.  Having sailed through Rouen without a traffic jam (first time EVER) we were delighted with both the town and the fantastic bed and breakfast place, Le Logis D’Eawy, which was an old coaching inn, beautifully preserved and generously spacious.  The breakfast was particularly good, with homemade preserves and all manner of tasty treats.

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We drank our final beer of the trip

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and went out for a lovely meal at the restaurant which was a whole 70m from the B and B.

The next day it was a final couple of hours to the Calais, an easy passage through the Chunnel and, after another 6700 miles, we were back on English soil. 

We now have about three months to prepare for the biggy…shipping Camel over to Canada to explore the Americas.  

(In case you are wondering about our total so far it’s 20 000 miles travelled since July 2014).

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