France is divided into twenty-six administrative regions. We are staying in the Midi-Pyrenees. Within the Midi-Pyrenees there are eight departments. The Gers is the name of the department that includes Mauvezin, which is the largest ville near Chateau Lagahe (where we are staying). Mauvezin has an official population of 1700 people. It is a "market town" and hosts a produce market each Monday morning. People from the town and the surrounding countryside come to buy local fruit, veg, cheese and meats. A market town is considered to be one of the larger centres in the region. The Gers is the least populated and most rural of the 100 departments in France.
The weather continues to be really cold and the days are getting shorter. The sun doesnt rise until well after 8.00am. And we have been rising a little later than that. Most mornings we head into the boulangerie in Mauvezin to buy a baguette longue, a flute and some sacristain (scrolls with custard and chocolate bits). We normally have the bread for lunch with some ham, cheese, tomato or vegemite and butter. We make up our sandwiches in the kitchen and eat them at the kitchen table. it's the smallest room in the house, so it sometimes gets a little crowded when some of us are eating and others are trying to fill the dishwasher or get warm milk out of the microwave. We use the warm milk to make up hot chocolates, which taste really good with half a sacristain (we always keep half for afternoon tea, which is usually accompanied by another hot chocolate). The milk here is delicious. We buy it at the L'Isle Jourdain market. There is a lady who sells it out the back of a van. She fills glass and plastic bottles from a tap that you would use to pour beers in Australia. The milk costs 1 Euro per litre and the plastic bottles are about 0.30 Euro. The milk is not pasteurised, so it only lasts for a couple of days. In the afternoons, it start to get dark after 4.00pm. The kids will then go to the barn and get some logs and kindling. We clear the ashes from the previous day and scatter them in the garden. The fire gets started and soon we have four or five logs blazing. Around 5.00pm, Mum normally brings a book and glass of wine to the large armchair adjacent to the blazing logs and undertakes mental preparation for dinner. This normally lasts for two glasses or until the fire is more subdued. The preparation for the evening meal can begin.
Dad normally decants a bottle of the Bordeaux we picked up on our travels to give it a couple of hours to breathe. On many evening we have oven roasted chicken or pork, with roasted veges. Crunch potatoes, pumpkin, brocolli, leeks, carrots, parsnips or beans on the odd occasion. All in season. All delicious. Dessert can be as simple as ice cream with home made apple crumble or maybe a warm tarte fruit rouge with fresh raspberries. Healthy appetites are satisfied and after the kids fill the dishwasher and wash, dry and put away the remaining pots and pans, we might adjourn to watch a video in the small living room in the main part of the house. We include this as the description of a general day.
8th of December
This evening there was a big football match on satellite TV so the boys headed over to Al and Jen's while Mum and Ruby stayed home to watch a chick flick.
9th of December
I woke the next morning after having an alright sleep. But last night I had a headache and it seamed to have progressed the next day which mean't that I was getting the flu. That morning we went to the special Auch Christmas Markets. It was that exciting. As you walk through the market you see people are selling stuff with only a bucket to sit on and a container holding eggs that would have been laid that morning. It amazing that they just came out to sell a few eggs. We went home and remembered that on the previous evening we agreed to help Alastair and Jen to find their lost dog, Cocoa, which had failed to return with the other dogs on the day before. We looked everywhere along the river neat their house but were unable to find any trace. We went home and had veal fresh from the Auch market for dinner that night and it tasted delicious.
10th of December
Today we went to Toulouse centre so Mum could go shopping for Christmas presents for Dad. This was bound to be a time consuming task, so while Mum went shopping Dad tried to find his way to a large department store close to Blagnac, near Toulouse airport. We ended up in Toulouse airport several times. I was still not in tip top shape but I still had to jump into the front seat to help Dad find our way to the big shopping mall in the outskirts of Blagnac. We went through the shopping mall only buying food supplies for lunch that day. When Mum had left the car to go into Toulouse she left her diary with money and credit cards inside on the floor of the front seat. After eating lunch in the car we wandered back to Toulouse to pick up Mum from our meeting place. As you can imagine Dad chose the hardest possible spot to pick up Mum and as usual Mum was late. I had to sit on the corner of 2 streets looking out for Mum and Dad in the car with a thumping head ache. Dad came past pissed off that Mum was not there and drove past. He sent Harry out to find me and to tell me to get back in the car. Of course Harry didn't hear where Dad was picking him up so we had to split up again to try and find Dad. The situation was a complete disaster. While split up with Harry I found Mum at the meeting place. Harry found Dad then Mum and I found them so it was a pretty rough situation. Mum did hoola hoop lessons and we all came home and had dinner after the confusing day.
11th of December
Today Mum, Dad and Harry went to the Isle Jourdin markets. I didn't go because I was still crook and Ruby decided to stay home because she wasn't bothered to go. While Mum and Dad did the market Ruby and I watched TV. Mum and Dad found us playing Ping Pong. That afternoon Mum freaked because she thought she had lost her diary in all the confusion at Toulouse the day before. We couldn't find it anywhere so Mum had to cancel 2 of the credit cards and had to call the Toulouse police to find out if it had been handed in and if not to find out the address and phone number of the lost property office in toulouse. The policeman had limited English and Mum's french isn't flash but they did manage to communicate and find out the details they required. As it was Saturday we had to wait till Monday for the lost property office to open! We didn't do anything that night - we just had a quiet dinner then some episodes of Black Adder goes forth.
12th of December
Today we chilled and did some work. We were having Al, Jen, Jeremy and Marwin for a dinner party that Marven was cooking. That afternoon when I was doing my work in Mum and Dad bedroom Mum was making her bed neat for our for out visitors that evening. When putting the bedspread on her bed guess what popped out? Mums diary. Yep Mums diary with 500 Australian dollars and some hong kong dollars with both the credit cards she had cancelled. Mum"s an absolute duffer. So after that moment of relief we all got ready for guests that evening. Marwin, who owns a restaurant in the area, cooked us roast lamb with vegies and a pudding that all the adults loved. We got to bed as early as possible that night for a big drive down south to Barcelona.