What animal is this?


Is it an otter, a beaver, a giant rat or something else?

Well done, if you said ‘coypu’ or ‘ragondin’!

Neither of these possibilities were actually on my radar until I saw them swimming in the Canal du Midi. I thought they looked quite cute. However, further research would suggest that for many people this is not the case.

Coypu are native to South America and were originally introduced to France and the UK for their fur. They have webbed rear feet and orange coloured front teeth.

They are  semi aquatic rodents who  feast on vegetation and burrow into river banks. Both these actions can cause serious damage to the environment.  They also carry leptospirosis. These are just some of the reasons they are viewed as pests.

There are a variety of ways in which these animals can be culled but I won’t go into the various methods in this post.

I have never seen it on any menus but my research came across several possible recipes for ragondin. These included pâté and stew… Not sure myself.


This is a photo of a local coypu I took recently. This coypu was alongside the Canal du Midi towpath and very close to the port in Castelnaudary. He – or she – didn’t seem at all perturbed by the passerbys on foot or boat.

Have you seen a ragondin/coypu? What do you think about them: a pest or cute? I’d love to know.


It only took a year …

To get to visit the workshop-gallery of an artist whose work we have admired from our first stay in Castelnaudary. His name is Jean Luc Lafitte but his artistic name is Lu.


Art is subjective, as is taste. We first saw Lu’s work in our favourite restaurant. As we go there most weeks, we have had plenty of opportunity to look at his work. They are the sort of canvases in which people see different things. They are also have texture. I always want to touch them. This is because the paint is applied with a spatula, trowel or whatever else might come to hand.


The gallery is in a village on the way to Carcassonne. Jean Luc recently  moved into his new premises and is still at the organisation stage, as you can see from my photos! He is a larger than life character. We took to him immediately. He runs workshops too, including some for children with special needs and adults with disabilities.


It took us ages to decide which canvas to purchase. And here it is!

The photo and lighting don’t really do it justice. Neither does having it propped up on the radiator. It looks much more effective on the wall! Can you spot the unicorn?! That’s one of the shapes I can see…


We bought it back to the UK and whenever we look at it, we have a reminder of our French home. It’s certainly very different from our more traditional Canal du Midi photograph or Eric Ravilious print.

I am linking up with the very brilliant #AllAboutFrance. If you want to read a wide variety of posts, all with a French theme, do have a look here!

Encore…le Canal du Midi

AllAboutFranceThe inspiration for this post, came to me while walking beside the Wey Navigation Canal, last week. It was a circular walk starting and finishing at Guildford via Farncombe Boat House. It’s a great walk, probably about 10 miles, with an optional stop for tea and homemade cake, at the boathouse. Very delicious cake as well!

Here are some photos I took on the walk:


I was walking with a former teaching colleague and updating her on our French home in Castelnaudary. As I’ve said too so many times, I love the Canal du Midi and one of the reasons we bought our house is because it backs on to the Canal.

Here are a variety of photos of the Canal du Midi I have taken around Castelnaudary:


I am always amazed that the 150 mile (240 km) long canal was actually constructed during the reign of Louis XIV. I find it incredible that such a feat of engineering could have been undertaken at this time.

The construction lasted from 1666 to 1681 and it was Pierre-Paul Riquet who designed and built the canal to transport wheat, wine and textiles. It took 12,000 workers and, apparently, a large part of them were women. It opened on May 15th 1681.

The Canal du Midi became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

Here is the ‘Justification for Inscription’ by UNESCO.

The Committee decided to inscribe the nominated property on the basis of cultural criteria (i), (ii), (iv) and (vi) considering that the site is of outstanding universal value being one of the greatest engineering achievements of the Modern Age, providing the model for the flowering of technology that led directly to the Industrial Revolution and the modern technological age. Additionally, it combines with its technological innovation a concern for high aesthetic architectural and landscape design that has few parallels. The Committee endorsed the inscription of this property as the Canal du Midi clearly is an exceptional example of a designed landscape.’

I also found this clip about the Canal produced by UNESCO

Have you ever visited the Canal du Midi? Perhaps you’ve rented a boat and travelled down the Canal? Or maybe you’ve cycled beside it? I’d love to know!

I’m sharing this post with #AllAboutFrance. This is the place to find lots of interesting blog posts which all have a French focus.


Tiles, the tip and trailers

…and probably too much alliteration!

Back in the UK and feeling sad about all the hideous events that have taken place here recently. I take comfort in family, friends and the mundane…

…Such as the repairs to the roof on our house in Castelnaudary. The work  began a couple of weeks ago; just in time for the heatwave.

Our roofers began work before seven each morning, in an attempt to avoid the main heat of the day, and we made sure there were plenty of cold drinks available.  One of their main tasks was to replace all the broken and cracked tiles, then clean the whole roof and secure all the tiles properly.

Here’s a finished section:


It looks so light and clean!

We also seem to be visiting the local tip on a fairly regular basis – we know how to have fun! My husband more than me. When I do go, it’s always interesting to observe the comings and goings. Our tip is run by a very petite and highly efficient woman. This is vital to avoid trailer rage!

Apologies for the rather ‘less than exciting’ photos which were taken from the car, on my phone. At least the sky is a beautiful blue!

Trailers…I have never seen as many trailers as I have in our local area. Is it because we are relatively rural? Or is it related to the French love of camping? Perhaps someone can enlighten me?!




That was the week that was…

img_0092We returned to Castelnaudary, last week.

We’d gone back to the U.K. to welcome home our youngest son. He has just completed three months, as a volunteer, on a shark conservation project, in Fiji. Communication had been very limited, so it was wonderful to have him back, safe and sound.


The roses were blooming in our French garden, the Canal du Midi was still flowing serenely, my students of English, at the AVF, were just as enthusiastic, the sun was shining most of the time and I continued to feel how lucky and privileged we were to have a home here.

We knew that our roof needed to be cleaned and that we had one or two broken tiles that needed to be fixed. Manu, our local, friendly and helpful ‘artisan’ who had already done some work for us, came with his special roof ladder and off he went.

This was the moment when we learnt a new French phrase: vice caché.  This is a hidden defect. This means that a serious fault has been hidden (allegedly!) which might have led to a reduction in the price or even negated the sale. It turns out that the roof, on top of the tower, is virtually useless.  The tiles are broken and have been covered by strips of bitumen; like putting a plaster over a wound. To replace the roof may cost thousands. For me, it’s not even about the money; I feel sad, disappointed…


It is impossible to see from the ground. It can only been seen when you are actually on the roof. I’m really angry but I remind myself that it is only a roof; no one has died or fallen gravely ill or been injured. However, I am not used to being ‘mugged off’, as son number one, put it. I am naïve enough, to expect other people to have the same moral values as us.

We are now in touch with a lawyer and will have to decide whether it is worth the hassle and expense of going to court. I suspect  not…

On a happier note, for me anyway, I woke up this morning to realise that I was not in a country that had voted for a National Front President. I’m aware that Macron will have a lot of work to do but after Brexit and Trump, I’m relieved that, in my opinion, there is still some sanity in France!

Thank you for reading to the end. Rant over!


Une question de langue

One of the things I have always loved the most about France is the language. I feel as if I morph into a different person when I’m speaking French. I wonder if everybody feels like this… I wonder if it’s the same for other languages…I’m guessing: yes!

Anyhow, we’re now back in Castelnaudary and on this occasion decided to drive down. We caught the ferry from Newhaven and broke our long journey south by staying in a hotel outside of Tours. It was an unremarkable hotel, one of a chain, but ideal if you just want somewhere to lay your head that is clean and comfortable. However, the staff were exceptionally accommodating and friendly.

At breakfast this caught my eye:


It wasn’t the coffee machine that intrigued me, although it did produce surprisingly decent coffee. It was the expression ‘nuage de lait’ which I’ve never noticed before, perhaps because I always drink my coffee black!

I’ve known about a ‘larme de lait’ – a tear 💧 drop of milk but this is the my first experience of a ‘cloud of milk’. What a charming expression!

All kinds of images came into my head:

I’m afraid I can’t credit for the two photos above. They are from freeimages.com  The cloud was taken by Kimberley V and the coffee by se hui (Shirley) Kim.

Do you come across phrases that really catch your attention and charm you?

Please share if you do!

I am linking this post with #AllAboutFrance


Why Castelnaudary ?

I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in France, over the years, and in lots of different places. My first ever trip was to Paris and I’ve returned countless times since. I spent a year in Tours, as a student and a year in Metz as a teacher. I’ve spent months in Grenoble and Angers, on courses. As a family, we’ve visited Brittany, Limousin. les Landes, Charentes and that’s just for starters!

So, why Castelnaudary to buy our home? Even my husband has asked me this question! It’s quite difficult to put a feeling into words … the Canal du Midi, the location – between Toulouse and Carcassone – a sense of the ‘real’ France and much, much more…

Why did you chose your home in France? Or anywhere else? Was it heart or head that influenced your decision? I’d love to know.