Road Ride!

Everyone seemed to be melting down on Friday, with lots of shouting from DD who was in an I Want It Now kind of mood, so when James needed to pop out on an errand I saw an opportunity: yes, of course I’m happy to stay here in the mad house you are about to escape from but in exchange? A bike ride, thank you very much. The weather wasn’t great – it was windy, almost cold, overcast – and more than once I thought maybe I was too tired so would go another day but when he got back and DD suggested going to the park I saw my chance. So here it is: my first road ride in I have no idea how long. Two years, three? It’s been a while. Getting out today, even though only for a short while, was made so much sweeter by the awesomeness of the landscape: I’ve wanted to ride these roads since we first came in holiday 6 years ago. And now here I am.


It was only a short loop, just 7 miles, but had a couple of nice climbs and a fab descent. Not a bad 30 minute loop for when I only have 30 minutes, which will be often.

If you want to see the route, check the Relive video below.

Bonus of the ride was coming across a fairly newborn foal with its mother. A beautiful sight.

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Walking the Sentier des Plâtriers

We did this walk ages ago but the pics I took were with my camera so it took me a while to get round to downloading them. Now that’s done, here’s the write up I said I would do in my Exploring on Foot post.

The Walk

The walk starts in the small village of Rouvenac, which is nestled in the Faby valley between Puivert and Esperaza. Leaving the place in Rouvenac, we crossed over the bridge, take a left, then headed straight ahead, following the road towards Galie. This climbs steadily until you reach the ruined moulin, which is a nice place for a quick explore – there’s an information board, in French – and a snack stop, if needed.

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The moulin – worth a look

Just past here the road forks, going left towards Galie and the short way to Fa, or right – which is the direction this walk takes.

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A well-signed route! Lots of options from here too.

The road then follows round the hill, climbing all the time (but once you’re at the top, you’re done) into a really quiet out-of-the-way valley. It’s quite an unusual landscape. Look out for the donkeys!

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James (with DS fast asleep) admiring the view

The track wiggles a little bit back and forth then turns off sharply to the right. We weren’t sure about this and um’d and ah’d before heading that way. Perhaps one of the signs is missing? Either way, after passing a couple of houses in very idyllic spots, the route takes the track to the right and heads a little higher before starting to descend, back in the direction of Rouvenac.

The next turning was little difficult to spot. It is signed but not that noticeably. First you pass the sign, by the V shaped tree, then you see, on the right side of the track a wooden “gate” – just wide enough to fit one relatively slender human through.

After squeezing through the stile, the walk follows a lovely winding path through the trees, through some fields with cattle (I know not what breed).

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A quiet path winding through the trees

It was at this point that DD decided she wanted to walk and she really enjoyed hopping over the rocks and picking her way along the path – until we came to the field of cattle! I had a few run-ins with cows while mountain biking in the Peaks back in the UK so am always wary of them now, so we bundled her up onto my shoulders for that stretch! I’m sure they were friendly but they are big animals so I prefer just to get past them asap so I can get on with enjoying my walk. By this time we were ready for a quick refreshment stop – snack time, and DD took some pictures with my camera.

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A quick refreshment stop for DS. It’s thirsty work being carried.

Shortly after here an electric fence blocked the path. As this was one of our very first walks we weren’t really sure what that meant but now know that it’s fairly common for tracks to be “blocked” by fencing, put there purely to keep the livestock where they want them. That’s what the plastic handles are for, so you can open the fence and pass through – no need to take your chances hopping over the top.

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An electric fence and some cabanes hidden in the woods

According to the sign there are some cabanes up there somewhere, but they weren’t visible from the track and we didn’t go looking for them. There’s no mention of them on the Internet either (I Googled on my return) so have no idea what’s there and will just have to take a closer look the next time we do this walk.

From this point the walk meanders down a very obvious path all the way back to the village. You come out at the back of the village and, on arriving at the first houses, can follow the road to the right (which takes you past the park and also the water fountain) or wander through the narrow streets and eventually back to the bridge.

The Verdict

On the Rando Pyrenees Audioses website it’s listed as an easy walk and estimates it to take about 2 hours. That was about right for us – and that was with DD pottering along and a snack stop. Anyone with a good march on could get round in much less time. It’s a nice length for a family, only 3 miles, and although it is hilly, once you’re at the top you’re done and it’s downhill all the way from there. Our three-year-old was carried all the way top but enjoyed walking all the way down.

We always like a walk with “features” – meaning a bit of variety – and enjoyed that aspect of this walk: the open valley, the woods, the cows, the meandering nature of the descent. It’s a nice walk for a family outing, never to far from civilization, fairly well signed, with lots of opportunities for snack stops and wildlife spotting. And also a nice route for any trail runners wanting to sneak a quick 5k in!

Getting There

Although we were living only a short distance away, we drove down and parked in the square by the bridge. The only way to get there, unless you’re already in the village, is by car. There may be buses but they are few and far between. The nearest railway station is Esperaza.

If, like us, you are doing the walk with small children, I recommend crossing over the bridge then taking left and then a right to park closer to or directly alongside the park, as we ended up there on our return then struggled to get a very tired DD back to the car. A three-year-old who won’t walk or be carried is a force to be reckoned with!

Refreshment Stops

As far as refreshments go, there isn’t anywhere nearby to recommend. At the time of writing the restaurant in Rouvenac is closed and for sale, so unlikely to reopen anytime soon. There’s the Cafe de Fa, a few miles down the road serving both food and drinks or, if you fancy a speciality beer, there’s the Brasserie de Quercorb, a microbrewery in Puivert, which is well worth a visit. Opening times may change so check their Facebook pages before setting off. In summer months there are other places in Puivert and also in Esperaza. Whether they’ll be open or not is another matter!

DOWNLOAD THE GPX FILE FROM GPSIES

Have you visited Rouvenac and done this walk? If so, what did you think?

 

A Tale of Two Trailer Rides

Since riding Circuit 20 on my own the other day and deciding it would be too much with the trailer – too much uphill for my current fitness levels and also a bit too bumpy for the little ones – I’ve been trying, with mixed success, to get round Circuit 11, which is graded green (easy). It’s a nice route as it passes close by the aerodrome where the small plane and gliders take off and land, so lots of opportunities for plane spotting.

I’ve made two attempts so far. The first time I went the wrong way round, according to the official route map, and also underestimated the sun. I cut the ride short after a slow, steady climb on a grassy track that required me to get off and push, leading from complaints from the trailer about how slow I was going, and because I was worried about not having their sun hats or any suncream; it’s taking a while to get used to living somewhere with good weather whereas dressing them up to keep warm or dry is second nature! DD was keen to get the playground anyway so I missed off that last loop and came back via the most direct route.

On my second attempt, there were complaints from my passengers about it being too bumpy last time, so I headed up the track anyway but took care to ride slowly and avoid any big bumps. I was at least going the right way round and my main aim for this attempt was to at least complete the leap I missed the first time around. I had to bail on that again though, as it when it came to the bottom of the track, DD took one look at it and decided it would be too bumpy. Abort, abort! I turned tail and headed back to the playground figuring I’d rather have a short ride with two happy passengers than a long ride accompanied by screaming and whinging – and I really don’t want to put them off.

 

The upshot is I need to out again and the only way I stand a chance of checking out the full loop is to do it on my own. Oh, the hardship 🙂 The weekend is coming, so guess what I have lined up…

 

Yes, out on my own on my lovely bike. Whoopee!!

Recipe: Wild Garlic & Red Onion Pizza

I was lucky enough to have been given a bag of wild garlic, which is just coming out of season and grows abundantly along the river banks around here. Learning when and where to pick many of these natural foods is all part of the learning experience in this part of the world that’s new to me, so I am grateful to my friend Cecilia for both sharing her food and local knowledge with me.

I’m not new to wild garlic; it was one of the few plants that actually grew in our shady old garden back in the UK but I never went out picking it in the wild so never had much of it to cook with. I think I made a batch of wild pesto with the leaves from our garden and may have chucked it into a salad now and again but that’s probably it. Since I was given a reasonably large portion to play with and had a small amount of spinach in the fridge that needed using up, I decided to mix the two up and make my favourite healthy homemade pizza. This is a family favourite, so I was curious to see how DD would manage with the garlic flavour given she’s quite flavour and texture sensitive these days. It’s basically the spinach, red onion, and pine nut pizza from Hugh Fearnley-Whittington’s Baby and Toddler recipe book, which is one of the two books I bought when trying to find inspiration for meals during the baby-led weaning phase with DD. The main difference between my recipe and his is that I make my own pizza base. I don’t do anything fancy with it – just buy 00 flour (extra-fine flour for pizza bases) and follow the recipe on the packet. The magic happens with the topping.

I’ve made this pizza enough times to have stopped looking at the official recipe. It’s still coming out nicely. I only usually go back to the recipe when my tweaks take me off course and I make something that’s not on a par with the original. I forgot to take any pictures – sorry – so you’ll just have to take my word for it that this recipe is well worth the effort. I’d say hands down this is the best-tasting pizza ever invented!

To make it you need this list of ingredients:

1 large or 2 smaller red onions
1 tube of tomato puree (use a much of this as you like!)
Garlic – 2 large cloves, crushed
1 bag of spinach (about 500g) or a mix of spinach and wild garlic
1 ball mozzarella
1 pizza base (freshly made or bought – or cheat, like Hugh does, and use a sheet of ready- made puff pastry)
pine nuts (to finish)

To put it all together:

  1. Chop the onions and put them into a frying pan with some oil. Fry them on a low heat until they’re soft. You want them to caramelise so don’t rush it.
  2. While the onions are cooking, wash and drain the spinach/wild garlic then toss it into a saucepan. Put the lid on it and let it steam in the washing water. Keep an eye on the heat – obviously you don’t want it to burn onto the bottom, so take off the lid and give it a stir now and again until it’s collapsed into a soggy green blob at the bottom of you pan. Then strain it into a colander.
  3. Rinse the spinach in cold water then wring all the water out of it using your hands. This is really important because it means when you add it to your pan of garlicky-onions it will soak up the flavours. Yum.
  4. When the onions are soft, add the crushed garlic. I put mine through a press, then it dissolves into the onions and makes everything super-garlicky. The IKEA one is the best I’ve found and is going cheap on Amazon.
  5. Let the garlic cook for a couple of minutes so that it’s dissolved in with the onions.
  6. Add the squeezed greens to you onion pan. Give it all good stir and leave it to sit for a minute or two.
  7. Roll your pizza dough onto a paper-lined baking tray and spread some tomato puree on top.
  8. Spread the onion mixture evenly onto your pizza base.
  9. Add blobs of mozzarella.
  10. Sprinkle the top with pine nuts (if using).
  11. Cook it in the oven. I’ve no idea what temperature Hugh uses (and can’t find his book right now!) so go for something in the middle of the range – Gas Mark 6 usually works for most things. It won’t take long – check after 10 minutes and leave it longer if it still looks pale and the cheese hasn’t melted. I like my pizzas with good crusts and slightly burned cheese but you might like yours a bit less crispy.

Voila! A tasty homemade pizza.

Still hungry? Next time, try putting an egg (or two) on top and you’ve got your very own version of Pizza Express’s Fiorentina pizza (my favourite) with bells on!

Disclaimer: This post includes a referral link to Amazon.

A Circuit of Puivert

I made it out the bike – yippee!!

A Leap Into the Void

I blagged a pass out today so decided to go off and quickly reccie the a local and easy-looking VTT route, Circuit 20 on the VTT Pyrenees website. It’s short – just 10km – so never far from home and not the end of the world if it didn’t work out for any reason but I always like to reccie any family rides, then I know if there are any difficult places I should I avoid, such as fields with big scary cows in, or parts of the route that aren’t accessible with the trailer.

What’s nice is that all the routes listed on the site are also waymarked along the way. The waymarks are easy to spot and are simple but effective, showing you when to turn – or not, much like the symbols used to identify walking routes. I’ve no idea why this notation isn’t used in the UK, because it…

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Trailer ride!

The sun was shining, we were all stuck indoors, bouncing of the walls a little, so there was only one thing for it. Yes, TRAILER RIDE!!!

My bike was up for it, still functional after spending winter under a tarp on the balcony, and the trailer was all set up ready. DD was excited and had agreed that it would be okay to share her trailer with DS. Phew. I dragged bike and trailer up to the square, prepared some supplies, and set about buckling up the smalls. DS didn’t have the faintest idea what was happening and didn’t seem keen at first, not helped by a small amount of faffing while I changed the straps so they were set up for two passengers side-by-side instead of one in the middle. Luckily he settled and stopped trying to break free once DD was seated beside him. We were off!

The route to the park (our destination) is all downhill – whoopee! We sped down, squeals and giggles coming from the trailer, and DD announced, “I’m happy, Mummy.” Yup, I was pretty happy too!

We got to the park, made a little camp in the play house, and had our snacks. Then, after a good run around and some trading of sticks for daisies from our little “shop”, it was time to head back. Uphill. All the way.

Eventually I made it. Approaching the steepest part of the return journey, which also happens to be the very last part of the journey, I’d saved myself one gear. Phew. I couldn’t go faster or talk much – my legs were burning! – and the littles weren’t asleep when I got back, which was a key part of the master plan. Who cares though. I rode my bike, DS had his first ride in the trailer, and DD had fun riding with him. We’re moving in 10 days and DD’s new maternelle is a short, rideable distance away. It’s sunny and it’s only March. Awesome!

Cycling Wish List

I still haven’t managed to get out and ride but things are looking up: DS will be one in just a few weeks and we move house around that time too, should be more settled and into something resembling a routine. I’m hoping that those two things will mean I can plan some bike rides back into my life. The same goes for exercise generally! It’s been too long. The kettlebells haven’t made it out of the (heavy) box they came in and because our Internet connection has been so ropey I haven’t had access to the kind of 10- or 20-minute YouTube workout I’d become slightly dependent on.

Instead I’ve contented myself with a fantasy list of bike rides. Some are hopefully going to be my new local loops. I’ve been busy on MapMyRide working out a few routes from the doorstep, in anticipation of both getting out on my road bike and heading into the hills with An for some off-road. I’m pretty excited!

But there are also bigger fish to fry. One of the reasons I’m so excited about being in France first and mainland Europe second is that there are so many long-distance paths that are safe for family rides. There are so many I want to do I’ll easily lose track of them all if I don’t keep a log somewhere, so I’ve added a page to the blog. So far I’ve got the two voie vert routes that are closest to me and one long distance path. There will definitely be more to follow!