A land of ducks, Armagnac, fruit and nuts.

Well – we have our first review on Cool Camping – and we got 5 stars!  You can have a look at what they think of us here.  Our first guests have all been lovely and really positive.

The site and gites are looking great and we’re alive with birds which are busy demolishing our first crop of cherries. The trees are laden but the bulk of the fruit is unreachable without a cherry-picker. We’re not convinced that the economics work out on that one so we can’t complain too much.  We knew that there were lots of different trees so are on a voyage of discovery as fruits and nuts start to appear.  So far we have spotted sweet chestnuts, walnuts, apples, cherries, figs, plums, grapes and of course the famous Le Poteau bananas.  Our guests are welcome to help themselves to whatever crop happens to be in season when they visit.

I waved farewell to Fiona this weekend as she headed back to Whitley Bay and her final half term at her school.  No doubt it will be pretty hectic as it’s usually a crazy term anyway. She is itching to get back here but I suspect that she’ll find it quite a wrench to leave her school as she does love the place.  It will, however,  be great to finally have her here permanently.  Only seven weeks to go… We got loads done last week.  It turns out that self employment is a bit like painting the Forth Road Bridge – there is just always more to do or something that needs done again.  Keeping the grass in check is a monumental task on it’s own!

I have been working hard, but have had the odd outing with new friends to local events.  There is so much going on.  A few weeks ago I had a great evening in a little bar in Condom watching a fabulous bluegrass band. There was a great atmosphere and the owners were so welcoming, making sure they touched base with everyone. We both feel that one of the reasons that we love this area so much is that people are so friendly and welcoming.  Any guests who chose to go along to local events – of which there are many in summer – will, I’m sure, receive the same warm welcome.

Last week as a wee treat, we popped down to the cafe in Castelnau for lunch.  Fanny and Cris are a young local couple who run the cafe by the lake in summer and Le Cafe du Sport in the centre of the village in winter.  Her parents own a very well known and celebrated restaurant a few miles away in a small village called Labarrere -La Piece du Beouf.  They certainly can cook as lunch was great.

Neighbours are still turning up to say hello and offer support.  We are invited to a big communal supper later this month at a neighbour’s farm. It is an annual tradition where everyone within a few miles comes together, bringing a contribution of food or wine. One very important rule is that you bring your own plate, cutlery and glass!

We’re getting to know the region much better now.  Gers is a land of 180,000 people…and 4 million ducks.  It is awash with vines and Le Poteau is completely surrounded by vineyards, mainly for Armagnac.  12,800 acres are given over to Armagnac production.  This is tiny compared to Cognac. Apparently, the annual production of Armagnac is equal to the “Angels Share” of Cognac i.e the amount of Cognac lost to evaporation in the barrel. Le Poteau is in the Haut Armagnac region of Gers which claims to produce the finest of all as many producers still manfully cultivate the best but most fickle grape the Folle Blanche – ‘mad white’. This is a very ancient variety but notoriously susceptible to disease so takes a lot of tender care. Locals assure us that this is well worth it.  We have yet to become connoisseurs but  we’re willing to work at it.  They say Armagnac is, “not the best-known, but known by the best” so we hope to see you here, sipping a glass in the setting summer sun.

Vines at Le Poteau leading towards our sweet chestnut trees.

Alasdair & Fiona