August ..all gone

So it’s the last day of August today…& the official end of summer so they say. It is still pretty warm though & we are still eating outdoors most days so it looks like we may extend summer for a bit longer here at Les Hirondelles. We have seen a dramatic drop in the phone call & e mail enquiries this week – it is always the same after the 15th August when the whole French nation fixates on going back to work & school after the summer. The dreaded rentree is upon us. Luckily we do have quite a few B&B bookings for September so we won’t be joining the breadline just yet, but it does go very quiet here at the end of August. Sauxillanges was like a ghost town on Tuesday after the busy bustling market days of the summer. It was very easy to get parked though so that was a bonus & I will be able to resume the dog walks round the lake next week as the camp site & swimming pool will be closed. I don’t take Bounty to the lake there, in summer because he runs off & pinches things from the camper’s tents!

We have had a very busy August though with the gite & B&B & once again have met some very nice, interesting people. We have had lots of B&B guests including a couple of blokes who arrived on very fancy motorbikes - a Harley Davidson & an Indian (or so I was told!) who came for the Freewheels motorcycle & rock Festival which is held every year near Clermont Ferrand. They were nice blokes & really enjoyed the festival – even if it did pour down with rain & they thought Joe Cocker, who was headlining the concerts, looked “old”! We have also had a visit from my very good friends Rose & Robin who were en route to Sete for a short holiday with the family. Lots of catching up was done on those two days resulting in a couple of late night chat sessions. Some friends of friends stayed too – the Bennett family - & they really enjoyed the countryside, our animals (Michael’s mum would have taken Bounty with her if she could have fitted him in the car) & the fireworks at the lake at Vernet la Varenne on their last night here. And just this last weekend we have had a long awaited visit from our son Matthew & his lovely lady, Susie which was great as we haven’t seen them since they set off on their travels around Asia in December. A great family weekend was had by all & we enjoyed meeting Susie’s parents too. On the down side, we have had an awful lot of last minute cancellations for the B&B this month – more than we have ever had before which is very annoying. I don’t know if “le crise” is finally starting to bite or what, but there seems to have been a lot of people suddenly “taking ill” or having “family problems” of late. I may have to re think my booking policy if this continues as I don’t ask for deposits usually for the B&B - it is too fiddly with small amounts of money involved, but I am beginning to think I may have to do so in the future.

The gite too has had its fair share of nice visitors this year including a couple from Dallas USA who were spending a few days with his Franco/American daughter & her French boyfriend. Ben (the dad) was an illustrator by trade & drew & painted some wonderful observation pictures of things he saw around here to illustrate his holiday diary. I was fascinated & in awe of his talent & was delighted when he gave me a fantastic painting of the garden as a gift before they left. They were also vegetarians – not an easy thing to be in the Auvergne which doesn’t really lend itself to a non meat culture. However they were delighted to be allowed to help themselves to the rampant courgettes & green beans from our potager & the herbs in our garden. As usual by this time I am fed up with eating courgettes & green beans so they were actually doing me a favour, but they thought it was wonderful! Now the gite is empty again & looking its usual forlorn self – I hate to see it empty! The weather is still good so if any of you want an autumn break, you know what to do!

We haven’t had an awful lot of time to do social things this month as we have been too busy, but we did manage to go to some of the village fete day activities which was good. The weather is year was mostly kind & we enjoyed browsing round the vide greniers, the lunchtime meal in the salle de fetes & of course the fireworks on the Sunday evening. We took our American visitors to that but couldn’t persuade them to join in the dancing to the accordion band afterwards. I wonder why?? We also enjoyed the magnificent fireworks display at the lake at Vernet la Varenne which we went to accompanied by the Bennett family. They took some fantastic photographs of the display, some of which you can see on the Les Hirondelles, Chabanol page on Facebook if you are interested. I swear that display gets better every year & the setting is superb with the fireworks being reflected in the lake & the musical accompaniment. It always puzzles me too where all the people come from as usually V la V is like a ghost town but for that evening it is absolutely packed with hundreds of people attending the fair & the display!

We have also managed to fit in some swimming in the lake at Vernet this month which has been very refreshing after some of the very hot weather we have had. The temperatures were reaching the dizzy heights of 40c some days & we became one of the regions with canicule (heat wave) warnings issued for a few days. We are so lucky to have that lake nearby to go to in the evenings to cool off in summer. The lifeguard will be packing up this weekend but we can still swim there for a while yet…until the water temperatures fall below the level when even we silly Brits want to swim in! I discovered to my glee this weekend that the lifeguard measures the water temperature each day using a penguin shaped baby bath thermometer which he puts into the shallows near the edge of the lake! That could explain why his board reports the water temp as being 26c when the actual water in the middle of the lake feels nothing like that! I am also very proud to report that I swam a distance (this weekend when my son was here to witness it too!) which I had set myself at the beginning of the summer. This was a big achievement for me as I am not a strong or confident swimmer at all. Maybe I will go even further before we have to stop swimming there this year…or then again, maybe not!