Christmas 2008 -- Bagnčres-de-Bigorre

Hi there, it’s been a pretty good year again. Hope it’s been a good year for you too.

Coastal walk in Brittany

Messing about in boats

It doesn’t feel like we’ve had so many visitors this year, at least not staying in the house. Rik and Rachel came over in February with their two girls, hoping to find snow in fact we enjoyed some of the warmest days this year with them. Mark and Alana came over from Oz with the boys, staying in the same rental apartment down our street as before. Then in August, Ewen came for a few days of cycling and good food (more delicious tarts, thanks Ewen!) Unfortunately, my dad & Martha haven’t had the opportunity to come out, but it’s been great to see all the other parents as well as both sisters. In fact, the children (and I) were very exited to meet Sarah & Dave’s son, ‘baby cousin Glyn’. Mum & Mike brought the caravan over and stayed locally more excitement for the kids spending a night with Nanna & Grandad in their caravan. For us, it was the second night we’d had together away from Sophie & Thomas - the first time at home very strange to wake up without them around.

Thomas and Sophie in Nanna's caravan

We’ve also got away a few times, firstly in April. After Hiltrud and Anna’s visit, we drove over to Biarritz to spend a couple more days with Hiltrud there. It’s quite a nice town to visit out of season and Patrick managed to fit in a short surfing session. Then in May, I took Sophie and Thomas over to the UK to stay with Mum and Mike, like last year this time leaving Patrick to work on the bathroom. For us, it was a lovely relaxing few days, and Patrick managed to make good progress without us around. We again drove up to Brittany in the summer for two weeks with Pat and Frances, overlapping with the cousins for the second week. We spent most of the time messing around at the beach, but also had some nice walks, and the kids loved visiting a chateau. In the autumn, we managed to fit in one more brief trip to the coast, spending the night with friends who have an apartment at Cap Breton (north of Biarritz). It was a bit wet, but we still got out and had fun.

Surf at Cap Breton near Biarritz

Patrick’s also been away a couple of times for work Korea and Finland at the beginning of the year and Egypt in November. The Egypt trip was for the ancient boat project he’s been helping with. The boat has now been built and is supposed to sail on the Red Sea in January (the documentary will be out some time next year). Patrick also had a trip to the Alps, as he’s got involved in a company that organises cycling holidays. It’s based in the Alps, but they’re interested in starting up tours in the Pyrenees too and Patrick’s the local contact. And on the subject of cycling, of course it was really exciting to have the Tour de France come to Bagnčres for the first time since we moved here (finishing here one day and then going through again the next). We were really lucky to have friends who live on the route for both days and who didn’t mind us inviting ourselves round.

Tour de Farce as it passes through Bag2Big

We got Sophie and Thomas new bikes last Christmas (Thomas is nearly big enough for his now!). They both enjoy cycling and it’s got easier for us now that Thomas is riding a bike with pedals and brakes. We also bought another tandem in the summer, which is designed for an adult and child. It’s brilliant it’s been great for getting Sophie to school and we get a few funny looks from people, especially when Thomas is in the seat at the back. Thomas had quite an achievement this year he won a competition to design a bike jersey with Singletrack magazine beating Sophie and Patrick among others. He’s won some jerseys with his design on for his mates and us.

Kids on bikes

Thomas and Sophieare both at school full-time now. Thomas started at the Maternelle in January, while Sophie was still there, but she’s now moved on to primary school which is the opposite end of town (good job it’s not a big town). They’re both speaking French really well now. They spend more time with French friends than English friends. Sophie also does dance twice a week. She tried out 3 different types of dance last year and chose to continue with ballet. It’s all taken pretty seriously - they’ve got to have the right leotard and have their hair in a bun. The show is already planned for next June. Thomas’ class went to the gym several times and I went along as a helper. It was fun, but interesting trying to control a bunch of French 3-year-olds.

Life in Bag2Big

Sophie and Thomas get on really well together and have actually decided to share a room. So now they have bunk beds in what was Thomas’ room and Sophie’s room has become the playroom (which doubles as a guest room in the winter).

New sleeping arrangments

There have been a few other changes to the house our room is now finished and the bathroom is coming along. With any luck, we’ll have the new shower in by Christmas (and the old one out the window!). Hopefully we’ll get the rest done next year (bath, basin, ceiling, heating, etc). The thing is, progress is a bit slow what with Patrick working full-time, and now I’ve got a proper job too, although just part-time. I’m teaching in Tarbes (about 30 minutes drive away) and at the moment I’m working with a group of travel agents. It’s actually quite nice to get back into teaching, although it’s a shame it’s not a bit closer to home. Still, Patrick and I have both found time to keep pretty active. Patrick’s done a few big rides this year a couple of ‘cyclosportives’ (organised road rides, but not really races) and the Bagnčres 12-hour (mountain biking). It actually turned into a 6-hour, as the rain and cold made it all a bit miserable. They were all absolutely covered in mud afterwards.

In the wake of the TDF, Ewen, Liz and Claire take on the mighty Hautacam

I twisted my ankle earlier in the year, so did more road riding than mountain biking over the summer. With friends, I rode up Hautacam and the Col d’Aspin and started thinking I wanted to do more cols, before I remembered that mountain biking is much more fun. I’ve also started running something I swore I’d never do. I’ve got a friend who’s also keen and we’re thinking about entering the local off-road half-marathon next May. Well, it’s good to have a goal. We’ve also all been out walking quite regularly, so much that Thomas has started saying that Sunday is ‘going into the mountains day’.

Enjoying the mountains (col du Tourmalet and picking blueberries)

Anyway, we all send our best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. All the best,

Claire, Patrick, Sophie and Thomas