Christmas 2017 -- Bagnères-de-Bigorre

I can't believe Christmas is only just over a week away. I was feeling pretty organised this year, then had a spate of meetings for the kids' schools and the bike club, as well as work getting busy. This year has been dominated by (still on-going) renovations – not cycling for once, although that has featured highly of course!

In May, we had the roof replaced, with insulation put in. This meant we had to completely clear out the top floor first, then rip out the ceilings – a filthy job. Still, the difference is amazing, particularly not feeling the extremes of temperature in summer and winter.

our new facade and roof

Then at the end of August, more workers arrived to completely re-do the façade. This was another massive job – days of pneumatic drills to rip the old render off, then several coats of new render. Still, the whole neighbourhood seems impressed with the result. I've painted the front door, Patrick's done the woodwork below the roof-line, so now we've just got all the shutters to do (but I think I'll let it warm up a bit outside first). So with all this, we haven't travelled very far afield. Instead, we're very fortunate that friends and family enjoy coming over to France.

walking near Bareges with Sarah, Dave and Glyn

Firstly family: We saw Sarah, Dave and Glyn when they came over to Barèges for some skiing, then met up with Hiltrud in Biarritz in March. It was also nice to catch up with Alex and Emilie when they were over, then have a few days with Mum and Mike near Sète at the end of the summer.

outside 'Claire and Patrick's' cafe near Sete with Nanna and Grandad

Then a real highlight for me was travelling around north Spain with Hiltrud, staying in Paradors – state-run hotels some of which are renovated castles.

outside our hotel

and in the courtyard

Another special memory from this year was our coast-to-coast ride across the Pyrenees. It was a real shame that Innes couldn't make it, but it's something I've wanted to do for years and it was wonderful to share the experience with such good friends. Thank you to Serena, Ewen and Liz for coming over to do the ride with us.

team Bagneres climbing the Aspin

Also thank you to Stephen, Alison, Helen and Arthur for spending their summer holidays in Bagnères with Sophie and Thomas while we were off cycling.

aperitifs with Helen and Arthur

Sophie and Thomas are both doing well. They both took part in a major fashion show in Bagnères early in the year. They're both doing well at school. Sophie's now moved on to lycée.

top models

They've both also done well in various mountain-bike events. Through the school, they went on a two-day multi-sport ‘Raid' (mountain-biking, running, archery, kayaking, etc) with Patrick and I going along to supervise the teams. We had one night camping with hundreds of kids in the grounds of a lycée – a bit like Reading Festival without the alcohol.

Thomas and his team-mates for the Raid

Patrick's also done some major cycling events – the Epic Enduro near Beziers, where he came third. And the Raid VTT Chemin du Soleil -- a 4-stage mountainbike race in the Alps.

final downhill of the Epic Enduro in Olargues

My big event was the Pyrénéene, a road race, which I won my age category in! All in all, it's been another lovely year, and we're all looking forward to ending the year with the family in the UK.

All our best wishes for 2018,

Claire, Patrick, Sophie and Thomas (and Toby the dog)

camping at Payolle