Friday, 21 September 2012

The Lake of Bethmale, Ariège-Pyrénees

The Couserans region of Ariège is a wild tumble of mountains, high meadows, lakes, streams and waterfalls. The Lac de Bethmale is especially beautiful because of the incredible blue-green colour of the water.
According to legend, a wicked witch lived by the lake and she caused endless mischief and misery for the local peasants. One day, they took their pitchforks and surrounded her. Seeing there was no escape, the witch jumped into the lake, shouting that she would never really vanish. It is her cloak, on the lake bottom, that gives the water its unusual colour.




The traditional costume of the people in the Vallée de Bethmale is completely different from anything else in the region. The wooden sabots with their enormous upturned toes have a special significance. The young man has to have the strength to pull two branches from a beech tree from which to make a pair of clogs. So - the longer the toes, the stronger the man and the better chance he has of getting a bride.

                               Image result for lac de bethmale dances

Friday, 7 September 2012

La Ferme de Méras - a farm with a difference

Research for my current WIP takes me to strange places. And the byways of that research often yield much more than was expected. In August, I needed to make a second trip into the Ariège region of France in order to investigate the type of horses that could be bred and managed in that mountainous area.

                                
                      Mérens horse
                                                  
           
                 Castillon horses

Lucie consulted the Routard guidebook for the region near Foix. 'Horses,' she exclaimed, 'Just listen to this: "The Mérens horse is considered to be descended from the race represented in cave paintings from the Magdalenian period, 13,000 years ago. Short legged and sturdy, they are perfectly adapted to the Pyreneen region." ' Then she gave a shout of triumph. 'We can stay at the Ferme de Méras, where the owner farms only with oxen or mules. He gives courses in training farm animals and is an associate of the Mérens horse society.'

That is how we came to spend four days at Olivier Courthiade's farm. It was an experience of life in the countryside as it used to be. The farm is reached via a road with several hairpin bends. Our arrival was observed by a crowd of dogs and several mules, as well as a Mérens horse. Within half an hour of arriving, we were embarked in Olivier's car, together with as many dogs as could fit in around us, to drive up the hill to take grain for his sheep and goats. These wander freely during the summer season, so they all wear bells. The tinkling came faster and faster as they all rushed to their barn for a share of the grain.             

                          

Olivier simply sweeps all visitors into the family. Dinner is eaten - late - on the balcony, with a view of the sunset behind the hills. Then as darkness falls, we continue our meal by candlelight. The food is a delight - all cooked by Olivier from the produce of his garden and local meat. His soups and sauces are mouthwatering. The relaxed atmosphere adds to the charm of the evening. In this photo, everything is ready for a first course of 'soupe à l'oeuf'.

The farmhouse
                                            
                                          Below : The stables and some of the carts in use 


             Below : Inside the stables. The mules are very happy if you bring them apple peel.
For more pictures and information about courses or simply staying on the farm, follow the link below.

          Ferme de Méras - Ariège Pyrénées

      La Ferme de Méras


09240 La Bastide de Serou, Ariège Pyrénées, France,
Tel : (33) 05 61 64 50 66 ( Daily before 9am or after 9pm) English spoken - Habla español + catalan ...


[C] words - Beth Elliott, photos Lucie Rochelle 07/09/2012