a french garden

A secret corner of paradise

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I will share with you the secret of a little corner of paradise!

It seems, in any case, to be a secret, for when Amelia and I mention lake Carcans-Maubuisson to most of our French friends, they claim that they have never heard of it.  They all tell me that the largest lake in France is Lake Annecy (Lac d’Annecy) in the Haute-Savoie.  But lake Annecy covers an area of 27.5 square kilometers.  Lake Geneva, admittedly is large (580 Sq Km), but it is only partially in France.  Lake Carcans-Maubuisson or sometimes referred to as Hourtin-Carcans, depending on the leaflet of which tourist office you look at, is indeed the largest inland lake, entirely in France.  It covers an area of 56.67 square kilometers, and is just 50 Km west of Bordeaux in the Aquitaine region of France.

Lake Carcans Maubuisson to the North and Lake Lacanu below it.  The Atlantic Ocean on the left.

Lake Carcans Maubuisson to the North and Lake Lacanau below it. The Atlantic Ocean on the left.

Just on the Southern shores of the lake is the little town of Maubuisson, with its main Boulevard du Lac running along the shore.

Lake Carcans- Maubuisson

Lake Carcans- Maubuisson

Amelia and I escape to this little corner of paradise whenever the windsurfing fever takes us, or we just feel that we need a little relaxation from weeding and looking after Amelia’s ‘afrenchgarden’.

I love to just sit on the terrace of the café ‘Le Bord’eau’ and have a cup of coffee.

Le Bord 'eau

Le Bord ‘eau

I often look across the bay and watch the boats, the catamarans, and the windsurfers sailing across the lake.

Water sports heaven

Water sports heaven

We went to Maubuisson on 2nd of September but the French holiday season had finished.    The temperature was between 28 degrees Centigrade (82 F) and 34 Centigrade (93 F).  The water was warm and there were only a small number of holiday makers, mostly locals on the beach.

30 degrees and the summer is over!

30 degrees and the summer is over!

As we swam in the lake damselflies and dragonflies skimmed over the lake and sandy shore.

Azure Damselfly -(Coenagrion puella)

Azure Damselfly -(Coenagrion puella)

Amelia drew my attention to a pair of azure damselflies at ‘it’, on the sand.  Even during mating they appeared to indicate that they too loved Maubuisson .

Azure Damselflies mating (Coenagrion puella)

Azure Damselflies mating (Coenagrion puella)

We took a stroll in the weekly street market and watched the regional products on display.

Home-made Pate

Home-made Pate on sale

The Basque family  (Euskadi is their own name for Basque) were selling cheese and home made cakes.

Basque (Euskadi) cheese and cake

Basque (Euskadi) cheese and cake

The little Basque girl would be at school in a few days, but today she was helping mum.

Basque girl in the market

Basque girl in the market

The fishmonger was displaying beautiful fresh fish and his stall was certainly very popular.

Fishmonger in the market

Fishmonger in the market

The little dog waited patiently and hopefully.

Fish for dinner?

Fish for dinner?

There were several stalls selling local and regional handicraft: pottery, clothes and jewelry.

Local jewelry

Local jewelry

I mentioned that there are two lakes in that area.  To the North is the lake Carcans-Maubuisson and below that is lake Lacanau.  There is, however another little jewel in between these two lakes and that is lake Cousseau.

Lake Cousseau

Lake Cousseau

It is a nature reserve and can only be reached on foot or on bicycle.  The lake, now covering some 6 square kilometers,  was formed some 3000 years ago after the last ice age came to an end.  Initially lake Cousseau was joined to its sister lakes on the North and the South, but as the water receded, the area around the lake became, as it is today, a marshland ideal for the wildlife.

Lake Cousseau and its marshland

Lake Cousseau and its marshland

Whilst I enjoyed the absolute peace and beauty of the countryside, Amelia was busy (bee-sy?) taking macro photos of the bees , the damselflies, and the butterflies.

Amelia relaxing (I think) in the nature reserve.

Amelia relaxing (I think) in the nature reserve.

Along the path back from the lake I did see the white-tailed bumble bees gorging themselves on the heather.  This one’s pollen sac was so heavy that I wondered how she could fly.

White-tailed bumble bee on heather

White-tailed bumble bee on heather

It is rare in our area of the Charente-Maritime to see and hear the cicadas (Cicadidae).  But the Gironde region is that little bit more south. I could hear many cicadas singing in the hot mid-day , but when I looked carefully I eventually spotted him (or her?)

Cicada

Cicada

I found it difficult to photograph the little insect, but hopefully the very short video clip  (only 12 seconds) is more demonstrative as the cicada moves down along the bark of the tree.  I will not even try to explain how cicadas make their  wonderful sound, since  Sue in her Backyard Biology blog so wonderfully explains and illustrates it.

I looked up beyond the cicada, at the deep blue sky,

blue sky

blue sky

And I thought once again how lucky I was.  As Amelia and I drove back home I recalled the lyrics of an old song:

‘If paradise is half as nice as heaven that you take me to, who needs paradise, I’d rather have you.’

– K

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Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

26 thoughts on “A secret corner of paradise

  1. What a beautiful area. Certainly looks like paradise to me.

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  2. Thank you for sharing that. I’m heading to Lacanau Ocean in November for golf – and its great some inside information.

    I’m now noticing damselflies when walking the dogs round our little village lake – the blue ones are so nice and easy spot – I think mine are Common Blue. I only ever seem to notice males. Thats a great image of the loving couple.

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    • I wish you a very happy golfing holiday in the picturesque golf course at Lacanau ocean. November is getting a bit cool to really enjoy the beauty of the area, but with the casino there and the ocean, Lacanau Ocean is a haven for surfers. I hope that you will have time to see the other two lakes too. Enjoy your time there. – K

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  3. A lovely post, and such beautiful countryside… a real paradise indeed. I didn’t realise there are cicadas in France, and am impressed that you managed to locate one to photograph!

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    • Thank you, Cathy.
      Amelia and I certainly think the area is of special beauty and we have been so lucky to enjoy our time there at each visit.
      Cicadas are certainly very common in France, specially in the southern departments all the way, of course to Italy. The famous French poet la Fontaine wrote, what is now a fable “La Cigale et la Fourmi”. He was, of course talking of the cicada.
      I have often heard the cicadas, but this time I was lucky enough to see it clearly to take some photographs. – K

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  4. Gorgeous portrait of the Basque girl (and the damselflies!). A landscape out of a dream.

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  5. What a wonderful time I had reading this post. Picture perfect day in paradise!

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  6. That’s an excellent shot of the dragonfly. If I lived there I’d be spending quite a lot of time at that lake too. It’s beautiful.

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    • Thank you. I am happy you liked it. They have managed to keep the beauty of that lake so natural. It is a haven for all kind of wild life and it is also an academic research area used by the university. – K

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  7. K…
    Marvellous spot… thanks for sharing your ‘secret’!
    I’ll have to watch the clip later…
    this machine is too old…
    and slow [bit like me]…
    to handle such marvels!

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  8. What a wonderful looking place. as always great photos!

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  9. Idyllic…enjoyed that [and I don’t suppose I’ve thought of Andy Fairweather Low for a decade or three!].

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    • Thank you. I did not personally remember the name of Andy Fairweather Low until you mentioned. I remembered the beginning of the song and that it was the group Amen Corner that sang it in 1969. But that tells my age, I am afraid. – K

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  10. roti de sabre (?) …how is this dish?
    Lovely photos!! I enjoyed them…

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    • Sabre fish [also called scabbard fish in the UK], is apparently being now offered in some restaurants in the UK, too.
      If you look carefully in the photo of the fishmonger stall that I took, you will see two rolled sabre fish with a strip of salmon on them. The fish can be cut as steaks, or filleted and rolled and the rolls tied with string before cooking. It is roasted in the oven, or put in ‘papillote’, that is pastry wrapped round it.
      I am glad you liked the blog and I hope that you can try and enjoy sabre fish too. – K

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  11. It really is paradise. How nice to have somewhere like this within striking distance. Lovely series.

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