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Mas Bas Main Lake
6h 23m St Malo

Articles about Mas Bas Main Lake

The family perspective
Oct 2003 by Deborah Ashley

A fishing trip to France for me usually means buying some mosquito repellent, packing vast quantities of T-shirts, boxers, socks and camouflage trousers then waving Paul off the drive to await his return laden down with the obligatory wine, beer, dirty washing and the whole point of the exercise for me, champagne!

This time though I was not only doing all the above but preparing to accompany Paul with our two kids Liam and Shannon AND two of his fishing buddies - was I mad??  In hindsight no; the trip was very successful, we ate well, drank very well(!), laughed a hell of a lot and I gained two surrogate husbands (or on reflection, children!!) 

The trip down there from Le Havre was uneventful (apart from Darren's EXTREMELY slow Frontera - each time we went up a hill I swear old men on with onions hanging from their bicycles accelerated past us!).  The children were very patient and kept themselves amused with card games, magazines, gameboys and vast quantities of sweets (a factor that Liam would later regret!!). It is to their credit that we were able to motor on with very few stops.  A half an hour for lunch was gratefully received, together with one or two fuel stops but on the whole it was painless.  I kept boredom at bay by navigating (yes chaps some of us women can do it!) and cries of joy greeted each turning of a new page (and God! were there a lot of pages!!).

Our first view of the property was at about 6 o'clock in the evening.  As a non-angler I can only tell you that it looked absolutely beautiful. The sun was still shining, it was very tranquil and I could tell the boys were itching to get their rods out!  Gilles (the French owner) greeted us with wine and a general tour of the lake, pointing out where fish had come out, telling us about local shops etc but it all seemed to go over the heads of the boys who were already deciding which swims they would use and talking amongst themselves.  Gilles gave up trying to talk to them in the end recognising their total oblivion to his words so being a very charming host, he and I shared a bottle of rosé whilst having a tour of our property.

The place we called home for the week was Lotus cottage. A small property but well equipped and fairly comfortable. My main concern on arrival was to find a television - not for the, I am sure, exciting French television networks but because I am a BIG Formula One fan and due to unforeseen circumstances (that means you Neil!!) had found myself out of the country for the last down-to-the-wire race. Happy that indeed there was a television with satellite channels, I began to relax in the safe knowledge that I would not have to wait a full week to find out if Michael Schumacher had triumphed!

Gilles left us all to get on with things (thinking, I am sure, that the boys were ignorant pigs who wouldn't stop gazing at the lake when he was trying to talk to them and that I was a complete idiot only interested in whether there was a TV in the place! Zut alors!)

I unpacked a few things and then got to grips with the gas cooker to cook our first night supper of merquez sausages and French 100% pure beefburgers - if like me you are not a fan of burgers I can only recommend that you try the French ones - they taste a world away from the frozen rubbish dished up here.  The boys arrived duly to eat with the intention of grabbing a quick bite then returning to their swims for the first night action.  Once bottles of wine had been opened however, their resolve was slipping. Four or five bottles later it was dark and they were all still sitting around the dining table chatting and anticipating the week ahead.  Eventually they left for their bivvies whilst the children and I decamped to my double bed to have a very nice game of scrabble (of course I have the advantage of the fridge in my "bivvie" and a non-stop supply of wine!).

This was an event that was to become somewhat of a habit as the week went on!

Saturday morning dawned (after a restless night with Liam who was suffering from a very acidic stomach - told you those sweets would come back to haunt him!) and with it the chance to explore our new surroundings.  Outside our front door was a small patio with table and chairs for our use. This table became the focal point of our whole holiday as the days went on.  We took breakfast/lunch there most mornings after the bread run into the nearby village. This is a small village just 5 minutes from the house where you'll find two patisseries, two small shops stocking everything you need including wines and spirits, fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, loo rolls etc.  There is also a restaurant highly recommended by Gilles and Leslie and it is also where you'll find the recycling bins for all your empty bottles!

Dinner was served on this patio table after Saturday as we found it was more than comfortable to sit out for your meal and there was more room than the small table in the house.  (Having said that, we did discover later that you can extend the dining table out to fit at least six people around for meals.)

So Saturday morning me and the children decided to go and explore the swimming pool which is shared with the guests at the other property, Willow Cottage.  It looked beautiful and the adjoining storage facility contained lots of inflatables together with a ping-pong table (which we never figured out how to fit together!) and lots of sun loungers.  As it was still fairly early we decided to leave the pleasures of the pool until the afternoon.  Venturing out in our car we ended up in Agen, a large town approx. 20km from the lake.

At this point all we wanted to do was get enough food in to feed us all for tonight and tomorrows dinner (plus snacks etc).  We found a very large hypermarket on the far side of Agen called 'Carrefour'. Everything you could possibly need is here and the prices were very good. (Whilst the shops in the village are closer, they are slightly more expensive.)

We duly shopped and shopped and looking typically English filled the front of the trolley up with crates of beer!  After all that we deserved a break so we went to the on-site bar for a snack and a well deserved drink.

The return journey to the house was fun - being somewhat of a novice driving in France I was finding it relatively easy. It is amazing how quickly you adapt to being on the "wrong side" of the road and going around roundabouts the "wrong" way. On the journey to Agen however I had merely followed signs for the Carrefour hypermarket, taking each turn as it came.  Now I had to negotiate myself back onto the road back to the house. As I mentioned, Agen is a large city and it is positively bustling with traffic. There are also an inordinate amount of traffic lights, some so small that you can miss them (as I did once in the middle of the High Street!) or you are merrily travelling towards a green light when BANG! They go red! No warning orange light just straight into it.  It makes you keep your speed down however as there are only so many emergency stops you can do in one day! 

We also came across flashing orange lights (without green or yellow ones) which we deduced mean to proceed with caution - there may be a school nearby or a junction.

Anyway, I found myself back to the town centre and merely had to follow the signs to Cahors. Before we knew it we were back at the lake triumphant in our expedition!  As we dragged everything up the steps to the house we discovered the boys sitting around the aforesaid patio table drinking beer and looking very hungry.  This was late afternoon now and they had waited for us to get back instead of helping themselves to the fridge's contents!  Men!!

So it was time to test out the swimming pool.  The temperature at about 4o'clock was still around 24ºC so it was swimsuits on, towels and books in hand and beer ready that the three of us ventured off for a swim.  The children poked one foot in the water and let out a scream of surprise.  "Its freezing!" And it was.  Very.  This did not stop our brave (dumb?) kids who although it took about a half an hour eventually got themselves in and actually enjoyed it!  I stayed on one of the sun loungers reading a magazine.  No freezing water for me thanks all the same!

When Leslie came to see us the following day she could not believe that the kids were in there and for the record, they went in every day after that. It seems that over the summer the temperatures had been so hot that guests from both houses had literally stayed in the pool all day as the only place to keep cool. We were blessed with warm weather whilst we were there and for the second week in October you couldn't wish for more.

Dinner that night was Spaghetti Bolognese. This is when I discovered probably the only thing wrong with the kitchen - no ladle!  Dishing up sauce with a small wooden spoon is challenging but there you go - it worked, we all got fed and everybody was happy. We ate inside that night and once again the wine seemed to keep flowing and flowing and flowing. Darren (not a great lover of wine) stuck to his demi-sec sparkling wine but getting bored after his bottle discovered he liked my rosé as well. Paul and Neil cracked a couple of red wines and so for the rest of the week I made sure there was plenty there as the evening meals were getting progressively longer!

Once the fishing party had all retired to their bivvies (looking somewhat unsteady!) the kids and I decided to explore the upstairs lounge.  On the outside of the property there are a flight of concrete steps leading up to a separate self-contained storey containing a small sitting room with two sofas, two single beds and a bathroom with a bath/shower, hand basin and toilet. This really was for Neil and Darren's use but they kindly allowed us to squat in there from time to time!  We brought our board game "Hero Quest" up there together with a few provisions and spend a very enjoyable evening playing. On deciding to go to bed we were able to leave the game out for tomorrow's turn and gingerly negotiated the stairs back down to our rooms. As you enter the house you immediately are in the kitchen diner. A gas cooker is to your right with cupboard space, sink, dishwasher and fridge. As I mentioned before there are a table and chairs and also a utility room containing a washing machine.  There is also a bathroom with a shower, hand basin and toilet.

A step leads up to the two bedrooms; a twin room with bunk beds to the right and a double room with a double bed to the left. Somehow that night I ended up with Shannon in my bed with me and Liam in the bunk beds next door. Again, this was an event which was also to turn into a habit just with different combinations!

Sunday morning and I awoke the lads at 6o'clock for the Grand Prix - well they did say last night before they left "Wake us up. We want to watch it!" - honest!!

Schumacher duly won his sixth drivers championship but by the time the race was over I was the only one who cared! As the celebrations began there was nothing for it but Bucks Fizz. Even the kids were allowed a small sip! The lads had dragged themselves back to their rods long ago and were all set up for the day ahead.

Having done the shopping the day before we were able to have a long day at home, taking in all the property had to give.  Breakfast was provided by Paul and Darren's trip into Laroque (although I hear tell that they got lost on the way back!).  French bread, croissants, cheeses, meats ... delicious!

It was nice to be able to relax and after another trip to the swimming pool, the children were able to explore all around the lake in complete safety.  I had a good look at the Lake House property which fronts completely onto the lake and has its own swimming pool. Gilles had drained and covered this before our arrival as he declared it was "too cold" for swimming. 'Too cold' in the South of France is very different to 'too cold' in Biggleswade!

The property also has a lovely sun deck to the back of which we had full use where you can sit all day in the sun and not a breath of wind will touch you.  It was also a popular sleeping spot for the on-site pussycat Thomasina.  She became as much a part of our family as Darren and Neil and only added to the pleasures on offer.

Shannon adopted a family of four ducks naming the dad 'Ketchup', the mum 'Ready Brek' and the two babies 'Tweedle Dee' and 'Tweedle Dumber'. These names have now been officially sanctioned by Leslie.

We became used to the ducks arriving at the table around dinner time looking for some bread but they were never intrusive or a nuisance. They kept their distance although Ketchup became increasingly trusting to Shannon as the week went on and sometimes when out shopping we would ensure that we had enough bread for breakfast and for them in the evening!

Sitting by the lotus pond having our evening meal was just one of the delights of this property. Sunday evening we had a Tablecloth Stainer (if anyone is interested I will post the recipe on the website!) which is a Mexican chicken dish with chillies, green pepper, peanuts, (which were missing from this particular night as I forgot them!) tomatoes, garlic and what makes it really interesting, some apple, pear and banana.  Trust me - its lovely!  This was duly swallowed up and once again the drinks flowed. I had prepared this meal a little earlier as the boys were keen to (what was it?) eat early and get their rods out before dark. This clearly didn't happen!

Monday morning came (this time I had Liam in my bed and Shannon was in the bunks) and the children decided it was time to spend some cash! We had breakfast with the boys and heard tell of their catches the night before then it was off into Agen for the afternoon. We had only passed through Agen on the way to the hypermarket and decided to take a closer look. As we were unsure of the parking situation, we parked in the local supermarket 'Casino'.  This is smaller than the 'Carrefour' but its stock is good and the prices the same. A short walk from here got us into the main shopping centre.  There are many shops here particularly boutiques (of which Shannon recommends 'Jennifer' for young/older teenagers), bars, restaurants, etc.  We took our time looking at all the shops and whilst Shannon bought a few things, Liam's money was firmly in his pocket. We did look in a Games shop at the Playstation 2 games and their prices were similar to at home.  I managed to buy my perfume Calvin Klein CK One from a perfumery for 40 euros which is very good.

On the way back to the car the kids spotted a McDonalds(!) and rushed in to have some fries and a McFlurry! (As a note of interest, there is a free car park here that you can use all day.)  You see a lot of these on the journey through France and they are handy for a quick bite on the run.

Having done yet more shopping in the 'Casino' supermarket we made our way back to the house and straight into the pool.  By now, the kids had discovered by far the best way to get in was via large inflatable tyres that were on site. They simply sat in the middle and floated their way in! It is advisable to note that the pool is quite deep and the shallow end (reached by large terraced steps) is approx. 5ft. The deep end was very deep and as neither of mine are particularly strong swimmers, supervision was needed at all times.

Paul did the cooking that night - omelettes all round! It was a nice night off for me and once again we ate at the patio table. It was this night that Darren produced a bottle of spiced rum. I knew then that the prospect of an early night was off the menu!  We all sat out until quite late and had a thoroughly good time.  All the nights blur into one now and I cannot remember what happened when (not surprising really!) but at one point Shannon seemed to adopt Neil as her official mascot! The poor man was dressed up by her, had things stuck to his head (well, it was a blank canvas!) and generally was not left alone!  Luckily Liam's Playstation 2 plugged into the house television and worked perfectly which kept him out of mischief.  Ordinarily we wouldn't allow Liam to bring his PS2 on holiday but with the time of year we could not be certain that we wouldn't get any rain.  Whilst this is fine during the day as you can still go out and about, once you return to the house it could have been a bit monotonous watching German TV! The house is situated in such a valley that it cannot receive French TV and so Gilles has installed satellite TV which picks up Eurosport, MTV Europe, CNN and lots of German programmes.  There is also a radio/CD player in the house which came in very useful.  The local radio station 'Skyrock' only seems to have five records in its collection but that's OK!

Tuesday came around and once again we were having a day at home. We were planning a barbecue that night and thankfully we had a lovely day for it.

After the obligatory swim we spent the day around the lake spending time with Paul and hoping to see a few fish caught. We discovered over at the Lake House some green sun loungers that we brought over to our garden area and did a spot of reading. It was truly a lovely day and the peace and quiet was very welcome. Again the children were able to explore around the immediate area (we had brought walkie talkies with us to keep in contact which also proved invaluable on the journey down there between the two cars), and Shannon and I also went for a walk around the total perimeter of the lake. It was whilst on the other side of the lake that we saw that there had been sunflowers growing there in the summer which from the opposite bank must be a stunning sight.

The barbecue was a complete success and whilst giving me yet another night off also meant I could take a turn at fishing - the result? A 12lb common! The after-barbecue social went long into the night even though Neil had specifically started it early so that they could (here we go again!) eat early and get back to their rods before dark!  The only before dark going on that night was before dark rum! It was a good night and we all poured ourselves into bed once more although this time Liam and Shannon were in my bed and I was in the bunk beds!

Wednesday morning and the boys were starting to look serious. It was strategy talk over breakfast as they all became determined to catch some bigger fish. This was sober cup of coffee talk now not from the bottom of their glasses!  We left them to it after breakfast and went sight seeing to a town called Villeneuve-Sur-Lot. This is an easy to reach town with again lots of shops and restaurants and plenty of parking (metre for two hours is 10 euros although between 12pm and 2pm it is free). It stands, as the name would suggest, on the River Lot and the river is breathtaking in its beauty. We arrived at about 11.45am knowing that the shops would close at 12/12.30pm for lunch and so hoped to be able to find a place to eat.  We had time to buy some postcards and a few souvenirs (I bought a cute teddy bear keyring with my name in French on it 'Déborah') before the shops closed and then went off in search of a bar/restaurant.  We found some kerb side restaurants serving anything from a full blown three course lunch, to snack bars selling pizzas and baguettes. It was a very busy town and quite noisy but its fine for a few hours visit.

On the way back we had to top our shopping once again for the next two nights meals and then it was back home for a quick swim before dinner.  Tonight's meal was a Chilli Con Carne which turned out OK even if I could not get fresh chillies anywhere - never mind, chilli powder is an excellent substitute. Now as I said the boys were more serious about their fishing tonight and this time had every intention of . well you know the rest. All was going to plan, it was still light, the meal was over and they were having one rum nightcap when who should visit us but Gilles!  I immediately proffered a glass of rosé and a cigarette was bummed off Darren and so another evening drifted into the night!  "Oh well" said Neil. "As he's here we might as well have another drink."

Nobody minded though because Gilles is such a character. His English is nigh-on perfect and he has such a laid back, relaxed attitude it is impossible not to like him. Three times he tried to take Thomasina home to their house on the nearby hills but each time she kept coming back much to Liam's delight! She was a permanent fixture around the house and very sweet. She also produced many presents for Paul in the form of voles, birds etc in exchange for a nights sleep in his bivvy!

Gilles eventually went home with lots of advice about the fishery ringing in his ears.  We also found out that the tractor that woke the boys up the morning before at 5am was him!  That incurred the wrath of the fishermen and the next morning he was as good as gold and left it until later. Bravo!

Well Thursday morning arrived and it was our last day.  It really had slipped by all too soon.  It seemed we had only just unpacked our bags and now we would have to think about packing to go home.  Breakfast came and went, a swim was taken, then it was my job to go into Agen to get a few things to take home.  I had managed to buy another bottle of CK One at the hypermarket for Darren's friend for 39 euros so that proved that the prices were good.

The boys hammered the lake as much as they could and prayed for one last big catch for the last time. Darren and Neil packed up the bulk of their stuff that night and slept on their bedchairs, moving to the upstairs comfort of the twin beds in the early hours. Paul, ever the optimist, kept everything out until the next morning. If there was a big carp lurking out there Paul was going to do everything in his power to get it!

So for dinner we had a Coq au Vin, followed by what I think was the longest social of the whole trip. Shannon made up various hats/masks to humiliate Neil (during the week her other ventures included making ties for Neil and Darren to wear at the table!) and we all relaxed, a little sad to be sharing our last meal together but really appreciative of the time we had had.

In the morning it was a case of packing the car, emptying the fridge, a last tidy up and mopping of the floor and we were gone. Leslie came to see us off (as did Gilles earlier) and we promised we would let everybody know about our time there.

The journey back took an hour less (I think Darren's Frontera was lighter without all that bait!) and seemed to pass remarkably quickly.  We arrived at Le Havre at about 9.30pm (having stopped off for dinner in the town) and were able to have a coffee/beer in the ferry terminal building. There was also a small range of snacks there but nothing substantial.

The ferry left at 11.30pm but we were on and loaded by 10.45pm. Then there was nothing for it but a quick trip to the duty free, a nightcap in the bar and bed.

All in all we had a wonderful time at Mas Bas. We were lucky with the weather and the company of course and can only recommend it for a family fishing holiday.  For comfort reasons and space I would recommend the Lake House for families as there are more accessible easy chairs and a larger kitchen area. The whole property itself is beautiful and secluded and yet you are not too far away from shops and provisions when you need them.

We enjoyed our stay and can only send our thanks to Gilles and Leslie for their hospitality and Bridget of Angling Lines for organising the trip. Thomasina, Ketchup, Ready Brek, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumber - the place wouldn't be the same without you.  


Deborah Ashley

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Angling Lines, PO Box 761, CHESTERFIELD, S40 9NS Registered at Companies House, Cardiff. Company Number 4122063

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Angling Lines, PO Box 761, CHESTERFIELD, S40 9NS
Registered at Companies House, Cardiff. Company Number 4122063

All contents © Copyright Angling Lines. All rights reserved.