It’s been as wet as a northwest European summer down here, and this week’s fabulous guests coped brilliantly.

Now the forecast is for blues skies and temperatures in the 30s – as is normal for the time of year. There’s still plenty of availability over the next few months. So come on down and see why this is still one of the most popular tourist destinations n the world…

Perfect yurt for couples

Introducing easyurt: Stay in the 12-foot couples’ yurt for less than before, when you bring your own sheets and towels.

First of all, Happy New Year to readers and guests past, present and future.

There’s plenty to be excited about in the coming months – with some huge changes guaranteed for écovallée.

For those of you still wondering, after the not-so-recent posts, the yurt camp will be open for business as usual. I’ll be receiving guests from mid-May until the end of September and you’ll find the prices here.

As with last year, I’ve found a way of keeping the prices down so that the maximum number of people can come and stay here. A few of last year’s guests complained that écovallée is “too cheap” and I’m “underselling” it. But the idea was always to create a planet-friendly yurt camp that I would want to – and could afford to – stay in. In 2016, you can stay for less than last year if you: (a) bring your own sheets and towels and (b) leave the yurt and communal areas as pristine as they were when you found them. Both of these will mean less work for me, which will leave me more time to socialise with you.

Everybody wins!

Of course, you can always opt for using the sheets and towels that are already here – for a fee that covers the cost of the local laundry. But I’ll still encourage you to leave the place looking beautiful.

One final thought for now – if you’re planning on coming, don’t leave it too long to book. The exchange rate is still in your favour…

August is usually the first month to be booked, and this year is no exception. There’s just one family yurt week left, and some availability in the couple’s yurt.

But as I’ve said before, June and September are excellent months to be here. Almost all the tourist attractions are open, it’s more than warm enough (especially for British people), and the crowds and traffic that occasionally appear in the summer are non existent.

Anyone staying over the weekend of June 20th and 21st will also get to experience the Fête de la Musique – France’s annual free festival. Every town takes part, with live bands, dancing, and plenty of food and drink. If you’re up for a 50-minute drive, you could even see my band SouthWest take over Sarlat town centre for our biggest public gig of the year.

The exchange rate is still fantastic, so come on down/up/across/over.

Over the Easter weekend, Her Outdoors suggested we actually go out and do something. So we went to one of our favourite places – Marqueyssac.

Being a holiday Sunday with perfect weather, obviously the place was packed. But if you look past the crowds you’ll see why this is firmly at the top of the écovallée must-see list for guests.

Not just for the view on the way in (that’s the Chateau de Milandes on the left and Beynac on the right – Castelnaud is just out of shot on the left):

marqueyssac view

Or the famous topiary:

marqueyssac hedges

Or the chateau (currently undergoing renovation):

marqueyssac chateau

With its roof made of actual rocks:

marqueyssac tiles

Or its buggy-friendly paths:

marqueyssac path

Its rocky paths:

marqueyssac path 2

Its funky paths:

marqueyssac path 3

Its shady paths (see what I mean about the crowds of people – although to be fair, that’s me):

marqueyssac path 4

Or the free activities for children:

marqueyssac painting

Or even the playground:

marqueyssac play area

Or the views from the platform overlooking La Roque-Gageac:

marqueyssac view 2

No. We love every bit of this place and we go at least once a year. We’ll be going back in a couple of months on a Thursday evening, when the gardens are lit by thousands of candles and there’s live music everywhere. It’s ridiculously romantic.

ecovallee view

Many of our guests spend a lot of time sitting in the outdoor kitchen, staring across the valley.

I can’t say I blame them. It’s a lovely thing to do – we went on holiday at the end of the 2012 season – to our own yurt camp – so we could do exactly the same thing.

Last year someone suggested that it’s so lovely because modern eyes spend most of the day staring at a screen a foot or so away, like you’re doing now. Or a TV screen in the corner of the room. Or out of the window at the other side of the street. But historically, our eyes developed to look into the middle distance – hundreds of metres instead of a few or fewer – searching for prey. The other side of the valley, with its gently swaying oak and pine trees, a living landscape punctuated by deer, rabbits, woodpeckers and the like, is exactly what our eyes want to see.

It’s a good theory and I’m sticking with it.

Just back from a 10-day holiday in England, where I was an usher at my little brother’s wedding.

It all went very well, thanks. The only complaints I’d make are the slate-grey sky we saw almost every day, the size of the new shopping centres in Exeter and Leicester (which seem to be excessively large), and the price of beer in pubs.

Although Alex and Laura looked after écovallée and our guests magnificently while we were away (see their Life in Brian blog link on the right), you’ll appreciate there’s a lot to do right now. Projects include making a shelter for our wood pile, building a gazebo and roof for the clay oven (see below), tweaking the website to reflect next year’s more rustic offering, laying a 100-metre (100-yard) road and car parking area near the Play Yurt using our own hand-gathered stone, building the snail-shell shower cubicle we swapped through project1p, and writing a book designed to coincide with the screening of a 12-part TV series called “Little England”.

Which is why I’m in a blind panic at this very moment. You see, I used to think I had months to write the book. I used to think the TV show was going to be aired some time between October and April 2012.

But I was wrong.

Today’s post (US: mail) included a flyer that informs me “Little England” will start on Monday. This Monday. Monday September 12th. I don’t know which of the 12 shows we’re going to be in, but I strongly suspect I won’t have much time for blog writing between now and Christmas.

On Boxing Day (December 26th, for non-British types), great excitement followed the appearance of fluffy white precipitation delicately descending from the heavens.

Within seconds, we were staring through the living room window like children (which was, admittedly, easier for the children), exclaiming with delight.

At first, the flakes weren’t big enough to settle. Then they were. Joy and excitement grew as the thin layer of snow on the ground became slightly thicker. And thicker still.

I had a flashback to a hotel meeting room in Minneapolis, January 1997. I was looking across a concept-strewn table, through the window at the blizzard that had just started. ‘Hey look! It’s snowing!’ I exclaimed (which is like saying: ‘What a beautiful day!’ in San Diego). Everyone else looked out and said: ‘Oh, shoot/Jeez.’ (You’ve seen Fargo. It really is like that.)

Which is probably why: ‘Oh Ho – it’s snowing!’ almost instantly became: ‘Oh No – it’s snowing!’

We live in the middle of nowhere, remember? We drive an ordinary car with ordinary tyres. In an area not known for gritters and snowploughs. With several steep roads between us and the animals.

The animals! Frozen rain means frozen hosepipes!

My morning trip to the land confirmed my fears. The chickens were low. The pigs were out. And the horse was almost on empty. The taps were frozen solid and I had almost nothing in reserve. (I have to say, the land looked absolutely beautiful. I must make a toboggan run for the same time next year.)

My complete lack of preparation meant fetching water by car (all the while willing the thermometer to swing back and stay well above freezing), then wheelbarrowing it down the long zig-zag path from the road and across the field. Several times. And a promise not to get caught short like this again.

PS Happy New Year. We’re looking forward to one of the hardest years of our lives, physically. In the first half, we have to build six yurt platforms and covers of between 12 and 26 feet, a 50-metre (yard) access road for the emergency services, toilet and shower facilities, a reception-cum-office-cum-kitchen, drainage and various other things. And all we seem to have time for at the moment is looking after the animals and the children. More on this, later.

To continue the Reality TV theme for one more post, we just went on a skiing holiday.

Only for the weekend.

And only because it cost 20 euros each for me and Clare, and 10 euros each for the kids – which included transport, overnight accommodation, and breakfast and dinner on Saturday and Sunday. It had its moments. Here are two of them:

The coach is speeding down a country road. The (surprisingly loud) onboard teenagers hold a mobile phone MP3 player to the driver’s microphone, and sing along to (presumably Algerian-inspired c)rap music. Boy screams his disapproval and I don’t believe it can get any worse.

Me and The Daughter are sitting on a ski lift, surrounded by mountains. The air is beautifully clear – apart from a dense brown cloud on the left which stretches across the sky until it meets another city-sized area of smog. Alarmingly, at least two of the mountains are on fire.

More alarmingly, the fires are intentional. Some farmers are apparently taking advantage of the fact that the mountains are almost completely free of snow, and improving their soil. Let’s hope they can find a way to water whatever they plan to grow.