Tag Archives: snow

Damaged Drives and A Wintery Pause

It’s been an odd week — I can’t say otherwise. I had a catastrophic hard drive failure on one of my MacBook Pro computers, so I spent an entire week getting things sorted out.

We have no authorized Apple stores anywhere near where we live in rural France and I didn’t fancy trying to ship off a computer when it was 3 weeks until Christmas. As it was, I was rather staggered when I spoke to one authorised Apple repair place outside of Paris and they quoted €99 for the diagnosis, over €500 for the new hard drive installation, and up to €1,000 to recover the information on the hard drive. I had called them on Skype and Mark heard the entire conversation. After I hung up, I turned to him saying, “If I have to spend that much money, I might as well wait until the after-Christmas sales and buy a new one!”

Through sheer stubbornness and bizarre optimism, I managed to clone the hard drive on the working computer, wipe and reformat the damaged hard drive on the dead one, load the cloned information over onto the wiped drive, and get the damaged one up and running again. I have no idea how long that drive will last, but trust me, it will get backed up every single day if new information goes onto it!

My really, REALLY amazing bit of handiwork though was recovering all of Mark’s ‘lost’ photos from Barcelona. I kept downloading test versions of expensive software programs that claimed to be able to ‘find’ images on digital camera drives even if they had been deleted. Day after day I tried program after program with no success until finally, amazingly, one of them showed me ALL of the photos on the SD cards. I was stunned since the computer said that they were empty, yet the software was clearly showing me the photos. And yes — I now have all 761 of Mark’s Barcelona images on both computers and on a back-up drive as well. Whew! It was an exhausting week of highs and lows that ended splendidly.

The rest of my photo essays from Salvadore Dali’s Museum in Figueres, Spain will be up soon. But this past weekend was spent doing things with the darling Mark since it was his birthday.

Gifts were presented on Sunday morning and then after a nice lunch in a nearby cafe, we took a drive in the countryside up into the Midi-Pyrenees mountains where Mark is currently working on a large barn-conversion-into-residence project. I knew that there was snow and ice up there since he had already gotten stuck in a ditch once this past week, had a ride inside the cab of the snowplow, and then he and the snowplow driver pulled him out of the ditch. But little did I know that he had a bit of an ‘adventure’ in mind for me.

Mark at barn-conversion-into-residence job site in the Midi-Pyrenees of France

We drove through Massat and then Mark turned onto a one lane road that had multiple hairpin turns and which wound higher and higher up that mountain range. I was getting white-knuckled by this time since there were no guard rails along the road, no place to pull off if there was any kind of difficulty, and it was a huge plunge if you went off the side of the road anywhere!

Snow covered mountains of the Midi-Pyrenees in December 2012


Up and up we went and then the worst-case-scenario arrived in the form of an old blue van which was going down the one lane road as we were trying to go up. We each backed up a bit to see if there was any room to pass one another, and just as the blue van got stuck in the ice at the edge of the road, Mark continued to back up DOWN that road and he began to move toward one of those sharp curves. It wasn’t my finest hour — I admit that freely — but I suddenly shouted, “Stop! I am getting out!” I was shaking all over from fright and the mental image of us plunging off the side of the road at that curve.

Mark walked up the road, helped the people in the van get out of the ice and back on their way down the one lane road, and somehow without shearing off our side mirror and with the woman driving whilst the two men shoved at the side and back to keep the van on the road and not plunging off the right side, they managed to pass with a whisker’s distance between the two vehicles.

Back in our own vehicle and with a bit of ice and mud being flung into the air, we spun our way out of the very narrow ditch we were parked in. I was close to tears and Mark realised that, given the road conditions, perhaps it hadn’t been such a good idea after all. But I was calm again by the time that we got to the top — another 5 minutes of white-knuckle driving time — and the photos above show the view from the top. This is where Mark has been working every day for the last several months and I had to admit that it was quite a special place to go to work each day.

You may or may not be able to see the small black shapes in the deep shadows. Apparently a small herd of Pyrenees horses arrived this past week and they are being wintered in that paddock next to the construction site.

I’ll be returning to more posts from Barcelona and Figueres in the coming days — so come back soon!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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How’s That For A Drive To Work In France?

Seriously, if you have to drive from one village to another to go to work, isn’t that a pretty splendid view? This is what Mark sees as he toodles on down the road out of our village of Engomer and on toward Castillon.

Driving to work in the Midi-Pyrenees of France

And once he gets up into the remote high spots where some of the clients live, this is the kind of thing he sees as he works on house renovations.

Horse coming over the hill in the snow-topped Midi-Pyrenees in France

These photos were all taken by Mark at various job sites and yes, I am certainly glad that I bought him a decent Nikon camera before we left Australia. Not only is his photography getting better and better, I am spared the knuckle-gripping drive up to these places on one lane mountain roads which are apparently not much better than a dirt track in some places. Remind me to tell you the ‘stuck in the mud — I’ll be late for dinner’ story sometime soon!

If you look closely, you can see that each of these three white cows has a new baby up in that springtime meadow. Is it any wonder that Mark really loves going to work each day since we moved here a few weeks ago?

Spring calves with their mothers in a mountain meadow. Midi-Pyrenees in France.

Finally, in a dramatic example of size and scale from another job site that Mark is working on, those tiny little buildings that you see about 3/4 of the way down the picture in the center are actually 2 or 3 story houses.

A lesson in size and scale in the Midi-Pyrenees of France


©Deborah Harmes and ©Mark Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Springtime In The Midi-Pyrenees In France

Yes, it may be a very soggy and gray April, but the trees are simply awash with blooms here in the Midi-Pyrenees. Shades of pink, white, purple, and yellow are right outside the window of our new house in the Ariege. But wait — what is that other thing lurking in the weather outside? Snow??? Rather a lot of snow???

View from bedroom window of spring in bloom

It began to rain quite hard a few days ago, then the rain turned to hail, and within an hour the mountains that ring our village were practically invisible. I was in the midst of editing photos and the idea of dashing into some warm clothes and driving up the mountains side did not, quite frankly, send a thrill of anticipation up my spine.

But Mark was quite keen to go and see the snow that was probably a mere half an hour from our doorstep, so with a kiss on his dear face, I watched (quite amused!) as he headed off for a wee adventure. And when he returned a mere hour later, he had very red cheeks and a huge smile on his face! He did mention when he saw these pictures that he wished he had not been wearing canvas shoes up there!

Mark's fresh footprints in the mid-April snow

Let me just mention one thing straight away — these are not black and white photos! These are the actual photos that Mark took with a small Lumix camera up on the mountain road. The colour palette is actually that grey, black, and white due to the lighting conditions as the snow was falling.

An April 'Winter Wonderland' in the Midi-Pyrenees of France


April snow half way up a mountaintop in the Midi-Pyrenees

We have a lovely little van — NOT a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. So I think he was bloody lucky to have gotten safely up and back down the mountain in that snowstorm. And Mark admitted that he had a few tense moments when he had to seek out a gravel edge to get traction.

Spring snowfall in the Midi-Pyrenees

Yes — we do live in the south of France now and we are less than an hour from the border of Spain! But (as we are learning from our growing circle of friends and acquaintances here in the Ariege), the Midi=Pyrenees has a most unpredictable spring season and as recently as two years ago, it snowed here during the second week of May. Ummmm — this was all rather unexpected!

Spring snowfall in the Midi-Pyrenees

If you look at those pictures from a few days ago in Mimizan and Samatan as we drove south from Normandy to this new region, it was quite hot and sunny. And has it been like that since we arrived in the south of France? Nope! We had to order a partial tank of heating oil this week because we had three straight nights of sub-or-right-at-zero temps. Sheesh!!!

I’ll send some more pictures this week so you can see the simply stunning region were we now live. It feels simply splendid here and we might actually be stopping permanently and resettling. Come back soon for more glimpses of life in the (ever-changing!) south of France!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the words and images on this page.
All rights reserved.