La Rentrée – Nous rentrons a l’Angleterre 

Approximately 10 hours to Boulogne Sur Mer yesterday and an overnight stop there and now next morning we’re sitting on the train ready to depart for England. Looking forward to seeing Rose (pussy cat), Tamarind (our UK home) and friends. Leaving behind sunny, blue skies and grape vines. Interesting new places and people. New friends. Le Petit Coquelicot (our French home) and fig trees, full of ripening figs. 


From veg to velos and beyond!

It’s cold, damp and dreary here at home in the UK and with all sorts of horror taking place around the world, I felt like cheering myself up today with a blog.  We’ve just had Blue Monday (18th Jan) and I just about came away unscathed because I’ve been off work all week with a flu bug.  Do I need the jab? Anyway that’s another question!

So, having seriously neglected the blogging scene, something of which I still don’t really understand, and being still on my poorly sick bed, I began looking through some of the photos from our past 4 summers in France.  We have certainly done many things, been here and there, met with friends and family and had some fabulous times.  However, there is something, that although not dominant, has taken up a good deal of my time and that is the good old vide grenier. The title says it all “From veg to velos and beyond”, it’s all there.

I’ve always been into old “TUT” and so a trip anywhere can quite often involve a trip to a charity shop, junk shop, car boot sale, fleamarket, you get the gist.  For example, many moons ago (back in the 20th Century) when we passed through Paris briefly on the way home from our holiday in Bonnieux, South of France, I dragged hubby, not quite kicking and screaming, to have a look around it’s famous flea-market.  Clignancourt (“Clee-nyahn-cour”), also known as Le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, is just outside the 18th arrondissement.  I do recall how amazed I was at all the different stalls and range of different things for sale.  At the time we had no money to spend having just had our holiday in the South, so we were just window shopping.

Faire du lèche-vitrines


I love this French phrase, “licking the windows”.  And what a great passtime, it’s free!!!!!

 As we now have our little house in France, I decided, at the beginning of this year to try and be more focused with my visits to vide greniers and I decided to make a list of the things that I would be looking for.  Items for the house and garden.  Vintage decorative items that can be purchased from the likes of Maison du Monde but at a very inflated prices but that you can find local vides.

On my list is the vintage armoir and large mirror, together with a large sideboard.  I’m up for doing some painting and have already had a go with some Annie Sloan chalk paint.  Very easy to use and a little goes a long way if you’re looking for that distressed finish.  The bamboo mirror and demijohns were purchased last summer.

I also want a bottle dryer.  Don’t ask why?  I’ve seen one in a magazine covered head to toe in vintage glass bottles and it looked gorgeous, so I’m out to recreate something along those lines.  Loved the 1930’s head but didn’t much like the €250 price tag.

The enamel water/milk pitcher I purchased a couple of years ago for €8 and the three wooden coat peg rack was €2 (Deux Euro) this is my favourite price.

This was a lovely friendly shop that I visited in Castlejaloux last summer.


 imageI only came across this little yellow book last year towards the end of the summer but I could have done with it at Easter.  I spent several wasted journeys looking for vide greniers that had obviously been cancelled.  I wasn’t the only one either.  I met others, who like me,  were wandering around small French villages/towns looking for the vide that never was!


Brocante – junk/antique shop/fair – Marché aux Puces – flea market.
Vide Grenier – Sale of all sorts that take place in a village or town.  Meaning “to empty the attic”.  You can buy anything and everything, from veg to velos and beyond.   Foire à tout – This is another term for a Vide Grenier.




Impromptu visit to Casteljaloux

Sunday’s sad, sad sunflowers.


After Sundays torrential rain and a couple of soggy IPhones later I was excited to get out and about and do something touristy.  My lovely neighbour, an estate agent, was going to value a house close by the town of Casteljaloux and I cadged a lift.  Here’s what I found on my travels.

Below is The Cordeliers cloister and chapel dating from the 15th and 17th C.  “The Lords of Albret, the ascendants of Henri IVth, favoured the setting of the Franciscan order (the Cordeliers).  They preached charity and poverty, this is why the chapel is simple”


And then the Town Hall.  On this spot there used to be the St Nicolas Church, which became a protestant church and was then destroyed in 1683. The building was totally restored in 1988 and became the Town Hall.  On the front of the building is the arms and motto of Casteljaloux.

Fiat Pax In Virtute Tua And Abundatia In Turribus Tuis

(That peace reigns thanks to its strength and abundance remains in its towers.)

Sources: Town Trail leaflet – Casteljaloux Office de Tourisme


There was a lovely brocante in the main square with a very welcoming owner who let me take photos inside.


IMG_4383I particularly liked this mirror for 140


Old Casteljaloux consists of about 40 half timbered houses from the 15th and 16th centuries.  Some owners have taken great care to preserve their original features.

Half timbered 3

Half timbered 4 Half timbered 1

There is always beauty in the mundane of French towns, some weather beaten old doors, rusty gates and wrought iron detail.




And then I love the génoise roof lines.  According to Peter Mayle in the “Francophiles Essential Handbook”, it was during the 18th century that Italian maçons coming to Provence looking for work brought this design with them which was a solution to dripping walls and warped shutters.  The stepped rows of curved tiles built out from the wall adds a layer of about 20 inches to the roof line of the house.  In this case rain falls that distance away from the walls thus solving the soggy walls and shutters problem.  The number of rows was an indication of affluence and social standing.  Two rows for a modest bastide, three for La Mairie and four for the exceptionally wealthy.  You can of course purchase a modern version, that is precast in sections to save on labour time, from Leroy Merlin.

Genoise roof

A lovely Maison de Maître for sale with a commanding position in centre ville.

maison de metre

Sustenance, one has to eat.


Lunch 1


Huge vide grenier at Villeréal

Wow! the vide grenier at Villeréal on Sunday really overwhelmed me.  Villeréal is a lovely 13th Century bastide town between Monflanquin and Agen in the Lot et Garonne. The first thing I purchased was these lovely bakelite bangles.  But there was so much more than jewellery.  There was lots that I could have picked up and brought home but almost too much to make a rational decision.  So in the end I purchased very little but really enjoyed mooching around in the sunshine.  Cal, hubby and grandma not so enamoured with it.  Also it was very hot.  Phew!!!  Hopefully you can see from some of my pictures what an interesting place Villeréal is, particularly if you like historic architecture.  In the centre of the town is the impressive 14th century market hall, with its original timbers. Saturday morning markets are still held here, as they have been for the last 700 years.  Around the edges of the square are lovely half-timbered buildings.


imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageShe shouldn’t be too sad, the seller wanted 250Euros for her!!!!!

Pâques en France 2013

Plum tree cutting

Plum tree cutting

Arrived at Le Petit Coquelicot on Friday 28th March at about 4pm after delays on the tunnel meant we only had a couple of hours sleep at the hotel in Rouen. We were all very tired and still are.
The house has wintered really well and there were only a few wood lice to dyson up.  There’s a little condensation too but other than that it’s as we left it in October.  Unpacking was once again quite a task as I had made purchases back in the UK destined for France.

Garden obelisk

Garden obelisk

Garden obelisk from UK

Plum tree is growing

Plum tree is growing

Then it happened, when we decided to go to the toilet we realised that we have the same problem as last year with the fekafoss not pumping properly. We have, however, discovered that there is a toilet in the village. This may be our saving grace.

Willow tree cutting

Willow tree cutting

Saturday was therefore spent deliberating what to do about the toilet, checking out portaloos and doing the shopping at Leclerc. I then made homity pie and plum crumble. We were planning to get out and about, in particular the Chateaux de Duras is open, but it was tipping down with rain, so will be leaving these touristy things to a better day.  Lundi de paques was the vide grenier at St Sernin.

Eclectic mix at vide grenier

Eclectic mix at vide grenier

Old tin bath tub ideal for Bella!

I purchased a lovely silver bracelet that commemorates a trip to Paris.  Will need to add this one to French Finds! We also came across a strange structure in the village, what do you think this is?

St Sernin-what is it?

St Sernin-what is it?

Figs no more plus toilet troubles!!

 Back at Le Petit Coquelicot on Saturday 27th October. 

Up very early at the Premier Inn in Liverpool to get to John Lennon Airport for our 6.40 Ryan Air flight to Bergerac.  Grandma is with us and we had an early breakfast and then walked to the Airport which is about 500 yards away from the hotel.  I have a very close friend staying at our house in England, looking after all the animals, so we are good to go!

The Yellow Submarine at John Lennon Airport

The Yellow Submarine at John Lennon Airport

Landed in Bergerac, earlier than Ryan Air scheduled, and it was cold.  Very cold.

Arrived at the house having had a quick look around Bergerac, which looked lovely, I definitely want to go there again.  Looks like it would be a spectacular place to investigate in the sunshine.  When we got to the house, after a couple of us went to the toilet it was clear that we had toilet trouble.  The water began to rise and you know that always means trouble.  

After a lot of hard work by my hubby we finally could see the Fekafoss lid, which is the pump that is installed to pump all the house waste/water to the local sewer. 

Fekafoss lid

Fekafoss lid

Meanwhile Grandma and I headed off to one of the last local vide greniers in Ste Foy La Grande, where I found a very tatty mirror that I gave the French shabby chic look to when we got back.  What do you think?  Not sure what to put in it though.

Painted French mirror

We also now have transplanted 4 plumb trees in the front garden. 

Transplanted plum trees

Transplanted plum trees

So we shall see whether or not they survive.  I’ve also created a little nursery of tree cuttings from the local area. 

Tree cuttings

Tree cuttings

To my utter shock and horror, somebody!!! has chopped down the beautiful fig tree that stood on the edge of our garden.  Why oh why would you want to do such a thing I really do not know.  In fact it has freaked me out somewhat.  The figs were to die for.  See earlier post.  I am now determined to fill my garden with fig trees.  Just you wait, you chopper down of beautiful fig tree!

I have checked the Internet for info on taking fig tree cuttings and found this thread curtesy of www.botanicalgarden.ubc

” In the spring before the tree leafs out, cut a 12 inch long piece of branch up to 3/4 of an inch thick. Bury it all except the last bud on top. It will root itself quite easily and grow vigorously throughout the summer.”

Two meetings with architects about the proposed extension have left us in a bit of no mans land at the moment.  Not always quick to make decisions we will have to take this one home and mull it over during the winter.

Anyway today, although the weather is not that good, we are heading out to Bordeaux.  Meriadeck shopping centre is central and has a car park.  Not sure whether shopping in Bordeaux is a good idea but the main aim is to go to the cinema and see the new James Bond film “Skyfall”.



And there lies a tale of the famous shoes.  Grandmas shoes went missing for sixth months and they turn up in a Hollywood blockbuster, the new James Bond film “Skyfall” worn by James’ and M’s arch enemy in the film Raoul Silva. 

skyfall-Javier Bardem

skyfall-Javier Bardem

And here are Grandma’s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Like Raoul, she’s not allowed laces either, you understand!!!! Tee Hee.

Grandmas Kappa trainers

Grandmas Kappa trainers

I always like cooking when we are in France and while there this time, I cooked a mean Homity Pie, though I say so myself.  This is a good old English recipe that I came across in my Cranks recipe book years ago.  If you read the recipe book, there’s lots of specific amounts of ingredients but the way I make it is with no weighing or measuring at all.  Here goes!  Nice lot of potatoes, peeled and then boiled.  While they’re doing I make pastry, in this case with plain flour and just butter.  Loads of red onions, garlic and extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan.  Make sure not to burn.  Then drain the potatoes, no need to be too careful, add to the frying pan, together with lots of fresh parsley, grated chedder cheese (yes you can get this in France now), salt, pepper and a slurp of milk.  Place the pastry in a large oven proof dish and then add the ingredients from the frying pan.  Place in the oven (200 degree) for about 20 minutes.  Hey presto!

Homity Pie

Homity Pie

To finish we had the most gorgeous French pastry from a lovely little shop in the local town.  Yummy!

French pastry

French pastry

To change the subject quite dramatically, I must also talk about the dazzeling array of crysanthymums around at the moment and how I finally came to realise what they were used for.  In France La Toussaint or All Saint’s Day is a Catholic festival celebrated every year on 1st November. 

La Toussant is the day when all the Saints are honoured by the Catholic church. The following day is Le Jour des Morts (All Soul’s Day), when people pray for the souls of the dead. La Toussant is a national holiday and children are off school for two-weeks (half term).  La Toussaint is celebrated by decorating the graves of loved ones with chrysanthemums, the flowers associated with death.  The cemeteries are awash with flowers.  In fact I first noticed that the flower shops and supermarkets were awash with these types of gawdy flowers.  Very bright and clashing colours.  I prefer paler coloured flowers like lillies but here are some pictures of our village church which, I have to say, looked so alive with colour.

Village church

Village church

The church in our village

Anyway we are back in Blighty now and I’m just finishing off this blog.  Weather is awful here, so I sometimes cheer myself up with a look at what it’s like in Bergerac via the webcam Not always a good idea though but I’ll keep looking.