Quoi de neuf cette annee

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ShowerCurtain

Oh I’ve got a lot of things on my list for ourlittlehouseinfrance this year.  With it only being a matter of weeks now before the long drive back to the French house, my mind inevitably has begun to turn to all the things that I’ve been collecting and storing up over the past few months that I plan to take with me on the next trip.  Of course before all that there is the rather large matter of whether or not I’ll be able to bring pooch Bella with me to France.  What with all this Brexshit nonsense.

So this is the latest from https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pet-travel-to-europe-after-brexit#return-to-the-uk

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On this basis it looks like I will be OK to bring her.  This is a relief as it would be a long journey without her for company.

The next thing I need to do in preparation is paint a couple of bedside drawers that I purchased from a local charity shop.  They cost me £15 each and I thought that was a bargain and so snapped them up.  I’m going for an Annie Sloan neutral colour, probably “Old White”.  I’m going to strip the tops back to the natural wood and then stain them up to a warm oak colour to match the existing armoire and chest of drawers that we purchased from Maison du Monde last year.

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I’m going to change the rather boring little pine knobs for these old look rustic shell drawer pulls (see below).  I purchased 2 as samples from eBay and just need to get a further 4.

I’ve also purchased a pair of beech kitchen chairs from another charity shop.  These will go well I think with the kitchen table I hope to eventually purchase from somewhere.  I’m also keen to have several styles of chair around the table.  KitchenChairs

The exact table I WANT is sitting upstairs in a Cafe Nero in Harrogate.  See below:

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So when I’m up to it over the next few weeks, I will be stripping, sanding and painting.  Probably during February half term.  But there are other things I would like to try this year involving the garden and in particular the fruit trees.  I have about 12 fig trees in the garden now, along with 6 plum trees and a pomegranate.  There is one very special local fig tree on our boundary which I have tried in vain to propagate since we bought the house in 2012.  So this year I want to try air layering which according to all the research suggests is relatively straight forward.  What air layering does is effectively create another plant.  It’s a natural process and happens when a branch/stem touches the ground and then takes root.  In order to do it artificially I will need to find a good strong healthy stem and then cut away the bark all the way around to about 2 inches.  Rooting hormone can be applied and then this bare patch is covered with damp compost in a plastic bag or container and taped closed.  It remains covered in the plastic until new roots can be clearly seen.  At which point it can be cut from the parent plant and potted.  I’m really looking forward to having a go at this.  Will probably have a go with a very mature apple tree that we have hear in the UK too.

And then the final thing that’s on my mind is the purchase of a new shower curtain, hence the vibrant image of Freda Kahlo at the start of this blog post.  I saw this yesterday while mooching through my Instagram and then the search to find one began.  I did find one but it was really too expensive so a new shower curtain is on hold for the moment.

I will update with pictures of the bedside drawers once they are painted and have their new knobs.

The funny thing about having ourlittlehouseinfrance, our home away from home, is that the minute I know it’s only 9 weeks until I’ll be back, then I begin to plan for all the small and large jobs that need to be done.  That’s while I’m sitting here on the sofa ignoring the fact that I have half a wall in the lounge still to paint and yet I’m thinking we need new gate posts and gates in France.  Oh yes, and all the new shutters we had fitted last year still need to be painted.  Good job I’ve got my feet up on the sofa at the moment or I’d need to sit down.  Ha, ha!!!

Arrivé à cette?

Ok, well we actually arrived on Saturday matin and the weather was gorgeous, up until an awful thunderstorm that put the electricity off for 4 hours. Then Sunday morning was cloudy but sunny and warm as I headed off to a vide in Marmande. Missed B as she couldn’t find it and has no mobile, so no way of contacting her. Monday between 8 and 10am we had to wait for the delivery of an armoire from Maison du Monde. Duly arrived about 9.30am and after they refused to take their shoes off to go upstairs, we accepted it being left downstairs. At least they took all the packaging away. Hubby and I then got it upstairs, but only just and taking a small chunk of the landing wall with us. Love it though, it’s just what we needed. Clothes now have a home.Then late Monday morning, met B & L in Duras for tea and coffee at the Duchesses which is community café that opened in October last year, so very pleased to see that it’s still going strong. In the evening had B, L, M & T over for aperitifs, nibbling and chatting till late.  Lots of laughs and discussions re Brexit.So weather wise, this is what we’re faced with. Drizzle, drizzle and more drizzle all week until Saturday which is when we travel back. Lovely. Anyway today the boys are heading to Bordeaux and I’m staying put I think as L will be heading up from Duras to stay with us. L has offered to Bella sit while I go to Bordeaux too but I think I’ll stay and do some painting of shutters.Garden is doing well apart from the 3 Oleanders I bought from Jardin de Beauchamp which have died. Nothing more to report from Petit Coquelicot – over and out, or rather over and in, as it’s drizzling.

We’re off, we’re off, we’re off in a motor car!! Quelle longue journee!

Yey, it’s that time of year again. France is but a long drive away. We all love getting ourselves packed into the car. Pooch (Bella) in the back, sandwiches and a flask for the over night drive to the Lot et Garonne. So O.K. The weather won’t be wall to wall sunshine but it will be warmer than the UK. And so too, we have lots of jobs to do. There’s painting the new shutters, fitting two electric radiators, sealing the wooden frame of the covered area, replacing the kitchen tap not to mention cutting the grass which will be more like hacking our way through the Amazon jungle. Yes, we love it.

So the day before we leave, that’s this evening, I’ll be making the sandwiches, packing the car and making  sure that our cat, Rose, has all her food and litter ready as she is looked after by a cat sitter for the next two weeks. Not cheap but I can’t imagine what shinannigens would go on right at the back of the car if Bella and Rose were bunked up together. Fur would definitely be flying.

I usually have quite a large stash of booty to take to France with us (anything from plant cuttings to our favourite refried beans) but this trip we’re having to travel light as we are taking two electri radiators with us and they are taking up most of the remains space in the back of the car next to Bella cage.

My choice of outfit is dungarees. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. OK I find them the comfiest thing to wear when sitting in a car for 18 hours. And they’re always an underground fashion statement. Well, I tell myself that.

Funny how Bella always knows when we’re going to France. It’s probably due to the mad panicky atmosphere that ensues just before we all get in the car. Most important thing is “have we removed the key from the back door, otherwise Rose’s cat sitter won’t be able to get in and feed her. Quelle horreur!

So now we’re all sat in the car at Folkestone, @LeShuttle Eurotunnel waiting for our train. We made good time and that means the wait will be longer as our trains delayed by 20 minutes. Should mean we arrive in France at 11.50pm for our overnight drive down to the house. Should arrive about ???? In the morning.

This is not my favourite part of the holiday. But, means we have an extra day. Be it we’re tired.

Arrived at 9.15am Friday morning, having set off at 2.30pm on Thursday. Drove through some torrential rain and were met with a very soggy garden and by the looks, the loss of some new plants that were put in October half term. Sad face.

However, not really sad as some will survive I’m sure and the sun came out onto our very nearly complete extension. Just the shutters to go. Yeah!!!img_1899

Half term in beautiful Cauterets, Hautes Pyrenees

img_2464Set off Friday February 9th stayed in Rouen, then arrived in Cauterets about 6pm. We stayed in the Hotel du Lion d’Or which is located in the center of Cauterets and much closer to the gondola than we were last year.  Cauterets is a lovely little spa town spread along the narrow valley of the Gave mountain stream and surrounded by the Pyrenees. The town is well known throughout France for its health giving thermal springs.  They are still used in the treatment of respiratory and skin diseases, rheumatism and many other ailments. We’ve not yet sampled the thermal baths and spa but it’s something I think is a must in the future.  The Hotel du Lion d’Or was a real gem. Family owned since 1913 and now run by the fourth generation of the Lasserre family. The hotel was built in 1840 and is full of authentic memorabilia in every nook and cranny.  The chap (I forget his name) who was the family member that we had most to do with was so helpful and welcoming to us.  Nothing was too much trouble and we felt at home immediately.

Lovely bedrooms, so homely in a French style, clean and fresh with a fantastic shower.  Breakfast was a buffet with an array of homemade pastries, marmalade (the best that grandma has EVER tasted) and yoghurts.  There was a huge fresh orange juice machine which involved crates of oranges being delivered to the hotel daily.  There were fresh meats, eggs, together with the usual tea, coffee and hot chocolate.  Yummy!

We’re a fairly fussy party of eaters (OK I’m a fussy eater – vegetarian and so is my son) so we decided to eat out in the town throughout the week.  The first evening we ate at the Bar L’Aragon, where we’d eaten last year and were happy with the food and service. Back again later in the week for another meal.

Sunday – Day 1 skiing

Left the hotel about 11. Lovely nights sleep and Lovely breakfast, taking full advantage of the fresh orange juice, boiled egg and homemade cakes and preserves.  My first time up the mountain and I began by falling off the chair lift, then proceeded to fall 4 times on the way down. Always being dragged to my feet like the proverbial sack of potatoes. I really should have done those thigh exercises. When we finally made it back to the café I had to sit on the floor hyper ventilating #oldladyonamountain glad I did it though and at this stage thought I might be able to concur the mountain. So proud of Callum who really takes advantage of the resort carving up the snow on his board🏂.  And hubby too, who has much more confidence than me.

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In the evening we ate at Le Bistrot du Boulevard, Cal had crepes, hubby had duck and grandma and I had pizzas.

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Monday – Day 2 skiing

First stop one of the many ski shops so that Cal could purchase some mittens because his hands had been so cold and wet the first day.  As a snow boarder, every time you come to a stop it means putting your arms down in the snow and it was so deep that the gloves he had were filling up with snow and making his hands freezing.  Got up the slopes about 10.30. The visibility was awful you couldn’t see in front of your nose. Cal went straight up the top of the mountain but hubby and I are stayed doing the lower slopes. It was really difficult to see and snow blind most of the time. Big snow drifts on either side of runs making them much narrower for novices like me. In the evening we ate at La Créperie du Moulleau.  Staff very friendly and all enjoyed their food but my cheese crepe was just so bland and boring.

Tuesday – Day 3 skiing

Now having been to the top of the mountain I really thought that this day would be my day to conquer it. I was wrong. Started the day with an egg as usual.  Had a practice run and then up the mountain with the boys. Unfortunately fell off the chair lift again as I was getting off and then off down the mountain which started off well but then it all went Pete Tong as the weather suddenly came in awful. Fell over in what was effectively a blizzard, hubby struggling to get me up and me struggling to get up. Then fell again. Once down didn’t feel like going up again. Saved by the fact that they closed the chair lifts because of the winds and visibility. Came back early to the hotel for a well deserved rest. Once we’d recovered it was into the town to eat.  First it was into my favourite spot for a vin chaud, La Cheeserie.  This is a tiny little place with only two rows of bar style seating and serving only cheese and meats.  Last year we ate here but grandma wasn’t a fan and even I can only have so much cheese.  Mind you we were very tempted with their warm Mont d’Or cheese dip which some other customers were delighting in.

Back to the hotel for an early night, this was definitely not a relaxing holiday. I’m jiggered already but the scenery is just stunning.

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Wednesday – Day 4 skiing

Felt like I’d lost my nerve the weather conditions were very bad. You couldn’t see anything. Just white snow blindness. I couldn’t face going up the mountain but hubby and Cal both did. Visibility so poor. I had a rest in the café, should say that everyday up the mountain we had drinks and snacks in the Station de Ski.  You did need to be in before 12 or after 2 to be able to get a seat.  Somehow none of the queuing bothered us as when you’re skiing you do get so used to queuing.  Aaarrrrrrgghhh!!!!

While I was waiting for the boys I thought do a bit of investigation into a possible trip to Lourdes.  Always fancied going there and did think about when were in Cauterets last year.  But, having done some research it appeared to be full of tacky religious souvenir shops so decided not to bother. Left the slopes about 3.30 again as the weather was so bad.  In the evening had another vin chaud at the Cheeserie. Then another meal at Bar L’Aragon.

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Thursday – Day 5 skiing

Arrived up the slopes to a helicopter, camera crews and many mountain rescuers together with their dogs.  What we didn’t know as we headed up the chair lift was that there was going to be some very sad news – 3 French skiers had been found dead in the morning.  Missing on Wednesday evening.  It appears that they had been skiing in an off-piste area and had been buried by an avalanche.

Once again I thought that this was going to be my day to conquer the mountain ⛰ And once again, that was not going to be the case.  Went up and got down without a fall and then went straight up again, bad idea. Disaster, fell and then became terrified and had to take my skis off and walk a long way down the mountain before I had the nerve to put them on again. What a mega wimp I am. So lost my nerve and had to recover in the café with a hot chocolate. In the evening we ate at a small restaurant that we’d had to book.  I can’t remember its name but once we’d been served the food I did realise that we’d eaten there last year.  Nothing special and I wasn’t over keen on the very lime green spaghetti pasta that they served with a very average arrabiata sauce.

Friday – Day 6 skiing

Up earlyish and on the slopes. I couldn’t face going up the mountain as it was icy and slushy. Did the lower blue runs. Tired legs and knees was part of my problem I think. Also different conditions again. Sunny and snow melting and icy underneath in parts. So very difficult to ski on.  But this didn’t stop Cal and hubby enjoying their last day of skiing.  Slush aside we will definitely be back next year.

Saturday day 7

The long drive back. Cauterets to Boulogne and then an overnight stop at our usual B&B hotel.

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Sunday day 8

Boulogne to Harrogate via Euro Tunnel. #homewardbound

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. 

Les Jardins de Beauchamp, a garden in the South West of France

Mercredi 16 Août – visited the lovely Jardins de Beauchamp which has an associated garden centre called the Jardinerie Jay and both are found on the outskirts of Marmande, which is a largish town not far south of Duras, in the Lot et Garonne. 

Formally named the Jardins de Garonne, they were renamed the Jardins de Beauchamp in 2009 when the garden was given the award of  ‘Jardin Remarquable’.   Beauchamp is made up of various themed gardens in which water plays an important part. There is a large pond which has been inspired by the orient and is full of beautiful big yellow water lilies.  The Italian garden is made up of two separate long water rill with clipped box hedge on either side and tall cypruses trees.

The garden was newly planted in 2006 but is very well established and layerd out. It was designed by the son of the garden centre owner after finishing his horticultural qualifications. 

There is inspiration at every turn for the would be garden designer. From the unusual garden ornaments and large stone water features, to the pergolas and piegeioner. 
You enter the garden via the Jardinerie Jay. We didn’t look around this that thoroughly, however, it looked to have a very good selection of interesting plants. The gardens and garden centre are open all year round and so we will certainly be back in October to purchase some trees for ourlittlehouseinfrance.