Rape in the fields!

No, not that kind of rape! When I was living in the UK it was always called rape, but rapeseed is known as canola in other places, and colza here in France. Whatever you call it, the countryside is transformed into fields of gold at this time of year, rich with the yellow flowers. It is absolutely stunning to see and certainly makes a cheering sight after the bare winter pastures. I am in awe of the speed with which it grows and produces the flowers.

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DSCN2730The daily walks are definitely made all the more pleasant with such lovely views.

A Bientôt!

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Dried Fish!

You know that horrible feeling you have when you something isn’t right? What has happened? Why? Did you do something wrong? Is it expensive? I had all those feelings and more last week when I suddenly noticed that the water level in the pond had gone down by about 30%. I checked the pump and the oulet pipe, and eventually turned it off just in case, but I couldn’t find anything wrong. My only option was that the liner had sprung a leak, either through age and cracking or (most likely), Hugo had split it or made a hole with his claw when he fell in! I kept it topped up and in somewhat of a panic, tried to find someone to help out with the repairs. Time was the main issue cos it was getting drier by the hour, and with approx 40 goldfish, frogs and other pond life, I was worried. I knew that in the time available I would never be able to do the work myself, nor as it turned out, would I have ever been able to lift the stone slabs on my own. I put the call out on facebook and within 30 mins I had organised someone to come and look at it and give me a quote. It turned out that a young guy and his side-kick live locally and could do the job the next day. They worked so hard (and in unseasonally warm temps) and got the main body of work done in a day. Even these strapping lads struggled to lift and replace the stones…the language was none too choice in the village that day I can tell you and the locals were fortunate enough to receive a free English lesson.  The F-word was uttered loudly on more than one occasion (and I don’t mean Fish)! I wonder how their hernias are doing? LOL

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DSCN2664New liner in place

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DSCN2666Almost back to normal

DSCN2671The fish are back home and the frogs back in residence

DSCN2669The filter is cleaning up the water and once the new mortar weathers a little you’ll never know about the drama that unfolded. I just have to keep Hugo out of the pond now!

A Bientôt!

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La Rochelle

When it’s raining and the skies are leaden, it’s always nice to think back to the glorious weather of last week when we managed 24c. Come back soon sun and warmth! It was a bit of a last minute plan to go to La Rochelle, but seeing as it was only a 90 min drive and with relatively empty roads, off I set. The drive west isn’t terribly scenic and is somewhat uninspiring, but with such lovely weather and with it all being new to me, I was happy enough to be motoring along. Amazingly, I was able to park right slap-bang just beside the old harbour. I bet it won’t be that easy in the middle of summer when there will be thousands of tourists.

DSCN2641Founded by the Romans and developed over the centuries, this picturesque town sits on the Bay of Biscay on the Atlantic coast. It is beautifully preserved, with mediaeval walls, covered walkways, ancient towers and a very scenic Vieux Port (old harbour).

DSCN2642Two massive towers guard the entrance of the old harbour, Tour de La Chaîne and Tour Saint Nicolas. Originally there was a huge chain which was to be strung across the entrance, but was never used.

DSCN2644Tour Saint Nicolas (L) and Tour de la Chaîne (R)

La Rochelle will be on the visit list for sure, and certainly a place to take family and friends when they come to stay.

DSCN2649Lantern Tower on the old town walls

A Bientôt!

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First Quarter

I really can’t believe that exactly three months ago, I landed in a very cold and frosty France, starting my new life here in the Deux-Sèvres. So much has happened in that short time: no water when I arrived, then a flooded kitchen, a ridiculous waiting time for internet, and a chimney fire! Not all has been bad though. I have Hugo, my dog, rescued from an animal sanctuary after having been abandoned. I have a lovely home, a beautiful garden, I live in a pleasant, friendly village, where people have been more than kind and welcoming. I am truly blessed and happy. I have some sort of routine, but anyone who knows me will realise that I don’t usually make plans, and my life is anything but routine. I like to do things on a whim, not for any special reason, but just because I feel like it or because I can. However, winter hasn’t been the best of seasons to do a great deal of exploring, so I have been content to potter around home, tidy the garden (always things to do there), and to settle into a new pace of life. Of course there are some things which need to happen whatever the mood or the weather and that is “walkies” with Hugo. Our outings usually cover between 5 to 8 kms, so the exercise is doing us both good I hope. It has been an absolute delight to see the changes in the countryside that the past three months has brought. The bare brown soils have been ploughed and sown, the hedgerows have gone from spiky silhouettes to wearing their first hint of a green mantle – always so fresh and verdant, and the promise of renewal and regeneration.

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DSCN2608The delicate cowslips seem to have appeared as if by magic, adding a bright splash of yellow to the lanes. Over the centuries, these flowers have been used for medicinal purposes, from cowslip wine, good as a sedative and for settling the nerves, to helping giddiness, muscular rheumatism, palsy and restlessness. Thankfully I sleep well, I’m not prone to giddiness or of a nervous disposition! I will happily leave them for all to enjoy. Who knows, there may well be somone just waiting to get their hands on a bottle of Cowslip Wine!

DSCN2603The beautiful weather over the last few days has seen a sudden appearance of blossom in the trees. Walking under these trees I have been amazed by the very loud humming of the thousands of bees gathering what must be some of the first nectar of the season.

DSCN2600The birds are singing, it’s a lovely day and I have someone waiting for me. It must be time for another walk.

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A bientôt!

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Verteuil-sur-Charente

The great thing about living in this region is that you really don’t have to travel very far to enjoy the delights of small towns and villages, relatively traffic-free roads, and at this time of year, few tourists. The wonderful warm weather is due to come to an end (in fact it has changed today with cloud cover and showers expected), so yesterday was a great opportunity to take a leisurely drive and to explore. Just 35 mins away is the beautiful village of Verteuil-sur-Charente. Driving along the country lanes, the first thing you see is the vast fairytale château which dominates the village. You really can’t miss it!

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The château has been here in various forms since 1080 and has been rebuilt over the centuries, and has been in the same family.

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As the name suggests, the Charente river flows through the village. Just below the château is an old flour mill powered by the river. Sitting at the base of the château on the terrace of the mill, stuffing a gorgeous cake down my throat, enjoying the warmth of the sun was perfect. Sorry, no pics of the cake, but it was so scrummy! (You’ll just have to take my word on that). Life is good.

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A bientôt!

Posted in Chateau, Local travels | 1 Comment

Almost Spring

We are being lulled into a false sense of security by unseasonal mild weather. It’s still Februaury and even though the seasons are changing, we aren’t out of winter just yet. These past days have been nothing short of beautiful, with wall-to-wall sunshine and daytime temps up to 19c. The garden is going crazy and I swear you can see things growing. It seems that every day something new has pushed through the ground, buds appearing on trees and shrubs, and flowers are bursting open. Snowdrops, primroses and daffodils are out and the tulips have already got leaves well above the soil. For now the coat has been put aside and working in the garden has been short-sleeves!

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dscn2561Hugo loves being outside and happily amuses himself in the garden whilst I’m clearing, weeding and pruning. However, all was quiet the other day which led me to believe that he was up to no good! Sure enough, a quiet and sneaky stroll found him crouched down on the side of the pond, nose under water and blowing bubbles, then pawing at the goldfish in a furtive attempt to catch them. Stupid dog…the fish just went deeper and well out of the reach of his paws.

dscn2559Caught in the act

The peace and tranquillity was soon shattered by a huge splash as he fell in the pond! I will add that this isn’t the first time he’s done this. He’ll learn in time…perhaps!

dscn2530“It wasn’t me”

A bientôt!

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What a difference a day makes

The routine with Hugo is becoming established and we try to manage 3 walks a day, one of them a long walk, usually in the afternoon. He seems to have bundles of energy and never tires…until the end of the day when he just crashes out. All around the village are numerous lanes, tracks and virtually empty roads, so we have a huge amount of choice of where to go, and as much as Hugo likes a routine, I enjoy the variety of somewhere new. The walk the day before was a new route which took us out of the village, along an old track and through the next hamlet, making a nice round-trip of about 6kms. To say that it was cold would be an understatement. The easterly wind felt like the Russian sabres were out and cutting my face. The fact that it was a beautiful sunny day gives the impression that it wasn’t so bad. In fact the frost never went all day from some of the hedgerows.

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dscn2545These are the kind of things you miss seeing when driving…just beautiful!

dscn2543Leaving the village

dscn2549Looking towards the village

dscn2547Dormant vines waiting to spring into action

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Twenty-four hours later and a swing in the wind and we are positively basking in a balmy 16c. The coat is off, the gloves, scarf and woolly hat set aside and we have been able to walk with just a sweat-shirt on today. (Well, I did wear trousers as well; it’s not that warm)! Long may it continue I say, but realistically, winter isn’t over just yet. However, spring is just around the corner.

A bientôt!

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Frustration in a box

All of my well-laid plans to keep a regular blog from my arrival went totally to pot! Not from any fault of my own I hasten to add. It all stems from the lack of internet and the frustrations of dealing with French companies. If you are reading this as a new arrival in France, it may be of some help. The village doesn’t recieve a very good signal for mobile phone at all. In fact if I go to the end of the garden, climb on the wall, hold one finger to the rising sun, lift my other leg at right angles and poke a wire coat-hanger up my bum, I might get a weak signal. (I’m not joking…well, I am about the coat-hanger)! Internet is another kettle of fish entirely. It’s all satellite. Apparently fibre-optic is arriving this year, but I am reliably informed that they’ve been saying that for the last few years. I really can’t wait for sometime/never, so I contacted a suggested company for wi-fi. They sent me the modem and a rectangular box (the antenna). I will say here that the previous owners had the same company and have the exact same antenna already in place. Anyway, they said that someone would phone me to install the antenna and all would be good. No ‘phone call. Just how long do you wait I wondered? Several days later I spoke to them again and was told that the intaler would call within FOUR weeks. WTF!!! But luck was on my side beacause since my initial call it was now only 3 weeks to wait. WOOHOO. (I was SO excited about that bit of news, I can tell you). Time passed and the days rolled into weeks and I have to admit that I wasn’t keeping track. All I knew was that I was getting very frustrated. Nothing to lose so I called them again. “Oh you have to phone one of the agreed installers.” Grrrrrr. So why didn’t they tell me this in the first place? Obviously some of the staff have no idea of the process. Oh, I was also asked if I had told them that I had already got an antenna. DUH…yes! So, after phoning several of the companies ( one of whom had no idea how to install the box) I got an appointment. The old box was removed, the new one put up and the signal activated. Great…..but no wi-fi. I was told to wait approx 2-4hrs. Nothing, Zilch, Nada, Rien. Another ‘phone call and the very helpful guy said it was normal to wait 3 days and just hung-up on me. Well, merci beaucoup for nothing. After 2 days I was now very impatient and ‘phoned again in the hope that I got someone helpful and pleasant. “But there is no problem Monsieur, it is connected.”…….and 5 mins later I was transported into the glorious 21st century. Hurrah. This is the innocent, unassuming box.

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I can tell that you are all suitably impressed with my box, if you’ll excuse the expression! Let the blogging begin.

A bientôt!

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Bonne Année 2017

The start of a new year and a start to my new life here in France.I’ve actually been here now for 3 weeks and geting settled is all part of the adventure. I think that not a lot has happened, but in reality I have managed to do a fair bit and I am already feeling fairly well established in some sort of routine. The previous owners had left an old Christmas tree in the barn, so that was ressurected and decorated ASAP. Can’t have Christmas without a tree, can you?

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Frugal my Christmas may have been but it was fun. Various people invited me for meals and lunches, and I was made very welcome.

Just a few days before Christmas I ended up going to Bergerac with a new friend, Sandy. She directed me to the SPA (Société de Protection des Animaux) where there was an abandoned dog waiting for my approval. I have wanted a dog for so long, but with work and living in a small appartment in Brisbane it wasn’t possible or practical. So, off we went. It was a great day out, stopping off for lunch in Riberac. We took the ‘Plat du Jour‘, usually good value and home cooked. The omelette was nice and tasty. The next plate arrived…Tête de veau.  It turned out to be a plate of very little veal, a few vegetables in a lovely creamy sauce, and a HUGE amount of pure fat, and virtually raw! We both killed ourselves laughing, and wondered how anyone could survive a plate of soggy fat; cholesterol 0n a plate! We just couldn’t bring ourselves to eat it and mopped up everything else with copious amounts of bread. Madame enquired if all was OK…”Mais Oui, Merci

The apple and cinnamon dessert was lovely as was the local wine. So, as we were leaving Madame asked again if all was OK. Yes, we said, but explained that there was too much fat and that we weren’t used to it. She was horrified and almost cried “Sacré Bleu“. She explained that it wasn’t fat, but gelatine from over the brain!!! Really, as if that makes any difference.

Anyway, we had places to go and we eventually found the SPA. And there he was…..my new dog. Oh what a delightful, happy and loving dog he was, tail wagging and the first thing he did was to jump up and put his paws around my neck. SMITTEN! (Me, that is)! There was no way I was going to be leaving him, so papers signed, money handed over and he hopped into the car. So. I present to you…….Hugo.

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How anyone could have abandoned this lovely boy is beyond me. He is just adorable, friendly, docile and all he wants is hugs and some love. So far he won’t leave my side and I have a constant shadow. I guess he’s worried that he will be left again. He’s a 12 month old Labrador cross, but what with I have no idea…possibly Pointer. He is underweight and needs feeding-up and some exercise, which he’s getting plenty of.

So, my life has changed already, and for the good. Lots more to tell but that can wait for the next post. So, until then, Happy New Year to one and all

A bientôt!

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Au Départ.

And so it begins……my move to a new life in France. I’m just 2 days away from leaving Brisbane, Australia. The removal company have packed up everything and I’ll see my belongings in 3-4 months time. It seems like an interminable amount of time to be parted from my possessions, but I am sure that I will survive. I have to say that I wouldn’t have wanted to be the guys doing the packing and carrying of my boxes. It was 38c and really humid and I was sweating just watching them! (It is very hard being a spectator). It’ll be about 30 degrees colder when I arrive, but I’m looking forward to the colder weather. (Ask me in a few weeks if I’m still enjoying the cold). Hahahaa.

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These last few days are rounds of lunches and dinners with friends…always hard to do ‘goodbyes’…but they can always visit, can’t they? So, not a lot left to do now. As the words of the song say “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go”and I just need to make sure that I am at the airport in time for my long flight to France.

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A bientôt!

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