I’ve plenty of things to chat about so this is really going to be rather like a letter this week. If I am honest, that is how I think of this blog all the time. It is an email with photos to a group of friends about life here in south western France. Because what I really enjoy is the fact that many of you have become friends, some in real life and many just virtual, but I feel as if we have developed a little community and that in itself is fabulous.
Our staycation has come to an end, but I am sure many of you know only too well, a staycation is never quite the whole holiday package. Sure, we do all the things we do when on holiday with kids, and we have the best time ever, but at the same time, daily life and the little things still need taking care of. Laundry, gardening, cooking, cleaning, the usual drill. So I think you’ll understand when I say it’s been quite a busy week. The one thing I tried to do was take a mini break from work related things which also means less time on the computer. Hence I have not replied to any comments yet, despite having read them all, but I will do so this coming week, I just didn’t want you to think I was ignoring you !
We packed a tremendous amount into a few days. Millie, our second eldest was back at home. The three youngest are making the most of the last week of school holidays and we did everything we love doing most. Beach days and plenty of sea related activities of course. Lunch and Dinner outdoors under the stars and even breakfast too, now that really is a treat. And one of our favourite days out, cycling on the Île De Ré.
I did also manage to do a little research into the “Rue des Huit frères” which I mentioned in my last post. I went back to Port D’Envaux and found a very helpful resident who informed me that it was all because of a family named Ferret who had eight brothers who lived here. They didn’t know anything else, but this gave me a name and something to go on. I came home and did a little google research. Apparently there is a house called Maison Ferret at the top of the street, by all accounts quite a grand house. Had I known this I would have found it and taken a photo, but by now I was back at home. So I will save that for another time! Apparently the eight brothers were mostly involved in the maritime industry, which makes sense as Port D’Envaux was a very important place on the Charentes River a century ago. A factory was built behind the house in 1846 which continued up until 1975. Until 1920 the factory employed around 60 people and amongst other things manufactured wheel hubs for carriages.
So with that problem solved and I do like finding answers, let’s go back to the Île de Ré. Situated about 35 minutes north from us it makes an easy day out. We always rent bikes and then head off wherever our mood takes us. This time we went into the capital of St Martin. Remember it is August, the busiest month in the French calendar for holidays, and the Island was packed. And yet somehow despite the crowds it didn’t spoil anything.
Yachts and motor boats line the harbour, grand and more modest versions side by side. The Île de Ré is like St Tropez with all the money and glamour but without any of the bling.
Here the mega rich wear t-shirts and boating shoes. It is definitely very laid back chic.
A prime example is the luxurious five start Hotel de Toiras. It is here with the tower, and navy blue door, blink and you would miss it. This has to epitomise the classic art of understatement which the French do rather well.
Having left our bikes along the harbour we took a stroll, an excuse for the children to have an ice cream and to just wander and soak up the atmosphere.
I love old shutters, faded from the sun and salt air.
Back on our bikes we headed along the coast track, no cars allowed only walkers and cyclists. We passed a local oyster bar and you cannot get shellfish much fresher than this. We could have been anywhere in the Caribbean with the brightly coloured chairs. It is just one of the many facets that makes up this unique island.
After nearly two hours of cycling a stop on the way home is always a welcome break for a quick swim. This is what is so lovely, park the bikes, walk down to the sea and take a dip, it is about as laid back as can be. Our son finds it almost impossible to be serious in a photo !!
Finally we headed back through the market square in La Flotte. All activity was over for the day and I made a mental note that we really had to visit in the morning. I adore French markets and this looks like being a really good one, if looks are anything to go by.
The Island always leaves me feeling incredibly inspired and perhaps you can see why. So much so I decided to completely revamp my Etsy shop. I have listened to what so many people have said, i.e. the somewhat exorbitant cost of shipping and as a result more than three quarters of everything I have is now offered with free shipping. I see this as a major way forward and I hope it will make it much easier for you to add a little original French vintage to your home.
You can buy knock off, made to look old, faux French pieces at many stores around the world and I have to admit some are pretty good imitations (it’s amazing what can be done with different paint finishes) but it’s not the real thing and for me owning something mass produced to look like something else doesn’t make me happy. What I want to give you is the chance to add something totally original and very often completely unique. Something that has the true time worn patina that can only come with age. Something that has been loved and treasured or that was an essential part of daily living. Something that is not necessarily perfect, but even more beautiful because of its imperfections. Every item I purchase would have a story to tell if it could talk. These individual hand sought items are what really make an interior stand out. By choosing something with care, learning as much as you can about its history and origin you will be adding a real treasure to your home, something hopefully that can be passed on to the next generation. With every item I sell I will let you know as much as I can about it and where it came from.
To celebrate this new shopping experience I am also offering a 10% discount on a vast number of items through this weekend, ending on Tuesday morning. Just click on the link here or go to my Etsy shop direct at https://www.etsy.com/shop/OurFrenchLifestyle
And do keep checking back as I’ve been really busy buying away and sourcing new items which I will try and add over the weekend and into next week.
Now I have to finish because we are hosting an enormous garden luncheon tomorrow which is taking quite a lot of organisation! But I just wanted to wish all of you in the States a very happy Labour Day Weekend. And to all of our friends in Florida and those in the path of Hurricane Dorian. If you’ve finished battening down the hatches and have time to read this. We love you and are praying for you. We’ve been through a Category 4 when we lived in the Caribbean, we know what you are going through. Stay safe, we are thinking of you. xx