Finding Time for Oneself

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One of the many things we love about France is the slightly slower pace of life. However, at the same time our life seems more hectic than ever; it’s a total contradiction I know, but true. We have never been busier, but we also find more time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life! Read more

The Summer Kitchen Revisited

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This time last year I chatted about our summer kitchen and I asked your advice about what to do with the ugly, falling down, insulated ceiling. You can read the post here if you missed it. You may also remember I promised you an update in a couple of months time.

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Brocante and Chocolate

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These last few days everything has felt slightly different as the sun streams in through the windows, and although the mercury is definitely nudging upwards a little there’s a cold easterly wind which is banishing all thoughts of bare arms and legs. Along with the week’s slow change in temperature, there’s also a subtle change in the light and despite the lingering smell of winter woodsmoke in the air there’s now a welcome new scent, that of freshly mown grass. Read more

Finding brocante in the attic and an ivy update

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Oh my goodness we’ve packed a lot in so far this weekend. It began with one of those early Saturday mornings when you wake up with the sun streaming in through the bedroom windows, and even though you’d dearly love a lie-in, you just know that you have to get up; it would be a criminal offence to waste such a beautiful start to the day. And as the forecast yesterday had promised much warmer weather and plenty of sunshine, there was much to do and no time to waste after months of winter and weak sun. Suddenly everything felt so different! Read more

CREATING THE PERFECT PLACE TO STAY

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Having started my series of articles about renovation with a 12th century château renovated by a truly dedicated Frenchman, I thought it would be fun to go to the other end of the spectrum for my second article and meet an ‘expat’ family who have completely transformed two barns into a pair of fabulously comfortable gîtes. These jewels are nestled in the tiny hamlet of Vergné in the north of the department of the Charente Maritime and an hour east of La Rochelle, they stand alongside a lovely farmhouse which is home to Simon and Sue Paine and their two teenage children. Read more

MAY IN THE CHARENTE MARITIME

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In France, May is seemingly full of public holidays and  the last one is Pentecost; as we chatted during supper on Monday evening we all agreed we cannot remember the last time we had such a fun weekend. It all went by in rather a social blur; friends to lunch and dinner, fabulous long sunny days staying light until nearly 10pm, and the kids decided to camp in the garden for two nights so our lawn became ‘Tent City’ as friends joined them.

I cannot believe the month is nearly over; where did it go? It seems only last week I was incredibly happy we were into the month of April and that spring was well and truly in command. Yet here we are now, only a few days from June. I hope it slows down or before we know it we will be hauling logs, lighting fires and getting out our hats and scarves again.

To try and prolong it a little longer I thought I would share with you a photo-tour of our month of May.  It didn’t get off to the best start as it arrived with pouring rain and chilly winds which quite typically coincided with the children being on Spring Break.

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after several days the skies cleared and once again the sun came out to play

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having been dormant all winter, vineyards were once again bursting with life

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villages that had seemed almost deserted became centers of chattering activity as the Brocante season got well and truly underway

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and I found a fab heavy brass chandelier for the summer kitchen

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 some of us were brave enough to have our first swim of the year

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and we dusted off our bikes and set about exploring nearby villages

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the garden demanded, but failed to get, constant attention as I waged a war I realized I was never going to win on the weeds

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we walked the well-trodden sand and stone causeway over to the Île Madame

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 and one morning when the children were all at school found ourselves quite by chance at the most incredible stone-mason’s yard

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 cherry season is now in full swing, picking, eating, picking and eating more – it’s the simple things in life that I enjoy so much!

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the locals are saying it is the best year for roses in decades

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a little renovation required, but how about this for a cute weekend retreat

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yesterday some farmers were turning their hay, making the most of the sunny dry weather

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and when we walked Bentley after supper the sun was still beating strong at 9pm

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I hope May has been a good month for you too and as always thanks for reading, thanks for following me and for your comments, I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I really enjoy taking photos whilst we are out and about and sharing them with you and telling our story from this tiny little corner of France.  Merci mille fois

A SLEEPOVER IN PONS

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Last week was VE day – Victory in Europe – and it is always a public holiday in France.  We were invited to dinner at a friends’ house and to stay the night.  The children were excited when they knew they were going for a sleepover altogether but it seemed that the invite had caused confusion, for one afternoon the week before we left, Gigi looked at me with a very serious expression on her face and asked “Are you and Papa staying the night in Pons too?”. I told her that of course we were!  The serious face turned into an incredibly big smile, “Mama and Papa are having a sleepover too, that’s so cool!”, she said.  She and her siblings are always having sleepovers at friends’ houses or have friends coming to our house, but the idea of her parents doing the same at a friends’ house had not occurred to her at all!

The day of the big sleepover arrived – you would really have thought we were going away for a month, not a night.  Our fabulous neighbour was left in charge of the ducks and chickens, the kittens had plenty of food and Bentley was coming with us.  All the shutters throughout the house had to be closed, a job in itself which seems to take forever and then there is the actual reality of ushering five children out of the door with all their “stuff” – of course we were running late!  It was the most perfect day, hot and sunny with clear blue skies.  As we headed east our coastal landscape slowly gave way to the gently undulating hills of inland Charente Maritime, with rows and rows of vines as far as the eye could see.

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In the late afternoon after we arrived we walked for miles, through the vineyards as is so typical in France; no cars, no noise, no-one to be seen apart from a solitary tractor working in the vines and the chatter and laughter of the children.

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The most delicious dinner followed and for once no need to worry about driving home, what a treat that was.  Several glasses of wine, much laughter and hours of talking.  The children went to bed far too late, only to be woken along with everyone else and a very nervous Bentley at 5am by the roar of overhead thunder and much flashing of lightning.

The storm brought with it cooler air and a stiff breeze but amazingly the rain held off for the annual VE day Brocante and plant fair in Avy the next day.  Beer tents were overflowing with friends enjoying their day off; dogs on leads; children running here and there amidst so many people carrying their purchases – flowers, zinc pots, copper pans, pieces of furniture – for anyone wanting to experience the “real” France, a visit to a Brocante during the spring has to be very high up on the agenda.

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For once we were in no rush, time was on our side and later we took the opportunity to explore the beautiful town of Pons.

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Perched on a rock, this Cité Médiévale is very much worth a visit.  In the centre there is the remaining vestige of the old fortified castle and its magnificent keep.   It was destroyed in 1179 by Richard the Lionheart and then rebuilt again later. We were careful to speak in undertones and remain very un-British!

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All around are small streets full of history, adorned with turrets, arches, stairways and fabulous private houses.

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Alleys join the lower town where pilgrims on their way to the town of Santiago de Compostela stopped at the Hôpital Neuf (New Hospital) founded in 1160 by Geoffroy III of Pons.

On the other side, a walk in the park is an occasion to see a typical French public garden with carefully manicured shrubbery and glorious avenues of huge green trees à la Française – chestnuts, oak and plane (sycamore for our American friends) trees are typically planted for this purpose.

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Our little sojourn away has thoroughly recharged our batteries and is good proof of the saying, “A change is as good as a rest” !