January 13, 2018

EARLY SPRING

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Nick flew into Limoges on the same plane that took my friend back to the UK at the beginning of March last year.  With his arrival came a welcome improvement in the weather and some sunshine.

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It was certainly chilly at first but it was such a relief to see the sun.  Daisy was pleased to see Nick back home too.

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The village was looking at its best in the early spring sunshine and we enjoyed taking our regular walks, although of course we were still missing Lulu.

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After a long and dismal winter a walk around the village in the crisp and cold sunshine always makes my heart sing .  The feeling is the same as in the very first years when we had the little cottage at the foot of the château.  It never fades and I still occasionally have to pinch myself and can’t believe how lucky we were to stumble across this lovely place and to own a little part of it.

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Things have evolved and changed around us, gradually over the years.  Last March, with all the year ahead of us, my heart was bursting with a mixture of pride and excitement at the thought that this is where we live and how much we had to look forward to in the coming months.  Even though it was nearly ten years, it could have been just yesterday that we made that first walk around the village and through the grounds of the château and thought “wow, this place is really special”.


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Looking back at last year’s photos makes me realise that we had a great year and I should really have shared more of it in the blog.  I’m hoping to make up for that in the next few posts!

January 9, 2018

LEVROUX

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The weather was not great in our part of France last February.  We did have a few days when the sun came out and we could sit outside and have a drink, enjoying the warmth of the sun on our skin.  But on the whole, as we have found in previous years, February is not a terribly reliable month.  Mostly it’s as cold, damp and miserable as in the UK.  This is one of the reasons that after much discussion, we have decided not to live full time in France, especially for long periods in the winter.

Towards the end of my two weeks in France last February I was running low on ideas of how to keep myself and my friend entertained.  Just for myself I would have been content to stay home, watch TV, read, knit and sew, but having a friend with me I was conscious that for her this was a holiday so felt the need to organise visits and events, plan proper meals and so on.  If I had been by myself, just keeping warm and on top of the housework would probably have occupied me full time.  Keeping two log fires going all day long takes a lot of time.

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A few years ago some friends gave me a book full of beautiful full page photos of some of the more attractive villages in France so I asked my friend to have a look through and choose somewhere she would like to visit on her last day in France.  She picked a place called Levroux.

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I had never been there before, so off we went to explore, on a bitterly cold and windy day.

It’s greatest claim to fame, if it has one at all, is the tower entrance or gate into the town, which is absolutely spectacular but in a sad state of repair.

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In fact, Levroux seemed to be one of those really sad towns, full of dilapidated buildings, closed shops and businesses.  There was hardly a soul about as we wandered around taking pictures.

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There was a fine old church in the centre of town and we managed to find a little café open where we were the only customers.  We warmed ourselves up with a drink of delicious and indulgent hot chocolate before bracing ourselves against the increasingly strong wind and heading back to the car.  

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We had parked in the town square opposite the most amazing junk shop I think I have ever seen.  In fact I’m not sure it was a shop at all, there were no opening hours displayed or any indication of owners.

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I wondered if it was just someone’s collection of brocante, or a shop that had given up trading some time ago.  Inside there was a huge amount of stuff, all typical junk shop fodder, and some of it I would really have like to get a closer look at.

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Including this rather nice painting of the town gate.

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As you will have come to expect, I took dozens of pictures of old doors and windows, but I’ll spare you the bulk and show just three of my favourite door knockers instead.

Later in the year, Nick and I returned to Levroux for another look and found it to be a bit more lively.  On that occasion, one château led to another……..I’ll come to that story in due course………..

January 6, 2018

ANGLES–SUR-L’ANGLIN

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So here we are in the post Christmas, post New Year doldrums.  I find this time of year more difficult now that I am retired.  When I was working I had work to distract me from the glum, grey dismalness of January and February.  Just getting through daily life was all consuming and often quite difficult, grappling with the journey to work in bad weather and then the added struggle with dog walking and shopping.  In the last years of working I couldn’t wait to shed all that and life is in so many way an awful lot easier.  These months drag more though.

As always I am beginning already to yearn for warmer, drier weather and a return to France, but the experience of the last few years has taught me that life is in fact just as much of a struggle there during these two months.  Possibly more so when you consider that it can in fact be colder and the two log burning stoves need a lot of hard work to keep them going and keep the house warm.  The romance of a log fire soon wears off when you are not on holiday but there all the time, having to clean out the fires and get the logs ready and into the house, day in day out.

So, continuing the posts about last years unposted events and photos, to pass the time……………..

A good place to visit in February, when there are no crowds of tourists, is Angles-sur-L’Anglin.  It certainly is a beautiful and fascinating town but often spoiled by traffic and hordes of people.  There was none of that last February.

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The reason I was there last February was that I had returned to France ahead of Nick, with a friend for company and with Daisy (who was fed up with being indoors in our then UK house) in order to check up on our French house after damage had been reported during some storms.  Nick still had a couple of sessions of rehab at the hospital to complete before he could join me, so for two weeks I was “off the lead”.  It suddenly dawned on me that I would have to somehow entertain myself and my friend for these two weeks, at a time of year when many of the touristy places are closed.  Angles seemed a good place to pass some time and take some photos and possibly get a spot of lunch.

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Of course, it being February, lunch options were limited, but we managed to find a very nice pizza restaurant open that I hadn’t tried before and we had a really nice meal, followed by a lovely walk around town.  It was a bit chilly, but it was nice to see the place without the frantic crowds.

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A visit there is always good and I never tire of taking photos.  These two old cars seem to have been parked in the same spot for years.

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It is also an excellent place for indulging in my fascination for old doors and windows. 

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The place is full of them.  You would be tempted to think that the properties are all completely empty and deserted but a visit in the middle of summer would reveal that most of them are very much occupied and in use for something or other, for many months of the year.

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This one does, I have to admit, look unlikely to be occupied usefully, but you just never know.

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These two doors look like they’re for the same building, but one is in good repair and the other much worse, suggesting possibly not.  They seem to share a lintel but until you get a peek inside it’s impossible to guess what’s going on there.

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This door is probably a gate, leading to a courtyard of some kind.  It’s surprising how so often large and well kept courtyard or gardens lie behind an unimposing outer door.  I never tire of visiting Angles, and fantasising about what lies behind its lovely old doors.

December 31, 2017

CHENONCEAU–THE LAST PART. AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR.

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Ever since I was a little girl I have loved visiting old houses.  A trip to some nearby stately home in Derbyshire with my parents - Hardwick, Chatsworth or Haddon for example, was a summer treat that I always looked forward to.  Here in Derbyshire we have a good supply of old houses and monuments to visit and I have many happy memories of picnics by the river at Chatsworth or tea in the tea rooms of some other grand old house or other.

For as long as I can remember the best part of any visit for me would be to see the kitchens.  I have no idea why they should fascinate me so much, but they still do.

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Maybe it’s the sight of the preposterously large ovens and ridiculously shiny copper pans which make kitchen life seem so fascinating compared to how it is in modern times. 

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Or maybe too many of the “upstairs, downstairs” kind of TV programmes that I loved watching when I was younger – in fact still do to be honest.  There have been several TV series in the UK recently which have portrayed the reality of kitchen life in these big houses, dispelling any idea that kitchen work was anything other than dangerous hard graft. 

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But I still find kitchens fascinating and am disappointed if we visit a château where the kitchen is not part of the tour.

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At Chenonceau the kitchens are a delight, with shiny pots and cooking pans and mysterious gadgets aplenty.

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Plenty of things for a person with an overly active imagination and rather romantic fascination for life in “the olden days” to enjoy!

So that’s it for 2017.  A huge thank you to those who have stuck with me in the last couple of years where my blogging seems to have lost direction somewhat.  I can’t promise anything different next year but for me it feels different, our future more or less settled rather than in limbo.  I hope so anyway.

A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL !!

December 29, 2017

CHENONCEAU–THE SECOND PART

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Chenonceau never fails to enthral me with its sheer beauty but never as much as in February this year when there was hardly anybody else there.  To be able to stand back and look at its treasures in proper perspective without dozens of other people swirling about in front of me was a total joy.

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Of all the châteaux we have visited over the years, Chenonceau always has the best flower arrangements.  They are quite breathtaking and must take hours and a lot of skill to produce.  Even in the middle of February the flowers were fresh and the arrangements in good condition.  And of course with nobody much about I could see them in their full glory instead of only bits at a time.

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Hyacinths featured greatly in many of the displays, filling the rooms with their glorious perfume.

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I do admire people who can produce a nice flower arrangement, being a put them in the vase and hope for the best kind of flower arranger myself.  One day I will take myself off on a course to learn how to do it properly and make it look effortless, when I have the time.

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Time being something I seem to have a lot of at the moment, but not able to do anything very useful with it, still being quite poorly with this horrible cold/flu.  Sitting in front of the computer and tinkering with pictures is about all I have had the energy to do since I gave in to the illness and went to bed on Christmas afternoon. Each day I try to do a few easy chores, like clear the table or stack the dishwasher, but it’s exhausting.  I’m pretty fed up with it.

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However, I’m consoling myself with the fact that at least I am retired.  If this had happened whilst I was working, having to spend a precious holiday being ill instead of enjoying myself, I would have been much more upset about it.

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At least now that we’re both retired we can just write off the time, batten down the hatches until we’re better (Nick has had a milder version of it, lingering slightly) and just pick up the decorating and other stuff where we left off when we feel up to it.  That is one of the advantages of being retired, I think, knowing that if today doesn’t work out as planned, there’s always tomorrow.

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It snowed again here today, putting the kibosh on any plans we might have had to go anywhere.  We often get a bit of snow in Derbyshire between Christmas and New Year and being stuck in the house gives me the time to do a bit of sorting out of the year’s photos, something I actually look forward to.  It’s good to be reminded of the wonderful things we have done during the year and to think of how we will enjoy doing it all again next year!