January 31, 2010

A WHITE VAN WEEKEND

We left Le Grand-Pressigny on New Year's Day in 2008 feeling rather pleased with ourselves. We had achieved a lot already but it was going to be a long stretch until our next visit at Easter. We had had a great time getting to know the place but we had an enormous list of things we wanted to do and things we needed to buy.

Furniture for a start.


Contemplating the need for furniture.



We had looked in some of the places people had suggested to go for furniture but so far we had drawn a blank. In the large stores we found it either too huge and too grand, or too cheap and nasty, or just right but too expensive. We didn't seem able to drop on the right things at the right price - and the nearest Ikea was then several hours' drive away in Paris.


Sale rooms and the vide greniers had been suggested but relying on being in the right place at the right time to find just the right furniture seemed to be unlikely. They would be fun to look around for all those important extra bits and pieces later. We were beginning to think that at this rate, we could end up spending a large part of each holiday looking around furniture shops.

Back in England, we put the problem on the back-burner for a while and then, one day in January Nick was passing our local furniture shop in Derbyshire and spotted a display of really nice stuff in the window. And they had a sale on - 25% off all of it. We went in for a look and fell in love with it. It was made from reclaimed oak, was supplied by a company in the next county, and yet looked for all the world like some of the lovely French country furniture we had seen in Tours. You can see their current range here. It would be just right. We then spent a couple of evenings with pencil and paper and little cut-out diagrams of the furniture, shuffling it around to make sure everything we wanted would fit into the space we had.


We talked about it for a long time, mainly because to buy things in England was not what we had planned. We fully intended to get everything in France. Buying it at home and then getting it over there seemed like hard work, but in the end that's what we did.

We ordered a small sideboard, a rather nice sofa table with wine rack, a dining table that would extend from 4 to 6 seats, four dining chairs and a nest of 3 tables. It was all pretty solid and heavy stuff. The store agreed to keep it all in their warehouse until we were ready to transport it across to France. We also bought two small Ikea sofas and stored them in our garage at home.
We wanted to get the decorating done downstairs first as that would be much more sensible than trying to paint round a whole load of brand new furniture.



Work in progress at Easter.

Easter then, was spent doing up the one room downstairs - the living room. In a short 5-day break we got the walls, beams and ceiling prepared and painted. We also got everything cleared up and cleaned ready to put the furniture in. It was hard slog.




Cleaning the old paint off the beams and painting the ceiling inbetween them took hours of hard and dirty work.



Less than two weeks later, we came back with the biggest transit van we could hire on our normal driving licenses. Once the warehouse lads had lifted the heavy items in for us, we loaded up the sofas at home and took the opportunity to fill the remaining space with all kinds of things that we would not be able to fit into the car, including our old garden bench which we thought would get a lot more use in France than it did in our garden in chilly Derbyshire. There was also a shower cubicle and tray for the bathroom, which was to be the next DIY project, and a spare lawnmower.

We set off Friday lunchtime, sitting very upright in the uncomfortable van and taking it in turns to drive. We stayed overnight in Rouen and en route we called at the bed shop in Tours. Somehow we managed to squeeze two single beds and mattresses for the second bedroom into the van. By now it was bursting at the seams!



There was not much space left in the van.


At the other end, Alex and Nicole, Barrie and Lucie helped us get it all off the van and into the house. Just a few hours later, it was all positioned, polished and looking just perfect. At 8pm we were enjoying a very welcome meal in the hotel in the village before turning in early, exhausted.




All in place and perfectly polished.


Mme André was somewhat bemused by the whole thing. We turned up with a van, stayed one night and then left again !! The drive home was long and hard and to our absolute dismay, we hit snow, literally, in Northern France, even though it was 6th April - that wasn't supposed to happen ! Driving a large and completely empty transit in snow was not a happy experience. We passed a couple of nasty accidents on the motorway, one involving a horse box, although the horse was standing by the overturned box and seemed to be OK. These slowed us up and we missed our ferry, having to join the long queue for another one.




Not a speck of dust to be seen !

The whole weekend had been quite an adventure but I wouldn't wish to repeat it in a hurry. Huge transits are horrible to drive. They are slow and hard work and very uncomfortable and doing all those miles and then back again in just 2½ days was exhausting. But it was worth it just the once.




The little cottage "au pied du château" was beginning to look like home.

9 comments:

  1. Leon - thank you. We were a bit nervous about it, hoping it would all fit in and not make the room look too crowded, but it all works just fine - ça marche !

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  2. Jean, Your house is a gem! The wooden furniture blends in beautifully with the old beams.

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  3. Obviously, pre-window. Sounds like a lot of work, but your youth and vigor made it an easy task...

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  4. Martine - thank you !

    Walt - funny you should say that - half way through the weekend we said to ourselves "we're getting too old for this" !

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  5. I can testify that your house is beautiful and comfortable. I didn't know you had transported all that furniture from the U.K. Wow. Seems like it was the right thing to do though.

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  6. Hi Jean,
    The hard work and effort have certainly paid off. The furniture fits in very well and the overall effect is of a comfortable,stylish and welcoming cottage.
    We have transported most of our furniture from the UK partly due to the poor exchange rate and also having to move our belongings from the Alps to LPP. We use a large box trailer which we rent from a trailer company in nearby Lichfield at a very reasonable rate. Like you we have seen some lovely furniture in France but the stuff we really like is out of our budget, also we have more time at home to look for furniture. When we are in France there is a limit to how much time we want to spend shopping!!
    Regards
    Gaynor

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  7. Jean, that looks lovely. I do admire you both sitting down and drawing plans and to scale cut-outs. We would have bought stuff and then belatedly wailed 'oh, it's too big to look nice'. Full marks for perfect choices, preparation and execution.

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  8. Ken - thank you ! We're at the age where we need comfort and were getting tired of sitting on garden chairs.

    Gaynor - same here, we didn't want to spend all our holidays looking for furniture but really we were just lucky and stumbled across the right stuff in Derbyshire.

    FF - thank you ! We daren't risk spending all that money and effort in getting it to France and then it not fitting in. I do know someone who did that with a sofa which simply wouldn't go through the front door.

    (there's more to this story - fortunately she bought the sofa in France albeit a long way from her home. Unfortunately the poor girl then got the van stuck under a low bridge in taking it back to the shop. Ouch !)

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