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.

January 27, 2010

A LESSON IN FRENCH

CRABTREE RIDES AGAIN


One of our favourite TV programmes from years gone by is "Allo Allo" which ran for 10 years between 1982 and 92. So much so that we have bought the whole series on DVD and when we need cheering up on a grim winter's evening we put it on and have a good laugh. It never fails.
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For those that are not familiar with the programme, Officer Crabtree was the idiot Englishman who believed he could speak French, masquerading as a French police officer.






Nick has become an expert at what we have called "the Crabtree".

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I will explain : our French teacher once told us that the English and French languages are often very similar so if you don't know the word in French try saying the English word instead but with a French accent. Nick has become this theory's greatest fan.
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One of his classics occurred that first Christmas week in Le Grand-Pressigny in trying to buy a cabbage on the market. He couldn't remember the French word for cabbage so he took our teacher's advice and said "un cabbarge s'il vous plait", emphasising the arge to make it sound as French as possible. The stallholder immediately knew what he meant and without a hint of amusement or bewilderment reached over and handed us a cabbage.
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This is surprising since the real French word for cabbage sounds nothing like cabbarge - it's chou.
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During the same week he performed another version of the Crabtree - "saying the wrong word".
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We were in the PreHisto one afternoon, taking a break from the DIY and the landlady was enquiring how well we had settled in. It had been bitterly cold and she asked if we had any heating. (We think that's what she asked, anyway.)
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We were very pleased with our beautiful new wood-burning stove, the poêle, so Nick proudly announced that yes, we had a new "poulet" which was heating the whole house !!
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She and several of the people at the bar burst into laughter and it took us a while to realise his mistake.
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(Photos from a Google source, not by me.)
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January 24, 2010

A LESSON AT THE BUTCHERS

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Having just had a week in Le Grand-Pressigny that included New Year, I couldn't help making comparisons with our first New Year there in 2007. So I thought it was time I picked up the story again and carried on where I had left off.


The butcher in Le Grand-Pressigny

One of the things we have enjoyed in the two years that we have owned the little cottage "au pied du château" is getting to know the local shops. During the week between Christmas and New Year in 2007 we shopped often in the village. There is an excellent butcher, a boulangerie, a florist that also sells fishing permits and guns, and a general store, the Spa. There is also a bank, insurance office, post office, estate agent, DIY and builders merchants, hairdresser, pharmacy, newsagent/tabac, plumbers and tourist office. I hope I haven't missed anything out.




That week in 2007, we decided that we would like to invite Barrie and Lucie to dinner one evening. This would be our second dinner party challenge - cooking with our new cooker and finding enough crockery and cutlery for all four of us at once ! We decided to cook roast beef as it seemed fairly safe and we knew what we were doing there - or so we thought.




In the morning of the appointed day we shopped for everything we needed in the village. We are very keen to support the local shops although periodic visits to the supermarket at Descartes are inevitable. We bought bread and a "tarte au mirabelle" for dessert in the boulangerie. It is virtually impossible to enter this shop and then come out with just some bread. The cakes, tarts and other goodies on sale are extremely tempting. So we also bought some little meringues and "gateaux", which are actually biscuits, to go with our after-dinner coffee.






We bought cheese and saucisson sec at the Spa. Vegetables had already been bought from the market in the village square on Thursday morning.







Next we plucked up courage to enter the butchers. I say this because, even now, a trip to the butcher is a slightly unnerving experience. Personally I find it makes a huge difference how many people are in the shop already when I enter.

If there are just one or two, I have enough time to scan the produce on offer, decide what to have and how to ask for it, get it and leave before I lose my nerve. If there are too many in front of me, I lose track of what I want in listening to the locals who buy all kinds of scary looking stuff and know what to do with it, panic because my French is so pathetic, then by the time it's my turn, I'm a nervous jibbering wreck and make myself look a complete idiot. An English idiot !



Worse still is if people pile in behind me whilst I'm waiting to be served. Then, not only do I have time to forget what I wanted in the fog of total panic, but the knowledge that all those people are listening to every mis-pronounced and inappropriate word makes me feel even more stupid, if that were at all possible.



Now I must say here that none of this has anything at all to do with the proprietors, M. and Mme. Poupeau. They are immensely patient, helpful and kind to us and have never ever said a single word that was intended to make us feel uncomfortable or inadequate in any way.



On this day, we were in luck. There was just one person in front of us so we checked out the meat in the display and also spotted some quiche and taboulé we would have for lunch plus some paté we could serve as a starter for our little dinner party. Quite an order and we were feeling confident.



Nick was at the helm and he asked Mme for "un pièce de boeuf à rôtir pour quatre personnes" (in his best Crabtree accent). She smiled, disappeared in the back and re-emerged with the biggest and most fabulous piece of meat I have ever seen in my life. She sliced a piece off and took the rest back to the fridge, re-emerging with a large parcel. This turned out to be thin slices of fat, some of which she wrapped around the meat and tied in place with string from a ball nailed to the ceiling. We marvelled at the whole performance.

Next our joint was wrapped and weighed, hitting the mark at 800 grams exactly! With a sweet smile, she lifted it up and as she was about to hand it to Nick she seemed to have second thoughts and quickly drew it back towards her, just out of his grasp !




Taken aback, we both stared at her as she said, in a stern voice. "quinze minutes, Monsieur". About two seconds passed as their eyes met and she said, leaning forwards ever so slightly, "quinze minutes......vingt minutes, maximum !"

Quick thinking as ever, Nick replied "Mais oui Madame, vignt minutes, bien sûr !" Satisfied that we were going to treat her beef with the respect it deserved, she allowed us to pay for it and we left the shop with our purchases, stunned but happy.


This picture is not the actual joint - but ours looked just as good !


Later that evening, we cooked it for almost an hour and it was absolutely perfect !

January 22, 2010

EATING WITH FRIENDS AGAIN

Saturday 2nd January was our last full day in Le Grand-Pressigny. We put the finishing touches to the decorating in the bedroom and replaced all the furniture. We were glad we would be able to use the room just once before coming home.





We allowed ourselves time off to do the essential shopping to bring back with us. Wine, rillets, more cheese, bits and pieces that friends had asked us to get. In the late afternoon we took Lulu for a last long walk around the village and called in at the Prehisto for a drink. We took lots of photos to remind us how lovely the place is and sustain us until the next visit. Not that we hadn't got hundreds of photos already. It was a lovely bright frosty day.




In 2009 we somehow spent a total of 12 weeks at the cottage, in one-week, two-week or long-weekend chunks. That's 3 months. A quarter of a year. Much more than we had hoped possible. Also, by now we have been there for a part of every month in the year so we can say to ourselves that we're getting to know the place, warts and all. To an extent, at least. With each trip we find ourselves debating, more and more, whether we would like to live there for always. Maybe. Definitely. Perhaps. Who knows. It's fun to talk about it anyway.




For our last evening we were invited to Simon and Susan's house in Preuilly-sur-Claise for dinner. We arrived for early apéros as we needed an early night for the journey home the next day.




S&S are in the process of renovating their house so every time we call on them, there is something that has changed. They had a lovely wood burning stove going in their front room - now the living room - it was a bedroom the last time we visited. Once settled in their comfy chairs in front of the fire, we nibbled on Australian macadamia nuts to go with the bottle of Vouvray. Other goodies from their recent visit to Australia were to come.




We had a beetroot and carrot salad, harvested from their potager, followed by a fabulous roast lamb stuffed with Australian apricots and pine nuts. Next was a cheese board that had some cheeses that we had never come across - the variety available locally is staggering. These were served with Australian Vita-weat biscuits. Dessert was a "galette des roi" which had been warming gently on the mantlepiece all the time - the one with the marzipan filling, much to my personal delight. Somewhere in between we had a real surprise - pear sorbet, made from the liquor that Susan used to poach pears and then frozen. It was delicious and what a good idea. Susan has written about some of these things here and here.



After dinner simon treated us to a viewing of his DVD of Cream live at the Albert Hall. It's funny but one of the very few things we miss when we are in France is the occasional fix of live rock music (being old bikers and all that) - must suss that one out. Mind you, those Cream people look awfully crinkly these days.





So that was the end of the holiday for us and what a week it had been. The decorating was finished and we had had a whale of a time catching up with friends, making new ones and all that wonderful food .........!


For the journey home we prepared for the worst weather-wise. Barrie had popped in to warn us of snow in Northern France. It was already below freezing in LGP and a lovely crisp sunny day, making us sadder than usual to be leaving. We packed the blankets, coffee flask and sandwiches and set off.

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In the end the journey was easy. Traffic was light and althought there was evidence of a good fall of snow, we were obviously lucky to have missed it and the roads were clear. Eurotunnel was very busy but running on time. I was impressed with how efficiently and politely the staff dealt with the huge number of travellers and especially the extra measures put in place for processing all the pets that were going back home. It was all pretty painless.







Until we got to England as usual. Mayhem on the motorways. English drivers take such incredible and stupid risks - all that pushing and shoving - for what ? I wouldn't describe the French as good drivers but driving in France always seems so much more relaxed with so little aggravation. It only takes five minutes back on the English roads to remind me what selfish and bad mannered drivers we now have in Britain.

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January 19, 2010

EATING WITH FRIENDS

After the warm and sunny day on New Year's Eve, there was a spectacular change in the weather for January 1st. It was grey, misty and hovering around freezing.




We had been invited to join Ken and Walt in St-Aignan for their traditional New Year's Day cassoulet. The trip would take around an hour from Le Grand-Pressigny.


We were up early and I washed up from the night before whilst Nick put in a couple of hours' work on the decorating before we set off. Lulu came with us and we had a lovely day together. Ken and Walt are superb cooks and generous hosts, making us feel relaxed and very welcome.


We chatted over delicious nibbles of prunes wrapped in lardons or smoked duck with our apéros. At the table the first course was a smoked salmon and celeri remoulade salad. Then came the magnificent cassoulet, served in an enormous dish. We have had cassoulet before and it is one of Nick's favourites to choose in a restaurant. This was, he reckoned, the best he'd ever had. Next there was a generous cheeseboard followed by Walt's pumpkin cake.


Ken has blogged about the food here and here. Walt's starter is described here. His pumpkin cake is pictured here.


It was one of those days where it never seemed to get properly light - it was very cold and grey. We set off back home with temperatures at or just below freezing. I was driving and I took it very steadily, sticking to the more major roads, hoping that they had been treated. One of the great joys about driving in France is that it is so easy - on the way home we barely saw a dozen other cars.



Before bedtime we took Lulu for her last walk of the day and I was able to take some pictures of the festive decorations around the village. We had only one full day left to finish the decorating and we were invited out again for our last night - to dinner at Simon and Susan's. What lucky people we are to have so many friends - and they are all such good cooks !


January 17, 2010

EATING IN

In the early part of the week we debated whether we should go the the New Year bash in the salle des fêtes with Barrie. He said he would if we would and we said we would if he would.

In the end, we didn't.




The menu looked great and although it was pricey at 75€ a head, it was good value for an all-night event with lots of music and dancing.We had heard CMC trio before at GrandMa's and we really enjoyed them. A spot of dancing after dinner would have been fun, too.





We talked ourselves out of it because, finishing at 6am on January 1st, it would have wiped us out for the rest of the day and we had a lunch date already fixed. We also didn't want to lose any part of a day where we could do some more decorating and time was running out. We had a lot to do yet and only 3 days left to do it. Maybe we'll go to it next time.

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We had had peculiar weather all week. To begin with it was fairly frosty but as the days went by it warmed up (enough for us to discontinue using our electric blanket) and we had rain on and off. On New Year's Eve we were basking in 12ºC and sunshine. Barrie was coming round for the evening and we had a dinner planned of our own.

MENU

MYSTERY FISHY STARTER (to be provided by Barrie)

ROAST VEAL WITH ARMADILLOS AND VEGETABLES

INTERESTING CHEESEBOARD


CHRISTMAS PUDDING AND BRANDY BUTTER


Barrie arrived with a little box of gorgeous seafood cocktail purchased from his favourite deli in Chatellerault. It contained lots of the things you often see as "fruits de mer" in restaurants and, although some of the bits and pieces looked a little too scary for my liking, it was absolutely delicious. I served it with green salad and bread.


The veal was cooked to perfection by Nick chez nous and served with his best gravy. In case you're wondering, armadillos are actually "hassleback potatoes" but I renamed them because they look something like this.



This is how I cook them:

  • Peel the right number of medium-sized potatoes and cut them in half long-ways.


  • Make slits in them being careful not to cut all the way through - see picture.


  • Place them flat side down in a roasting tin. Brush with melted butter and season with S&P.


  • Gently pour about half a pint of OXO or any kind of stock around the potatoes to about a third the way up. Don't drown them.


  • Bake at about 180ºC for 45mins or so. Timing isn't critical. They're done when they look done, ie when the liquid has been absorbed and the potatoes are brown on top.

Most recipes, such as Nigella's, from whom I borrowed the photo, don't use the stock and just roast them. This would no doubt make them more crispy but I prefer my armadillos slightly chewy underneath with the extra flavour of the stock.

The cheeseboard was interesting because some of it had been in and out of our fridge all week and was fairly lively. We also added two local goats cheeses with the intention of bringing all the left-overs back to Derbyshire to enjoy later. We cooked the Christmas pud - brought with us from England along with the brandy butter - on top of the wood-burning stove.

We let the New Year in and just after midnight Barrie went home and we retired to bed, leaving the washing up until the next day. We were due in St-Aignan for lunch and we were really looking forward to that.

January 15, 2010

EATING OUT




When we arrived in Le Grand-Pressigny on Boxing Day, within hours we were doing one of our favourite things - eating out.

We actually got to the cottage a good hour sooner than we had expected - in fact we made it in a record time of 11½ hours door to door which included a stop at Leroy Merlin in Rouen. We were installed for apéro time and had already arranged to eat with Barrie at GrandMa's in the village for our first evening.





On Sunday we had lunch at Les Tilleuls in Barrou.


On Monday we fully intended to drive over to Chinon for lunch as it was our wedding anniversary. 15 years. Chinon still remains our favourite town in France but Monday is not a good day to find lunch anywhere and it can be a bit hit and miss. The between-Christmas-and-New-Year doldrums makes it even more uncertain. We have had lunch there a few times at a restaurant called L'Ardoise which is excellent but it was grotty weather - cold and rainy - so we decided to stay nice and cosy and make a start on the decorating upstairs. So we had lunch and dinner at home.



The Auberge du Val de Vienne at Sazilly


Tuesday was a real treat. Earlier in the year we had been given a tip by Jim Budd of Jim's Loire about a restaurant called Auberge du Val de Vienne at Sazilly. This village is on the south bank of the Vienne between Chinon and L'Isle-Bouchard. We had had lunch there twice before and this time we had a reservation for five of us; Alex, Nicole, Barrie and us. Quite a party and we were really looking forward to it.




The distinctive restaurant sign.


The restaurant has a really cute sign made of a copper saucepan and kitchen tools. Inside the decor is traditional. The service is excellent and unintrusive and the food is fantastic. On each of our three visits we had the lunchtime menu which is a bargain at 16.50€ a head. The wine list is extensive and has enough choices in every price range to make any diner feel comfortable.




Out of the five of us, three chose the duck and two the beef for the main course. The price includes amuse-bouche and dessert. We drank two bottles of good wine but there was still no need for a sharp intake of breath when "l'addition" arrived. It was superb.




On Wednesday we plodded on with the decorating. It was another miserable day weather-wise but perfect for getting on with the job. In the afternoon we visited Gaynor and Tim who had moved into their new holiday home in Le Petit-Pressigny only two days before. They were unbelievably tidy and organised considering they had only been there for two days. Perhaps the fact that we could fit our whole cottage into their living room could have something to do with it !! (It's difficult to be tidy when work is in progress and space is limited.) We toasted their arrival with a bottle of Vouvray and they plied us with mincepies as we passed a happy couple of hours with them. That also counts as eating out, then !


Of course they are within walking distance of the region's famous Michelin starred restaurant, La Promenade ! Lucky people. We weren't tempted this time - although we have been once before.


Thursday was New Year's Eve. We were only half way through the week and we had lots more eating out to do yet.
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January 13, 2010

THE OLD PILE

When we bought the house in 2007, at the back there was what can only be described as a large pile. We were not at all sure what was in it - it seemed to be overgrown stone, "silex" and general junk. It took up a huge area and we wanted the space for ourselves. The only way to find out what was underneath was to start digging.
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We didn't fancy doing that ourselves .... but we knew someone who would. Alex and Nicole Crawford. They have written about it recently in their gardening blog.



On that side of the house there was a wall separating us from our neighbour down the hill. Most of it had fallen down and Mme André had alarmed us with stories of someone climbing over and prowling around the property. I have no reason to disbelieve her although I wouldn't wish to spread ugly rumours either. In any case, when we were deciding on how to spend our budget for alterations, rebuilding the wall was a priority. So we hired Alex. He's good with walls.




There was also the case of the missing window. On the inside of the house there was nothing, just a smooth (!!) wall but on the outside was a window, complete with lintel and hooks for the shutters. Re-instating the window would be a big and messy job but it was a also a priority.

Alex tackled the wall early in 2008. We instantly felt much more comfortable knowing there could be no unwanted nosey prowlers.

Re-instating the window required planning permission, which Barrie organised for us. It was tacked onto the application for permission for the new half of a roof and the new velux window on that side. There was some uncertainty that we would get permission for the old window to be re-done because of its proximity to the boundary between us and our neighbour. Luckily it was granted.

In winter 2008-09 Alex engaged and worked alongside a local mason to put the window in. Barrie had a theory that under the "chaux" or render, there would still be the original glass. In fact there wasn't.




Having the new/old window made a huge difference to the house. Previously the one room downstairs could feel very dark. The window seemed much larger inside than outside and we are absolutely thrilled with it. It lets in so much light and faces west, giving us the evening sunshine.


Alex also made us some new shutters for the window and finished it off with those cute little people shutter fasteners.



Finally, in our last absence of ten weeks between October and Boxing Day, Alex and Nicole removed the pile. It was tons of overgrown rubble, dumped there by someone who had maybe demolished a building - goodness knows where - and couldn't be bothered to remove the spoil. (Why on earth would anyone do that - dump a huge amount of stuff up against a house and leave it for decades ?)


We couldn't wait to see how it looked. It was superb.



Now we have a fabulous clean and useable space. We might put our barbecue there - Nick really and desperately wants one of those huge imitation stone barbecues and changes his mind every few days about where to put it. This new space opens up another possibility ! Or we might put some kind of shelter where we can store our garden furniture. Who knows. But it's just lovely to have the option. Instead of just a pile.


As well as getting a huge amount of extra space (huge relative to the size of our tiny cottage that is), we gained another window. As the pile was gradually removed another window emerged. You can see it in bottom left of the picture above. On the inside it is hidden by the structure that forms the staircase. Maybe one day we will do something imaginative with that, too.


January 11, 2010

GETTING ON WITH IT

When the cottage was built, possibly around 1700, it was probably just a one room dwelling with a loft space. It has obviously been through several incarnations and renovations, the discovery of which will keep us mystified for years.
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At some stage, possibly in the 1950's or 60's an extension was built on the end of the house to form a kitchen and toilet. (Our neighbour, Mme André, has told us that 1955 is the year that mains water arrived - prior to that the water would have come from the well in our garden, for us and our neighbours.) In possibly the 1980's this was remodelled into just a fitted kitchen. We know this as we have seen that the same kitchen units are still available in the Lapeyre catalogue in their traditional collection. We think that at about the same time a shower room was formed from part of the room downstairs, the tuffeau fireplace was fitted, a staircase was put in and the upper space was boarded out to form two bedrooms - a major modernisation of the building.
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The main bedroom when we first saw the house.
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When we saw the cottage in August 2007 it was crammed with huge old French furniture, of no particular style, just the sort of stuff that someone would relegate to an infrequently used "maison secondaire". Downstairs was not too bad but upstairs was definitely the poor relation.
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To begin with, we had big ideas of putting "lucarnes" (the lovely roofed dormer windows that are popular in the area) in both bedrooms, to open up the rooms and make them more attractive. We abandoned this idea because it was too costly and decided to spend our budget on other alterations to the house
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The bedroom with the larger window was to be the master bedroom but it was on the side of the house that needed a new roof. With that would come a new Velux window to replace the scruffy little skylight with the broken catch. We preferred that room as it was much lighter due to the large window, but this didn't fit properly and the sill height was dangerous. It was important to be very careful when opening or closing the shutter as it would be easy to fall out onto the terrace if you leaned just a little too far....
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In 2008 we did nothing to the bedroom except tidy it occasionally so that summer visitors could sleep in it. We used the other, smaller bedroom for ouselves as it was less draughty in autumn and winter.


The bedroom, tidied up a bit to make it useable by our first visitors.
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In September 2008 the essential half of a roof arrived. Without being asked, the roofers also boarded over the broken plasterboarding with the pink flowery wallpaper when they fitted the new Velux window, leaving a lovely new wall for us. Very nice of them - but it was probably just the easiest way for them to tackle their job.
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Over the winter 2008/09, Alex and Nicole fitted us a new double-glazed window to replace the broken one and also removed the ghastly shag-pile carpet and built a beautiful wooden floor on top of the underlying concrete. Nicole completed the work by staining the floor. It looked gorgeous and almost as if it could have been there forever.
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Now we're getting somewhere - new velux, new window, new floor.

Alex demolished the partition at the end of the bedroom, revealing the lovely beams in the old wall and also repositioned the door thereby making the room a couple of feet longer. He also put new boarding over the other wall and the rest of the pink wallpaper. That was going to be a lot easier for us than trying to remove the paper and make good the surface underneath.

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New floor, new door, new plasterboard, lovely old beams.

Alex also fitted a new safety grille to the window, making the use of the shutters much safer.


New grille in place - much safer and attractive, too.




As demonstrated by Lulu.

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For most of 2009 we did very little to the bedroom except occasionally tidy it up for visitors. We were simply having too much fun just enjoying the place on holiday and lots of the DIY jobs that we were so keen to tackle early on were by now in danger of never getting done - we had simply stopped noticing them !



The bedroom temporarily pressed into service again for more visitors in May 2009.

In October we decided we just must finish something so we made an effort to get on with decorating the bedroom. The idea was that we would finish the larger bedroom and move into it as our room. Then at some stage we would do the same with the other bedroom, which would become the guest room.

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It turned out to be a bigger job than we thought. The painting of the older walls was very time-consuming because on some of the surfaces, we had to effectively scrub the paint into the walls. The new plasterboard needed two coats of paint and a lot of sanding to disguise the joins. The beams needed scrubbing to remove years of old cobwebs and splatterings of paint left from the last (and probably only) time the room was decorated.

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The ceiling had been boarded over at some stage with a kind of wood panelling that we had seen in lots of other houses. We debated whether to remove it and put nice new plasterboard up but that seemed like another big job so we decided just to paint it. That took ages and required three coats.

By the time we arrived last Boxing Day we had done most of the preparation work and were ready to finish the job. Nick did most of it, facilitated by my regular supply of food and drink. I helped to paint the beams, the walls and the woodwork. The final job was to paint the new floor with a non-slip varnish that gave it a lovely soft sheen but safe surface to walk on.


The end result.

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I also supervised the replacing of the furniture and the other finishing touches. We're very pleased with it.



Light, comfortable and airy, just as we wanted.