31 December 2017



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.


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. 


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. 


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



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



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.


29 December 2017



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.


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.


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



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.


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.


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.


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.


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!

27 December 2017


Looking through the hundreds of photos of places and events I took this year I realise that we did an awful lot of things that I never posted about.  Now’s the time to do something about that.


There are some places in the Loire that I never tire of and the château at Chenonceau is one of them.  Not that I visit it that often - just knowing that it’s only an hour away is enough, and that I can, if I want, pop over and have a look round, feast my eyes on it, whenever I like.


My last visit was in February this year.  So many châteaux are closed over the winter but not Chenonceau, which is open all year round and the great advantage is that in February there is hardly anyone else there.


I was able to take dozens of pictures completely uncluttered by human beings.  For most of the year the place is heaving with tourists but on a cold grey Tuesday afternoon in February I had the place almost to myself.


The long gallery that is the bridge over the river is usually full of people but on this day it was deserted.


I was able to walk from one end to the other and back again without meeting another person. 


It was weird, actually, being able to wander around unhindered by hordes of people.  I have always loved visiting old castles and houses and been fascinated by the stories behind them.  Being almost alone in the place made the experience even more magical.


Another advantage of visiting in winter is that any stray people that might appear in photos are dressed sombrely in winter coats, not in gaudy summer clothes, which nearly always spoil a photo, especially if too much flesh is on view.


I find it hard to say which part of Chenonceau I like the best, it’s probably a choice between the kitchen, the long gallery and the fabulous flower arrangements that are everywhere.  My photo tour will continue ………

16 October 2017



We got back to the UK on 30th September and the plumber moved in two days later.  The plan was to have a new boiler and radiators but, as always, snags appeared and we have ended up with the plumbing equivalent of electrical rewiring.  Floorboards and carpets had to come up, furniture was piled up on top of other bits of furniture and our huge stack of unopened boxes.  Daisy spent the first few days in the cattery, where she was safe and likely to be less traumatised, having already had a long journey here.


Work went on for longer than her stay in the cattery so she managed to find her own little safe cave to escape from the noise and the chaos, in the top of a wardrobe.


Later she caused us a nervous moment when she disappeared under the floorboards through a hole in the floor where the old hot water tank had been removed. 

Within a few days of the plumber departing (he was a lovely bloke but I was so glad to see the back of him) Nick fitted a new cat flap in the back door and she now comes and goes as she pleases, to an extent anyway.


So, with the house in complete chaos, today we collected little Hugo.

We had anguished over whether or not to have another dog.  Soon after Lulu died we gave away most of our dog related stuff, believing we would never, ever have another one.


The spell was broken one day in January, when we were on a trip to the seaside and rounded the corner to be confronted by a couple with not one but three black standard poodles.  From that moment we knew that our lives were not complete without a dog and that the day would soon come when we would have another one. 

The timing is not ideal.  Soon after we made contact with the breeder we also made the decision to move house, but neither the birth of puppies or the sale of a house can be timed to order.  So here we are, having just moved in, surrounded by boxes of our belongings and with plenty of work to be done.  It’s complete chaos but it was now or never.


Hugo is twelve weeks old.  He was playing with his sister when we arrived to pick him up and he was a bit tearful on the way here, whimpering and making little anxious barks.  He and Daisy have met and so far there have been no incidents. 

Completely black dogs are very difficult to photograph (one of the great things about Lulu is that she was extremely photogenic) but I won’t let that put me off sharing my photos.


Daisy has made herself at home in Hugo’s new bed.  Life is not going to be quite the same again, I think!

24 September 2017



After a great deal of aggravation, we finally moved house in the UK on Monday, 4th September.


Our removal van arrived at 9.00am as promised and the lads started work, emptying each room and loading the van.



We cleaned each room within an inch of its life as it was emptied of furniture and boxes.  At 2pm we left, putting the one remaining key through the letterbox and were happy that we had left the place spotless and retired to the pub around the corner from our new house to wait.  A few phone calls and one hour later we still didn't have the go ahead - that we could take possession of our new house.  The removal men were sitting in the van outside it, waiting to get started with the unloading.


An anxious phone call from our solicitor to our vendor’s solicitor confirmed that while we were waiting patiently in the pub, the money had arrived three hours ago and that their agent had been informed - but the agent had simply not passed the message on!

Boxes and furniture were finally and hurriedly unloaded and dumped in the house in a vague kind of order, bearing in mind that the removal men had been sat doing nothing for three hours and were more than ready to go home. 


The house was very dirty.  We guess that after the old lady died the family removed her belongings (although not the piles of junk in the loft space), put the house on the market and did nothing else to it.  After one year of people traipsing round it, it was pretty filthy and all our furniture was on top of the dirt.  Fortunately, we had booked a room in a nearby hotel for the first night, to give us chance to get a bit of cleaning done before we actually slept there.  


We spent two nights in our new house then left for France, picking Daisy up from the cattery on the way back and arriving the day before my brother and his daughter arrived for their holiday on the 9th.


In case you’re wondering what the pictures have to do with all of this, the answer is nothing other than to prove that we did eventually have some time to relax at last and do some normal things.  We rode the motorcycles, enjoying some of our favourite routes, walked around the village, went to a couple of brocantes and bought a few bits and pieces, ogled the gorgeous cars on tour through Angles and caught up on our sleep.

Last but not least, we solved the mystery of the number 4.

When we arrived in France after an earlier dash across the channel (I forget which), we found that someone had stuck a number 4 on our gatepost.  We knew that some renumbering of properties was going on and therefore we were now number 4 – but of what road or street?  

The road does not have a name and we are not in a hamlet.  Not only that but where were numbers 1, 2 and 3?  Then last week the plot got thicker when we received a letter from the Mairie and a certificate telling us that we were now officially number 2!

So a visit to the Mairie seemed called for, whereupon the young lady in the office said we were definitely number 2 and she would look into it.  Two days later the very pleasant young man who looks after the commune grounds, roads and gardens stopped by to change our number 4 for a number 2 and then……walked down the drive to humbly apologise for his mistake.  How nice and how very French. 

It appears we are number 2 “######” – the name of our house!  This is to avoid confusion for deliveries and, should we need it, the emergency services.  The neighbour is number 4 "######” – also the name of our house.  Numbers 1 and 3 do not exist. 

How very confusing!

Anyway, we are off to the UK again soon, for a longer spell, to start work on the new house.  One of the unfortunate things we have discovered about it is that it seems to be in a communication black spot.  There is no mobile signal and no 4G signal either, which means we effectively have no internet or mobile use in the house.  Getting something else organised will be a priority but will no doubt take some time – especially as we do not have the means to research or order it from the house.  Hey ho!

Normal service will be resumed…………goodness only knows when!

27 August 2017


It’s time I rounded off my St Emilion series of posts.  After all, it was nearly three months ago that we were there.  I’ll finish up by doing one post that should really be three – the food, the wine and the surrounding area.

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On our way to St Emilion we passed through a village called Montagne and spotted this restaurant, which was open on Mondays.  By Monday morning, having been in St Emilion for just 36 hours, we had come to the conclusion that restaurants in the town were charging tourist prices.

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So on the Monday lunchtime we went out of town and back to the village of Montagne to try lunch in the Priory restaurant there instead.  We were not disappointed.

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For less than we had paid for the mediocre meal in town, we had an excellent lunch.  We also treated ourselves to a half bottle of the local wine.

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We enjoyed it so much that after lunch we went in search of the vineyard, which was just up the road.  We like to do this – taste the wine in a restaurant and go find where they get it from.  It’s fun.

In fact, we visited several wineries that afternoon and bought some wine. 

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The most expensive one we tasted and bought was this one, paying rather more than we usually pay for a bottle of wine, but we’re sure it is worth it.  We have seen the exact same wine for sale in the shops in St Emilion for nearly three times what we paid for it at the vineyard.  This particular wine is made from grapes grown in a small vineyard which is surrounded by other very famous vineyards such as Petrus. 

We declined the wine that was said to be good if kept for twenty years.  We told the lady in the tasting room that at our age putting wine aside for twenty, or even ten years, could be a waste of good wine – who knows whether we will be in a condition to enjoy it as much in our eighties as we do now?  She was highly amused.

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So, having been rather disappointed with the food in St Emilion and the price of the wine, how did we find the surrounding area?  Well, on several days we went for a ride out to explore and returned each time feeling very sad.  High on the hill above the Dordogne you have the pretty tourist town of St Emilion, where the food and wine is pricey and the well heeled tourists are fleeced good and proper.  Not very far away we came across several towns where the streets are full of decaying and deserted buildings, closed shops and businesses and all the signs of decline.  It looked like nobody much was making a good living in these towns nowadays, although they were surrounded by obviously thriving vineyards.

In Sainte-Foy la Grande, the evidence was there that this had once been a bustling, thriving town with a quayside along the bank of the Dordogne where goods would be loaded for transport on the river, and tourists would be unloaded for a stay in its fancy hotels and guest houses.  There was nothing very grand about the place now.

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For me it seemed tragic that right in the middle of a wine producing area where world famous wines are made and sold for very high prices, the little towns look like they are dying. 

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There were lovely old buildings, full of character and history, but now housing cheap cafés and cut price hairdressers. 

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In fact some of these places were so down at heel that I found them slightly unsettling, and I was glad to get back to St Emilion each evening, where there were crowds of cheerful, well dressed people, spending their money and having fun.

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Of course, not all of the surrounding towns are depressing.  We stumbled across this magnificent abbey at a town called La Sauve one teatime, just as it was closing, so went back the next day for a proper look.

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It was a photographer’s paradise, full of pillars, angles and shadows and we had a very happy morning with it almost completely to ourselves.

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It was well worth making the effort to go back.  On our return to St Emilion for the evening we called at one of the bars for a drink and I ordered an apéritif that I had never heard of before, called Cadillac.  It’s a slightly sweet strong wine which you drink in smallish glasses and comes from the nearby town of Cadillac.

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And so the next day we headed off to Cadillac to find out more.  Not only did we find the wine shop selling dozens of different bottles of the wine, but also discovered that there is a rather interesting château.

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In several of its very grand rooms (seven of them I think), there were magnificently restored fireplaces, which reminded me of similar fireplaces at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire.

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It also had, in one of the halls, some rather fantastic beaded sculptures of mystical creatures, beautifully done and, if I dare say, very French.

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At one point in its long and chequered history the château was used as a women’s prison and has prison doors on some of its rooms to prove it.  There were displays of photos taken during its prison period showing that conditions were obviously very harsh, in sharp contrast to the former grandeur of the château itself.


So there we are, the end of my St Emilion series, a bit rushed and not before time.  I could go on and on but other stuff has been happening and there’s a lot to catch up on.  Soon…….

Would we go back to St Emilion?  Maybe.  It was a beautiful town, and sometimes it’s fun to be immersed in the hustle and bustle of tourist life, just for a while.  (If only to remind us how lucky we are to live in such a peaceful, quiet part of France.)  We would however definitely go back and explore more of the general area, for the photo opportunities if nothing else.  All in all we had a great time.

Time to move on………