When in Rome……or Venice

When in Rome………………or Venice

So, it was my birthday last week and to celebrate this fact we went to Venice for a few days which was really exciting.

I’ve always dreamt of visiting Venice – in fact I would love to go to all of the main Italian cities and eat my way around the whole of Italy. Three years ago when I was doing my Alphabet of Adventures for my 50th year on this planet I had hoped to do “V for Venice”, but if the truth be told we essentially ran out of funds to indulge in this pursuit so I ended up squeezing in a cheeky “V for Via Ferrata” when I done my “Z for Zugspitze” but that is another story to be told some day.

When our friends Tony and Tess told us recently, they were flying to Venice and the flights were really reasonable, we decided to look in to this – and were pleasantly surprised. We booked return tickets with Volotea for just 88€ and the hotel was just 50€ a night including breakfast – so we figured that this would certainly be a cheaper option than to drive over in the motor-home. The only snag with this was of course The Doggos! We would need to leave our precious fur babies behind. Obviously in the future we will be able to do what we have been doing but in reverse – I.E get house sitters to come over and look after them – but we didn’t think the prospect of staying in our motor-home would appeal much to people, so we didn’t even attempt that option. Instead we booked Luka and Lillie into a Doggy Hotel about an hour away. Doggos go on holiday

Our trip was amazing – we absolutely loved Venice – and clocked up a whopping 40 miles of walking in just 4 days (hence the less than traditional use of a bidet). All of in within the city of Venice and a few surrounding islands. The weather was stunning! Warm enough to go without a jacket for the first few days, then a bit nippier but still dry and bright. There are precisely 391 bridges in Venice and I reckon we managed to walk over most of them – some multiple times! Many of the bridges overlook Gondolas with hopeful Gondoliers waiting to get a fare! At 80€ a shot they weren’t successful in tempting us though!Gondolos 2

We don’t much like organised tours so we opted for looking up the walking tours on the Internet and simply using Google Maps to go and find the iconic sites within Venice. I’m sure we missed a few sites but the things we did see include St Mark’s Square, Doge’s Palace, The Rialto Bridge, The Bridge of Sighs and lots and lots of pizza restaurants!Veggie Pizza

 

One of my highlights of the trip was spotting this awesome piece of graffiti which Sian had already found in her earlier trip to Venice in the summer!!Graffiti

 

We also visited the Islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. We did actually opt to do the organised boat trip for this – which on reflection was a mistake – we felt like a herd of sheep disembarking the boat straight into a glass blowing display and then held to ransom in the shop afterwards – we did escape though and found a quiet little shop where I bought the cutest little Murano glass Xmas tree. Perfect for our motorhome!Glass blowing demo

We found the Venetians either really friendly – or the polar opposite – really quite rude. There does not seem to be any mid ground. Many seemed to feel that customers were in the way, but we just ignored them and focused on the friendlier experiences – such as the delightful young lady who served us in what turned out to be our favourite restaurant Taverna San Troversa. Great gnocci, and pizza and then a really divine chocolate and pistachio cheese cake to finish it off!Chocolate and Pistachio cheese cake

My top tips for visiting Venice would be:

  • Be aware that there are two prices for a coffee – one for standing up and one for sitting down – and there can be 3€ or 4€ difference between the two
  • Check if your hotel has a kettle in the room – ours didn’t – and also the bar was not open nearly often enough so every time we fancied a cuppa it meant venturing out – which got costly. Next time we would take a travel kettle
  • Public toilets are in the most popular spots but cost anything between 1.50€ and 2.50€ but there are nice toilets in a shopping centre called Fondaco dei Tedeschi – free to use, otherwise it’s an endless cycle of go to a café to use the toilet – pay 9€ for 2 drinks and then when that drink wants to depart – repeat process!!
  • Check the small print for cover charges at restaurants – this can vary between 1€ and 2.50€ per person – and then they also add 12.5% service charge as obligatory. It all adds up.

It isn’t necessarily cheaper to eat the main meal at lunch time as is frequently the case in France and the UK. Most restaurants do a set menu which is good value and includes a Primi and Secondi (first dish then second dish) and usually a drink – sometimes a desert. However, we never did find one of these menus that gave a vegetarian option on both the Primi and Secondi – so we couldn’t take advantage of the good value deal. We did however find plenty of veggie pizzas, and some veggie pasta dishes – it just always annoys be that we spend the same money on one dish when people who will eat meat and fish get all the bargains!! Such is life I suppose!

However, we did find Venice’s only Vegan Restaurant – La Tecia Vegana – and went here on my birthday for a lovely meal. The food was lovely – and very reasonably priced – well worth a visit if you are veggie, vegan or just wanting to try something a bit different at a very reasonable price.Vegan meal

The hotel that we stayed at was the Belle Arti – fabulous location in Dorsodoro – really close to a choice of two Vaporetto stops. It was typical Venetian décor – and by that, I mean it was hard to enter the bedroom without sunglasses on!! We nicknamed our room “The Red Room” – and it really was “When Cindy took an LSD Trip” sort of loud! Red panel on the ceiling, red flock wall paper, different red pattern on the carpet, and yet a different on the bed spread. But we soon got used to it – and of course it was great to have some normal sized living space and a shower that we could run to our hearts content!!Martin waiting for Cindy

Whilst we were away the Geometre expert came to do the Topographique Report and we now have had the report back on that so hopefully we can now take the plans to the next stage. And we came back to find a letter all in French, which after a few struggles with Google Translate appears to be telling us that we can indeed erect our garden house where we want it as long as we keep the surrounding scrub cleared up to 50 metres away. So, lots more strimming for Martin to do!! He’ll be kept busy for the rest of his life with the strimmer around here – that’s for sure!

I had a lovely surprise birthday High Tea on Saturday afternoon as a treat from my friend Frieda. She took me to a local village called Goujenac where an English woman and her daughter do a monthly English style afternoon tea! It was really lovely and a total surprise of the very nicest kind. Our tea was served with a sparkler and everyone in the restaurant sang Happy Birthday to me.Afternoon Tea

Saturday night was our third (and biggest to date) bar crawl – 13 of us ventured out on a cold, damp December evening to tour around the 3 bars that remain open. We started at 6.30pm and the hardiest of us continued until 1.30 am! Needless to say, a light weight like me struggled with that the next day – and I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I was sick in the morning and needed to go back to bed in the afternoon!! 53 is clearly way to old to be drinking for that long!!

So, now it’s back to normal life!! Well as normal as our life ever is at the moment! We have a raised deck to put up, then a garden house – and all before we leave for the UK for Christmas.

 

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

If I had a hammer

It’s all go this week and very exciting!! Our architect has been working on the plans so our portfolio is nearly ready to go off to the planning – but we are still waiting for the Levels Survey to be completed. That will tell us how sloped the different parts of our land are so we know how high up the pilings need to be. Hopefully we will end up with a raised decked terrace which will lead right out into the woodland which will be our idea of paradise! We just can’t wait – but even if the plans were submitted tomorrow, we are still looking at it being next Autumn before a liveable house is in situ. So, we still have a long journey to go.

To make life a bit easier we have plans to erect a few out-buildings. Now, in France you need planning permission to put up anything over 5m². So, the first shed is a small one which falls under that size. In the short term it is for storage, but in the longer term it will be a potting shed as it is where our vegetable garden will be. How exciting to be thinking about growing our own vegetables!!

We went for dinner with friends twice this week and had two lovely vegetarian meals cooked for us. Such a treat to be cooked for, and also to be able to sit in the comfort of their homes and have some space, and lovely company and chat too!! The meal that Frieda made was all with veggies from her own garden and it just really excites me to think I will be able to do that soon!! Fresh home-grown veggies really do taste so much better, and of course it will be wonderful to eat whatever is in season.

Back in the UK one of my lovely friends has set up a Facebook page called One Pledge and is urging people to make just one pledge to do something that will help the planet. My pledge is to eat locally grown produce as much as possible and to reject vegetables that are wrapped in plastic in the supermarkets. So, just think how much help my own veggie garden will be with that!! Why not click on to her page and make your own pledge?

So, the shed has been assembled during this week. All of our land is sloping – the top bit where the house will be not so much so, but once you get down a level then it becomes very steep – so Martin had to first construct a small deck to get something flat enough to put it on. Here’s a little video of him working. Even Lillie helped out (well her idea of helping of course). Lillie helping to build the shed

Our neighbour Pierre has also been busy working on their house and garden, so all week long there has been a symphony orchestra of power drills and hammers between Martin and Pierre. When one of them stops, you can hear the other. A bit like bird call to each other

But, it’s lovely to hear the sounds of productivity!! And to see our plans, hopes and dreams finally taking shape. I know this will sound very trite, but when we stood out on the little deck this evening, with the little shed finally finished, and we saw this huge, beautiful red squirrel charging up and down a tree – really close to us – and it all felt a little bit overwhelming – in a good way – but I just had a little tear of happiness as it really is all starting to come together.finished shed

So much wildlife here – in fact, we are seeing so many birds of prey out on each walk or drive that we do I said to Martin the other day “do you think they will end up like elephants”? He laughed and said “hope not”. This is a standing joke between us, (Sian and Ryan may also remember too). When we went to Kenya in 2009 and were lucky enough to go on a 2-day safari in Tsavo East we saw so many amazing animals – zebras, lions, giraffes – and ELEPHANTS!! Lots and lots of elephants. The first few times we were “wow”, but after two days were “oh it’s only elephants” and we just couldn’t believe that in just two days we were anything less than totally amazed by seeing elephants.

Our French is coming along a little bit too. In order to help with this, we have joined the French choir – and both went along nervously on Wednesday. Much to our bemusement the first song we practised was not even French!! It was a 16th Century religious hymn in Latin – O Salutaris. It was my idea of a nightmare:

1) Old style religious singing

2) I didn’t have the first clue what I was singing which always makes me feel uncomfortable and

3) My vocal range is just not cut out for that sort of song anyway

I shifted around, muttering the odd sounds, and feeling very out of my depth for the longest time, vowing to only stay until the end so as to not offend anyone and to ensure that Carol did not lose the Brownie points that she was sure to have gleaned by taking not one, but two new victims – sorry recruits!! However, after that things did improve and we practised some much more uplifting songs which I enjoyed a bit more – and Martin enjoyed a lot! So, we know have the situation in which Martin really does want to go back and I’m not so sure. I did end up really liking the song “Je Suis Un Homme” despite really not being very happy when Carol told me one of the lines was “I am the king of pigs” – I really do object to such speciest lyrics – but when I found the lyrics on You Tube it actually is “I am the King of Pricks”. Hmmm?? I’m not sure to be honest – which is worst to be King of? Pigs or Pricks? You tell me!! screen shot king of pricks

 

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

 

 

 

Fifty shades of ……Autumn

Fifty shades of…………Autumn

Everywhere I look at the moment there is colour! Stunning, beautiful shades of green, yellow, rust, ruby….and it seems that every time I open my mouth to speak, I am saying “isn’t it beautiful”, “look at those colours”, “aren’t we lucky to live here”. And we are…. very blessed. It is a truly beautiful time of the year in rural South West France. The leaves are still on the trees – just, and they have changed in to a wonderful carpet of muted shades of autumn…simply stunning.

I’ve always loved Autumn – it is my favourite time of the year. I like the way that the earth is getting back what it needs to regenerate itself – a bit like Doctor Who!! Some people see it as a sad time of year as nature is dying, but no, I see it as the necessary process required for rebirth. It’s a great time for us humans to hunker down, snuggle up during the darker, colder evenings…and give ourselves whatever it is we need. Whether that be a good rest after the craziness of the summer, or simply just time to take stock and work out what it is we need…not want, but truly need.

For me and Martin the colder evenings have been spent poring over house plans – tweaking ideas from draft plans 2 and 3, and having video calls with our architect, Rob, and now at last we have reached final draft stage and have the layout of our dream home. Side elevationFinally, we can begin to dream about where next year will take us, and the life we will be able to live in our new home.

The colder evenings have also brought lots of concern about our well-being in our life in the motorhome and we have had lots of kind offers of hot showers, a place to sit and do some work, the use of a washing machine, and invitations round to dinner. We are truly blessed with some lovely friends here. We were even offered the use of a house to stay in over Christmas by our neighbours but we are actually going to be back in the UK for Christmas – but even so – it was very kind of them to offer. It reminded me actually of when we first arrived here in our February trip and put up an event shelter in the snow. They had thought that we were camping and would freeze to death so they had discussed amongst their selves and decided that we could have Alice’s pigeonnierre to sleep in and she would move in to the main house. So kind, and yet at that stage we had not done one single little favour for them. We have been really moved by the kindness of people who are not returning favours that have been done for them – these are genuine acts of kindness – and we honestly cannot wait until the time when we can return those offers of dinner, and when people’s showers blow up, we will be the first to invite them over to use ours. Such a lovely sense of community there is over here. Our neighbours have an abundance of rocket and chard at the moment, so last night’s dinner for us was a rocket salad with calendula petals from the bounty we came away with when we nipped over, and tonight’s dinner was sweet potato, peanut and chard stew made with the chard she gave us. Rocket and calendula salad with goats cheese toastsThat’s another aspect of life over here that I really love – the eating of fresh, seasonal veggies. Essentially if you cannot get it in the local shops, its not in season so you cannot have it. This is making us much more in tune with the seasons, with nature and more in touch with where our food is coming from. For us, being veggies, we no longer really think about the food chain as such, but it does still apply to us in that we are not only reducing our carbon foot print by eating seasonal stuff – it must be so much better for us – it’s not travelled far – literally only a few metres in the case of the rocket and chard, and often no chemicals and no crappy processing methods.

So, all in all the Autumn is proving to be a happy time for me!! I’ve been feeling much more upbeat and it has really helped that I’ve been able to get out doing some decent walks again.

Sharon and doggos by lake.jpg

I now have a couple of ladies who I have been walking with and it’s good to have a chat, put the world to rights, and generally enjoy this beautiful weather and scenery we have been getting. I had to giggle one morning last week, when my friend was making drinks for the two of us, and also her hubby who was outside working. She got a large silver whistle and gave a very loud and shrill blast on it to call him in!! He obediently came in for his tea, and I laughed with them about what I good idea that was and how well trained he is. My friend explained it stops the need for shouting out. Great idea I thought…. I’m always shrieking for Martin when he is busy down past the stone wall on our land.

When I got back home to Martin later on, I put the kettle on and when the drinks were ready, I spotted the dog whistles hanging by the door. Giggling I gave a large, long blast on one. And, sure enough – ten seconds later, a bemused looking Martin popped his head up from over the wall. I congratulated him on coming when called and joked he would make a good slave for me, and maybe I should now consider myself to be a dominatrix. To which he told me to get stuffed in no uncertain terms. Boring……..after all there are all these long evenings in the motorhome!!!

We were doing a house sit for a few days this week, and I spotted in the pile of books in the bedroom that infamous grey cover…Yes!! Fifty Shades of Grey….”Martin! Maybe we could get the dog whistle out again??” “What do you mean no chance ha ha” …oh well, we’ll just have to settle on the hot tub again!!

Fifty shades of grey maybe not….but the view from that hot tub was certainly Fifty Shades of Autumn!!

View from hot tub

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

We have new “Neigh” bours

We have new “Neigh” bours

Well, not on a permanent basis – but for the past 10 days we have been looking after these lovely guys, as well as two slightly smaller friends.

It’s all been part of a house sit in a lovely village called Limeuil which is right where the Dordogne River meets the Vezere River. Where the Dordogne meets the VezereWe have been looking after a farm house whilst its owner has been away in Holland. And what a lovely time it has been – just like a holiday. We’ve had the use of a heated swimming pool, a hot tub, sauna, and a huge TV with Netflix!! Beautiful terrace

This has given us a great chance to re-charge our batteries and enjoy some space for a change (one of the biggest challenges of living in a motorhome full time is the lack of space) and also it has been really good for me with my rehab programme on my knee as I have been able to adapt my daily exercises to include some work in the heated pool – and I’m certain that the heat from the sauna has helped it a lot too Nice cuppa in the pool

The four dogs got on well – mostly – it would not be true to say that there were no growls at all – but overall they have been really good with each other – although it has been largely two sets of two rather than a pack of four – although Lillie’s rather blundering, boisterous clumsy ways have on occasion led to her being nick named “Lillie No-Mates” Lillie no mates

whilst Luka has been snuggled up with his harem on the rug in a doggie Menage a Trois

Luka in a menage a trois

The horses have been a novelty for us. Neither of us have much experience with horses so initially were un-sure about taking this house sit on. But they take minimal looking after – they spend all day and night in the meadow and bring their selves down to the barn at lunch time when they just need feeding and a little while in the barn, then half an apple and a few pats and then off to the meadow again. If I’d known horses were such little work maybe…………….

It’s all been good experience for us. Martin’s had practice in pool cleaning, and as usual we have gleaned lots of ideas about what we do (and also don’t) want for our own house. The plans will now include a hot tub. Not exactly like this one – but we would love a wood burning stove one – we can dream!Hot tub terrace

We were close enough to Issigeac to be able to go for an appointment with my sports injury lady – Liz and she has been progressing me really well with different exercises and stretches. She said that I am her “best patient ever” as I am so motivated to get over this hurdle. If the truth be known I have learned a very, very hard lesson over this knee injury which is to “listen to my body” and not to anyone else. No-one else knows my body like I do, and I am so relieved that the tendon tear seems to be mending and my strength is returning to my legs. Having to go up and down stairs here at the house sit has proved challenging but in the ten days we have been here I have progressed from having to go very slowly and with great difficulty one step at a time – both feet on each step, to going up “normally” for about half of the steps. It’s slow progress – but it’s progress. We have however decided that we will definitely be putting all of our bedrooms on the ground floor as we have no idea what the future entails for us health wise – and this is to be our forever home, so we only get one crack of that.

So, anyway – after having some lovely “Neigh” bours for 10 days it’s now back home to our usual neighbours – I say usual rather than “normal” as who has neighbours who pop things like this in your letter box whilst you are away? Living next door to Alice

It’s good to be back home!!!

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Don’t mess with my TouTou

Don’t mess with my toutou

Wow! Time flies when you are having fun!!

We had a good trip back to the UK which was very productive. We purchased a trailer to come on the back of the motorhome and filled it with a number of very exciting purchases. Best of all for me, is a complete set of Les Mills weights, bench and resistance bands – AND a shed to put it all in! Yes!! I am going to have an outdoors gym studio!!

Les Mills equipment

Everyone who comes to France has at least one thing that they really miss from their home country. In my case it is the gym!! For the past few years my entire life has been centred around going to the gym, and I used to work my calendar appointments around the times of my favourite classes – which were Body Pump and Zumba Strong. I’ve been grumbling ever since moving to France that I was missing the hard core, cardio workout that these classes gave me. And of course, the social contact that going to the gym gave me. Four days a week I would do back on back classes with my friends – fondly referred to as the Crew at Studio 2 (at least that was until the gym got knocked down, re-built and our Studio was then Studio 4 – but that’s another story).

People we have met who have lived around here for some time laughed when I said there is no way to exercise!! “Look at the hills” – “Get out there running, or on your bike”. Of course, I did start a bit of running, and hill walking with a couple of English girls – but very quickly into this I hurt my foot which slowed me down, and then with my knee injury it became apparent that hill running and fast walking would be off the menu for me, for some time.

That was a cruel blow indeed!! As well as the endorphin buzz from the cardio, I was going to also lose part of my social network. So, long story short – my lovely hubby Martin has treated me to an early birthday/Christmas present….and I’m working on some friends who will walk at a slower pace!!

Our trip back to the UK was mainly to settle Sian into University, and after moving her in we went off to visit family for a few days – including to visit Evan’s grave slightly early for what would have been his 16th birthday. Not brave enough to have a tattoo in France (with my French skills it could have proved disastrous) I had waited to come back to the UK to have the butterfly tattoo that I had wanted to have as an “in memory” tattoo.

Tattoo

The butterfly forms part of the picture which is on his grave stone. The tattooist was amused at my request to have “Tardis Blue – it must be Tardis Blue” but upon hearing the reason why he was very obliging and spent a while mixing a few different blue inks together. You see….Evan has gone off to travel the Universe with Doctor Who in his very own Tardis (the casket) so that part of it was vital (to me at least). I think Evan would have loved that his Auntie is a bit of a rebel and had a tattoo!!

 

 

So, after this we headed back to the New Forest so I could pop over to see both of my kids in Bournemouth and satisfy myself that Sian was happy and settled in her halls before heading back to France. We stayed at a campsite in Sway, so I could catch the train in to visit them as the trailer meant using the motorhome would be out of the question. On the train I mused as I went through Pokesdown Station – “I wonder if I am the only one who thinks of Pikachu when I see that”. I messaged the kids that question “no said Sian – but I will do now”. I think I was becoming obsessed with the Pokemon due to the trailer which now at least in my head was a dead ringer for Pikachu.

I’d told Sian that it would be just me visiting her and Ryan – no Martin, and even more disappointingly “NO DOGGOS”. But I had a cunning plan up my sleeve, and an hour after I caught the train Martin was to follow me on the next train – with the Doggos. We would come out of the pub after eating our breakfast and…….SURPRISE!!  Watch here for Doggos surprise Sian

 

It was lovely to see Sian squeal like a 6 year old with excitement at seeing them. Well worth the military operation involved to do it (which included an accidental missed train on Martin’s part).

Sian refused us admission to her room – so I can only assume one of two things a) She has properly settled in and the room is a bomb site – just like home or b) She had a fun night and there was a strange person in her bed.

Either way, she seemed happy enough, so the trailer, complete with it’s fetching yellow cover with the cute little ears that really remind me of Pikachu from the Pokeman that my kids were so fond of – made it’s maiden voyage back to France stuffed full to the brim of my own “Studio 2” and lots of other “can’t life without items”.

Pokeman Trailer
Don’t worry – it hasn’t really been painted up like this. Clever Ryan done a bit of doctoring!! Can you imagine this around VduP?

Talking of doggos…..another mystery was solved recently. For ages I had thought that the little dog belonging to lovely Beatrice at the camp site was called TouTou. The reason for this was that the water bowl at the bar has written on it “TouTou’s Bar”. Toutou's Bar

But then, when we visited Monpazier, a lady made a big fuss of the Doggos, stroking them and saying “TouTou”. We realised then that something was a bit different to what we had thought. Using good old Google Translate we found out that TouTou actually means Doggie in French.

So, this week, back home in Villefranche when we popped up to do some washing at the campsite I told Beatrice the story. She laughed, and we chatted about her dog’s real name and why she is called this. She is called Bendy – and the reason for it is Beatrice needed a name beginning with B. Why? Because the French tend to give their dogs a name beginning with the letter that corresponds to the year they were born. This helps the vets know the age of the dog. So Bendy is 13 years old…meaning that there are lots of dogs aged 13 in France with names beginning with B. Beatrice used to work in printing and Bendy is the name of a technical piece of printing equipment – hence the name.

I told Beatrice the reasoning behind our doggos names – Luka as he was originally called Loot (his owner bought him and his brother in the London riots and called them Loot and Robbery), and I wasn’t keen on that so looked for a similar name that would not confuse him. The song My Name is Luka by Suzanne Vega is a favourite and really resonates with me in relation to that gentle, oh so sensitive little doggie soul that Luka is, so that is where that came from. And Lillie is short for Princess Lillipops – much less provocative than her kennel name of “Fait Accomplais” referring to the inevitability of the Brexit vote which was all going on at the time (her sister is actually called Brexit, and another is called Dirty Blond after Boris Johnson).

But now, all I can think of whenever I see that dog bowl is that silly 80’s song – Don’t mess with my Toot Toot  – I wonder if anyone messes with the toutou called Brexit???

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

The Mille-feuille Mystery

The Mille-feuille Mystery

Once again I have been a bit tardy in keeping up with this blog. This is partly due to having so much fun on our recent trip to Roquefort and partly as we have been so busy getting Sian organised and settled in to University.

Before we left Villefranche-du-Perigord we went to the Bio Marche at Goujenac on the Saturday morning after being told about it by our very like-minded neighbours Pierre and Violaine. Violaine’s friend Julie has a stall there selling natural skin products called Plantes Vagabondes, so I was keen to have a look at this. I was intrigued by her Sagresse range which helps with menopause, and deciding that as I had been a bit grumpy of late it might be a good idea to try this out. So, I bought the Sagresse set of the tea and an elixir.

Tea and elixir

We had an amusing conversation in Fronglais – with me asking if it helped bad moods. She didn’t really understand me until I done the hand actions of an attacking lion – accompanied by a loud “Grrrr” then she laughed and said “oui! It will help”. I took my purchases over to show Martin and then using good old Google Translate had a look at which herbs were in the tea.

 

 

 

 

I was quite confused to see Millefeuille on the label as I had always understood this to be a French pastry, so I done a bit of research and found that that it’s the French for Yarrow – which I had heard of before – but still found it confusing that it was called the same as a cake.

Then on the Saturday evening we attended the opening of the new Bistro – O Faim Gout’R – in the village. Being such a small village, it is always extremely exciting when a new business opens up – and this was no exception. This event was actually just the “inauguration” – the Grand Opening was to be the Monday evening – but we would already be gone by then. So, we went down for a few drinks and enjoyed some of the lovely canapes on offer. We were really pleased to see there were some veggie options – which gives us great hope that we will be able to support this new venture. CanapesMy favourite of the canapes was the Mille-feuille a l’italienne which was sliced aubergine, mozzarella and tomato. Really lovely! But still, a little confusing about the word mille-feuille being used to describe something savoury – after all it is a cake “n’est-ce pas?”

We reflected that there must now be enough bars in the village to have a bar crawl, so vowed to arrange one of these when we get back from our UK trip at the end of September. The trouble with rural French villages as far as bar crawls are concerned is that they all shut by about 8pm! Never mind – we will just have to start at 4pm!!

Anyway, on the Monday (3rd September) we headed off to Roquefort to find out more about the legend of the famous cheese and to buy some of said cheese to celebrate my dad’s life. I was really excited about the cheese. Martin was really excited about being so close to the Millau Bridge as he has always wanted to see it. So, we planned to drive over it no matter what the route was – but first the cheese!!

We arrived late afternoon on a Monday, so predictably everywhere was closed – it’s a really small village – much smaller than you might imagine for such a famous place. So, we amused ourselves with a stroll up the hill – passing a Pizzeria on the way up (“no Martin I am going to cook a nice healthy meal in the motorhome when we get back”) – and then back down the hill – the Pizzeria now really tempting us – “OK then – just a quick look on the menu” – then – “Roquefort and Walnuts?” “mmmmm that sounds good!! OK then”!!

Roquefort and Walnut Pizza20 minutes later we were tucking in to the most seriously good pizza combo I have EVER experienced!! Let me tell you!! This pizza was THE SECOND BEST EVER. (The first best pizza was, and always will be the one we had at Lake Garda based purely on the location and it being my first Italian pizza in Italy).

Next day we went off to explore the famous producers of Roquefort. We had already heard of Roquefort Societe and Papillion, but there are also Carles, Gabriel Coulet, Occitanes, Vernieres and Le Vieux. Pretty much all there is at Roquefort is the cheese caves – each producer having their own shop, exhibition and caves. We decided to visit the Papillion one – based solely on the fact that I love butterflies and also it was the first one we came to (and that hill was steep).

I wasn’t able to visit the caves as there are 200 steps and with my knee in a brace, and only able to climb or descend steps like a three-year-old (both feet one at a time on each step) we decided that I would leave this to Martin. However, the staff put on an English video  for me which I sat and watched whilst Martin went on the guided tour in to the caves, and the doggos sat nicely in the porch outside.Doggos sitting nicely in porchIt was fascinating to learn about the production, and after I had watched the the staff asked me if I would like to sample each of the different Roquefort they make. You bet I would. Explaining that it had been my dad’s favourite cheese I told the staff why we had made this little pilgrimage and that we had heard the legend of Roquefort – I asked if it was true what we had heard.

“Nearly one hundred years ago, a shepherd went off for his day’s work, with his cheese sandwich made with rye bread and sheep’s cheese wrapped in paper for his lunch. Distracted by a pretty girl he left his sandwich in a cave and went off to pursue her. When he returned month’s later he found his sandwich and bit in to it. It was delicious and he then discovered that the cheese had reacted with the bacteria from the mould on the rye bread to make the blue/green veined cheese”

The staff confirmed this was absolutely true!!

And so, Roquefort cheese was born. These days the production is virtually the same as back then. Rye loaves are baked and the powder from this is used to create the bacteria that makes the mould. The wheels of cheese are stored in the caves to mature.  The caves in Roquefort are totally unique in that the air flow created by the gaps in the cave roofs are exactly what is needed to create the required humidity.

It was all very interesting to learn all about this, but I doubt very much if that is why it was Dad’s favourite cheese – I bet it was the same reason that I love it – because it tastes so flipping great!! We bought loads of it!! And bought it back to the UK to share with our nearest and dearest (the ones who like stinky cheese anyway).

We went for lunch at a small creperie and were seriously impressed on two counts – first of all the food was great – we shared a Salade Roquefort et Noix, and a Roquefort Gallette (a buckwheat savoury crepe). Both really good.

Then followed by a local delicacy – a sort of baked cheesecake – made with sheeps cheese.

Sharon eating pudding
I know I don’t look THAT impressed but that is just because I hate having my photo taken when eating

But also because the man running the place was doing it single handedly – he was seating people, cooking the food, serving it to the tables, taking payment, and all with a smile!! He really did put some other people (who shall not be named) to shame for their service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sitting later on that afternoon, reading the multitude of information leaflets we had picked up,  I came across THAT word again. This time as a description to the layers of the cave formation. Mille-feuille!! You can see the layers in the photo. Sharon pushing the rock.jpg

I said to Martin – this word Mille-feuille – it’s following me around – all week it keeps cropping up. How can it be the word for yarrow, and the word for a canape, AND the word for a cake, AND the word for layers of rock?

Yarrow meaning

 

So, we looked in to it and found out that the Latin word for yarrow is Achillea Millefolium – and the species name millefolium refers to the “thousand leaves” of yarrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So now it all makes sense…………….

So, next thing on my “to do list” when we are back in France will be to have a Mille-feuille pastry and then I will have had a complete set – unless of course anyone knows any other uses for the word?

 

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

 

 

We ‘Mite’ be Buggered

We ‘Mite be Buggered’

The week before last we had a bit of respite from suffocating in the heat in the motorhome (and being on top of each other getting grumpy) because we went to Beaumont-du-Perigord for a house sitting assignment. The English homeowners got to go back to the UK for a few days and we got to use their lovely Perigordian house and all it’s facilities, and look after their menagerie of animeaux. They have Woody, a Rottweiler crossed with German Shepherd Dog, Belle, a Black Labrador, a goat called Victoria and 3 hens and a rooster!!

Collage of animal antics
Belle and Wood do not understand the concept of “human only” furniture and Victoria enjoys a round of parcour

Our dogs came too and the 4 of them got on brilliantly which was fantastic as it meant we could go on a drama free 5km walk each morning on a lovely circuit which took us up a steep hill, pass a lavabo (that translates to bathroom sink but it’s actually a dog dip), and round past some lovely fields of baby sunflowers and rural houses. Each walk gave us new and fresh ideas for our own house plans.

The animals had come with written and verbal instructions and I had remembered the house owner telling me that they were not allowed on the sofas. I hadn’t remembered though that she had said they were allowed on their own sofa. So, imagine the looks of disgust on Woody and Belle’s faces when I walked in to the living room – saw them on the small sofa and said in the firm dog owner voice “are you allowed to be up there”? Looks of guilt appeared on their little faces. “Get down off there”. Looks of confusion on their little faces. Then “come on – down now”. They both jumped down and huffed into a heap on the floor together. That made me think I should check – so I sent a message – oh dear!! Yes, they are allowed on that sofa!! So, back in the living room “apparently you are allowed on there Woody and Belle so you can get back up”. Bemused looks from the two doggos but up they did jump – although they did give me some sideways glances at times over the next few days as if to check out the new “rules” that had been instated.

We had a lovely few days in the area and bonded with all the animals. I particularly loved Woody, and I think Luka was getting a bit jealous and fearful for his place as my “top dog”. I also adored looking after Victoria and loved her funny little face when I hand fed her toast (she kind of pouts and clicks her tongue).

Also, of great novelty value to us was to be able to use an oven without roasting ourselves too – so I made veggie lasagne, and moussaka in the Le Creuset pots in the range cooker – and dreamed of a time not too far away when I can do this in my own kitchen.

Veggie mousakka
Yummy! And topped with English cheddar cheese which was a gift from the house owners!!

We also visited an English carpenter who is working on a timber framed house in the local area, and it was really helpful to see the infrastructure in this half-finished state to get a clearer picture of how it all works. We are definitely moving away from the brick-built concept back to our original thoughts of timber framed, although I now realise that you can have timber frame with different finishes outside – for example rendered, so if we want to move away from the wooden cabin look we can. At the moment we are undecided.

We have also met with a French company who specialised in timber framed kit houses this week – English guys but have been established in France for 8 years – and this is a promising proposition which we are going to explore in more detail.

One of the nicest things about house sitting was the respite from the constant itch/scratch cycle that I have been plagued with for the past few weeks. Away from the land I noticed that I was not so itchy, but disappointingly when we returned the itching returned with a vengeance. Strangely all the bites on me were in the really awkward places of bra straps, and knicker lines – which puzzled me and so after a few days of suffering in silence I decided to research. I quite literally done a Google search of the words “insect bites on knicker line and bra straps” and came back with the horrific find that my symptoms matched those of harvest mite infestation. It’s common for dogs to also get this at the same time so Luka and Lillie were checked and yes indeed the poor little buggers have the tell-tale signs.

Harvest Mites
Totally grossed out that these things were in me – however, they are so more that the human eye cannot see them so that’s not so bad

It’s no surprise really when you think we are living in woodland – and harvest mites tend to live in the long grass at the edge of woodland. Well, we are chopping down the “edge of our woodland” on a daily basis. So, the darling little mites are becoming homeless and jumping on us all.

 

 

 

 

Lyme madness

 

So, a trip to the pharmacy and an amusing 3-way conversation between the pharmacy assistant, Mr Google and myself took place. I came away with cream for me, and spray for my clothes that reassuring will prevent me getting lyme madness it seems.

 

The doggos were taken to see our neighbour Bernard who is one of the village vets – for an informal consultation which confirmed this – and his advice was to go the vets and get insecticide shampoo. He was very nonchalant about it, explaining the mites are everywhere and its just part of living in woodland. It will get better when we have less rough ground and more surfaced areas – so the next step we think it to build a timber deck on which eventually a summer house will go which will give us some normality of living whilst we pursue this.

So, anyway the doggos each got a luxury spa treatment.

Collage of doggo spas
Luka tolerates his spa bath…Lillie on the other hand absolutely lapped it up!! Look at that face!!

Wednesday 15th August was the Fete Votive (Festival of Light), which is a bank holiday in France. In the afternoon there were some “Inter Village Games” at the Rugby Stade and we went down there to have a look. Inter village gamesIt was very amusing to see grown men and women doing the sack race. And then in the evening, as well as music and dancing down in the village there was also a firework display over the Plan D’Eau (the lake) at 11pm. We noticed that there were some barricades ready in place for the roads around the lake to be closed off for the fireworks and as the only way up to our track was along one of these roads we needed to decide on whether to stay down until it all finished or go up earlier. Being a pair of old farts, we had already gone up home by about 10pm and was having a cup of tea when the first fireworks went off. We couldn’t quite see the fireworks through the trees so walked down the track a bit to get a better view and were treated to an awesome display from the opposite side and a higher perspective that the rest of the audience.  It was only after it all finished that we contemplated that we were quite probably dangerously close to the fireworks and had the H&S been done in England the four houses up our track would probably have been evacuated as well as the road closures – C’est La Vie.

 

Here’s my video of the finale of the firework display https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkC-5fkd7v8&feature=share

 

Sians results
So proud of our clever girl!

Last Thursday was Sian’s A Level Results and when she phoned me to let me know she had achieved the best possible results in both subjects – A* in Psychology and Double Distinction Star in Health and Social Care – we both had a few tears and a few whoops of joy, and then realising I had not got a card ready to send to her I craftily tried to fob her off by sending her this video and telling her I had arranged for fireworks to celebrate!! She wasn’t falling for it – she’s a clever girl is Sian – she was top of her year in Psychology!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did have rather a big blow this last week when the knee pain I have had for a few weeks got suddenly much, much worse and last Friday when I bent down in our tiny little shower cubicle it popped and the pain was excruciating and I simply could not get up again without letting out some very blue expletives. A few days of hobbling around and I made my first visit to the French doctors. Luckily, she spoke a little English, and with our pre-prepared account of my symptoms on Martin’s tablet thanks to Mr Google, and a very thorough examination she made her diagnosis. As she pulled a face and made the sign of a cross over my knee I feared the worst!! Maybe my leg will have to come off I thought!! But fortunately, she was trying to explain that I have a sprained cruciate ligament in my right knee!! It’s not torn yet (thank goodness) and hopefully with a leg brace on for at least 3 weeks and the minimum of walking possible for at least 2 weeks followed by physio it should heal. I’m gutted to say the least. It’s not the best news where there is so much to do here on the land, but hopefully although for the time being I “mite be buggered” (see that play on words – I’m not illiterate as you may have first thought upon reading the blog title) – in the longer term I’m sure my ‘jambe bionique’ will sort me out.

Jambe bionique
Bang goes my chances of having a bikini body for the rest of the summer. What with the harvest mite bites on my torso and a white patch on my legs!!

 

 

 

What bastard chose this route?

Last week saw the event that we have all been training for in our daily early morning walks and twice weekly runs. The Trail du Pays du Chataignier!! This was the 6th event of its kind and is an annual trail running event. Participants can take part in a 12km or a 25km run, or a 12km walk. Initially Nikki, Carol and myself were to enter the walking event, with Martin entering the 12km run and Steve entering the 25km run. However, for various reasons none of us girls entered, leaving Martin and Steve to do it. Oh, and 175 other runners of course!!

The name of the trail translates to the Trail of the Chestnut Land, and it takes people through some beautiful Dordogne countryside – from Villefranche du Perigord, through Besse and Loubejac, and back to Villefranche du Perigord (VduP). During our Thursday and Sunday training runs we have all grown to know the hill that takes you back into the village. It is a horrible hill!! Far, far worse than my previous nemesis of a hill in Ramally Copse which took me years of trying before I could run up comfortably without stopping. It’s not the only hill on the route – far from it, but being at the end whatever run you have done makes it particularly horrible.

So, race day came. I was not taking part at all due to my knee hurting like crazy (see previous blog Bonjour, Buongiorno and Allo Allo), so I took my decent camera down to get some snaps and support the boys. Steve suggested that I go to the front of his house to take the photos of the runners coming down the dreaded hill, which I did. Unfortunately, Martin had told me that the grumpy old French man with the little dog who often trips me up when I hobble up “that hill” is Steve’s next-door neighbour. This is partly what caused what happened next. I saw Claude (the grumpy old French man) in his forecourt, so said a cheery Bonjour to him and ducked straight in the next forecourt without paying much attention to my whereabouts. The only place to tether the dogs was the front door handle, and I noticed the door came open a little bit. Dogs hooked up, I got my kit out and my position ready. Next thing is the dogs are moving around and knocking the door, then a lady opened the door, jumped out of her skin at the two dogs – who had started to jump up at her!! She said “is there a problem?”, and I said “is this Steve’s house”. No!! Oh dear!! I realised what I had done and began to explain. Luckily, she saw the funny side of my mistake, and her husband and daughter came out for a chat and I was offered tea, and water for the dogs. Steve’s house was actually the one next door to that….so I set up base there instead and got some good shots of the runners coming down the hill at the beginning of the event. IMG_0122

The first few back over the finish line were so quick I actually missed them whilst I was having a Café au Longueur outside the Boulangerie, so I drank up quickly and went to the finish line to catch the rest coming in. Martin finished in an impressive 74 minutes – position 99 overall.

On Thursday when we were having our post run coffee at the Café du Commerce the Maire came over to chat to us as he often does (he’s really friendly, and it’s not at all like the Mayor of Portsmouth or Southampton coming over to say hello) and he told Steve (in French) the funny story of what had happened during the race.

Maire and Norman
The guy on the left is our Maire – see he’s really very normal looking. The guy on the right is Norman – he is the butcher. Obviously I don’t really like the concept of butchers (being a veggie) but he is rather lovely!!

Claude (the Maire – not the grumpy old French man with the little dog – trust me there are LOTS of French men called Claude) was running along and a young lady was running at the same pace as him so they chatted. She said the route was beautiful but really hard and hilly, and said “what bastard chose this route?”. Claude said nothing, even though as Maire of VduP it was indeed his choice of route ha ha. Later on, after a bit more chat it was divulged that he was the Maire and then apparent to the young lady what a faux pas she had made!!

It was really hot on the day of the running, and continued to be until a huge thunder storm broke the run of hot weather on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. 2 weeks of blistering heat had begun to takes it’s toll though. It was hard to see at the time, but now that we are back to a much more moderate mid to late 20’s, I can reflect that the weather was really getting to us. We were arguing and bickering constantly!! About everything!! And I was honestly wondering if we were doing the right thing, whether France was right for us, whether we were right for France. But now, sense of humour firmly back in place and things are much more normal. However, I think it’s fair to say that it is indeed a challenge to be living in a 15 square metre motorhome which has no air conditioning, and is crammed full to bursting point. In 35-degree weather it’s like an oven, and watching the thermometer rise to 45 degrees inside makes you feel like you are being cooked alive, even though I bought some little USB charged fans back from the Lake Garda holiday, all they do is make it in to a fan assisted oven by blowing the hot air around!!  Night times were hot and sticky (in all the wrong ways), itchy and unbearable, and definitely not an environment conducive to constructive, sensible planning decision making conversations.

So…little was done. But, hey ho!! At least we didn’t decide to throw the towel in (as was certainly going through my head a lot) and also, thankfully I didn’t end up like poor Mrs Turtle who was killed by her husband after a dream move to France to set up a Chambres D’hote business went horribly wrong and he drove over her in his Mercedes after a row. Local neighbours say she wanted him to sell it to pay for a pool but he wouldn’t!! Take a look and see what you think? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-39886619

The heat makes people do crazy things! It is not all perfectly polished toe nails, hovering tantalisingly teasingly over a glistening pool in the #lovemynewlifeinFrance Facebook posts. There’s a lot of ducks living over here I reckon….gliding serenely over the pond, but beneath the water their little feet are paddling furiously as they try to keep their heads above water. There is no shame in admitting that this can be a hard life at times so I think it is a great shame that people sometimes do not open up to others and admit to this.

Martin and I have had lots of conversations since the inception of this Project and are still firm in our decision that we want to be building a modestly size house that will be sustainable and cost effective for our future. Now that the weather has cooled down and we are back into the swing of things we have been talking to different builders about different options. There is a set of regulations which all new builds currently have to be built to – RT2012. The finished project results in a house which costs minimal money to run – however, the new regulations that will come in to place in 2020 will yield houses that cost nothing to run!! The prospect of this is really exciting as we would have no energy bills – well yes gas if we used that to cook – but no electricity. So, we are currently exploring this.

Meanwhile we endeavour to keep our little camping spot as homely looking as possible. Now that I have the summer kitchen in an event tent, and the new bench that Martin bought I thought it would be nice to go out an buy a few cheap bits and pieces to make it look nice.

 

These things included 4 metre of wipe clean table cloth. Belle Cocotte

 

 

The design I chose appealed to me for two reasons. Firstly, it was only 2 euros a metre (which as it’s being used outside makes sense as it won’t last forever, and secondly because it has chickens on it!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wording Belle Cocotte meant, or so I thought Beautiful Chicken. But, after spending loads of time cutting it up and artistically draping it over every conceivable surface can you imagine how we, as VEGETARIANS, felt to discover that it actually means “Beautiful Casserole). Poor Chicken!! Google Translate Belle Cocotte

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Bonjour, Buongiorno and Allo Allo

Temperature chart I’m sitting outside writing this in 35° heat and it is nearly 9pm!! It’s been too hot to write, too hot to type, too hot to do anything really. But, as it is a few weeks since I last blogged I thought I should get up to date.

 

 

 

I’ve been away on a little break to Italy with my daughter Sian to celebrate the end of her A Levels and spend a bit of quality mother and daughter time before she heads off to Uni in September. We went to Lake Garda where I was spoilt with the luxury of air conditioning, a shower that spouted forth a continuous supply of water for as long as desired, and a swimming pool! All of this was very much appreciated after a few months of living in the motorhome. As were the spectacular views of Lake Garda every time we went out – such a stunning place to visit.

As always “Gaffe Femme” managed to sustain a few holiday injuries as seems to be inevitable. This time it was (in no particular order)

  • a burst blood vessel in my left eye which rendered me looking like a vampire for the first 3 days. This was very unfortunate when meeting our fellow hotel guests as they probably thought I was straight out of the Twilight series – or a very heavy drinker!!
  • a bruised left foot which made walking and jogging painful, and sadly climbing up Monte Baldo totally unachievable
  • gastric issues of an unidentified nature. My hunch is that it was the red wine vinegar I put on my salad the first night but whatever it was it lasted for 5 out of the 7 days of the holiday and took two lots of over the counter medication to get sorted out, but luckily no need to see an Italian doctor
  • sore right knee – not sure what happened here but I think it has just come out in sympathy for my left foot

So, let’s just say that I had more than my fair share of unwanted attention whilst hobbling around the hotel with my blood shot eye, grimacing face (from the stomach issues) and limping (from the bruised foot and sore knee).

As well as the injuries sustained we also had a number of “near death” experiences which were fondly referred to by everyone at our dinner table (we were seated with two other pairs as a table of 6) as ND’s. Every evening the other 4 people would enquire if we had had any more ND’s and laugh about our antics. The most significant of the NDs was probably when I nearly drowned off the back of a pedalo!! Sharon drowning

At the time it was really, really scary, but we were soon laughing about it!! The most serious ND involved a trip to a public toilet in pitch black….but that really is another story for another time.

 

 

 

Sian was keen to practice her Italian, especially having just had a week in Sorrento already, and a further trip to Venice planned. I imagine by the end of the summer she will live up to the song by Bananarama Robert De Niro’s Waiting

Unlike me of course…. who after a few months of desperately trying to learn a few words of French got completely confused by having to say Buongiorno instead of Bonjour and Si instead of Oui. In shops I was saying Merci Beaucoup instead of Grazia much to the bemusement of people.

Never mind…. now I am back I can concentrate on acting out the lead character in ‘Allo ‘Allo once again!! Already I have been mocked by the old French man at the market for not understanding him talking to me in English.

So, now I am back to no air con and sleepless nights, and the closest thing to a swimming pool is the little paddling pool area I created this week. Paddling pool.jpgBut it does the job – keeps me cool. We felt bad having our own little pool whilst the doggos were so hot though – so we got them one each as well!! Luka took to it like a duck to water (so to speak) but Lillie was a bit more difficult to persuade to keep still. Luka paddling pool

Lillie paddling pool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, there was a rather lovely surprise awaiting me when I got back. Martin had done loads of work, levelling off part of the land enough to park the motorhome actually on the plot instead of on the track next to it. And, he had added a few special touches to it – an event shelter to give us a summer kitchen and a new bench. Marsha in new locationWhen you have been living on a track for 6 weeks believe me, it is very special to then actually be properly situated on the land that we now actually own!! Yippee!!

Oh, that and a special welcome home dinner!! Heart in melon Martin was in my very good books for at least a day or so for all of that

 

 

 

 

 

 

– but it was soon back to beating him into working hard on the land and this week and seen a lot of hard graft. Some small trees being chain sawed, a composting system made out of old pallets, and the start of a rear walk way at the back boundary being made so that the young children from next door and the lovely, but increasingly aging Alice, will still be able to have a snicket (i) short cut through to the village without encroaching on our privacy.

Our surroundings are constantly changing and evolving and the landscape is not staying the same for a moment. It’s hard to believe that it is just a year since we called by here for “old times sake” to see what had become of Dad and Ann’s forgotten land and now, here is something completely transformed from what it was then, even when they were working on the land it was not then as clear as it is now. Martin cutting down acacia

And it’s not just our land that changes the landscape and outlook. The meadow opposite belonging to Madame C (the Portuguese lady) has now been strimmed by her son on his annual month-long visit from Mauritius – and we woke one morning to the sight and sound of a field of sheep. We honestly don’t need any animals of our own to make it feel like we are living on a small holding (but don’t tell that to Luka and Lillie – they might feel under threat of eviction). Sheep in meadow

(i) Snicket – cut through/alley way as used by people from Ooop North

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Oi you! Get orf my land!

It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind since we’ve been back on French soil. Our trip down went well, with me following Martin in the new pick up truck. My first time ever at doing the long drive, and apart from a few tense moments involving large trucks and a miscommunication between us as to how long a chain of vehicles I was prepared to risk my life for in overtaking, it was OK – better than I had anticipated really.

The 3 Amigos

Once back in Villefranche-du-Perigord our first priority was to report for housesitting duties for Sue and Paul in Fraysinnet – we were looking after their super cute little wire-haired dachshund called Prune overnight whilst they went off and had some fun. This meant we had the use of their house – including jet propelled shower and a swimming pool – which was brilliant. The weather was not as hot as it had been for the few days beforehand – but still warm enough for me to make very good use of the pool – although Martin couldn’t be tempted in.

 

Then we spend the weekend busy strimming back some of the brambles and weeds that seem to grow back as soon as we look away for just a few minutes. We remember very well Dad and Ann saying that their frequent trips back to the UK resulted in a perpetual battle of the brambles. We are determined to get a sensible balance between visiting those we love and actually really starting to forge out a life for ourselves here and not let the grass grow under our feet too much.

Monday was a momentous day indeed!! We had our appointment with the Notaire to complete the transfer of land ownership. Because of the lateness in us being send bank details to make the payment we had half expected that the appointment would be delayed – but to our absolute joy we turned up, and one hour and lots of paper signing later – I walked out of his office the proud owner of three small plots of very special, and magical land in rural South West France!! Transfer of ownership documentIt felt surreal to think that just a few years ago Dad and Ann would have been sitting in that same office doing the same thing – excited with their own plans – obviously not knowing that their dreams would be shattered just a few years later. Part of the reason for us doing what we are doing is to honour their dreams, but of course we have our own dreams to fulfil too. To celebrate we went to Charlotte’ s for a Café Gourmand – something we have been promising ourselves as a treat ever since coming here but never quite finding a good enough reason to have 4 pieces of cake all at once before.Cafe Gourmand

Much to Martin’s disgust my new catch phrase of “oi you! Get off my land!” still hasn’t lost its novelty value.

The first thing we done after this very important RDV (that’s the French abbreviation for rendezvous) was to drive to Belves to the Sogedo office. Sogedo is the local supplier of water. Water, as we have found is such an important commodity. When we drove down in February we had been alarmed to find that the water taps had been turned off at ALL of the Aires on our route to Villefranche-du-Perigord. 100 litres of water was all we had on board and we had watched the level gauge go down and down, realising that our plans to “wild camp” in the Aires was to be scuppered if we could not find one with the water turned on and we would have to find a campsite that was open (also a rare commodity in February). However….we were delighted to find that Villefranche has an Aire that stays open all year round!.

So, the concept of water supply is to us, something that we are acutely aware of it’s importance. Now we have been camping up on the land it’s been lovely in the sense that we can spread out a bit, but a complete pain in the butt to have to drive down to the Aire every couple of days to fill up with water. 100 litres soon goes!!

So, that’s why we were so keen to go to Sogedo. It was a hot, hot day and we had the doggos in the back of the pick up truck, so when we arrived my priority was them of course. We ventured into the office – “parlez vous Anglais” “Non, but my colleague does” – colleague came to front desk. “Merci beaucoup” I said – “but first of all, it is very very hot out there and our dogs are in the car – is it possible that they could come in here”. “Yes of course!”. So, just a few minutes later Luka and Lillie are laying on a lovely cool tile floor, having a snooze whilst we concentrated on the important business of getting a water supply. The trouble was that Sogedo were certain there was already a water meter, and we were certain that there was not. Our previous searches had previously only revealed the isolation tap, never a water meter. Anyway, Corrina the lovely dog friendly French lady said that they would send someone out to sort it out. “How long?” we asked – expecting “un mois…maybe deux mois” as has been the case with EVERYTHING else. You could have knocked us over with a feather when she said “tomorrow”. So, off we went back “home” – really pleased that soon we would have water sorted out.

Next morning, I was at the land alone when a Sogedo van arrived. A bit of an exchange in “a little English, a little French” and the man soon had the water supply turned on at the isolation tap. But now the important issue of the water meter. I explained the best I could that we did not know where it was, he asked where the house was. I said “we have no house yet, we are going to be building one”. “no, the little house”. “Ah, the ruin?” and pointed down the slope in to the woodland. He started to climb down through the thick undergrowth and I said “no, no you will be torn apart with thorns” and showed him the track we have cut through. I went to get decent boots on, and by the time I got down there the man was kicking off get big chunks of dead tree from the concrete lid to a water meter box!! “Voila!” Inside was revealed a very old tap (“be very careful” he said “it is very fragile”) and a 2-foot piece of fairly new hose pipe. l'eau de la vie.jpgOur mystery was solved – this was the water meter that Dad and Ann had installed about 6 years previously – with just 3 cubic meters used on the meter. This makes perfect sense as they would have, like us, needed a utility bill to get other important things like car registration etc. sorted out.

“How did you know it was here” I asked the man – and he said that it was him who closed the meter 3 years previously (it was actually 5 years but in such a poignant moment I did not want to correct him”.

Running water

 

So….we now have “l’eau de vie” – on tap! Hurry! It has already made such a difference to not have to worry so much about filling up. We still need to do the toilet (back of pick up truck down to the Aire to go into the chemical toilet disposal point) and the grey water (large buckets then thrown in the woodland). But, it’s a good feeling!!

 

 

 

 

After the excitement of the water I decided to start getting a feel for what the areas of the land will be so that we can begin to landscape it to suit our needs. When I say “landscape” I don’t mean landscape as in your traditional sense by any stretch of the imagination. Just more like organising it into zones. So, I know have a hammock gently rocking in the trees which is roughly in the place where our bedroom will be.Happy in my hammock.jpg

And I have the very beginnings of a Zen garden on one of the dropped terraces – which in time will become a Meditation and Yoga area – maybe with some natural arches providing a beautiful backdrop to my daily practice (which has dropped off of late much to my disappointment). We have lots of ideas and vision for this land. Some of the plans change when we realise that a spot is either too sunny, or not sunny enough for our intended use, but that’s very much the beauty of living in the motorhome up there as we can see how it is 24/7, and as the seasons change.Zen Garden.jpg

The soil is great over here

 

Our neighbour Violene kindly gave me two baby tomato plants when I told her I was starting to create a garden. For a joke I showed her this photo the next day and told her that the soil must be great in these parts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of birthday cards

 

This week also marks Martin’s 59th Birthday and our 9th Wedding Anniversary. He had a full letter box of cards waiting for him on his birthday – but actually only one of them really did come through the mail – I played a prank on him by placing all the cards that people in the UK had given me to bring back.

 

 

 

 

 

9 years anniversaryWhen we got married 9 years ago we never dreamt we would be living full time in a motorhome on a track next to a bit of woodland – that’s certainly not what he promised me!! But then again, I’m sure he’d say “I beg your pardon – I never promised you a rose garden”. And it’s true – along with the sunshine there’s gotta be a little rain some time. And as I sit here writing this I’m hoping that we get a bit of rain this evening and it’s absolutely stinking hot – too hot really!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, the final event worth noting for this week is of course the World Cup. I don’t usually follow the footy but of course when it’s something as important as the World Cup I’ll make an exception. We watched the France v Belgium game on Tuesday and were excited to see them win. On Wednesday we were discussing the potential dilemma that the England v Croatia game posed. If England were to win they would then be playing France. So…who to cheer for!! Country of origin or country of residence? Or both? Anyway, it didn’t pan out that way for England which was a huge shame and would have made this evening’s match very interesting. Then again…as I am writing this I am listening the television at the campsite bar (we came down to watch the match) and France has just won 4:2 – and that’s a really exciting thing!! Aren’t we lucky – to be living in a country that we love and it’s the World Cup holder!!hashtag dilemma