Our new home in France

While looking for a house to rent, somewhere to base ourselves while we hunt for the right property, we found the perfect house in the perfect spot -and with the help of the lovely people at Cle Rouge Immobilier in Duras it is ours! This blog is primarily for our friends and family to follow the ups and downs of the adventures. However if we don't know you, I hope you'll enjoy the story too, and that one day you may consider booking into our lovely home as a paying guest - you'll be made very welcome!

Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year

A very belated Happy Christmas to everyone! Time has flown since returning from the UK on the day before Christmas eve!

View from the window of the flat in Upton
Given the state of the weather in Worcestershire - we had to dig the car out of the snow to get on our way - we had  an uneventful journey to Portsmouth, arriving so early that we had time to call in on family in Eastleigh for a cup of tea. We drove down through France from St Malo through pouring rain, four of us stuffed into the car with barely room to breathe. We arrived home just as the turkey was being delivered - the most enormous turkey I've ever seen! I had to remove it's legs to get it in the oven! Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo, but it tasted delicious.
Within an hour or so of arriving home, the snow arrived too. It looked beautiful, but we were very lucky to have got here first. I don't think we would have made it home with a laden car in the snow!
What remains of the barn/gite in the snow.         
Christmas day was clear and sunny, but cold enough to leave the snow lying.
Christmas day in the gite!
The only time we've managed to use the dining table so far! Breakfast and lunch on Christmas day.
On Sunday evening, David, who had fallen asleep on the sofa watching tv, woke up at 2am to the sound of running water. A pipe had burst in one of the bathrooms (the only one not touched by the plumber!) and water was gushing out of a mercifully small pipe with great force. It was cascading through the ceiling into the corridor downstairs. There were inches of water in the back lounge. So, having turned off the water at the stop cock outside, we set to, wearing wellies and rubber gloves and using loads of towels we cleared up the mess. Amazingly, the water had found its way between a beam and floorboards, doing no damage to the ceiling. It poured onto a tiled floor( that slopes, we now know!) into a corner, missing all floorboards. So, a nice clean floor, a bit damp, but no damage that we can see. So many things could have made it worse..it could have been the week before when we weren't here, if David hadn't been asleep on the sofa it might have been hours before we found it, I may not have noticed where the plumber turned off the stop cock.......how lucky were we?!!
We have also had a new load of logs delivered.
David and I after stacking the logs (Hugh did do some!)
On Tuesday we had a changeover day. David went back to the UK, eventually...his plane from Bergerac to Southampton was very delayed and eventually diverted to Birmingham. Closer to home, but his lift was waiting in Southampton! Before Nicole and I got back from the airport, Ellen (lovely daughter!) and boyfriend Matt had arrived via the Caen and the ferry.
Today, Matt and Hugh have cut some of the logs into manageable sizes using Hugh's new toy, a chain saw. I can report that they both still have all their fingers and toes!

Off to a New Year's Eve party this evening, so all dressed up now, will try to remember to take photos - it doesn't happen often!
to everyone reading about our adventures - have a good one!
Fiona and Hugh

Friday, 17 December 2010


This week Nicole and I are in the UK. A bit of shopping, visiting and then back to France for Christmas bringing Hugh and David (lovely son!) with us. Weather permitting of course! On our way to the ferry port at Ouistreham we left the motorway to get petrol and saw this beautiful sight. It is the cathedral in Sées in Normandy.
Now a quick catch-up on what's happening back at the ranch....
These alterations have been made in the name of 'renovation'! All of the tiles and most of the woodwork has disappeared. Two doorways have been made into what will be the bedrooms, and the space in the low wall at the front is for the doors which will lead onto the terrace. Well you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs!
In the house, Jeremy the electrician has almost finished with the wiring - so he tells me, Chris the plasterer is working behind him to fill all the holes he made, and Russ, Alex and Yanis are covering up the spaghetti of wires hanging from the ceilings. So by the time we get home next week, I'm hoping to see a very different house! Albeit knee deep in dust! Should be just enough time for a quick clean up and to put the Christmas tree up before cooking Christmas dinner. 

Just a few pictures from last weekend when Hugh was home. The weather was beautiful - cold and clear. We went to a little vide-grenier where we found this baguette box ripe for a make-over
and then went for a walk ...

where we were lucky enough to see deer roaming through the vines around these local landmarks. A lovely weekend.

Friday, 10 December 2010

What a difference a few days makes!

The car passed it's CT test, the mechanic had a wry smile as I handed him the bolt left over from fitting the new lights and explained in my best French that I would like him to check the beams before the test! A couple of days later, the next big test of my French, dealing with the paperwork to complete the registration at two separate government offices. The result though is.........
........ the ceremonial changing of the number plates!
Just in time to go back to the UK for a short trip next week.
The house has moved on too. Bathrooms are tiled, lots (but not all) woodchip is stripped off the walls. There are more holes in the walls - BUT.....we have lights and new sockets in some rooms (none in others!), Wifi in the kitchen and we have TV!
Jeremy, our fantastic electrician hiding behind the new satellite dish.

This used to be the roof of the barn........now it's the foundation for the terrace.
The barn is now roofless, and ready to begin it's transformation into a luxury, two bed gite. Ready by Christmas I'm sure I heard Chris say! (Only joking, Chris!)
See that blue sky? That's what we're here for! .....and this......sunrise over the frosty orchards.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

We had snow too!

 It snowed here too! Only for a very short time, and not very much. Thanks to our own local 'micro-climate' we didn't have very much, although other parts of the region did. The black ice has been a problem though (according to the workmen - we don't usually go out early enough for it to be a problem for us!) However, we are getting through the log pile. More will be needed before long!
 The outside tap now has it's own bonnet to prevent freezing up!

Things are moving on in the house. Bathrooms are almost finished, tiling and grouting almost done. Nicole and I have stripped wallpaper from another two rooms.

She carried on even during a tea break! The back of the house is so cold, that Nicole has now moved into the room we just stripped, which being on the south side and above the room where there is a log burner burning most of the day, is much warmer. (Hotwater bottles and bedsocks still required!)

Now that work in the house is almost done, materials have started to arrive to start on the barn.
 Plasterboard for the walls.
Insulating materials.
Stone blocks to support the roof over the terrace.

The house is still full of dust and holes, but it is moving on. Tomorrow sees my biggest challenge yet - taking the car to the garage to get the 'MOT' test done. Appointment has been made (not by me!) but I have to take it and explain that I am responsible for changing the headlights (which are not quite shining in the right direction!) to the mechanic whose accent is apparently very local. Wish me luck......

Monday, 29 November 2010

Lots more building work with little to show....

The builders have been very busy this week - with mostly just holes with wires and howling gales coming out of them! The bath/shower rooms are almost tiled now - they WILL look lovely when they're finished and there are lights in them.
The Jack and Jill shower room, half grouted.
Almost there!
Just the walls to be tiled here. Russ assures me he'll be finished in a couple of days.

The next photo is of our unexpected visitor a few evenings ago. Nicole and I were watching a DVD (still no TV!) when this little chap appeared from nowhere. He had to be caught in a bucket and returned outside. Still, he was a lot easier to deal with than the mice that appear from time to time!
We have been shopping at the local market, this lovely basket is one of our purchases. We have another similar, full of drying walnuts, hanging in the kitchen.
We bought lots of onions, from which we bottled a batch of onion marmalade,
 and we have been drying orange and lemon slices to make mulling spices.
Today we managed to change the headlights on the car to French ones - not without bloodshed and swearing! 
 Now I just need to get it to a garage for the 'controle technique' test and we'll be closer to getting our French plates.
I'd like you to know that I took my turn lying on the floor under the car too! But I may not have looked as elegant as Nicole does!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Living on a building site.....

Work has continued in the house this week, and while it is coming together, the house is definitely beginning to look like a building site!
The woodchip wallpaper had to be steamed off ready for the tiles.
  A door has been cut into the wall.....
 and a new door made and fitted.......just waiting for the handles.
 The bath has been boxed in.
 The old door into the corridor has been removed and the space closed up.
A new door fitted to the balcony - one that doesn't let in the rain!
 My new cooker has been connected and is working beautifully.
The old gas water heater has been removed....
 and a new electric water heater and tank has been installed.
That's the plumber finished for now......
and the electrician is in full swing. Everywhere has wires hanging out of the walls and ceilings and is covered in dust!
We were glad to have Mike here for the week. He and Nicole finished planting the trees - we now have a neat grid of 5 X 4 fruit trees, apples, pears, cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines and almonds. They also did the horrible job of getting rid of the woodchip in the bathroom. He has now returned to his day job. Thank you Mike!
 So lots done, a very successful week but still a lot to do!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

A lovely long weekend

On Thursday it was yet another holiday in France (second in two weeks). There was a fair and vide grenier (literally empty attic - equivalent to car boot/flea market) in Duras. Nicole and I had a little wander around in the morning and come home with a bell for the front door.
In situ, courtesy of Russ.
At lunchtime, Hugh arrived at Bergerac on the lunchtime flight from Southampton. He inspected the work completed so far by the builders (and Nicole and I), mostly to his satisfaction! In the afternoon we had another look at the vide grenier, and after Hugh's shameless haggling (in the rain) we came away with a pile of French dvd's to watch - in an effort to improve our French.
All sorts of interesting 'junk'....

..........and the band played on!
On Friday, Nicole and I finally got on with the planting of the orchard. In the rain. The holes I had dug so long ago were full of water! Please don't tell me I shouldn't plant trees in this way - it's too late, and like every other plant I have ever tried to grow, they have two chances- live or die! (Fingers crossed though - it will be an expensive failure if they don't grow.)
The ground was wet and sticky - it was hard work.
So....the rain more or less stopped and allowed us to plant ten trees. All the holes are filled and ten more trees are ready to plant.

Saturday was a beautiful, warm day, so we all took the morning off and went to the market at Bergerac. It was a very bright and lively affair. We sat in a square to have coffee and pastries in the sunshine, and once fortified, enjoyed a wander. 
Nicole contemplating the bread and pastries.
Hugh and Nicole by the Dordogne river.

Hugh and I, with the obligatory market basket!
The afternoon stayed fine, so we managed to dig and plant another four holes. Much easier when you don't have to bail out the water first! So fourteen trees planted, six more to go.
Yes, she is wearing a pinny to dig a hole!
In need of a rest apparently - or just enjoying the sunshine!
We're not sure what Hugh was doing! Something to do with rescuing a robin which had flown into the kitchen! (He had also been doing his bit as the 'pool man'!)
Today is all change again! The flight taking Hugh back to England and work for another two weeks, also brings Mike, Nicole's boyfriend out to stay for a week.