25 January 2018

OF BRIC A BRAC AND FLOWERS

We are partial to a bit of bargain hunting when in France and with brocantes or vide greniers going on most weekends throughout the year there is plenty of opportunity for it.

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Apparently I took this picture on 27th March, which was a Monday, so these items were obviously acquired at a brocante on Sunday 26th. 

The thing is, I can’t actually remember where it was.  I remember certain things about it, such as the set of little china dishes being brand new and unused in their original box and I thought that for 1€ they might come in handy for all kinds of things.  Afterwards I wondered why on earth for only 1€ each I didn’t buy both of the two boxes she had, especially when at the first use of them later I dropped and broke one!

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I remember spotting the cake stand on another stall under a pile of bits and bobs.  It’s definitely one of those love or hate items.  I love things like this, a bit quirky and not necessarily in the greatest of taste but for 2€ I thought I would risk it.  In the end it turns out to be more of a fruit bowl as it’s not flat enough for a cake but I think it looks great when full of fruit.

We rarely pay much money for anything at a brocante, that’s a great part of the fun, consequently we don’t haggle over the price that often.  Only if the stall holder is asking more than we think it’s worth do we try to knock them down a bit.  Some do indeed start at a high price expecting to get a bit less.  But when items are only 1€ or 2€ each, haggling over them seems rude!

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This necklace was a terrific bargain for 2€.  The beads are china and would retail for probably £1 each in a UK bead shop.  I have bought a lot of jewellery at French brocantes and in UK charity shops but nice beads are becoming increasingly difficult to find.  On close inspection a lot of the “jewellery” for sale is cheap and nasty stuff made of plastic beads, which are not much use to the discerning jewellery maker.

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Of the other things, the little glass rose bowl is something I have fancied for a while but clean examples in good condition do not turn up too often.  A lot of the brocante we see is not transported very carefully and stored in barns or outhouses between events so they become dirty and damaged.  Some stall holders clean their stuff up before putting it on sale but most don’t.  The little holes in these rose bowls are difficult to get the muck out of and I’m also a bit choosey about chips.  I don’t mind using secondhand crockery once it’s been through the dishwasher but I don’t buy anything that’s chipped or cracked, regardless of how cheap it is.

The little wine glass is one of those very old hand made glasses that Nick is collecting and the coal scuttle was a really good buy at just 2€.  We obviously don’t use coal but it’s handy for stashing other fireside stuff.

So we did really well at our first brocante of the year, wherever it was.  Sometimes we find nothing at all that we want to buy but this was a good haul!  We do sometimes get it wrong, of course.  We buy something and then decide it’s not so good after all.  I usually then pass it on to a friend (any passing friend who looks like they might need it!) or take it back to the UK and give it to a charity shop.  (The point being that charity shops are plentiful in the UK but almost non existent in France, apart from Emmaus.)

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Now to the flowers.  On 29th March according to my photos, our friend Susan of Days on the Claise turned up and asked if we wanted to go with her to see a field full of fritillaries, those lovely flowers with snakeskin like petals that apparently don’t grow in too many places in this part of France.  You do see clumps of them in ditches here and there but a whole field full of them was a sight to behold.  The other thing about them is that they do not hang around for long so this was our chance to get a good look and off we went.

One thing that strikes me about this picture is that even though the trees are completely bare because it was only the end of March, Nick is in his shirt sleeves because it was a lovely warm day.  That’s one of the things we love about our little corner of France so much, by the end of March spring is in full swing and it is often lovely and warm.

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The Live Writer programme is up and running again.  It’s little hiccup of not publishing pictures seems to have been fixed, but now that I have posted using Blogger I will not be so nervous of using it again if I need to.

THE JOYS OF SPRING



Looking through last year’s photos makes me think that Spring was good in Le Grand Pressigny last year.  So much sunshine so early in the year – magic!





 
Plus flowers in bloom, way before they would normally be in flower in the UK.  Tulips, my favourite flower, rarely make an appearance in Derbyshire before May.



 

Judging by the content of the pictures we obviously spent a lot of time out and about and in the village.  The chairs come out onto the pavement at the PreHisto bar as soon as sun is warm enough for sitting out, to tempt people to sit in the square and have a drink.  It always works for us!


 
According to the photos, on the 24th March we had lunch in Loches at this restaurant, the Côté Tour, which opened the previous year I believe.  It’s name comes from being situated near to the Tour Saint Antoine, a sixteenth century bell tower in the centre of town. The restaurant used to be a garage and the paper place mats on the tables have a picture of how it looked at the beginning of the last century, a nice touch.




 
In the photos it looks like we had the menu du jour, quiche followed by roast pork with mushrooms then prune flan for dessert - delicious!  Also excellent value at just under €13 each.  Plus a little more for wine and coffee of course.

 
So this is my first attempt for years at writing a blog post using Blogger.  I expect I'll have to get used to it.  Even as I write this it has decided that my text should be written centrally instead of starting on the left.  Hey ho.

23 January 2018

TEST POST

This is a test post.

I no longer seem to be able to publish photos to the blog using Live Writer.  Until I can find a solution to this problem the blog is closed.

13 January 2018

EARLY SPRING

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Nick flew into Limoges on the same plane that took my friend back to the UK at the beginning of March last year.  With his arrival came a welcome improvement in the weather and some sunshine.

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It was certainly chilly at first but it was such a relief to see the sun.  Daisy was pleased to see Nick back home too.

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The village was looking at its best in the early spring sunshine and we enjoyed taking our regular walks, although of course we were still missing Lulu.

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After a long and dismal winter a walk around the village in the crisp and cold sunshine always makes my heart sing .  The feeling is the same as in the very first years when we had the little cottage at the foot of the château.  It never fades and I still occasionally have to pinch myself and can’t believe how lucky we were to stumble across this lovely place and to own a little part of it.

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Things have evolved and changed around us, gradually over the years.  Last March, with all the year ahead of us, my heart was bursting with a mixture of pride and excitement at the thought that this is where we live and how much we had to look forward to in the coming months.  Even though it was nearly ten years, it could have been just yesterday that we made that first walk around the village and through the grounds of the château and thought “wow, this place is really special”.


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Looking back at last year’s photos makes me realise that we had a great year and I should really have shared more of it in the blog.  I’m hoping to make up for that in the next few posts!

9 January 2018

LEVROUX

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The weather was not great in our part of France last February.  We did have a few days when the sun came out and we could sit outside and have a drink, enjoying the warmth of the sun on our skin.  But on the whole, as we have found in previous years, February is not a terribly reliable month.  Mostly it’s as cold, damp and miserable as in the UK.  This is one of the reasons that after much discussion, we have decided not to live full time in France, especially for long periods in the winter.

Towards the end of my two weeks in France last February I was running low on ideas of how to keep myself and my friend entertained.  Just for myself I would have been content to stay home, watch TV, read, knit and sew, but having a friend with me I was conscious that for her this was a holiday so felt the need to organise visits and events, plan proper meals and so on.  If I had been by myself, just keeping warm and on top of the housework would probably have occupied me full time.  Keeping two log fires going all day long takes a lot of time.

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A few years ago some friends gave me a book full of beautiful full page photos of some of the more attractive villages in France so I asked my friend to have a look through and choose somewhere she would like to visit on her last day in France.  She picked a place called Levroux.

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I had never been there before, so off we went to explore, on a bitterly cold and windy day.

It’s greatest claim to fame, if it has one at all, is the tower entrance or gate into the town, which is absolutely spectacular but in a sad state of repair.

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In fact, Levroux seemed to be one of those really sad towns, full of dilapidated buildings, closed shops and businesses.  There was hardly a soul about as we wandered around taking pictures.

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There was a fine old church in the centre of town and we managed to find a little café open where we were the only customers.  We warmed ourselves up with a drink of delicious and indulgent hot chocolate before bracing ourselves against the increasingly strong wind and heading back to the car.  

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We had parked in the town square opposite the most amazing junk shop I think I have ever seen.  In fact I’m not sure it was a shop at all, there were no opening hours displayed or any indication of owners.

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I wondered if it was just someone’s collection of brocante, or a shop that had given up trading some time ago.  Inside there was a huge amount of stuff, all typical junk shop fodder, and some of it I would really have like to get a closer look at.

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Including this rather nice painting of the town gate.

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As you will have come to expect, I took dozens of pictures of old doors and windows, but I’ll spare you the bulk and show just three of my favourite door knockers instead.

Later in the year, Nick and I returned to Levroux for another look and found it to be a bit more lively.  On that occasion, one château led to another……..I’ll come to that story in due course………..

6 January 2018

ANGLES–SUR-L’ANGLIN

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So here we are in the post Christmas, post New Year doldrums.  I find this time of year more difficult now that I am retired.  When I was working I had work to distract me from the glum, grey dismalness of January and February.  Just getting through daily life was all consuming and often quite difficult, grappling with the journey to work in bad weather and then the added struggle with dog walking and shopping.  In the last years of working I couldn’t wait to shed all that and life is in so many way an awful lot easier.  These months drag more though.

As always I am beginning already to yearn for warmer, drier weather and a return to France, but the experience of the last few years has taught me that life is in fact just as much of a struggle there during these two months.  Possibly more so when you consider that it can in fact be colder and the two log burning stoves need a lot of hard work to keep them going and keep the house warm.  The romance of a log fire soon wears off when you are not on holiday but there all the time, having to clean out the fires and get the logs ready and into the house, day in day out.

So, continuing the posts about last years unposted events and photos, to pass the time……………..

A good place to visit in February, when there are no crowds of tourists, is Angles-sur-L’Anglin.  It certainly is a beautiful and fascinating town but often spoiled by traffic and hordes of people.  There was none of that last February.

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The reason I was there last February was that I had returned to France ahead of Nick, with a friend for company and with Daisy (who was fed up with being indoors in our then UK house) in order to check up on our French house after damage had been reported during some storms.  Nick still had a couple of sessions of rehab at the hospital to complete before he could join me, so for two weeks I was “off the lead”.  It suddenly dawned on me that I would have to somehow entertain myself and my friend for these two weeks, at a time of year when many of the touristy places are closed.  Angles seemed a good place to pass some time and take some photos and possibly get a spot of lunch.

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Of course, it being February, lunch options were limited, but we managed to find a very nice pizza restaurant open that I hadn’t tried before and we had a really nice meal, followed by a lovely walk around town.  It was a bit chilly, but it was nice to see the place without the frantic crowds.

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A visit there is always good and I never tire of taking photos.  These two old cars seem to have been parked in the same spot for years.

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It is also an excellent place for indulging in my fascination for old doors and windows. 

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The place is full of them.  You would be tempted to think that the properties are all completely empty and deserted but a visit in the middle of summer would reveal that most of them are very much occupied and in use for something or other, for many months of the year.

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This one does, I have to admit, look unlikely to be occupied usefully, but you just never know.

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These two doors look like they’re for the same building, but one is in good repair and the other much worse, suggesting possibly not.  They seem to share a lintel but until you get a peek inside it’s impossible to guess what’s going on there.

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This door is probably a gate, leading to a courtyard of some kind.  It’s surprising how so often large and well kept courtyard or gardens lie behind an unimposing outer door.  I never tire of visiting Angles, and fantasising about what lies behind its lovely old doors.