First blog post

Welcome to a French Adventure!

We packed in our jobs and packed up our worldly possessions and headed to Charente Maritime to house sit for friends from Hong Kong. The website for the place we were house sitting is here:

https://chateaudeminargent.com/

After 7 months we moved to the South of France and the adventure continues…

We feel so lucky to be able to take this leap into the unknown and follow our hearts to a new adventure. Several people asked us to keep a blog as I will not be sharing all my exploits on Facebook or Instagram so this is for you, the ones who asked us for updates.

If you wish to be notified by email of new blog posts for A French Adventure then just click the floating Follow message that hovers in the corner and you won’t have to keep checking back, you’ll simply get an email whenever the blog is updated. Feel free to leave comments about our adventures.

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Friends are the family…

…we choose for ourselves.

We have had more social interactions in the past month than during the past 11 months put together! First, Richard’s mum came to visit (see last blog post), then a friend of mine from school came to stay, then Richard’s sister and husband had a short week with us and finally we took a flying visit whistle-stop tour to Hong Kong to catch up with people and sort out our flat, which we have just sold. It’s been a whirlwind of social activity and now I have a week to mentally prepare myself for the world of work again!

So let’s start at the very beginning (sorry, now I’m singing it my head too)… my friend Sean drove all the way through France to stay with us for a couple of nights. He and Rich are both interested in photography so they compared notes on cameras and processes leaving me baffled. The only photos I take are snaps on my phone (and some of them turn out ok but most of them don’t). I was quite pleased with one that I’d previously seen on Instagram and been impressed by then I was amazed to walk past the exact same spot so I snapped a pic:

20180730_151349I  love the fact that someone was desperate to show national pride and did it in the most creative way I have yet seen! I also enjoyed snapping the photographers at their craft:

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We had a lovely few days welcoming Kay and Steve to Vence and showing them round our new home city of Nice. One of the things I would encourage visitors to do is the Little Tourist Train of Nice (yes, social death to teenagers as my French cousin, Catherine and I dubbed it when we were teenagers in Rouen and vowed never to get anywhere near the Little Tourist Train except now I’m middle-aged and the Little Tourist Train does all the hard work while we sit and let it take us round the sights)! We booked online the day before (only 10 Euros per person) then turned up on the Promenade des Anglais just before the allotted time to find that they were running behind schedule. When the next one did turn up he was telling people NOT to just get on as a big group had pre-booked. Luckily I could have a quick chat with him and he made an exception for us so we hopped on the very back seats and the rest of the big group piled in front. We were expecting a 45-minute tour but, due to heavy traffic conditions, it lasted about an hour and a half. The train took us around the main sites and up to the Castle Hill which we had not explored previously. We got some great photos and learned a bit more about the history of Nice (and nearly jumped out of our skins as the midday gun went off)!

Another highlight of their trip was a day walking around Antibes. We had only visited once before, to have a lovely lunch with Rich’s family friends, Annie and Johnathan. This time we wandered around enjoying the sights and sounds and found another place to have a lovely lunch (yay, I found my 4th flat white in France – thank you Lucky Break Coffee Shop, you join Joe & the Juice, Coffee Club and Bonobo Montpellier in a very elite club of flat white providers in France – someone PLEASE tell me where I should be looking as I’m sure I must be missing lots of places)…

The other highlight was an open-air concert in our home town of Vence. Every year the whole town is captivated by Les Nuits du Sud and, over the course of a few weekends in July and August, the town periodically shuts down access to anyone except ticket holders for various concerts held in the main town square. It’s a great atmosphere with all the restaurants putting out long tables right out into the square and everyone joining in the party mood. We saw an excellent band originally hailing from Sudan (via New York) called Alsarah and The Nubatones followed by one of the last remaining members of Earth, Wind and Fire with a 12-strong band. The recognisable hits had people dancing and the atmosphere was friendly.

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After we had waved off Kay and Steve we packed up our own suitcases and got on a flight to Hong Kong via Frankfurt. Little did we know when we left our house that we would not actually get to our destination for almost 48 hours! A security incident in Frankfurt airport led to delays on all flights in and out of Frankfurt resulting in an announcement as we were about to land telling us to queue up to seek hotel vouchers as there would be no more connecting flights that day. So, at 11pm, we joined what was frankly the longest queue I have seen bar the queue for tickets to Wimbledon tennis! By the time we got to the front of the queue 2 hours later we were told that there were actually no hotel beds left so the airline had set up camp beds in one of the airport corridors. At this point we just wanted to lie down so we went up to check it out. We both tried to get some sleep despite feeling like we were in some emergency shelter (complete with occasional announcements on the tannoy). By 5.30am we were ready for some breakfast and luckily the airport had plenty of choice on offer. With a whole day to kill we took a taxi into the city to do some exploring and were pleasantly surprised to discover a lovely city with a river running through it and plenty of leafy shopping streets to wander down.

We got back to the airport in good time to catch the evening flight to Hong Kong and managed to have a second night with little sleep (who manages to get quality sleep in an economy class seat?) so after nearly 48 hours of travelling in the same clothes we were delighted to finally arrive in Hong Kong at our beautiful little flat in Sai Kung. I have never been so happy to see my bed!

The next few days were a whirlwind of meeting up with friends and doing admin jobs (including not one but TWO trips to the French Consulate in Central…)! It was so lovely to catch up with friends from all aspects of our former lives in Hong Kong: school colleagues, quiz team and film club members, yoga buddies and good friends going back all the way to our time in Qatar over 20 years ago! We missed a few people who were still on holidays or busy (and we just didn’t have time to contact everyone we would have liked to see) but it was great to see so many people and to feel as if we hadn’t been away for a whole year. I have always referred to my Hong Kong friends as my Hong Kong family as friends really are the family we choose for ourselves.

Coming back to France this time in the knowledge that we have made the decision to settle here feels a bit surreal as I consider Hong Kong to be my home (and the UK as my first home) so I’m hoping that France will one day also feel like home. At the moment it still feels like a very indulgent long holiday but I am sure that getting into a routine of work will help to make it feel more permanent.

On that note, I don’t know how much time I will have to blog once I am back in the world of work…so thank you to everyone who has read the blog thus far, commented or mentioned to me that they have enjoyed reading all about our French adventures. I’ll leave you with pictures that Rich took of our new home town from the hills which look down onto it (and the transformation of our car into a fully fledged French vehicle).

Bisous!

Nice to see you…

…to see you nice!

To quote Sir Bruce Forsyth (RIP) except that I’m appropriating the phrase to mean the city of Nice and its environs.

We’ve had our first visitor! Rich’s mum stayed with us for the past week and we all enjoyed many of the local sights and tourist sites.

We started off the week exploring our local town of Vence then we had a fantastic day in Nice. Rich and his mum went on a cyclotour of the city (which I can wholeheartedly recommend as a brilliant way to zip around the old town while someone else does all the hard work of pedalling)!

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The next day we headed to nearby St Paul de Vence for a wander and a coffee. More gorgeousness at every turn!

Tourrettes-sur-Loup was another hilltop town where you just have to wander the streets then stop for a coffee. We found an English second-hand bookshop so Rich and I both stocked up on our Summer reading.

On Sunday we took ourselves off to Cannes during the day then we were treated to the best opera experience I’ve ever had. It was at nearby Gattières in the open-air square at the centre of the hilltop village. We had tickets right on the front row so we felt as if we were part of the 21 strong orchestra. It was a production of Verdi’s Rigoletto (everyone knows “La donna è mobile”, yes, that one) and it really blew my mind. I found the musicians just as fascinating to watch as the singers were enjoyable to listen to. There was an interval after the first act so everyone trooped up to the courtyard overlooking the performance space for champagne and nibbles at a very leisurely pace. The whole production finished just after midnight and it’s an evening I will not forget in a hurry.

Saint Jeannet is nestled under one of the most prominent rocky outcrops around these parts so we just had to go and explore…

The week culminated with a trip to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on the St Jean Cap Ferrat peninsula. Another incredible day out. The photos don’t really do it justice. We all enjoyed exploring the nine different gardens despite the sweltering heat and I think I’ll be back again as there was still more to discover.

I’ll leave you with a picture of the chapel in Tourrettes-sur-Loup where, as I was peering through the window, the caretaker came bustling up with the keys and said he’d open up for us to see inside.

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À bientôt, bisous.

 

The hills are alive…

…with the sound of music.

So we have arrived in Vence and have now been here for almost two weeks. During this time we have set up a home, visited the doctor and the dentist, started our electricity, water and internet contracts, been for dinner with our landlady, enjoyed opera in a local village, glimpsed fireworks over the bay for Bastille day and (one of us has) hiked in the mountains!

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We have been blown away by how beautiful the area is. Each village we visit is more charming than the last and we are loving exploring different places for coffee. I have to say that I have managed to find my elusive flat white at the enormous Polygone Riviera shopping complex about a 15 minute drive down the hill so I’m happy! We spent last Sunday wandering the complex and both picked up a couple of bits (remember we have purposely tried not to buy very much stuff over the last year as we have been living a nomadic existence but, now that we have put down some roots for at least a year, it’s open season again on the shopping)!

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One of the gorgeous local hilltop villages is Mougins (where the British International School is situated) so we headed over for a nose. We happened upon the local café right when it was morning meet and greet for the locals so we got embroiled in a conversation about the sad demise of the England football team and the locals’ hopes for the French team in today’s World Cup Final.

Another highlight of the past two weeks has been an evening event in Tourrettes-sur-Loup, our nearest hilltop village where our landlady lives. She very kindly rang us to tell us of a special event called Apér’Opéra. Anyone who lives in France will tell you that apéro is a cultural must! Apéro is short for apéritif and it is the nibbles and drinks people have before actual dinner is served (in fact many nights we just have apéro instead of dinner if we have eaten well at lunchtime). Well, put apéro together with opera and you have an outdoor spectacle: Apér’Opéra. We wandered the streets of Tourrettes-sur-Loup searching for the elusive venue for this Apér’Opéra only to find that it was right off the main square, we had just taken a different street. Plastic chairs were arranged facing the mairie and we were treated to an hour and a half of opera classics by a local opera group. We then mingled with the locals for a free glass of wine and some nibbles (the apéro bit). It was an amazing event to witness and we are now even more eagerly awaiting the full opera we have booked to see at yet another gorgeous hilltop village next weekend. Watch this space for an update…

Yesterday was Bastille Day, a National Holiday and the town of Vence was decked out in red, white and blue (it is lucky that the French football team got into the World Cup final so close to the 14th July celebrations because every other balcony is flying a French flag)! Nice is, of course, the site of the terrorist attack on 14th July 2016 that left 87 people dead and over 400 injured along the famous Promenade des Anglais so Bastille Day is a bittersweet celebration incorporating a memorial to those who died and understandable national pride. There were fireworks again (after last year’s were cancelled in memory of the victims) and the mood is upbeat with the upcoming World Cup Final to look forward to. We went onto our balcony just after 10pm and could hear the fireworks coming from Cannes, just after 10.30pm we caught glimpses and flashes of fireworks coming from the Bay of Angels. It was just like going onto our balcony in Hong Kong at Chinese New Year to see if we could grab a glimpse of the fireworks!

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So from hilltop villages ringing with the sound of music it’s à bientôt and bisous!

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In vino veritas, in aqua sanitas

In wine there is truth, in water there is health.

We recently stumbled upon a local wine tasting event called “In vino Pézenas” which I guess was a play on words referring to the above latin phrase. I was delighted to discover that the local winemakers were coming out in force to display their wines at hitherto “secret” locations around the town. As you may know, in many towns and cities, large doors can open to reveal hidden courtyards to hôtels particuliers or private mansions. These are usually now converted into flats for town dwellers who are the only ones with access to these courtyards but, for 3 nights in June, Pézenas opened its doors to the curious, and the local winemakers displayed their wines for tastings by candlelight. It was a great way to get a historical tour combined with a wine tasting experience (a bit like a posh pub crawl)!

After getting a taste for wine tasting, as it were, we saw an event advertised at a local château that included wine, food and music. So we headed off to Château de Cassan on the longest day for an evening sitting at long tables chatting, eating and drinking until nightfall. I later learnt that 21st June is marked nationwide as La Fête de la Musique so it shouldn’t have surprised me that every town and village seemed to be hosting some sort of musical event that evening.

Another lovely day out that we had was to the nearby Pont du Diable or Devil’s Bridge. This old bridge was built in the 11th century by monks to help them travel between abbeys on their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The longer span bridge I thought was just as photogenic but that only dates from the 1930s. We visited as part of a day trip to Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert and the Grottes de Clamouse.

Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert is one of the famous Plus Beaux Villages de France and it really is deserving of its Most Beautiful Village status. We wandered around and had a very nice long lunch before heading off for the caves down the road.

The Grottes de Clamouse are spectacular limestone caves with allegedly the largest variety of crystals found in any known caves. The stalactites (hold tight to the ceiling) and stalagmites (might reach the ceiling) were impressive to say the least and, as the guide told us, all you need to make a similar cave is water, calcium and A LOT of time!

So water and wine have featured heavily in our latest adventures and (for those of you still awaiting news about the “chicks” mentioned in the last post) I am happy to report that the chicks have hatched and we’ll be moving to Vence near Nice at the start of July! If you’ve no idea what I’m on about, just head back to the last post and all will be explained!

À bientôt, bisous.

Don’t count your chickens…

…before they’ve hatched.

So there was me, last time, waxing lyrical about this amazing apartment we were going to move into in Vence but, little did I know then, I was counting my chickens before they had hatched.

We got a call from the agent who said that we couldn’t have the apartment after all. We were gutted. I mean, I’d already done a spreadsheet of all the furniture we needed and costed it up and everything!

So it was back to the drawing board and back to Nice to pound the streets again. Well, in actual fact, I swallowed my nerves and decided to call them all first. By now my vocabulary for all things estate agent is tip top so I dutifully telephoned around a dozen agents asking if they had anything. We got two leads. Firstly, a modern apartment in a university neighbourhood of Nice and, secondly, an apartment in an old Niçoise house in the port area. We organised a last minute Airbnb in Vence and off we went.

The modern apartment had an underground garage and a balcony for outside dining but the old port apartment had charm and was in a gated community (plus it was furnished so my aforementioned spreadsheet would no longer be required). We were weighing up the options when the Head of the school at ISN (who is leaving this year) contacted me to say that we’d be welcome to come over to see her place and meet her landlady to talk terms. This sounded promising. Although the landlady has actually put the house on the market, it will take at least 3 months to do all the paperwork so she said she’d be willing to rent to us in the interim. This house has parking and terraces for outdoor dining and charm (plus 2 en suite bedrooms) and it’s in a little group of similar houses and it’s walking distance to our favourite town, Vence. Wow.

Now I’m trying not to count my chickens before they’ve hatched but my, what cute little chicks they are going to be…!

While we were over in Alpes-Maritimes, we visited the nearby towns of Biot and La Colle sur Loup (The Glue on the Wolf!) and marvelled at their beauty:

Of course I had to get a shot of the mairies:

And while I’m on  the subject of mairies, here is the mairie  of a tiny abandoned village by the side of Lake Salagou (back in Hérault), which we visited a couple of weeks ago, I also tried to capture the wonderful red poppies but the photo doesn’t do them justice:

I was also lucky enough to be invited to an event in Limoux (near Carcassonne) to listen to a local author, Pat Young, talk about her books. Richard very kindly drove me there and then went off for a hike in the hills while I did my “book thing”. I was greeted at the cute tea shop by the author herself who offered each guest a glass of the famous local bubbles, Blanquette de Limoux – yum. After that, we sipped tea as she told us tales of getting published, the writing process and some personal experiences along the way. We asked questions, raised points, laughed and, amazingly, the two hours whizzed by. I asked her to sign my books and she graciously agreed, writing a personal message in each. The first book “till the dust settles” starts on the day the Twin Towers in New York were attacked and weaves a clever mistaken identity plot which is a psychological thriller page turner. I couldn’t put it down. The second book “i know where you live” can be read independently (but does follow the first) however now the action moves to Carcassonne. Again the plot takes you on an emotional roller coaster which I can vividly picture as a movie so who knows… I would recommend both books wholeheartedly.

I really enjoyed the whole book event and can’t wait for her next book to come out…

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My latest adventure was a cruise along the Canal du Midi including a delicious lunch. The sun came out and I met several new people while gently cruising down the canal in a very sedate fashion passing other barges, ducks and even going through the famous Malpas Tunnel hewn from the rock by hand in the 1600s to become Europe’s first navigable canal tunnel. What a lovely way to spend a Wednesday afternoon!

Meanwhile Rich was on another of his hikes and took a couple of lovely shots of the landscape:

I’ll leave you with a photo I took in The Glue on the Wolf:

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I’ll let you know if the chicks hatch…

À bientôt, bisous.

Cote d’aZZZur!

OK so the big news is, I got a job! I applied to the International School of Nice and they hired me to start in August. Last week I got the chance to visit the school and meet some of the team. So we will head off on another chapter of our adventure on the French Riviera this time.

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Rich and I set about organising where we are going to live which involved a lot of leg work and a steep learning curve… We had tentatively tried researching online before we visited Nice but, not knowing the area at all, it was hard to fix on a definite area. Luckily we got some advice from the staff members at the school that Vence was a pretty and historic town within a half hour drive of the school. We headed off in that direction and literally went into every estate agency in the town one by one. My vocab increased exponentially as I discovered the importance of location longue durée, meublé, caution bancaire, mètre carré*, etc.  Unfortunately they had no stock, literally no furnished apartments to rent to us. Back to the drawing board. The problem seemed to be that renters only have to give one month’s notice that they are leaving so, in May, we are too early for rentals that may start in August or even July. We were starting to get a bit nervous about leaving it and having to come back to begin the process all over again. We had left our details at about 10 different agencies but we wanted to sort out something sooner rather than later.

The next day we tried a dozen agencies in Saint-Laurent-du-Var (nearer to school) and Cagnes-sur-Mer on the coast but all to no avail until…one agent admitted that she had just had a property come onto on her books that was not yet online and she asked if we would be free to view it the next day. Hooray, finally we had a lead! We eagerly made arrangements then headed back into Vence to attack the estate agencies again with a plan to broaden our search criteria to include unfurnished apartments. Bingo, we found an agent who had an empty apartment available right at the edge of the historic heart of the town. She took us to see it right there and then and we both fell in love! We wanted to reserve judgement until we had seen the other property the next day but all evening we were discussing the merits of the apartment.

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The next day dawned and we viewed the other property but in our heart of hearts we knew that the apartment had already won us over. We went back to Vence and started preliminary proceedings and that’s where we stand now. We’ve got our fingers crossed that it will work out. I’ll post some pictures of the outside of the building and then you might see why it captured our hearts (it’s the big one with the brown shutters on the edge of the square):

 

 

We celebrated with lunch in one of the historic squares and then went back to Nice to do a bit of sightseeing. Can you spot some false façades or trompe l’oeil (optical illusions)?

 

We headed back to Pézenas and enjoyed an evening at the famous 9 locks (écluses) near to Béziers. The Piano du Lac group entertained us with water-borne instruments and an eclectic repertoire of classical to comical numbers. The rain threatened to pour down and there were some dramatic lightning flashes during the performances but luckily the storm held off. I’ll leave you with some photos of the event:

 

After all that excitement I’m off to get some zzzzz’s and to dream about our move to the Côte d’Azur!

À bientôt, bisous.

* location longue durée = long term rental

*meublé = furnished

*caution bancaire = bank guarantee

*mètre carré = square metres

Youth culture and yellow flowers

Montpellier is a university town and it shows. The place is full of young people and there is a definite buzz. A couple of weekends ago we heard about the Extreme Sports Festival being staged by the river so we thought we’d check it out. Registration was free and the atmosphere was relaxed and casual. There were skateboarders, wakeboarders, kids on scooters and roller blades. There was a parkour course and a Wipeout style assault course on offer. We watched some of the BMX stunt riders leaping over impossibly high ramps – not for the faint-hearted (and that’s just the spectators)!

More in keeping with my usual pace of life were the hikes and wanders we have enjoyed during spring time. The flowers are blooming and the place looks so pretty.

This is only a quick post as I’m building up for a biggie to end the alphabet…stay tuned…

À bientôt, bisous!

X is a cross

“X is a cross” is how my Geography teacher taught me to remember which axis was the horizontal or x axis on a graph but, since we have been in this part of France, we have been struck by the number of crosses on display. The Cathar cross features prominently in this region and of course Christian, mainly Catholic, crosses abound. Here are just some of the examples and, of course, now I can’t stop noticing them everywhere!

The lovely weather has encouraged us to get out and about. “Let’s do this local walk, it’s called le Cirque de Mourèze,” suggested Rich, “It’s quite easy and flat, I expect it will be a bit like the walk around the Peak in Hong Kong.” It wasn’t.

It was, however, absolutely stunning and, although I never want to do it again, I’m glad we did do it.

I have subsequently been scouring the maps for flatter walks and chanced upon the track of the old disused railway line on Google maps. Unfortunately, most of the line seems hopelessly overgrown but then we stumbled upon a section that has been made into a cycle and walking path in nearby Lézignan-la-Cèbe. It started at the old station house which still bears the name of the village. I hope I can find a few more sections that are as well-maintained.

We have been exploring the different local towns having had days out to Florensac, Marseillan, Nézignan-l’Évêque and Lézignan-la-Cèbe. Can you spot another mural like the ones in Montpellier and Béziers in one of the shots we took?

Of course I have been adding to my collection of photos of local mairies or Town Halls. Here are Marseillan, Nézignan-l’Évêque and Adissan (with yet another lovely mural):

Thanks to the power of the internet I managed to find us a Pub Quiz in Pézenas (called Pézenas Pub Quiz so I guess it wasn’t that hard to find)! It’s on every other Thursday from September to June so we rocked up on Thursday April 12th and prepared to do battle in a Billy-No-Mates team of 2. The organiser took pity on us and put us together with 2 other newbies who happened to be French. The quiz is totally bi-lingual so we had no problems between us understanding the questions and called ourselves the Franglais team. We didn’t come last but we certainly didn’t come first either. It was a fun night and the next fortnight we had managed to wangle ourselves onto an established team. Still no prizes but another great night out was had by all (and we could walk home afterwards). Bonus! We’re missing our Spider’s Web team but now we’re with the No Brainers for the next couple of quizzes before it shuts down for the Summer.

 

Another fun thing we did this week was a 4-course vineyard lunch. It was preceded by a lovely walk around the vineyard looking at peacocks, Roman wells, local flora and ancient coral then we sat down al fresco for a delicious lunch with a different wine matched to each course. We met some very interesting people and enjoyed an amazing environment with delicious food and drink, all for 30 Euros a head. Yes, we did buy some wine to take away with us, well it would have been rude not to!

I had to share this pretty picture of apple blossom from the garden because now it’s all disappeared.

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And finally, we headed down to the weekly market last Saturday and couldn’t quite believe our eyes when every other person seemed to be wearing a traditional striped top… the atmosphere was buzzing and we later learnt that it was part of the annual Spring Festival or Printival which commemorates the local celebrity Boby Lapointe who was born and died in Pézenas. I put the photo onto Instagram as a caption competition. I wonder if you guys can come up with some good captions for what the lady (who looks remarkably like Jennie Martin) is saying to the little boy…

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À bientôt, bisous.

Wild, wet and windy weather!

Well, so much for the arrival of Spring! We decided to head 600 miles to the south in search of warmer weather. Look how that turned out… Everyone is talking about le vent (the wind) and, they say, when the wind finishes we have la pluie (the rain) to look forward to! Great.

We did manage a few walks in between the rainy and windy weather and the Spring flowers are starting to emerge…

On one of our walks I was delighted to see a baguette machine. Yes, 24 hour baguette access! Of course, I had to try one and, if I’m honest, it wasn’t as good as a fresh baguette from a proper boulangerie (bakery) but, when desperate… In fact a nearby village still had their old bread oven so I guess getting your daily bread is never a problem round these parts.

Back at the château, we realised we needed to use up as much food as we could before the big move so Rich decided to bake the first cake of his life… drum roll please… he managed a very decent Victoria sponge. So enthused was he by the results that he decided to graduate to chocolate cake only to discover that the Victoria sponge may have been a fluke…the chocolate cake was not a success but the marzipan top layer got eaten very quickly!

We were very lucky last week to receive our final guest at the château before the big move. Kerstin came all the way from Hong Kong to see us and we had several lovely days together exploring a château and the town of Rochefort. We ducked into the Marine Museum to escape the wet weather and, when we emerged, the sun had come out so we headed to the main square for a coffee.

After waving Kerstin goodbye, we packed all our worldly possessions into the car and headed south to Pézenas near Montpellier and Béziers. We stopped at exactly the same aire de service (motorway services) as we had done back in November and I took another photo of the carpark area that had seduced me back in the Autumn with its carpet of autumnal foliage. Spring is not impressing me thus far…

So now we are installed in a little rental house in Pézenas for the next few months… We are looking forward to exploring this area. Pézenas celebrates the famous French playwright, Molière, because I think he spent a while here while touring with his theatre company. There is a theatre named after him and even the place we are renting bears his name.

We’re hoping that the wild, wet and windy weather will soon make way for the promised sun of the south… in the meantime I will leave you with a picture of a cheese counter where we queued up and chatted to the ladies before and after us to find out their recommendations! Cheese is a serious business here in France and I have now added Chaource and Comté Vieux to my cheese knowledge.

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À bientôt, bisous.

Vernal equinox, vide grenier and vintage

So Spring has officially arrived but no-one told the person in charge of the weather… the temperatures still hover in the single digits and frequently dip below freezing overnight. We’ve had the vernal equinox – how fortuitous that it came right around my V themed blog and the clocks sprang forward last night.

Last weekend we visited a local vide grenier (we would translate that as car boot, garage or yard sale but literally it means “empty the attic” which seems to be exactly what it says on the tin). This week we headed off to a neighbouring village to explore their vide grenier (although it could have been a brocante or a marché aux puces = both translated by Google as flea market, but who knows?!). Ideas and suggestions welcomed…

We didn’t buy any vintage gems but I did spot this fantastic sign painted on the side of a building (and now I can’t help spotting them all over the place, some more faded than others).

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We have also finally done the right thing and begun the process of registering our vehicle into the French system (apparently you have a 3-month grace period from when you arrive to change your British plates over to French ones and get a carte grise). We took it to a garage to get it serviced before getting the French equivalent of an MOT (un contrôle technique). Apparently they couldn’t service it without the carte grise or French registration document…

“Hang on, that’s why we’re here, to get the French registration process started.” we explained in inadequate French.

“Ah no, we cannot service it without the carte grise.” they countered.

Isn’t this a classic case of chicken and egg? So we decided to try to get the contrôle technique done without getting the service done first.

“Sure, no problem,” said the contrôle technique guy, “where’s your carte grise?” 

“Not you as well!” we inwardly groaned while outwardly saying brightly, “Can we bring you our British car registration papers instead?”

“Sure, no problem,” said the contrôle technique guy. We liked him!

Phew! Happily our car passed the checks with flying colours and we gladly paid our €69 and proudly stuck our little square of paper in the windscreen. Good job we got in before May when they are changing the rules to make the contrôle technique much more stringent. Apparently the contrôle technique is valid for 2 years so that is a relief.

Now I have a little conundrum for you… we have been passing these curious little buildings at the side of the road since we arrived and we have been wondering what exactly they are/were for. I snapped a quick pic as we drove past one today but it’s hard to see the scale. They are about a metre and a half tall and maybe 2 metres across. They are dotted along the main road every few kilometres and our guesses have ranged from bus shelters for very small people to places to store salt to grit the roads. None of our ideas are very satisfactory so I am appealing to you to help us out. What do you think they are or were used for?

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Finally I’ll leave you with a picture of our pet pot plant simply because she is called Viburnum Tinus Eve Price so she fits with our V theme!

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À bientôt, bisous.