Jaunts, java and “jardinage”

We had a jaunt on jeudi to Niort, about 40 minutes away. We loved the market square and the covered market. The pedestrianised areas made getting around easy and so did the free bus service! We hopped on a little bus doing a circular route and got a free tour of the town.

We had a lovely lunch overlooking the ancient donjon or keep in the centre of town and, of course, I had to check out their coffee…

Talking of coffee, we had a surprise delivery this week of a brand new coffee machine for us to put in the apartment here at the château. You know how I love my java!

The week’s weather has been a bit mixed with temperatures ranging from 5ºC to 25ºC. On the hotter days we have been in the jardin, raking the leaves and tidying up the flower beds.

We’ve had some spectacular sunrises and taken advantage of the early evening sun to have a wander around the area. With the clocks going back this weekend, we should be in for some lighter mornings for a while.

This morning we tried the Saturday market in St Jean d’Angély for the first time. St Jean is about 20 minutes away and a lovely little market town next to the river. All our favourite vendors from Aulnay’s Sunday market were there with the benefit of a covered market for shelter from the colder weather.

IMG-20171028-WA0001I suppose we really should have visited Château de Javarzay (or Jalfrezi) this week as part of the J theme, but we are saving it for when we have visitors…

À bientôt, bisous.

PS I’m dedicating this blog post to all the people in my life whose names feature the letter J… you know who you are! There are about 9 of you who already subscribe to the blog – prizes for those of you who put a comment after this blog post goes live…

Paperbacks and a “pique-nique a la plage”

On Saturday we ventured into the Deux-Sèvres departement to a charity book sale as our reserves of physical books were running low (yes, we could top up the kindle but I prefer actual books, but that’s a whole other discussion)!

As you can see from the first photo, the Village Hall or Salle des Fêtes was packed to bursting with a very organised second-hand book display featuring mainly English books but also DVDs and some French books. We spent a lovely hour scouring the boxes for something to read and came away with a decent haul.

Outside we wandered the various stalls and decided to have lunch in the sunshine. We saw our trusty fish and chip van but they were doing such a roaring trade that we decided to go with a different food van peddling falafel wraps and chilli bowls. Of course I had to have a glass of rosé with mine – yum.

Later in the week we met up with friends for a picnic on the beach at the Côte Sauvage or Wild Coast. We headed into the local town first to stock up on tasty morsels at the market and the boulangerie-patisserie. I loved all the ivy-clad buildings and the quirky campsite next to the Charente river.

We then drove about an hour to the coast and found a path through the pine trees to the sandy beach. There were a few surfers braving the water and a fisherman or two but otherwise, we had the place to ourselves.

We enjoyed our picnic then decided to head back via a walled town called Brouage on the edge of the Marais-Poitevin salt marshes. For those of you who know Sussex, it reminded me of the area around Rye.

We walked a little way along the battlements and then stopped for a cup of tea in a teashop in the town.

Back home we enjoyed a sunny evening with a stroll along one of the nearby lanes.

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Last night we stayed up to watch the Orionid meteor shower but after a couple of hours of watching and glimpsing three or four meteors, we called it a night. We contented ourselves with this spectacular sunrise instead:

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À bientôt, bisous.

 

House sitting and home cooking…

To paraphrase Jane Austen: it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a homeowner in possession of a beloved pet, must be in want of a house sitter.

If our experience of being members of Trusted Housesitters is anything to go by, this is indeed true. Judging by the twice daily emails that we receive, over 50 homeowners across the globe are searching for suitable house sitters at any given time. We have already had experience house and pet-sitting for two characterful French bulldogs in a huge flat in Hong Kong’s Happy Valley and we are soon to take up another challenge near Carcassonne in southern France over the Christmas and New Year period.

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Back to our current house sit, it may not come with pets but that doesn’t mean there aren’t animals, it’s just that bats and hedgehogs don’t count as pets! I’ve been busy putting together a website that showcases the château and gives some insight into the history and the work that has been done to get it to where it is now. Check it out and let me know what else I could do to improve it…bear in mind it is a work-in-progress.

So this week we hosted the friends we went to visit last week and I racked my brains for what to feed them (we’d had such a lovely meal with them, I had to provide more than toast, my signature dish). As you know, cooking is not my forté so I thought I’d better do a trial run if I was to actually try to cook anything for the guests. Luckily Rich is a very willing guinea pig and my bacon and mushroom puffs seemed to fit the bill. I’m adding them to the fig and apple crumble that I made earlier this month as part of my slowly growing repertoire of home-cooked dishes. I also made a cottage pie this month (I know, not exactly “gourmet food”) but I didn’t take a picture as it basically looked like mashed potato!

 

I’m sure I could conjure up veggie options for any of you thinking of visiting who don’t eat meat… so be prepared!

Rich has been busy taking photos for the château website so you’ll have to pop along to that one for gorgeous shots of the place this week!

À bientôt, bisous.

 

 

 

 

 

Golf, gardens and greenery

The weather has been glorious over the past week and we have been in the garden strimming, mowing and weeding (well, I say we, but Rich has done all the strimming and mowing and I’ve helped with the weeding). We are not professional gardeners by any stretch of the imagination but it feels good to get out in the sunshine and work outside for a few hours (I can manage a few more hours of weeding now before needing to stop for a cuppa).

 

We’ve also had the chance to visit the Château de Dampierre-sur-Boutonne, a cute little château, just up the road, that has an interesting history and stunning gardens.

Rich played golf for the first time in France this week. We met up with friends from Hong Kong who now live about 40 minutes away. Rich played at a golf club near Saintes and I explored a new town called Pons and continued my coffee quest so we were both happy. We had a really good day with a fabulous lunch sitting under a beautiful tree in our friends’ garden. Bliss!

 

I’ll leave you with one of Rich’s early morning shots of the field opposite the château:

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À bientôt, bisous.

Fountains, fireworks and frothy coffee

Happy October everyone! We’re just back from a little mini-break in Bordeaux.

“Mini-break?!” I hear you cry, “But you’re already on a sabbatical, isn’t that like a maxi-break?!”

Well, technically, yes, but we take our rôle as “Guardians of the Château” very seriously and we genuinely want to do a good job here so it did feel like a break away from our ‘normal’ routine.

So we hopped in the car and headed down to Bordeaux (about a 2 hour drive away). We stopped in Saintes for a coffee on the way (always on the lookout for my frothy coffee) and had a lovely hour wandering the streets and lapping up the atmosphere of this quaint market town on the banks of the Charente river.

It would have been slightly more peaceful if there hadn’t been a big noisy demonstration marching up the main street. On closer inspection, it turned out that these were disgruntled retirees which begged the question, if marching doesn’t achieve their aim, what’s their next course of action? Going back to work in protest?

We carried on our journey to Bordeaux and settled into our airbnb before strolling into the city to get a feel for the place. We were not disappointed. Bordeaux is a beautiful city with stunning architecture at every turn. We had a wonderful couple of days exploring the main tourist spots then meandering through the streets finding hidden squares and quirky corners.

Yes, that’s me posing in front of the Miroir d’eau or Water Mirror, a fountain in front of the Place de la Bourse. It’s the world’s largest reflecting pool and sends up a misty fog every quarter of an hour then returns to calm waters (which everyone paddles in so not really that calm)!

After 2 days of walking further than I’ve walked since I got my FitBit (not to mention shopping ’til we were dropping to prepare ourselves for the winter months) we drove back to Aulnay via Saintes again. This time we spent longer in Saintes and visited the large Roman amphitheatre and wandered along the Charente river.

Yes, I did also continue my coffee quest and chanced upon the most magnificent frothy coffee which defies description so just feast your eyes on this:

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We got home absolutely shattered and were glad to flop into bed for a well-earned rest (after our exhausting mini-break)!

But what about the fireworks?

Well, we were jolted awake at around 11pm by a loud BOOM so had to investigate. We saw lots of villagers parading past the château with lanterns then, to our delight, a firework display began in the field opposite. In true Hong Kong style, there were plenty of oohs and aahs and I tried to get a good photo but, in the end, just gave up and enjoyed the moment. Hope my Hong Kong family enjoy the National Day fireworks and the half term break and think of us in our château watching fireworks in the field opposite!

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À bientôt, bisous.