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.

 

Urban utopia or rural retreat?

I read a very interesting blog post recently on Our French Oasis which essentially posed the question: Where would you prefer to live? Town or country? So I’m adopting a similar approach to today’s blog post: Are you drawn to a rural or urban lifestyle?

Having recently spent a couple of weeks cat-sitting in the middle of Montpellier, the question was genuinely posed several times as we wandered the city streets, sat at a pavement café watching the world go by, or just while we perused the many and varied shops… Having lived for the past 17 years in Hong Kong, I do miss the buzz of the city. I miss the availability of goods and services virtually 24/7. The array of restaurant options just in my relatively small home town of Sai Kung rivalled most of the towns we have visited in France so far. But with the hustle and bustle comes noise and pollution. France retains that olde-world charm of long lazy lunches and deserted roads, quaint villages and beautiful scenery. We’ve certainly enjoyed exploring the area around the château in all directions but we feel that our hearts are drawn further south.

So we’ve made a decision.

We’re leaving the château!

Don’t faint. We’ve had a fantastic time here and we’ve loved having the opportunity to live in such an amazing building (I must admit that we are always comparing properties to the château and almost every time, it wins hands down). It’s just that we feel there are other areas to explore and so we’ve rented a little house in the Languedoc region in the South of France for the next 6 months of our French Adventure.

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Having just returned from our latest dog-sitting experience, I wanted to share with you some of the sights we encountered. Above was the view from the kitchen window of the property we were looking after. It was a barn conversion perfectly positioned in a village with a bakery, little supermarket and pizzeria just around the corner. The church bells woke us at 6am every morning (after their hiatus from midnight to aid our slumbers)! We could walk out of the door, cross a little river and be in the local vineyards walking the dogs within a couple of minutes.

 

 

It certainly helped our step counts with two good walks a day. The only time we cut it a bit short was the day of snow. Yes, SNOW in the South of France! Quite unusual as you can imagine! The river flooded and the swimming pool froze over so we stayed indoors except for two brief walks that day.

 

 

Luckily there was a wood burner in the lounge so Rich set about making a fire which soon warmed us up. The next day the sun was out and the snow had all gone and soon we were playing in  the garden with the dogs again!

 

 

The dogs were really well-behaved and happy to be left in the garden while we went exploring for a couple of hours. We went back to Minerve again (one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France that we had last visited on a cold and wet January day). What a difference!

 

We wandered around for about an hour, taking in the amazing scenery then we stopped for a delicious lunch at a recommended restaurant called Le Relais Chantovent. Rich generally disapproves of me taking photos of my food but I managed this quick snap of my amazing dessert!

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We also found a quirky mobile fish and chip truck near Narbonne that was actually a converted boat on a trailer! The lady parks it in the carpark of a local hardware store so it felt a bit surreal eating fish and chips while watching people come in and out carrying planks and tins of paint but there you go! Rich let me photograph that one because it was so unusual!

 

We finally said goodbye to the dogs and returned to the château where Spring seems to have sprung.

 

So I’ll leave you with the question I posed at the beginning: where would you prefer to live? In the town or country? Urban or rural? I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts.

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À bientôt, bisous.