We decided to leave our London lives and all the stresses that they come with behind for a year and live a completely new kind of existence in what is quite possibly the most beautiful setting ever. To manage and run a 17th Century converted manor house and tend to the large garden, cook local fresh produce for renting guests and live and relax in a large cottage in the rural French country side.
This is Jon and Laura's Excellent Adventure... and Coco's!!
So we hit Les Gets for some sunshine and snow and a bit of late night dancing at the chalet for New Years, which was a real hoot and lots of fun. We loved every minute and have really understood that here in France you have sunshine, sea and amazing surf, you've got the south coast where you can live it up with the St.Tropez crew and wine and dine on the yachts, head south to the beautiful Antibes and soak up the sunshine or you have the alps and the Pyrénées with views to die for and some of the best skiing... this country is so big you can get the hustle bustle of inner city life with shops fine dining and the spectacular tour eiffel in Paris, then you can go further and lose yourself amongst the vineyards and orchards that are surrounded by the old manor houses with their crumbly stone walls... I've not even hit it all and there is so much more to see, but here in France it seems you got it all.
January was a busy time, spent trying to keep warm, temperatures fell to minus five most days and we had Christmas to take down. We had 12ft Christmas trees to start with... by the second week though we had pretty much cleared it all... but it was cold! The days started with beautiful sunrises and ended with stunning sunsets, most days the sky was an immense blue and that we were thankful for. Every house seemed to have their shutters closed and all you could see in the horizon was the smoke from all the chimney tops - a sure sign that everyone was huddled by their fires keeping warm. The villages and towns became even more quiet as the days got colder and the markets, leading up to Christmas were full and noisy but they were much less so, the farmers wrapped up in a thousand layers selling their produce but half the traders that you would normally see. However cold it got it was never that bad, having the wood burner to warm your toes and your almost frozen hands was such a good thing and dinners, mostly stews and hot curries with lots of bread kept us going. The houses here are made of stone - they are cold and they hold the cold so they take a while to warm up but once they do - its bliss, with a glass of red wine and feet by the fire snuggled under the blanket...
After a good couple of weeks of this really cold spell we had an amazingly warm spell - the temperatures rose about 10 degrees and we enjoyed it!
The cold weather didn't last very long, nothing worth complaining about like we are so used to doing in England. It got perceptively warmer and we anticipated Spring with longer and warmer days. We took jumpers and scarves off and this February temperatures have reached 22! Eating lunch outside with the sun on our faces... opening windows and doors and our shutters have stayed opened for the last few weeks. We have been warned that there is rain due and lots of it... so we are not getting too excited just yet but we know we have so much to look forward to!
Days are spent working at the house doing repair work and renewals where needed. Being an old house like many that are in these parts there is so much to look after -we are becoming more and more aware as we spend more time there. You have to care for it and look after it, through the cold and frost especially. We have realised that with doors and windows open and a few logs on the fire breathes life into it. The sunshine works like magic though, bringing the warmth and its amazing how much more energy you suddenly have! The birds too are in full force, I have never seen so many birds, so many different birds and it makes you realise that here, the weather, the seasons especially rule the land...
The light at this time of year brings so much contrast, deep long shadows that highlight everything making long cracks and lines look graphical. I have been so much more involved with my camera recently - the light is something special and I love nothing more than capturing it! We spent a lazy afternoon walking through the small lanes and cobbled streets of La Bastide d'Armagnac, not a soul in sight but it still remains to us, a very magical place.
Not without my bread!
Lazy sundaze with a beer
So the birds are out in full force - you can hear them, the country side suddenly is filled with bird song and guess who's been exploring that much more...! Coco! She is good, meaning we don't see everything she gets up to but I guess like a teenager comes home just to eat and before you've had a second to stroke her, she's out again! I guess you can take the city out of this one! We thought she was far too 'princessy' to be messing with birds and mice, little did we know... We have Spring and Summer to look forward to yet! Unlike Battersea, there are no boundaries to this garden...
New Years Eve, what more could you want... Happy Days
It was me that kept this little one up New Years eve!
So we headed to Les Gets to bring in the New Year... Stunning scenery, plenty of sunshine and blue skies, snow, snow and more snow, log fires and plenty of apres skiing... need I say more! It was an awesome start to the year and we were lucky to have had time with friends too. We drove there from here... a slight detour en route added an extra couple of hours but otherwise about 10 hours all in... a bit far but worth it. We have yet to experience the beautiful Pyrénées, which are practically on our doorstep!