Thursday, December 28, 2006

Karen's Mum having her aperitif Christmas day

The lounge leading through to the Dining Room

We have been back home a week today. Although you may not want to read this we have not seen a cloud for the entire 7 days! The weather has been simply stunning with cold clear nights, dropping to abt minus 4 or 5 with the most amazing sunny days allowing us to have lunch out in the garden every day.

On Christmas day morning I walked to the Boulangerie which was a hive of activity. I took in a walk around the village, the bars were bustling with customers having an early morning coffee & Brandy whilst the church bells rang out 'Joy to the world'. We had drinks before Christmas lunch on the terrace. On boxing day we walked to Villars, a small village about 4 Kilometres away. I think I will be staying here for every Christmas from now on - it is so good for the spirit!

This picture was taken at 8.45am from our terrace on Cristmas morning;

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Christmas!

Well we returned safely from a real whirlwind trip of the UK covering 850 miles! It was great to see so many friends and we really had a perfect week. Thank fully the Fog only delayed our return to Marseille by an hour - we were very lucky!

Our builders finished an hour or two before we returned and they had completed the tiling of the floors throughout the Villa working flat out for the last 7 days!

It is amazing how easy it is to return to the UK and be back with friends. But I have to say its lovely to come back to the peace and quiet of our village, the blue skies and our first Christmas here. England seems to get busier and busier, the roads are hell ( as is the driving which I really noticed), it is cloudy, damp and expensive!Having said that we did a fleeting few hours in London, seeing the Lights, London Eye etc and it was buzzing with atmosphere.

Well what more appropriate at Chrismas, Mistletoe outside our gate, love and kisses from us for Christmas xx

Monday, December 11, 2006

In the countdown to our departure it has been all hands on deck today - Karen has translated over 50 property details before up loading them to the Home Hunts website. I have been painting in the Shower room and working in the garden which culminated in a huge bonfire. Johann & Dominic completed the tiling of our bedroom floor and are back tomorrow to do the grouting.

Above all though it has been a real Provencal Winters day, cold over night, minus 3, a stunning sun rise and fabulous clear sunny day with the sun warm enough to allow us to sit out and have lunch.

And that is the forecast for the week ahead - that's one of the reasons we came to Provence.

Friday, December 08, 2006

On my daily walk to the Boulangerie ( well I confess sometimes I drive - usually on route somewhere)I was amused by the number of Baguettes people buy, wherever you go people always have a baguette under their arm!

It is so French, and then I started thinking of other important 'French ' things, hence the pictures.

Our builders have managed to stretch another week, even working Saturday, thank goodness there is the deadline of Christmas and there are only 128 working hours I could have to pay them for! having said that they are doing agreat job.

Good news from one of the builders, they have generously reduced their profit margin and come up with a price in line with our expectations to build one of the houses - now we are getting somewhere. I paid 5800€, as deposit on having the water connected, representing half, to the land this week so now all we are awaiting is the Yes from the Maire.We should hear in the next few weeks.

We are decorating our bedroom over the weekend, then the floor will be retiled Monday & Tuesday, we then have to move our furniture back in, tidy up and leave for Blighty Thursday morning, leaving Johan working here ( and cat sitting) whilst we are away.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The house is gradually coming together although it is very frustrating having spent much of last weekend cleaning to see another thick layer of dust over everything, even our clothes in the wardrobe have not escaped. The kitchen is finished ( except for kick boards which follow the floor tiling).

I took advantage of yet another warm Autumn day to give the new shutters a top coat to check the colour - only 6 more sets to go!

The main bathroom is complete,

now work begins on the shower room with the rest of the villa to have all the floors re tiled before the 22nd December!

We went out on Friday with LCI a building company we are considering using to build the new houses ( if we ever get that far!), we met a French couple who are just having a house built. They invited us round to their house this afternoon where we met a Belguim couple. It was really nice to be immersed with a real French family, we played Boules ( and lost), have quite alot in common and suddenly another set of friends are made - I can see one or two evenings coming on !

We have an early start tomorrow as I have a meeting in Marseille with Home Hunts so we set off at 7.30 am, very early for us!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Well Summer has returned, lunch outside again today, no fire all week, 20 degrees yesterday. Bathroom is complete looks great. Now they start the shower room. Can't quite come to terms with the cost of building materials, 500€ at the builders merchants on incidentals, and that's with a 23 percent discount! Just like in the UK lots of bills in December, had the Electricity today, accountant yesterday, pension & medical contributions plus house taxes etc , oh well best open another bottle of wine! What is frustrating is that so many people here are not in the system, ie pay no tax, return UK tax returns rather than French, just does not seem quite right!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Well over the last 10 days winter has arrived with overnight temperatures dropping close to Freezing and daytime around 12 degrees. BUT the colours this year are truly amazing. We have been fortunate to take a long weekend off as friends have been visiting and to enjoy the incredible Autumn colours with the Cherry trees a splendid Orange and red blaze of colour against the Blue Provencal sky.

We went up Mont Ventoux Monday with Geoff & Wendy and took a bottle of Champagne as it was Wendy's birthday.The sky was so clear we could see the snow capped Alps to the East and sun glistening on the Mediterranean in the South West. Incredible!

On the house front our builders are working on Provencal time with slow progress n the bathroom front - when Johann said it would be finished by Friday I should have asked which one!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Global Warming!

What a day - I completed the Olive picking whilst Karen continued the decorating - unfortunately Johanns progress was hampered by the old plumbing so we now have a 'wet room', no water or power for most of the day either! When he said Friday he did not say this one coming!

We lunched out on the terrace again today; something we have done almost daily since we moved here in July, and the warm November is the 8th consecutive month. Today was incredible, 20 in the shade and 29 in the sun. Sadly after tomorow it could change, just in time for our guests who arrive Thursday, rain is forecast.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Good progress has been made over the last week, we have added French doors to the main bedroom opening to the terrace,

the bathroom is advancing with Johann optimistically hoping to finish it this week!!!

Today we picked 19 Kilos of Olives, which we take to the local Moulin for pressing Tuesday. We have 9 trees here of which only 3 produced Olives this year.
Apparently they produce Olives every other year, Sadly our trees have been neglected, they have not been cut for years or treated, so with a professional cut in February/March and feed we should get a bumper harvest next year, which added to the 20 trees on our plot might give us a single pressing - that is everybodys Christmas pressie sorted! Oh and by the way any help in picking would be welcome!

Friday, November 10, 2006

The advantage of builders being here is an early start! This is Sunrise! We now have 'french' doors from the bedroom to the terrace, the Blue bathroom is no more and Karen has been working hard decorating the living room. Unfortunately my arm is restricing me from some of these activities which is very frustrating. We went to the Cinema Tuesday to see 'the Queen', such a visit a sure sign winter is coming although this week has been warm dry and sunny. I spent a full day out wednesday seeing agents, quite different from my days in Walton, I drove 110 Miles, the scenary varying from vines to Cows and sheep (no I did not stop!) and the Luberon mountains and then the Alps!

Finally secumbed to doing most of my tax return which I think I have been putting off since May!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Its the 5th November - No fireworks here. Just a warm sunny day! Martin, known to many of you spent the last week here, we put him to work in the garden to earn his rent - and he did a sterling job as ever. On Friday we took a tour through the local villages Bonnieux, Lacoste & Goult.

This was for some stress releif after a visit to the bank who charged me 11 pounds for not paying my Tax Foncières Bill, ( like council tax)having rejected my Standing order instruction - Why? then being told that I have to pay 10 per cent extra on my annual bill to the the council for late payment! Letters will be issued after my French lesson tomorrow.

In between finding houses for clients, seeing Estate agents, sorting out this house & garden and preparing for the two new ones we have come up with two further initiatives to keep us occupied! translating Estate agents details - they fax them thru - we return them in English - how simple is that? and a local restaurant has agreed to display my photographs which I propose to also offer to the local 'tourist outlet' shop.

Well the week ahead sees the arrival of the European workforce, Eric our Portugaise gardener continues felling trees, Johann the Austrian builder starts felling the old bathroom and Thjis the Dutch builder will be felling our bedroom window and replacing it with French doors. The worst of it is the being European they start work at 8am!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Today, the 30th October it was so hot, a truly stunning day with a clear Provincal sky, I took these shots including the one of our village.

Friday, October 27, 2006

It is so nice walking to the vilage each day,people have time to chat, everybody acknowledges you with a good morning or afternoon, ( in French of course) and occasionally one is given a gift - this has been wine, a sauccisson and today mushrooms from the Hotel - not sure why but who's complaining!

Over the last few days I have been out house searching with two client's.I almost have to pinch myself to beleive that a I am working and b in such a beautiful area. Its a bit different driving from house to house thats for sure , these pictures I took yesterday between viewings. To add to the beauty we are experience a late summer spell with temperatures in the mid 80's - I think I have found paradise....

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The last week has been hectic to say the least! Last weekend with Richard & Joan here we went to Cassis for Sunday Lunch. The Port was still busy, the water glistening in warm Autumn sunshine.There is something quite captivating about the Coast and I love the fact that we are within 2 hours drive and yet the same distance of being able to Ski.

I have been suffering with my right arm, not being used to manual labour, the Doctor described it as Tennis Elbow, and it has worsened over the last week so I went back to the Doctor on Monday who referred me to a specialist for treatment. The referral was done by phone and my appointment was made for Friday morning, the earliest I could make it!
This is the view from Bonneiux, where our Doctors surgery is - enough to make you feel better!

I spent all day Wednesday House hunting for clients, it was very satisfying conversing in my 'entertaining French'. The language is actually the least of my worries, the hardest part is persuading agents to work with me (sharing their commission)as all they worry about is that I might view one of their houses through another agent as virtually all properties are multi listed.
Ripe for modernisation..............!

Our friends Ian & Priscilia left on Friday to start a new life in Australia. We spent much of Thursday moving their belongings to our house as we had bought most of their furniture in readiness for our future houses, hopefully not tempting fate. In fact quite the contrary, we have re submitted our planning with a thumbs up from the Maire although the formal decision will not be forthcoming until around christmas and we have secured the signatures of the 4 people involved in gaining the required mains drainage so it has been quite a successful week apart from my cortosone injection on Friday morning!

Oh well lets see what this one brings - lots planned.......

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Time has completely over taken me since my last blog. I am wondering how people fit it in on a daily basis. The kitchen is finished, well nearly , we have to tile the splash backs and floor but all in all it looks good. The lounge has been re plastered and looks much improved. After a week of building work we took off to Cassis for lunch with friends Claire & Mark who were staying on the coast.

On the Sunday we 'bunked off' again to join friends for Sunday lunch, starting at 12.30 we got up from the table at 6.30pm, my kind of lunch! lovely!

During the next week I really got into my new job as a house hunter including spending an entire day (9am to 7 pm) with my French colleague. I could not help but smile each time he introduced us as representatives of Home Hunts because the French do not sound their 'h's', so we are known as ome unts!!(and you have to becareful with that).It was especially satisfying trying to converse in French whilst he was also keen to learn from my UK agency experiece being particularly taken with phrases such as 'busy fool' and 'snooze and you loose'!

Sue & Tim came to visit and before their arrival it was like a scene from changing rooms getting cleaned up. Again it was a nice respite between work to get out and see places and be with friends. We returned to Vaison stopping on route for Degustation's in Gigondas and Vacqueyras, two of the Rhone Valley's finest wine growing regions.

With the weather still warm and sunny we took the opportunity to laze by the pool something we have actually rarely done and relax. It's a tough life but hey somebody's got to do it!

There was just 3 days between Sue & Tims departure and Karen's Mum Joan and Richard arriving. In between the 'changeover' we attended our French school, carried out some more property search work and returned the Mercedes for the fifth time , now for a complete new roof.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

We are living in a complete mess but progress is being made! The Lounge wall is partially re plastered and hopefully the chimney breast is going to be finished by Thursday.

We have totallly removed the kitchen so washing up is in the bathroom and drinking water from the tap in the driveway!

I have been to the déchetterie (dump)so many times this week I feel I am on first name terms with the crew!(still saves paying for a skip)and inevitably numerous trips to the builders merchants (I have more accounts and store cards than you can shake a baguette at!).

Our Electrician, Patrick who has a great, handle bar moustache, arrived expecting to put in two wall lights to be confronted with a kitchen with a solitary power point with cables tacked in creating the other four. I soon found that the bare wires coming out the wall, which had been connected to the extractor, were still live - try touching one with a chisel and you will find out what happens! having dampened down my now spikey hair.......... I am not sure whether Patrick was muttering merde or Mort ( death!) but all will be ready for the new kitchen tomorrow.


In between all this it was a stuuning day, 27 degrees, I took the pool cover off, cleaned the pool, dived in - wow it was 'fresh'!

Monday, September 25, 2006

We spent much of sunday assembling the new Kitchen units although typical of Ikea they have sent 2 wrong sized doors! try explaining that in french!Untypically of Provence it rained heavily all day. ( much needed though);By the evening we had cleared the Dining room and contents of the kitchen ready to receive our builders Monday Morning.

By Mid morning there was good progress the 'wings' of the fireplace had gone pictured before and after,

the wall between the dining room and kitchen had gone, and we had made 2 trips to the dump and builders merchants. Of course it would not be France with out the 2 hour lunch break afterwhich further progress was made.

The only question we were left with is why do we keep putting ourselves thru such hard work and mess - we had just got straight now it looks like a bomb has gone off - still it will all be worth it in the end!!
Saturday 23rd Sept We have not been to the market in Apt since June which seems both incredible and terrible really. It is one of the top 100 markets in France and the one of the largest in Provence.However it is packed from June onwards with tourists! thank goodness - they even have a free park and ride - but we prefer the farmers market in Coustellet on a Sunday during high season. So this weekend we ventured in, it was really nice, although we were amazed at how busy it still was - plenty of tourists and we could only just get a seat in our favourite bar where we sit with a beer and 'try' and read the paper looking like locals!

In the afternoon, Eric, our Portuguese ' tree lopper' arrived so I ended up working with him for 4 hours cutting down the neglected conifers!

As one of our last meals in this kitchen Karen served a wonderful supper of Figs with Gorgonzola with a honey sauce - pictured , Salmon with Green Beans with a white wine and creme fraische sauce with Cheese and chocolate Tarts after- fit for a King!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

THURSDAY Started work at 8 am , varnished the entire chalet, insulated the roof, finished at 8 pm knackered - this retirement lark ain't all its made out to be!

I think there must be something in the Provincal water that speeds up time! Where has this week gone? Monday started with my French lesson afterwhich I met with my first clients, a Scotish couple who have been renting here for 4 months and now wish to buy. They have retained my services to find them a house. In the afternoon I meet with the local agent to commence the search.

Tuesday Back to school from 9 am to mid day.Fellow students include a South African couple in the mid 70's, a Finish gentleman, Robert who is a Brit and has been going to the class for a couple of years, Francesca who we know and came from Guildford, and a German couple so it makes good entertainment! I usually spend the first half hour wondering what the heck I alm doing there and whether I will ever understand the Grammar!

In the afternoon we arranged with Christine, the lady who runs the Boulangerie to talk French in exchange for which we would teach her English. All went well especially the tour of the premises and the cakes served! not good for the waistline.

Wednesday I have been suffering with a bad arm/elbow so conceded in going to the Doctor.I have Tennis Elbow - just what I could do with out with so much work to do and we are about to assemble our new kitchen.The French take more drugs than any other European country and when you seen the length of my prescription you can see why! We also have to take the 'Ginger' cat to the vet as she has been pulling her fir out. I warned her that if it were more than 40€ she would have to go! ( just joking Karen). As you can see by the photo she has been accepted in to the pack!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sunday 17th September We head off to Marseille, 66 Miles from here to the centre. It is a vibrant City, busy with tourists, with fabulous archtecture the hub of which is the vieux Port

which is overlooked by the Basilique de Notre Dame de le Garde.

In the afternoon we go to the ballet at the Opera house afterwhich we people watch in one of the buzzing quay side bars

before setting off home stopping off in Bonnieux for a Pizza at one of our favourite casual restaurants which has a stunning view to the West.

Saturday 16th September After a late night we had a slightly late start to the day! we still treat weekends as weekends ie an even slower pace! We had some friends round to supper who are travelling thru Europe although have been renting here for 4 months. They have decided to buy and I have my first proper client retaining me to find them a house.