A week in Gascony
Saturday 7th April
The next ‘depart’ – I leave London & begin my journey to Gascony with Dotty the Jack Russell. The journey to Abbeville is easy, a young Dutch boy called James (aged 7) opens my car door on Eurotunnel and proceeds not only to stroke Dotty for the duration of the journey but to share his life story with me, until arriving in Calais when his sister comes to retrieve him, it certainly makes the time pass quickly.
Sunday 8th April – Abbeville to Ladevèze-Rivière
Hours of driving and endless motorways. Thankful for the lack of traffic and for some Daphne duMaurier talking books which fill the journey. Weather = Fog x 2 hours, Sun & Cloud x 4 hours, Rain x 4 hours. Phew – arrived safely – food, hot bath, bed, sleep. The tree frogs are in full chorus and the night is clear and starry….beautiful and happy to be here.
Monday 9th April
I awake to the chorus of birdsong, make tea and take 15 minutes to practise Pilates with the windows wide open and the curtains blowing in the breeze (ok its raining – but the air is certainly fresh!!)
Builders arrive – Kevin 1 & Kevin 2 – I’m happy to see them and they set to… knocking a hole through the ‘green’ bedroom wall. This involves a lot of drilling and the appearance of a new ‘rockery’ on the driveway as the boulders they remove will be used to re-build the barn wall. The house begins to fill with a thick film of dust… there is simply no avoiding it. I meanwhile busy myself with some hot water to remove a frieze from a bathroom wall, polyfilla, furniture removal and then the Plum paint! Wow… quite a statement that bathroom is now!
Tuesday 10th April
Repeat of Monday – however today is warmer and breakfast, lunch and supper are eaten outside. Lots of tea & coffee for the the builders (I have decided that when in France – Coffee has to be good & Hob nobs are definitely off the menu!!) and today Patrick (our gardener) arrives to help with the painting – the grass being far too wet to cut today. Kevin 2 is English and is delighted to discover that he has PG Tips on tap!!
Wednesday 11th April
Shower, pilates, breakfast, I sip tea and stare at the amazing view of the snow capped mountains – the porridge isn’t quite so romantic but necessary for the day ahead… and then by 08.30 I have six men on site! Patrick returns – with his paintbrush, thankfully he is painting & repairing the window frames (which HE last did 18 years ago!) Kevin and Kevin (plus Lilly the dog – keeping Dotty company) arrive early. And M Escarreau + 2 – come to move the straw in the barn which will be converted into a Pilates/Yoga studio – SOON. The said Straw has been in place for well over 20 years so is no good to man nor beast. It is loaded onto a trailer and taken through the gates to the field at the back of the house where they set light to it… then re-load until the barn is empty. They leave, the inferno burns with no-one watching or worrying about it for one second… so I decide not to also. By the time I go to bed the straw has burned to nothing. I have to call M Escarreau to ask him to repair the fence he has broken to access the field – Can you not do this? he asks. So I explain that I am neither big enough nor strong enough to do so, nor do I have the correct tools… he agrees to return ‘demain’.
Thursday 12th April
Today – peace reigns – the builders I discover do a 3 day week (this work/life balance thing is starting to give me strong messages…) Patrick returns – but on the strike of 12 noon – he leaves – its lunch time! See you Monday are his parting words. I have now completed the Plum bathroom and have moved on to the Salon which goes from Duck egg blue to Walnut… tis quite a change!! Dotty and I go for two lovely walks today – heady scents from wild flowers and the warmth of the sun are a total joy… happy to take some time to absorb the atmosphere and surroundings.
Friday 13th April
Pilates – today in the ‘new barn’ (ok the wood is a bit dodgy, but the view of the sunrise and the sound of birdsong – unbeatable!), tea, breakfast… peace. No artisans on site today so Paintbrush down its going to be an outdoor day… I sweep, I dig, I rake, I weed. Then I go to the garden centre and buy trailing geraniums, geraniums, herbs and compost. I plant! The hydrangea and the Clematis which I bought from Bedford I plant by the pool. The winter cover is ‘off’ and the pool is being ‘shocked’ ready to open for our first guests in 3 weeks time. I have a herb garden and the troughs at the front of the house are ready for summer. There’s something about the smell of geranium leaves that shout ‘SUMMER’ on so many levels.
Saturday 14th April
Pilates in the barn, breakfast, walk and then set to work… onto the second Salon today – It’s Saturday so I am missing my Nordic Walking group! A great excuse to take Dotty for 2 reasonably long walks, up to La Cloche de la Madeleine where the colours of the wildflowers are stunning and the views of the Pyrenees simply breathtaking. Back to my paintbrush and roller… oh well!
All in all not bad for a first week in Gascony…. #lovingit #freshair #whatdayisit #mountains