Home From Home
The first sighting our new accommodations came after a bumpy ride down a very long driveway. We could see white wooden gates at the end, but then the drive took a slight right turn and we entered through another set of gates. The driveway was grassed all the way down one side, with trees and bushes some of which were just starting to flower. It had been freshly mown, but I looked out the window and thought, ‘Marcel is going to be busy’. We parked in front of a large barn and walked towards the house. There was a lovely covered veranda with sofas and a dining table, with the rambling roses around the arches and the customary vines all over the house. The pretty periwinkle shutters and lace curtains were the décor of the quintessential French country mansion. There were rusting iron tables and chairs dotted throughout the garden, stone pots with geraniums and ivy, trees dropping fruit, and lots of lawns! We knocked on the large wooden door, but no reply. We could hear dogs barking and called out, still no answer. Had we arrived at the right place? After walking around the back to the pool area we saw a gentleman wearing a Panama hat, sitting with his back to us and I think he was snoring. Not for long however, as the dogs got up, started barking again, and a lady hung out of one top window and greeted us. Yes, they were expecting us.
After the usual introductions we walked down another long lawn area, carpeted in buttercups and daisies, to our little cottage. First impressions were favorable, there was once again the lovely ivy clinging to the dark burnished yellow walls, flagstone paths, a small veranda and a heavy wooden door. We entered the house directly into the kitchen and living area…. it was old, and quite cool inside, which would be great in the summer, but for now the stone walls felt a little cold. Originally it was the wine storage area, where barrels upon barrels of wine were stored. None here now, but we would be working on that. While the kitchen had cooker, two fridges, a freezer, dishwasher and, in fact everything you would need in a kitchen, the walls and beams of the building were rustic, very rustic and the complimentary cobwebs blew gently as we walked through to the other rooms. The floor was nicely tiled, which was cool to walk on – again, good for the summer, not so much at this time, as the temperature had dropped – woolly slippers would have been a good item to pack. We went through to the bedroom and ensuite bathroom. Again, everything you needed, two closets that reminded me of my grandmothers’ bedroom, a dressing table and a desk. The bed was nicely covered and turned out to be very comfortable. The bathroom had a shower and vanity unit, toilet and a heated towel rack which we came to worship in these early spring days and nights! The fireplace in the main area was another item we learned to cherish in the first weeks when the temperature was a little low. Marcel, kept the fireside burning, collecting logs, although luckily did not have to chop them! There were two more bedrooms, and another bathroom, with tub, a sink, which we think may have been an adapted trough used in the wine making process, and a toilet that had a lovely view of the washing machine. One last room that we came to call the ‘gateway to hell’ was a storeroom. The light switch to the room was across the other side, so it was always dark on entering and leaving. This is where there were tools, a fridge, the ironing board, a wine rack and a rather ominous looking door which was heavily curtained, and which we left well alone. We put the recycling in here and entered only when necessary!
Once the owners left, we set to, unpacking, checking out the equipment in the cupboards, finding the electrical outlets, which were scarce, but adequate and investigated the wifi, and TV. I mentally started my ‘to do’ list and the next day we set about with vacuum, mops, dusters, rearranged rugs and furniture, and generally spent the day ‘nesting’ as all us women tend to do when we take over new territory. Laundry was high on the list and I’d forgotten how much longer the European washing machines take to wash. One load was in the washer for a couple of hours and I thought it would take me a week to do all the laundry. I did manage to find a shorter program, but I’d also forgotten how much whiter things seem to be when they come out of these washers. There was no dryer, and I hate to say, but I was so excited about being able to hang the washing on the line to dry outside in the fresh, clean air. Pegging the clothes on the line, brought back memories of my childhood, and the fresh smell of the air-dried linen. I was also reminded, days later, how dependent on the weather I now had to be when deciding to do laundry. I vividly remember those days when my mother would shout out as soon as a black cloud came over, to go get the washing in before it rained! I was so overzealous with the laundry; I broke the washing line and Marcel had to repair it. It hung from a beam that was part of a building in the grounds, which was the original farmhouse. I was a little skeptical about putting another hook in the wood and had images of this ancient building which had stood for so many years being pulled down by my underwear! We did venture inside a few steps, it was full of wood, weeds and had a rather rickety staircase which lead to who know where. The outside walls along one side had been propped up by stone buttresses and it looked like a substantial gust of wind might topple the whole thing. It’s a beautiful building to look at, with wattle and daub, again in a lovely golden yellow. Ivy and roses surround the walls and is great area to catch the wind – hence my washing dries really quickly!
Along with the washing line, the wifi, and the showerhead, Mr. Fixit got busy with the power washer cleaning the patio and the flagstones which were lethal in the wet weather and was having a ball sorting through all the tools in the ‘hellish storeroom’ and the large barn which housed the ride-on mowers (more on that at a later date), wheelbarrows, and all kinds of gardening equipment. He also found several boules sets, so we will be enjoying those in the late summer evenings.
As the days have gone by, we’ve settled into the house. Of course, any of you who know us will understand that as we sit eating our meals, we pick it to pieces and our conversations start ‘If this were mine I’d……..’
In our minds we’ve repainted, retiled, replaced, fixed and rearranged everything, but of course it’s not ours, but we’ve made it our own for this next few months. We have a bright sunny spot in the mornings for our breakfast, the patio outside in our private yard for lunch and dinner, unless we are out, a spot to sit and relax in the shade and read or nap, a spot to have a glass of wine and see the gorgeous Pyrenees mountains in the distance and last but not least another view where we can sit and watch the sunsets in the very late summer evenings that will soon be here.
We are enjoying the log fire on the chilly nights, and although we’ve had a run-in with the septic tank and a stinky drain, all in all, we are very happy in our little cottage, with the aroma of the ubiquitous roses bushes wafting into the house, along with the bees, flies and all kinds of other creatures we’d forgotten about. We wake up to the sounds of birdsong, a cockerel in the distance, cuckoos, woodpeckers and each morning there is a Peter Rabbit in the garden munching on the dandelions.
With wine, candles and flowers on the table at every meal …. Life is good….
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