Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Maisons Fleuries 2016 - Second Prize - Best Gite Garden

Les Deux Platanes - 2nd Prize - Holiday cottage and gite gardens in the regional communes 2017 

Maisons Fleuries 2016 : At last the news has been released and although we were not there to collect the prize or enjoy the complimentary wine, our French friends of more than 40 years attended on our behalf. We are very pleased indeed to have been awarded 2nd prize in the regional garden competition. 

We were a runner up in 2014, missed the competition entry closing date in 2015 so to have this success in 2016 is fantastic. 

In addition to the lovely flowers as shown above we also won a lovely towel (no doubt to dry your hands after working in the garden) and 35 euro for some plants. 

There are hundreds of entries for the competition which covers a wide area if the Indre and Indre Loire region. So if you have yet to decide on your holiday you can be sure of enjoying one of the most flowery gardens in central France at les Deux Platanes.

The planning has already started for the 2017 cottage garden and no doubt as last year there will be over 450 plants arriving from the nursery in late March or early April. Follow this BLOG for further 'flower' information!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Grrrrrrr - madness!

Its not often I have a moan on our BLOG, hopefully this is the first and last time. 

The French Tourist Agency reports a drop in tourism for 2016, with Paris having a significant fall in numbers visiting the 'City of Light'. I am sure that in an effort to make the situation even worse the French Tax authority have now introduced a 15.5% 'social tax' on all rented furnished holiday accommodation. This is in addition to the normal tax levied on all income. In reality, in order to cover this ridiculous new tax, all holiday accommodation owners should increase charges by 15.5% , just what you need when tourist numbers are falling. In reality we will absorb the increase this year but 2018 will have to see a significant increase to cover all or part of this new tax. Grrrrrrr madness!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas and New Year greetings to guests past and future

Another year draws to a close and 2017 awaits. We very much look forward to the spring, birds returning and everything bursting into life once again. Maureen is already drawing up her flower order for 2017, a few new varieties for the baskets and tubs. We were once again in the finals of the regional flower garden competition but unfortunately we were away on a short holiday when the invitation arrived so missed the presentation ceremony. Drat....they always serve some great wine! 

We have held our prices once again so despite a drop in the exchange rate our charges in Pounds Stirling remain unchanged from 2015 despite the fall in the exchange rate following the Brexit referendum and inflation over the past 3 years. 

Can we take this opportunity to wish everyone good health and happiness in 2017 and we look forward to seeing some of you once again at les Deux Platanes.

Love and best wishes

John & Maureen Hindhaugh

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Thinking of 2017

November is nearly out and its time to think about 2017 although I am sure many of you will be having a busy December. The summer of 2016 was certainly a scorcher if a little late in starting. We had the best part of 3 months solid of dry sunny weather which was great for all our guests. However this gave me and Maureen a real task trying to maintain the 400 plus flower etc we planted April/May, fortunately we have an excellent well where we can pump sufficient water to keep things going.In 2014 the cottage garden was in the finals for the best 'gite' flower garden in the region, we have entered in 2016 and await the results normally announced in December.

The flower plants in April 2016 before they went into the garden and all the pots etc

A tiny selection of the flowers in the garden 2016

The 'secret' garden inspectors will have made three visits over the year so I hope they came when the flowers and grass were looking great.

So what can we all look forward to in 2017

We are very pleased that the troubles in Calais have been sorted although we have personally never encountered any trouble possibly because we always used the tunnel and this road went off before the old 'Jungle' camps location. Let us all hope that is now in the past although in our troubled world very little these days is certain.

2017 will bring no change to life in central France. Its like living in a time capsule with little changing year on year. In fact our little hamlet has changed very little indeed in the past 50 years. A few houses have electric panels on the roof but other than that its the same relaxed lazy pace that makes rural France such a relaxing location for a holiday. 

Prices in cafes and restaurants remain much the same. A full 4 course lunch menu including wine in our local 'Les Routier' restaurant has increased 1 euro (circa 80p) over the past three years and is now 12.5 euro up from 11.5 in 2015. Wine is still much less expensive than the UK, bottle of excellent champagne is 18 euro, great local fizz 5.25 euro and a very drinkable red can be found for 3 euro. 

We have been asked many times about 'Brexit' and to be honest it has not made one jot of difference other than the weaker pound. The vast majority of our friends in France are French as of course are all our neighbours and everyone is as friendly as ever, they wonder what all the fuss is about.

To only real impact so far has been on the exchange rates but I do note that the pound has strengthened significantly in the past week so hopefully it will be back to around 1.27 or more before the new holiday season commences. The exchange weakness has made no difference to the cottage hire rates which we have maintained at 2015 prices and in pounds sterling.

Look forward to seeing you in 2017

Friday, 2 September 2016

Oh the joy of food and wine ( for Pete and Sue!!!!)

The year is moving on and fortunately this brings an abundance of wine and food fairs.....oh how we suffer here in France! 

The Domaine de Navas is a very 'French' affair and it appears Maureen receives information about this event far in advance of our French friends (few of whom attend anyway)! It is held over two days, this year the weather was hot.....yes it's 37c on the Saturday so we decide to attend on the cool 31c Sunday. Unlike many of the local wine fairs the Navas event invites vignerons from many different regions so it is possible to buy a simply gorgeous red from a producer from St Emilion who has only 3.5 hectares, Champagne, sweet whites, fabulous rose and most things in between. In addition to the wine tasting a very good 5 course lunch is offered for only 12 euro (about £9) which appears to be taken by everyone attending including the stall holders.

Visitors sampling some of the wines
Personal explanations from the vignerons
Lunch under the trees
We joined other French visitors for lunch. the only 'English' at the event!
There is also a ceremony to 'induct' new members into the very prestigious 'vignerons' guild.  This year two new members who must be true craftsmen of the vines had to go through the ceremony. 

Two new members have to drink half a bottle of wine ... and repeat after 'me' ..blah, blah
They receive a certificate which is highly regarded
Maureen snuggles up to Patrick, an existing member of the vignerons society and an old friend
So after a stressful day sampling wines, buying a few bottles, enjoying a lovely lunch under the trees in excellent company we had to leave, yes its one difficult life at times here in central France but someone has to do it! 


Sunday, 21 August 2016

Cluck cluck, Quack and baaaaaa!!!!

I am sure you will enjoy the recent photo's of the two Dutch girls who were staying in the cottage with grandma and granddad feeding the neighbors animals whilst she was away on a weeks holiday. Sophia and Evita were absolutely delightful sisters, credit to parents and relations and like the majority of young girls enjoy animals.

Feeding time and everyone arrives!

The girls enjoy the animals and never missed TV or computers all week!

A chicken nesting in the food bin!!!!

Feed me, feed me - an opportunity to see sheep real close up!

And do not forget the chickens

It was 28c plus most days so all the animals need lots of water from the well.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Hot Hot Hot!

After a slow start to the year the weather mid-July and August has been very good, constantly in the mid to upper 20's with many days in the low 30's. The day for the annual hamlet mechoui was warm and fine so we all had a wonderful if rather long day. 

As usual the two sheep were dispatched and prepared and set to cook over the barbecue in the early morning. Maureen had been busy for days preparing courgette gratin for the 80 plus expected to attend and cooks throughout the hamlet were also busy with all manner of menu items.

Ladies preparing dressed salad
Tables erected and set complete with flowers from our cottage garden
Sheep cooking on the barbecue
And we are off.....a long day of food, games and wine!
My good friend of 40 plus years Michel at the Mechoui

Moving to Spain, Claire says goodbye to Alaine our neighbour

Although Maureen and I were there for breakfast the main day kicks off at 12.00 noon with aperos followed by starters, trou Normand, main course (lamb or chicken), cheese, deserts all for free if you live in the hamlet. After the midday meal which finished at 18.30hrs......yes that's 18.30 hrs the cards and boules competition began. The boules went on until 23.30 hrs and the 'evening' meal began. The day finished at 02.30 hrs - a strong constitution is required to survive the days events.The following day the few faithful workers arrived to clear up and stay for lunch to finish off the magnificent scraps!

This week we have Dutch guests in the cottage, two grandparents with two delightful grandchildren. The girls have enjoyed helping me feed the neighbours sheep, ducks and chickens as she is away on holiday plus they have enjoyed some fresh eggs for breakfast.

They had some local Dutch relations visiting and asked if Maureen could prepare and supply aperos when the relations arrived. Maureen prepared some tasty morsels:

Aperos dinatoires

Tartare de tomates et concombres

Filet de poulet grille et confit d’oignons

Pailles au fromage à la crème et au pesto
Petit tartines :
Saumon et aneth 
 Poulet piquant
Pate de campagne
Roulés à la saucisse garnie de pavot et sésame
Tiramisu aux abricots et amaretto

Some of the aperos being prepared.
 There have been a number of houses in the hamlet bought and sold over the past few months, one belonging to Bob and Claire who have been here in France for 12 years after moving from the UK. They have moved to Spain for a life of all round sun especially in the winter. They have been good friends and we wish them the very best for a new life in Spain.

And off to Spain they go!