Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Visiting the renovated Fortifications (castle) at Chinon.

You can be sure of one thing when you choose to visit any historic buildings in mid November ......... you will encounter few tourists. Today we travelled to Chinon to visit the recently renovated chateau and castle. Other than four visitors from the USA we had the entire castle to ourselves. The entire castle has recently undergone a massive 14.5 million euro renovation and this plus all the latest visual and interactive displays provides the visitor with a wonderful overview of its history.

Château de Chinon is a castle located on the bank of the Vienne river in Chinon, France. It was founded by Theobald I, Count of Blois. In the 11th century the castle became the property of the counts of Anjou. In 1156 Henry II of England, a member of the House of Anjou, took the castle from his brother Geoffrey after he had rebelled for a second time. Henry favoured the Château de Chinon as a residence: most of the standing structure can be attributed to his reign and he died there in 1189.
Early in the 13th century, King Philip II of France harassed the English lands in France and in 1205 he captured Chinon after a siege that lasted several months, after which the castle remained under French control. When King Philip IV accused the Knights Templar of heresy during the first decade of the 14th century, several leading members of the order were imprisoned there.
Used by Charles VII in the 15th century, the Château de Chinon became a prison in the second half of the 16th century.

Full details @

Chinon is one of the many places you can visit from Les Deux Platanes.

Monday, 12 November 2012

End of the season

End of the season

Oh dear , looking at our BLOG I see that there has been no reports since early August and its now early November!!!! A lot of water has passed under the bridge since early August and the lack of BLOG postings has been down to ………..BLOG APATHY.

I was not aware such a thing existed but it appears to have struck with vengeance in the later months of this summer. Our last guests have just left Les Deux Platanes, three Australians. It’s a strange thing that we commenced the year with four Australians and ended the year with three Australians both groups had mixed weather as you may well expect in March and November! However both groups also enjoyed the log fire which apparently is an unusual feature of any Australian house.  The cottage is now being closed and ‘put to bed’ for the winter and we very much look forward to preparing it for our guests in 2013.
The town band, pompiers, gendarmes and ancient combatants made up the guard of honour.

Yesterday we participated in the 11th November remembrance ceremony and parade and associated service in Chatillon, our local small town. There was a very good turnout of locals and along with Christopher Coombes who was invited to lay the French wreath with the mayor I was invited to lay a Poppy wreath some good friends had brought from the UK. After the remembrance service and associated events the local ‘ancient combatant’s’ had arranged lunch – 9 courses including wine! The French can certainly put on an impressive meal in the local village hall. Seventy of the ancient combatant’s attended along with four English, we were very well looked after, I have to say and it was an honour and privilege to be invited.

It was a privilege to be invited to lay the Poppy wreath on the 11th November.
On Saturday 10th November we were invited to the Auberge de la Tour (a local restaurant) to celebrate the birthday of Nick another English friend who together with Janet lives a few miles from here. On arrival at the Auberge I was concerned as it was very busy indeed. Every table was booked plus an adjacent room – 3 big birthday groups plus normal customers. Could they cope with such high numbers?  As it turned out everything was just fine, great food, great service and a great evening.  The Auberge certainly seem to have improved significantly over the past few years – great news for gite guests as it’s the nearest local good restaurant.

After nearly seven years the renovations to the main house are nearly complete - great I say to myself!. I have just managed to finish the roof terrace before the bad winter weather arrives, internal decoration can wait until next spring. Its been a long hard but enjoyable slog I have to say and I am very pleased that the vast majority of the heavy work is done as I seem to suffer from more aches and pains as the years pass. Its not the sort of renovation task I will choose to start again now that I am over 60!

Roof Terrace - Work in progress - late August 2012
Roof terrace finished other than the triangular windows in the ends! Hooray!!!!!!!!!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Long time - no blog!

Sorry readers, life has been a bit hectic and we haven't got round to writing a blog. We got a text from our friends PetenSue asking if we were still in the land of the living - YES!!

So, here are some of the things we have been up to in the past couple of weeks:

After lying down in a darkened room for a night following our 'Jeux sans frontiers' (which will have a post of its own soon), we took off to Le Croisic, where our friends Michel & Chantal have a holiday home. We spent a lovely few days in their company and also that of Chantal's mother and their eldest daughter Sarah with her 2 children, Melville (2years, 4 months) and Olympe (3 months). We were able to spend time lazing on the beach, and Chantal and Sarah even managed to have a swim, although the water didn't look too inviting (green stuff floating put me off).
Le Croisic isn't far from Guerande where the salt is collected, and near there is the village of Kerhinet and La Grande Briere, which is an area of canals (not unlike an unspoilt Norfolk Broads). The village is a conservation area, and all the houses are in their original condition.The roofs are covered in reeds, so give the appearance of being thatched, but as reeds are abundant in the area, they use them instead of straw.

The interior of a cottage as it might have looked at the beginning of the 20th century

Our son Daniel arrived towards the end of July to spend a week with us prior to holidaying with a group of friends 'gallivanting' around Europe.
We always try to take time off when he is staying, and we started his visit off in style, with a visit to La Promenade in Le Petit-Pressigny. Now, discerning readers will know this is a Michelin starred restaurant and I was promised a meal there as a birthday present (from Daniel). Circumstances prevented us from going at Easter when he was over for my 'do', so we re-arranged the meal for last Friday. We were a happy bunch, as we were joined by Tim & Gaynor (who have a house in Le Petit Pressigny - lucky things) and Nick & Janet who have never been to the restaurant and took the opportunity to come along. We all had something different from the menu and it was excellent. I think Gay is going to put something on her blog ( as she took lots of photos!

We had just about recovered from our meal on Sunday, when we went to La Celle-Guernande for their Brocante. The village is very close to Le Petit-Pressigny and there are over 400 stalls. Some of the stalls had stuff on them that I thought ought to have been given away, but remember the old adage - 'One man's rubbish is another man's treasure - or something along those lines! We did buy one or two things but managed to restrain ourselves from buying anything which might get put away in the barn because 'it might come in useful'.

That brings me just about up to date, other than we finally managed to visit the Zoo park de Beauval and will post another blog about that soon.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Danger MOGS on the prowl!!!

Our recent cottage guests Trevor and Gill have sent some good photo's, I thought I would share some of them with you. The weather during their stay was reasonable so they managed to get out and explore the local region in the Morgan. In the 'Attractions in the region' section of this website I have an article entitled 'Driving in Central France from Les Deux Platanes' in which I describe the deserted roads harking back to the 1950's in the UK. So no matter what type of vehicle you drive, two wheels or four you can be sure to find some beautiful deserted roads here in central France.

The MOG visiting a local chateau
MOG & our MGF visiting the distilling man!

For the past month the official alcohol distilling trailer has been parked next to the local canal. After extracting the alcohol the 'mash' is put into the river - the fish must have a great time! Last year we managed to obtain 18 litres of eau de vie (pure alcohol) from the plums from our trees we had fermenting over the winter. This is a unique and disappearing art in the French countryside as the government are not replacing the licences as old people die. The distiller has a busy trade in the month he is based here and I hope we can continue to use the service into the future.

A good photo of the MOG at the cottage

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Preparing the games

Every year the local town of Chatillon hosts groups of young people over the national weekend in July. Our contribution to the event is to organise the 'Its a Knockout' games better know in Europe as 'Jeux sans frontiere', sorry but I have not discovered how to put the accent over the 'e' using this blog software.

This year we have five games and representatives from six countries - no doubt you will have a full report with pictures on a future BLOG posting.

A lot of testing takes place, Poppy is coming over to investigate the situation!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Wildflowers & jam!

In an attempt to support local wildlife I planted a variety of wildflower seeds on the area taken up by the large filter bed for the fosse septic system which is situated in the field at the rear of the house. This filter area, covering 11metres x 6 metres and nearly one metre deep consists of layers of gravel, special sand and volcanic rock with waste water from the house and cottage entering at one side and clean water leaving at the other side on its way to the roadside ditch.
This is the filter under construction in 2007, Poppy appears to be checking the ground for bumps!
The flowers have just started to come out in the past few days and already the butterflys and bees are visiting

The ducklings that arrived several weeks ago are growing fast and taking full advantage of the duckpond although when I took the photo they appeared to be having a rest period.

This year has been a bumper year for all sorts of fruits so jam production has been in full swing for some time. This morning Maureen has been busy making gooseberry and raspberry along with more blackcurrant.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Harvest time

The weather here in central France has at long last returned to more or less normal, its hot and beautiful so the corn is ripe and golden and the local farmers are busy with the combine harvesters. Our neighbour Monsieur Bonnamy has his own combine which is dusted off and started up every year to cut his crops in the local fields. The combine must be at least 40 yrs old. I took a photo today when he was passing so you combine harvester experts can tell me the exact decade of manufacture!
I thought a B&W photo was appropriate
Maureen has been very busy cooking meals for guests of late, last night it was Duck with Berry Lentils followed by Cherries Jubilee - this desert has been popular this year due to the Queens Diamond Jubilee I suppose?
On Sunday our French friends (Michel & Chantal) who live three houses up the road held their summer lunch. So we arrived at 12.15 and left at 11.00pm after evening dinner!!!!! Yes this is France and they do enjoy a long day eating great food and drinking fine wines with a rest in between to play a few games and have a walk.

It's a great way to integrate into the local society, and we have met many different people over the past number of years that Michel has held his summer party. John's guest on his left was Veronique who is an English teacher in Tours while I was next to her husband Alain who is a classics scholar (Ancient Greek and Latin) but who doesn't speak any English! Makes for interesting conversations.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Les Deux Platanes in late June

33c, yes that's correct, for the past two days it has reached THIRTY THREE DEGREES 'C' . Any other year 33c would be nothing to shout about but the weather this year has been so damp and cold I thought I just had to make a big thing of this great late June weather. The damp warm weather to date has been good for the garden so today, whilst our guests were out I took some photos of Les Deux Platanes garden. So all you good people who are visiting later in the year you can see what the garden is looking like in June, no guarantee it will be the same in late September!
<><> <><> <>If you 'click' on any photo in the BLOG you get a BIG photo!<> 
From the wood terrace - very green grass!
The raised flower beds
Across drive and parking
Flower tubs on cottage front
 View from the well

It won't be long until the farmers start the harvest as all the wheat is a lovely golden colour. We took a walk around Le Breuil this evening when it had cooled down and noticed everything looked ready to be picked. No doubt we will see the combines out in force in the next couple of weeks, working into the night to get everything in.


Sunday, 24 June 2012

Great weather for ducks

May and June has certainly been variable on the weather front but fortunately our area of France has not suffered the storms or very wet weather seen in the UK or northern France. The long tern forecast for July is looking much better so lets hope we see some non-stop sun for a few weeks and then we can complain about the need to water the lawns to prevent them looking brown and hard! 

The new ducklings have arrived in Madam Monique's small holding and some are even taking to the water, brave things. 
Lets stay together folks!
The two big bulls featured in our BLOG last year have returned to the field across the road along with two new friends. The three beautiful working horses are still munching grass and happily accepting bread in the field down the road and the donkey is still making a morning call in the field around the corner. Together with the geese, sheep, chickens and a few mountain goats that can be seen if you walk around the hamlet the place could be mini zoo. The frogs are still singing tunes midday and this year the cuckoo has been particularly vocal.

Menu for a relaxing holiday!

Maureen has been preparing a lot meals for guests this year especially for the night they arrive,  it makes a relaxing start to the holiday before you stock up on shopping. Full menu details can be found on the website so you can order in advance if required.

Routes to Les Deux Platanes. 
Click on image for larger view
Look on the website under 'Location' for route details

The cottage website contains details of suggested routes from Calais and northern France (boat / tunnel) to Les Deux Platanes. We do not suggest coming via Paris, if you use a SATNAV it will take you via Paris unless programmed otherwise, many years experience suggests this will add hours to your journey. Under normal circumstances it will take between 5 - 7 hours if you travel via the suggested Autoroute and cost circa 45 Euro in Tolls each way. The other route we suggest takes between 6 - 7 hours, is 45 miles shorter but takes you on major roads but avoids the Autoroute after Rouen. This time includes some short rest stops. If you require any further information regarding travel or routes do not hesitate to contact Maureen and remember if you shop at TESCO you can use your vouchers for channel tunnel travel.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Bath time

Poppy dog loves her bath time so when that time comes around she is happy to stand in her special bathtub and have a good shampoo and washdown.

There are of course four stages, the 'wetting' , the 'shampoo & scrub', the 'fight with the towel' and the drying in the sun!

I will let you decide if she is enjoying the experience!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Work and play between the showers!

Everyone tells me its the 'jet stream' , the weather should be fine and hot but the 'jet stream' has pushed the good weather south and brought the bad weather over the UK and most of France.
However life continues and the commune is as busy as ever with the local farmers trying very hard to second guess the weather so that the hay, animals and the crops survive.
Last week the local orchestra from Clion came to visit so Friday evening was spent listening to an excellent selection of tunes and enjoying a glass of wine with local pastries.
You will of course notice that the ochestra is surrounded by farm equipment and yes that's a combine harverster behind the trombone player.
The renovations of the rear wall of the house are nearly complete and I am very pleased with the result.
Its amazing what you can do with a camera, The picture on the left looks like the finished article, but the picture on the right shows that work is still underway and hopefully the roof terrace (where the blue plastic is located) will be finished before the end of the summer and the scaffolding will be down after several years!!!!
The variable weather has its benefits in that our strawberries and other fruit is available in abundance. Maureen has made 19 jars of absolutely mouth watering strawberry jam and another 8 jars of gooseberry and elerflower jam. Fortunately both gooseberries and elderflowers were available together unlike last year when Maureen had to use elderflower cordial.
Its only the end of June so I can see that the store cupboard is going to be well stocked with jams before the end of the year. Just as well we supply the cottage guests - Maureen's strawberry jam with nice fresh breakfast bread or warm croissant - lovely.
Next up she tells me it's the turn of the blackcurrants which are just about ready for picking.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Renovations continue

Despite the Jubilee and other distractions the renovation work in the house and rear house garden continues. 

The cottage garden is looking magnificent with all the planting and new beds built in 2011 and spring this year looking great for all our guests visiting in 2012.

It appears to be a very good year for roses with some stunning colours and shapes available to delight the eye.

The colours are brilliant and the quantity amazing!

The wall at the rear of the house was covered with a cement render which has now been removed using my JCB hammer drill and pointed with a traditional lime/sand mix - what an improvement on the rendering. More to follow when its finished!
Before and after, although the lime/sand pointing is still required.

Very much work in progress but certainly looking better than the cement render!
The only thing we cannot control is the weather and like the UK we are having more than our fair share of rain - an unusual start to the year to say the least. Locals are blaming the fact there are 13 moons this year, but whatever the reason, we prefer the normal long, hot sunny days!

Jubillee Celebrations continued

Its certainly been a busy time of late, pleased these Diamond Jubilee events only come around every 100 plus years, I am sure it will be the last in my lifetime. On the Monday we were invited to our English friends to continue the celebrations and watch the show put on outside Buckingham Palace. The local French 'hunt' who meet at our friends house and use the land had offered to provide the barbecue so it was all hands to the pumps to help prepare the location although as usual Chris and Julie had things well in hand. I had offered to build a back projector and screen so everyone could watch the event on a big screen. This had to work in semi daylight so after a bit of research and experimentation I came up with an opaque shower screen curtain in a black frame with the projector inside a trailor with a feed from an old satellite decoder and dish situated on a post in the garden. With Chris doing the fine adjustments a satellite was located and within an hour the whole thing was working complete with HiFi sound.. The picture was amazing, considering it was a shower curtain!

Here we see everyone gathering before the show started at 8.30pm an hour later than the UK.

It was a great evening with over 60 people with the majority French and enjoying every minute of the Jubilee.

After the events we spent several days packing away and recovering from all the excitment.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Long time, no post

Hi all blog readers

It's been a while since we posted any new blogs. The main reason is that our internet has been out of action for over a week. (Don't get me started on Orange and it's abysmal customer service!)

We are back on line now and can bring you up to date on activities in Le Breuil.

Last Sunday we held a Jubilee tea for our friends and neighbours in the hamlet. We weren't sure how the Jubilee was being received in France, but apparently we needn't have worried. We had about 30 people willing to try a typical English tea - including tea with milk! We imported Pork pies courtesy of Gaynor B who arrived in Le Petit Pressigny on Saturday evening, and I baked cheese scones and lots of little cakes. John decided we had to have trifles, so we made individual ones which turned out quite well.

We had the marquee up just in case, but the weather was kind to us and everyone turned out for the requisite 4pm startIt was a lovely afternoon and we have some really good  photos to remember the event by - including this lovely group photo of the participants. We have been presented with a framed copy which we will take back to the UK to hang as a reminder of a lovely afternoon with our friends in Le Breuil.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

New occupants!

We are very pleased to announce that as of 20th May we seem have a new family which has taken up residence in the bird house. Look out for action pics in the next weeks!
As you can see this is a very 'des res' for any self respecting bird with an eye for a quality life! - photo taken 19th May 2012
The garden is coming to life thanks to the rain mixed with the occasional warm day. We have the first flowers on the Clematis and the roses are covered with buds so June should be colourful.

This is the first year we have had so many flowers on this one

I have installed the retractable sun blind onto the sun terrace at the botton of the cottage garden so all our guests can enjoy both full sun or shade - yes I am sure that big orange ball will reappear at some point and provide heat for days on end.

The new terrace complete with retractable sun blind is starting to look very comfortable and just the place for an evening glass of wine!


Preparations are in hand for our 'Diamond Jubilee English Afternoon tea' on June 3rd for our French neighbours and friends. We already have 27 replies and I am sure more will turn up or reply at the last minute (a French thing!) Our friend from Staffordshire is bringing some real good hand raised pork pies and Maureen will be cooking all sorts of cakes and scones. We have the bunting and flags all prepared so it should be a great if not bizarre day seeing the French enjoy and celebrate the Diamond Jubilee in style.

Last week I was asked to be one of the four bearers at a hamlet funeral. It is a tradition that men from the hamlet carry the coffin on its final journey and I was greatly honoured to be asked to perform this task. As is still the case here in central France the family unit is very important and close consequently the funeral of this well respected old lady was well attended. It appears that after nearly 40 years I must be accepted in the community!