Thursday, 19 April 2012

World first and other news

Les Deux Platanes is home to four Australians this week so they are exploring the area before travelling south and another ten weeks vacation in Europe. They are from the sub-tropical north of Australia and arriving in France this week must have been a bit of a shock to their systems as the weather has been cold and wet. We need the rain, so we have to take the rough with the smooth. Still, the sun has shone on some occasions for them, so they have been able to see the leaves showing their lovely bright green colours as they explore the area.

Those who follow the news here will know we have updated the wireless router making it possible to access the internet from the cottage and garden - important we think in this day of global communications. This does however pose a small problem when the walls are over 500mm thick! My solution was to build what may be the worlds first high level router mounting platform enabling the router to be near the window and so provide a good signal.
Tube from kitchen fitting, plus a disc of white melamine provides the perfect platform for the router.
I have been busy producing new signs for Les Deux Platanes so that guests locate the cottage with ease. I would like to thank a signwriting tutor at Ashington Technical College in in 1963 for giving me the skills to paint the signs.

Painting the new signs requires a steady hand - look out for the signs on the small road to Le Breuil aux Gittons
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?  OR
A bird in the cottage is worth two in the garden?

The cottage garden has a new bird box - lets hope it attracts some occupants soon.
Cottage vacant - room for 4
The garden of Les Deux Platanes should be even better in 2012 after the extensive renovations last year and over the winter. Maureen has completed the new planting and although still cold and early we can see it looks better already - this area is situated on the right hand side of the garden as you look from the cottage terrace.

The new stone raised beds have been planted with rhododendrons and azaleas in the centre and  mixed shrubs in the others. There are also roses given to Maureen for her birthday.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Visiting the spring vines

One thing is certain in life, if you have anything to do with plants and crops you will always be busy and that is certainly true for the wine makers across this beautiful region. The Loire is famous for its wine especially the white and the rose but the work to produce great wines starts with great and well-cared for vines. As part of the 'birthday' celebrations we arranged a visit to two different vineyards. Both are within 35 minutes drive of Les Deux Platanes and produce a wide range of wines including sparkling. Madam Lauron in Seigy arranged a visit to the vineyards with her son, a tour of the wine storage area, an inspection of the machinery, the bottling area and of course a tasting of all the wines. They run a small family business, just father, son and mum, but their wines are very good winning many awards in the regional wine fairs.

An explanation and inspection of the different vines, some more than 100 years old.

The vines were showing the early growth for the 2012 vintage 
Tasting the different wines in the cave
Standing in front of young M. Lauron's certificates and awards, Tim appears to be propping himself up and he doesn't drink wine!!! - the end of an interesting visit
Most people bought wine on this visit finding the price very good, a 10 litre box is 27 Euro (circa £25) and that is equivalent to 13 bottles (£1.90 a bottle). The excellent award winning rose fizz is 4,75 Euro a bottle.

We all returned with a little more knowledge and a few extra stocks for the wine cupboard!  
A map showing all the local wine regions is provided in the cottage along with guide books and other information.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

A busy seven days!

Friends from near and far gather in the garden of Les Deux Platanes prior to the birthday meal in the marquee on the rear lawn of the house. The jazz group 'Fingers in the Swing' entertained from the terrace.

So much has happened in the past ten days its difficult knowing exactly where to start. All of the activity centres around Maureens big birthday party on the 7th April, the preparations and the programme of activity we put together to make the journey worthwhile for all the guests who travelled from both near and far. On the Saturday 40 friends joined us in the marquee for the party meal but in addition different groups also participated in a visit to the pizza bar in Chatillon, the Travellers restaurant in Clion, the Logis hotel in Buzancais plus a visit to see the early growing preparations at a nearly vineyard and a picnic - wow! It would be an understatement to say we all over indulged in both fine food and excellent wine!

The preparations for the Saturday involved the erection of a 12m x 6 m marquee, not a five minute task but with the help of friends it was completed in 4 hours.
The internal decoration was done by friends from Northumberland and when complete looked fantastic.
The finished marquee was excellent and worth all the hard work. We arranged for a three piece jazz group to play before and during the meal so altogether it was a great afternoon.

We were especially pleased to welcome friends from as far away as Scotland, Wales, Northumberland and Switzerland, as well as friends from in and around Chatillon. It was lovely to see everyone enjoying themselves - even those who couldn't speak much French were having a chat with our French friends. Much 'Franglais' was spoken!

We have just about recovered from the busy week, although there wasn't much time to relax as today we have welcomed our first gite guests of the year - from Australia!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The tension mounts

Maureens big birthday is on Saturday so its a hive of activity with over 37 guests for lunch, before you think about it Maureen is not cooking although she is preparing two of the courses. We have a local catering guy coming for the other parts of the menu!
The weather has taken a turn and its now rather cold, today I had to wear my woolly hat. The grass however is growing well despite the lack of rain, this will not continue however as rain is essential for a lawn especially in the summer months.
Sadly, the lovely flowers which you can see on the flowering cherry have all but blown away, but at least we know spring has arrived. It will soon be time to plant out all the bedding plants we brought over in mid March. They are currently in the little greenhouse, trying to come to terms with being outside - which has been hot then cold. Must be quite confusing for the little things.