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!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Hot weather

Its been a bit slow in starting but the summer has well and truly arrived so our guests here at le Deux Platanes can enjoy the garden, shade from the two magnificent plaine trees and the two terraces. It is however a constant task to keep all the flowers watered especially when the temperatures reach 30c plus. Once again  this year we have entered the regional holiday cottage flower garden competition and we hope our efforts will at least allow us into the finalists. The secret judges have, according to neighbors been twice already and Maureen did spot a lady taking a photo from the other side of the fence....was this a secret judge?

There is nothing better than enjoying a lazy breakfast on the lovely terrace directly in front of the cottage. A good local baker is highly respected and we have one of the best in Clion and another two in Chatillon. The French are extremely loyal to butchers and bakers and so we are to ours. We believe the ficells and viennoisserie are the best and our regular pre-breakfast trips to buy bread etc often means our guests have very fresh bread etc hanging on the door handle when they awake in the morning.

We are currently offering 10% off all 2017 bookings for the first week if reserved before the end of November 2016 and our prices are staying the same for 2017.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Gilbert and Sullivan - flowers that bloom in the spring!

Yes we are now leaving the spring weather behind and hopefully summer has arrived?  This spring has not been the best on record here in central France however the 400 plus tiny plug plants bought in April are now well established in the cottage garden and they do look magnificent. Many are still to come out or develop further. We have once again entered the regional competition for the best holiday home garden and hopefully we stand some chance.....we live in hope. The many gardens that enter the competition are judged by visiting 'secret' persons unknown however we did spot a couple who arrived last week and they took notes and a photo.....was this one of the secret visits?

The garden has two terraces for guests to use, this one with a canopy

The wall outside the cottage complete with flowers and 'model cottage'

 Our photographer friend Peter was here recently so we have taken the opportunity to take a range of new higher quality photos of the cottage that will eventually go onto this website and also onto the other websites we use for publicity. I have included a small number of the new photos below.

Note the strategically placed bottle of wine!

The fireplace in the cottage, not required as the temperature today is 27c

Repainted gates now compete with small painted cottage

The cottage 'Rose Room' . House slippers and dressing gowns are provided!

The 'Blue Room' with French style bedding
A new addition for 2016 is a wine barrel and two vines

Maureen as you may have spotted also offers meals as required. This year many guests have requested a meal from the menu (download from this website and available in the cottage as hard copy) . Last weeks guests requested a dinner on arrival and selected: 

Amuse Bouche – Maureen’s surprise !

Avocado & prawn salad with walnut oil dressing
Fresh salad leaves from our garden, avocado tossed in lemon juice and large prawns all with Maureen’s special walnut oil** vinaigrette.

Magret de Canard with Berrichon lentils
Classic French dish consisting of a generous planche fried
French duck breast thinly sliced and served on a bed of locally
produced green Berrichon lentils** gently cooked with garlic,
lardons and fine onions


Fruit tartelette
A traditional French glazed tartlet served with cream or crème fraiche or ice cream. accompanied by a small glass of Coteaux du Layon**

Avocado and prawn salad

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Plants arrive!

Our first guests for 2016 have been and gone and although the weather was far from perfect they enjoyed the stay and maybe just as well as the lady had a recently broken foot and was ordered to rest it. 

However everything is now gearing up for garden 2016 preparations and the plug plants arrived last week - all 470 of them so Maureen has been busy replanting them into larger pots so they can grow larger and stronger in our small greenhouse.

This lot should look magnificent in the cottage garden, will it be enough to win the regional gite garden competition? 
Its still rather cold and these plants are small so they will need a few weeks TLC in the greenhouse before planting out into tubs, baskets and flower beds. 

Our vegetable garden is currently having a major renovation, and I stress the word major!  Everything has gone and we are starting with a blank canvas. We will be installing raised beds, paths and other areas for fruit bushes etc in an effort to make the entire area much more manageable. In October 2015, after we removed all existing structures and plants one of our local French neighbors came and turned the area over with a plough in preparation for the winter weather. This week my French friend came with his small tractor and rotavator and turned it over again.

This certainly saves time compared to a spade although we did spend time hand digging to remove stones and other debris. 

Now that's loads better!
Of course only in France do you find neighbors with tractors large and small, excavators and all manner of heavy duty equipment and all happy to help out when called.The guy driving the tractor is Michel, we first met at Leeds Carnegie in 1972 and have been friends ever since


Friday, 15 January 2016

Looking forward 2016

With a new year comes a requirement for new BLOG postings, unfortunately this time of year there is very little so say but never the less we can still look forward and do some planning or maybe stargazing for the 2016 season.

Some of you will be aware that unlike the UK, summer 2015 in France, especially south of the Loire was magnificent. As you can spot from some of the guest comments on this website 30c was a common temperature with the warmest temperatures pushing the high 30's. This contrast between the UK and France was I believe down to the jet stream which was hovering or should I say 'stuck' over the bottom end of the UK. Will 2016 be similar to 2015, its impossible to tell but it's certainly possible so we will plan for another glorious summer.
Wallace and Gromit  had a hot summer in the cottage garden

Maureen tells me that she has already started to draw up the mammoth list of plug plants to order for the gardens. We have them delivered to France from a nursery in Staffordshire, Maureen then brings them on in her small greenhouse before eventually planting them out in the garden. In 2014 Maureen was a finalist in the best regional 'gite' garden competition, unfortunately in 2015 we missed the closing date for entering the competition but we will enter in 2016 and you never know, we may have a chance of winning.

The French look for any excuse to hold a dinner or celebration that involves eating and enjoying the good wine from the region. We have also fallen into this mode, and why not as its great fun, great for the community and an excuse to bring all the neighbors and friends together. We are currently searching for excuses, the Queens 90th is on the list for starters!

Le Breuil aux Gittons is a small hamlet of 32 houses or small farms spread out over an area of countryside. During the last few years we have seen a number of younger couples come to the hamlet, great news as they bring new vitality and ideas.

Ok, thats it for post number 1 2016.