Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Heatwave Holiday

As you'd expect on a French holiday we visited a few markets...it would be rude not to.  The neighbouring town of Fontenay-le Comte has a good one on a Saturday so off we went.  It was fairly bustling and the stall holders were generally very friendly and tolerated my hesitant French with good humour.  

The indoor food market was particularly interesting and highlighted the different way that we and the French think about food.

 Outside were lots more stalls. where I was tempted by a basket.

After a café créme we wandered around the town and I spent ages in the Yves Rocher shop where they had 50% off on selected items.  I bought several products for a friend's birthday and asked if they did 'un paquet cadeau' ...another thing that I like about France.  Leaving the shop we noticed this vending machine in the street

for al-fresco fornication peut-être ?

Before heading back to our cottage we stopped at the magnificent Cathedral of Notre Dame, founded in the 12th century as an Augustinian monastery.

 L'Ile de Ré was next on our list.

 This was my 5th visit to this part of the world and for some reason....(probably the toll to cross the bridge, tightarse) I'd never yet made it there.  I'd heard many times that it was a very pretty little island and it did not disappoint.

Real estate on the island is expensive and the native population has been widely criticized for its insular nature and unfriendly attitude to immigrants.  We enjoyed a delicious meal on the quayside at St Martin de Ré and watched the affluent locals... easily distinguishable from us riff raff tourists!

We spent all day on the island in scorching temperatures learning of its maritime history and donkeys in 'trousers'!

In days gone by the donkeys worked at the salt mines on the island and in order to protect their legs from mosquitos and flies so abundant there, they wore these gingham trousers. These days donkeys in trousers are a tourist attraction.

On our way back to the village we stopped off at a fabulous brocante at Nalliers.  Regrettably I can't show you just how amazing it was because I left my camera in the car.  There was just so much there I didn't know where to start.  Best of all was the plethora of vintage sewing notions and clothes.  On another day I could have spent hours in there but on that day it was 41 degrees and I left, very hot and bothered, after half an hour with just a couple of old tins.

Later in the week we visited the coast about an hour away, it was very quiet everywhere as les grandes vacances, the French summer holidays, had yet to start.

En route we stopped off at this local dam opened in the 50's when many locals would have been employed here.  Nowadays the buildings and machinery lie redundant as the dam is computer operated and it seemed rather eery although the surrounding scenery was spectacular.

The remainder of our holiday was very laid back as France was experiencing a heatwave. Every time you turned on the telly there were warnings about la canicule and my old Renault without any a/c was sweltering.   We rested in the cottage garden and enjoyed the wildlife....the goats that appeared behind the house in the morning who regarded us quizzically, a woodpecker in the cherry tree, an inquisitive red squirrel and loads of lithe lizards.

 We read, I crocheted... and finished a blanket, drank beers galore and generally lazed around in the enervating heat.

I thoroughly enjoyed my fortnight in Vendée and would have loved to stay all summer long.

It must be time to start planning my next trip !

Monday, 13 July 2015

Vendée Revisited

Bonjour folks.
 I'm just back from a fortnight in France, well I say just, I've been home over a week now but it's taken me that long to recover from the journey!  I'm not used to driving such long distances or on the right but all went well I'm pleased to report. 

We stayed in an old cottage on the outskirts of the extremely picturesque village of Vouvant in rural Vendée

 and I thought it was rather amusing that Pa, the world's fiercest atheist, was reminded of JC ( as he calls him) every day as a Calvaire directly overlooked our accommodation.

We had a great view of the village which has been ranked the 8th prettiest in all of France!

Acanthus is everywhere

In 2007 Vouvant was declared un village de Peintres due to the many artists and sculptors who have set up residence there.  Many have galleries and ateliers and some showcase their work around the community.

Vouvant is the only fortified town in Vendée.  Built at the beginning of the 11th century, the site was chosen by William V Duke of Aquitaine because of it's excellent position.

Vouvant is steeped in history and the village is very proud of the legend of the fairy Mélusine which tells of the beautiful half-woman and half-snake fairy cursed by her mother for bad behaviour.  She was condemned to a sad immortality unless she married a loving but uninquisitive knight who agreed never to see her on a Saturday.  For on that day she had to bathe and watch her beautiful legs turn into a horrid scaly tail and if her husband saw her like this she would never again take human form.

I'm sure you can imagine how it ends... but before it did Melusine created a castle from an apronful of stones and a mouthful of water and of this just the tower remains.  

Mélusine is depicted all around the village....
 and that's her on top of the tower.

 The magnificent church is the focal point of the village not least because it chimes the hour twice, every hour of the day..... you could do without it at 3am! The octagonal bell tower and huge twin doors framed by carved stone arches are remarkable and the crypt is of the 11th century, rediscovered when excavations took place a couple of hundred years ago.

 During our stay we heard the bells of a nuptial mass, so being a nosy bugger I hot-footed it down to the church for a sticky beak.  En route, I came across the going-away vehicle in a side street behind the church.

I arrived just in time as the guests were still mingling outside the church

when someone was despatched to fetch the scooter and the happy couple zoomed off on it.

Also in the village I discovered the outdoors wash house used right up until the 1970's and this reproduction of the grotto at Lourdes inaugurated in 1958.

I never saw anyone there but by the looks of it, quite a few over the years must have been on the receiving end of a miracle!

If you can bear it, I'll be back with more pics of my Vendéen visit soon.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Jumble Joy and A Jolly Chunky Bag

It's been a while since I posted any bargains but there have been a couple of local jumble sales recently so I got myself down there.  The first was fairly disappointing and I came away with just a few books although I was very tempted by an ancient Ewbank which should have been gracing a museum rightly.  The second jumble at Copthorne Scout Hut is legendary and lengthy queues form early.  I had mentioned previous bargains to my friend Juliette who was keen to experience her first jumble so armed with copious amounts of bags, change and Vix's jumbling strategy we headed off.

Here's what I bought

Wicker hamper £1, scarf 30p,  Midwinter trio 50p, drum lightshade 50p, demi-lune table £3 and knackered old stool £1.  (River Island skinny jeans 30p and a Superdry T-shirt 30p have been despatched to the niece and nephew.)

I thought the hamper would be useful for storing some of my yarn stash which is danger of taking over the sitting room and the drum lightshade (really a lampshade and too big for my pendant fitting, but with some jiggery pokery it works)  perfect for my newly decorated hall.  The console table is also designated for the hall after some tarting up and the stool I just had to buy as we had identical ones at home when I was growing up.  Juliette and I bought one each and are in competition to see who can achieve the most radical make-over.

The subject of yarn leads me nicely to my latest make.... wanna see?

 Ta dah!

It's my Jolly Chunky Bag, I love the happy colours.... and best of all look how capacious it is!

 It's jolly pleasing!

 (btw - 99p cropped jeans - chazza)

  The pattern is an original by the supremely talented Lucy of Attic 24 and features on her blog along with oodles of other sensational patterns and gorgeous inspiration.  I must declare that I am rather pleased with it even if the leaf placement is a bit off.  I seem to have been bitten by the crochet bug this year and am already contemplating my next project which I'll have plenty of time for as I'm away on my holidays soon.  No prizes for guessing that I'm off to France and crochet will occupy me for a few hours on the ferry together with some people watching no doubt!

Before I say à la prochaine, I'd just like to say a huge 'thank you' to you all for the kind messages left on my last post after the loss of Prudy.  I noticed that some of you who don't regularly comment on my blog took the time to leave a thoughtful word and I'd like you to know how very much that was appreciated.

I'm off now to get the case out of the loft and try some of this rhubarb and ginger cake that I made earlier,..do help yourself to a virtual slice.
 Have a good week all... 

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Prudy Cat

Very sadly last week I had to say goodbye to my beloved Prue. After her ill health earlier this year she rallied for a while, but for the last fortnight she'd been eating very little and on Wednesday I could see her breathing was laboured.  At the vet's she was pronounced a 'very poorly cat' and so there was only one possible thing I could do.  She came home for the final time and is now in her resting place at the bottom of the garden. She was almost sixteen years old and therefore had had a good life but nevertheless I still felt wretched. The house feels so lonely without her, especially at bedtime, when she bounded onto my bed before settling down. And first thing in the morning there is now no one to accompany me to the loo or race me down the stairs.

She was a dear little cat, so very affectionate. Indeed, she was the best of cats.
 I will miss her terribly.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Two Wins

I've been away for a while, my apologies if I haven't visited you as often as usual but I've been having a mare with the internet.  After days of a sluggish connection, normal service was briefly resumed before my provider decided to 'work on the service'...and we're back to square one!  Reading posts takes an age and many photos are not uploading.  Plusnet, pull your socks up! 
Anyways, in other news,  it's finally finished!....the gargantuan decorating marathon that's been occupying my spare time for the last few weeks.  Granted, the hall, stairs and landing is probably the trickiest area in the whole house to redecorate but thank goodness it is looking smart again as I've just about run out of steam.  Note to self - next time, get a man in to wallpaper! 
  So busy have I been, that I've only ventured out a couple of times in recent weeks but once such occasion was a trip to The Weald of Kent Craft & Design Show set in the beautiful grounds of Penshurst Place.... as I'd won myself a couple of tickets.

Situated in the delightfully picturesque village of Penshurst in Kent, Penshurst Place is the ancestral home of the Sidney family and was the birthplace of the great Elizabethan poet, courtier and soldier, Sir Philip Sidney.  The original medieval house is one of the most complete examples of 14th-century domestic architecture in England surviving in its original location. 
The show itself was huge and craftspeople from across the UK showcased their talents... an almost never ending array of handmade gifts, ornaments, jewellery, glass and ceramics.

 In addition, there were plenty of artisan foodstuffs, woodwork and ironmongery galore...

 and a Birds and Beast Roadshow.

We sat and watched this talented duo Synergie, whilst eating our lunch

...even tots and teddy bears were digging the groove.

Most of the prices were too steep for my pocket, and as I didn't see anything sufficiently different, I came away from my day out with just a couple of pots of herbs.
Unfortunately after traipsing around the show for a few hours, time didn't allow us to visit the house but a visit back there before the summer's out is on the cards and if the queue outside the village tea rooms is anything to go by, I'll be stopping off there too.

My second recent win was a fabulous blog giveaway by Géraldine, an incredibly talented lady (she spins her own yarn from Alpaca fleece and crochets beautiful projects ) whose blog, Wool and Cats, I follow.  I was astonished at the size of the parcel when it arrived....look what was inside!

I was quite overwhelmed by Géraldine's generosity and reflected on the kindness and sharing nature of the blogging community.  There are a lot of lovely people out there in Blogland and I feel that my life has been all the richer for 'knowing' you. 

Righto, I'm away now to scrub off paint stains from my sandpaper-like hands...oh the glamour!