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Here we are, coming up to the end of another year here at Le Chant d’Oiseau. Next year will be our 9th here, and we’ll have outlasted the previous two incumbents by two years. We safely negotiated the seven year itch, but not without scratching lots!

Sad news came in the form of an email a few days ago from Sue Higgins, to inform us of the sad death of her beloved husband, Terry. Terry & Sue were the first English owners of Le Chant, purchasing in 1990/91. They pretty much laid down the foundations of what Le Chant has now become. They set the tone with neighbours too, becoming great friends with our own good friends, Nicole & Lionel, and la famille Douaire. sue took on the task of teaching Lionel & Nicole’s son, Loic, English on a part-time basis when he fell behaind at school due to illness. We were in turn saved a couple of times by Loic being able to speak our language when we first arrived. That’s a legacy left by Sue & Terry. We in turn have tried to do our bit too, teaching Sylviane’s grandaughter, Julie, the basics of English too, and watching proudly as her own grades improve. terry & Sue came from Yorkshire, and they integrated well into this rural french life. Just this past September, we had a visit from one of thier guests, who has actually been here at some time or another during the last three English owner’s residences. He reminisced about Terry & Sue fondly, and we could relate directly to what he was telling us. Many people who now live in the area stayed here whilst their own house purchases were going through. Some have contacted us to pass on their condolances to Sue. We certainly learned a thing or two from them and they became regular visitors, and good friends to us in our own tenure here at Le Chant. Terry was much loved for his humour and he will be very much missed by all who knew him.

One of the things that Le Chant is known for are the many & varied species of trees that grow here. This in turn attracts a vast array of birds. Many different species (over 70 have been counted on site alone!) make their home here. This year though, out of a need to make safe the campsite for guests, and to improve our own lives here, we decided that some serious culling was necessary. Some 10 trees have been felled, or trimmed in the past couple of weeks, with three more getting the chop tomorrow! We’ve worked hard to re-use much of the timber we’ve gained and we’ll have a few surprises dotted around the site this summer for guests to use! Keep an eye on our facebook page for details and pictures soon!

This year also saw my 50th birthday! Yes, it’s official. Now that I’ve crossed the line, I’m allowed to be ‘officially’ curmudgeonly! So watch out! ;) The day was just lovely, with a mass of pressies and cards waiting for me with a lunch in Saumur at one of our favourite places, the Pot de Lapin. This was followed by a surprise flight from the aerodrome at Saumur to Mouliherne to overfly our home. It’s actually really difficult to follow a route from the air as everything looks so different! I don’t think we fully appreciate just how heavily forested the area is! Still, we found it and pointed the pilot in the right direction. we flew low enough to wave, and be waved at, by family and campers down below! Some even took pictures of us as we circled!

Other exciting news is that our eldest son, Liam, is due to be married here next year. He and his fiancée, Jenna made a trip over to see us a couple of weeks ago from Cornwall, where they live. we saw vicars, churches, hairdressers, florists and catering people all in the space of a few days. We ate out, we ate in. We drank lots of fizzy wine just for research, you understand? All too quickly, it was time for them to head back home to Kernow, with the promise to return in the New Year. It was just lovely to have our nest full again, with all three of our kids and their lovely partners. Even though it wasn’t for long. The plans for the wedding continue despite the distance (thankyou facebook), and we’re gradually getting more & more excited.

We have so many people that visit us with their bikes, or borrow one from our motley fleet, that we thought it high time that we bought decent biked of our own. So, taking advice from a guest who has subsequently become a great mate, I invested in the first road bike I’ve owned since I was in my teens. Syb was duly presented with a new bike for her birthday too! We kind of decided that we needed to keep fit during the off season, and cycling was a great way to do just that. I’ve loved cycling as a spectator sport for years, and we’ve seen the Tour de France a few times living here. This summer, a stage of the ‘most beautiful race on earth’ passed once more through our home commune of Mouliherne. We had a packed site and gites, so most people found themselves swept along in the excitement of it all, and had the most fantastic time. More on that in a separate ‘highlights of the year’ kind of post!

My bike, ‘Wosie’, has well over 1200kms on her ‘clock’ now, and Syb’s ‘Frankie’ (It’s a Nakamura Valley, hence Frankie) isn’t that far behind. Wosie is a B’Twin Triban 3 from Decathlon. I highly recommend one to anyone thinking of getting back on a bike, or indeed, just starting out. It’s a comfy ride on a well built and sturdy (but not too heavy) frame, especially with upgraded wheels and tyres, as mine has. One of the highlights for me was to ride into Saumur & back one Sunday afternoon, purely on a whim. It was so easy, effortless (he lies). In fact, the outward trek was in fact exactly that. The return, however – well that’s a different story. One again for another ‘blog. But – since then, Wosie, Frankie, Syb & I have become good pals. Our fitness and endurance levels have certainly improved and we’ve lost weight too. Bonus! All we need do now is build on this into 2014, which will see a few more ‘challenges’ realised, I’m sure!

That’s about it for now, apologies for leaving such a long gap between ‘blogs, but as you can possibly tell, we’ve neither been idle, nor unhappy.

Until the next time, au revoir.

With grateful thanks to our good mate Jon at Zonkey, we’re now up & running with the new-look website, on a WordPress theme, with a new host. Hope you like it, and we hope you’ll keep on clicking to see future upgrades we have planned.

In other news, we’ll be back ‘blogging soon – despite the attentions of our Little ‘friend’ – Hello, Terry! ;)

See you all soon!

Here we are, Sunday the 6th May, 2012 and France has voted in a new president. I suppose M. Sarkozy should have seen this one coming a mile away. Never the most popular man among the electorate, he’s systematically shown himself to be arrogant, conceited and perhaps a little power-crazy. He’s used (and abused) the French treasury to give himself and Mme. Sarkozy-Bruni the kind of lifestyle his subjects could only dream of.  France isn’t a rich country. It’s quite a poor one in many ways, still very much reliant on agriculture than big industry, certainly in our part of it in any case.

We’ve seen many local commerces close down because of policies implemented by him and his government. We’ve seen the banks being made to tighten their grip after being bailed out by the Sarkozy administration to the tune of untold millions of euro. Our own bank has gone from being a busy little market town bank, where you dealt with a team of tellers sat behind a non-protected counter, and you passed the time of day whilst they counted your cash, to more of a ‘drop-in centre’ type affair. It now has all the charm of a video hire store. Is this just progress, or is it the bank not being able to afford the kind of service it used to give?

M. Sarkozy famously has a jet that carries him far & wide and at his insistence, it now has a bread oven on board. Yes, a bread oven. It bakes fresh baguettes for our pres. when he’s away from his own local artisan boulanger. One hears these rumours and thinks, “nah…”. But apparently, it’s true, and well-documented in a breakdown of costs I read a short while ago. The upgrades demanded by M. Sarkozy ran into millions of euro.

So. We have a new president. M. François Hollande. What do we know of him? In our own case, not very much, only what we read in the papers, or see what our French friends post about him on facebook. It appears he already earns more than the current, or should I say, most recent incumbent of the Élysée Palace. So he’s effectively taking a paycut. Why, you might ask? Possibly because he’s about to become one of the most powerful men on earth, peut-etre? Possibly because being such a powerful man may just attract a Carla-a-like of his very own? Who can say?

He promises to freeze fuel prices for the next 3 months, which is a good thing. Especially for those of us (which must be the majority of France) that live out in the sticks and rely on our own cars, rather than any hope of a decent public transport network. Let’s see if he changes the much-publicised increase in TVA due here this autumn.

‘Plus ça change plus c’est la même chose’, springs to mind though.

Until the next time, au revoir.

Twice a year I visit the UK to see my family that still live there, in the town I was born, raised, grew up in and started my working life in. Twice a year I get to note the differences between ‘home’ and home. Twice a year I get back ‘home’ with these differences gnawing away at me.
So what are these differences? The biggest, single thing that I’ve noticed is the amount of debris in the streets. That’s what I want to rant about here. Litter not just in the streets, but in the countryside too. Driving through the New Forest, I was absolutely staggered to note just how much rubbish there was strewn around. The ubiquitous New Forest Ponies were grazing at the sides of the roads, little more than country tracks, really, and I couldn’t even begin to count the numbers of plastic pop bottles. Empty crisp packets and plastic wrappers abound. What is that all about? This is a National Treasure, ladies and gentlemen. It’s somewhere to be proud of, to take your kids to, and marvel at the landscape, unchanged in millenia. It isn’t a dumping ground for your unwanted trash. It is a place to be nurtured, looked after and guarded jealously, because there’s nowhere else quite like it.

To take a photo, you have to look through the viewfinder and ‘see’ what else is in the shot. Then you have a choice. You either remove the rubbish strewn around by hand, collecting someone else’s cast-offs, bagging them up to be disposed of in a bin later. Or there’s Photoshop.
I prefer the former.
It wasn’t just the New Forest. Driving on the motorways, I was all too often distracted by the sheer volume of rubbish on the embankments, wondering how on earth it gets there? Do people just throw this stuff out of their car windows as they’re driving merrily along? Do they even stop to think what happens to it? In fact, what DO they think happens to it? Do they imagine an army of elves appearing to ‘magic’ it all away (to the New Forest) in the dead of night? Or, do they just think ‘someone’ else will do their dirty work for them?

Rubbish in the streets

A visitors view of a UK town.

Think about this logically. If everyone did as I do, there’d be a fortune saved on collecting this crap which may then go towards something more useful, like putting more policemen on the beat in your towns, or creating a few more beds in your hospitals. It may even go towards better lighting in areas that are targetted by muggers, thieves and rapists in YOUR towns.

So what is it that I do? it’s simple – I just collect MY rubbish and throw it in the passenger side footwell, or I carry a plastic carrier bag for the purpose and use a bin when I stop. Or, as is more usual, when I get home again, and then put MY rubbish in the bin there.

I suppose one of the problems is that there’s simply not enough bins around, and when there are, they’re already overflowing with human detritus. Packaging is one problem – there’s just too much of it. Less blister packed fast food, and more cellophane please? I know that when our eldest son worked for McDonalds for a short time in his youth, they had a rota for staff to scour the immediate environs for litter bearing their name, and to bag it up and bring it back to the store. That’s nice, and a responsible attitude to take. But what about the millions of fast food outlets in every town and city across the land? What’re they doing?

Another problem, and one I have personal experience of, is terrorism. Yes, terrorism. In many airports and train stations, as well as large shopping centres, you’ll now struggle to find somewhere to drop your litter. Why? because of the ‘threat’ of a bomb being hidden in the bins. It’s true. So, not only do we live in fear of an Islamic backlash on the ‘civilised’ western world, we have to drown in a tidal wave of crap created as a direct result of that fear, because as a society, we’re too scared to install bins on street corners anymore.

Also, there must be armies of men employed by local councils to try and keep the streets clean, yet here in France there’s usually just one or two employed by each commune, and they do litter collection on a very part-time basis. There just isn’t the same amount of it strewn about. Sure, there’s some – especially in the bigger towns, but nothing like the amount I’ve seen in the UK. And, in my opinion, the problem’s becoming worse each time I visit.
It has to start with the parents and the schools. It has to be a mindset instilled in the very young. But before that, we have to change the mindset of the generation that is currently creating the problem. How do we do that? I don’t have a clue – I’m just thankful that my parents taught me the values I grew up with, and passed on to my own kids. They, in turn I’m sure, will pass those values on to their own kids. It’s a start.

Notice

Notice in the New Forest.

Until the next time, au revoir.

Happy New Year.

First of all, let me wish you all a Bonne Année. Pleine de bonne choses pour vous et votre famille.

I suppose I’d better re-cap last year before moving on to a whole new one? Well, we had a great season, stuffed full of lovely people that came and spent a while (or longer) here at Le Chant. Some promising to return, others having already booked for this summer. Those that came this year having been previously will have noticed some changes. Those that return this season will notice a few more as our plans for the place come to fruition.

Last year we upgraded the site electricity supply, providing a beefed up supply for all and lessened the impact upon our poor gite guests in Chardonneret in the event that the site supply tripped, in the process. Ever since we’ve been here, the only way to re-set the site supply when it trips is to access the baby gite and press the reset button. It’s a very simple thing to do, not in any way dangerous. Not a problem at all when there’s no-one in the gite, but once it’s occupied, then it became an intrusion for guests and an embarrassment for us. With only one exception though, we can honestly say that everyone we’ve asked to re-set the box has been happy to do so, putting the ‘job’ down to one of the vagaries of ‘life in France’. Indeed, we’ve been astonished to learn just how often the leccy trips in the UK too!

Anyway, after alot of thought, and after uncounted calls to EDF, we arranged for the supply to be upgraded, and for the mains switch to be positioned outdoors, and back in our control in case of trips. we instigated all of this in Frebruary last year and it all finally came together in August! At the same time, we changed our tariff from one (ridiculously expensive) to another, and already we’re seeing a drastic reduction in our monthly bill. This all means two things: Syb can operate more than one electrical appliance in the house at the same time, and we can pass on our own savings to our guests. Syb still hasn’t got the hang, almost six months later, of being able to operate the toaster AND the kettle at the same time. So, having a hot cup of tea at the same time as my breakfast toast is still proving a learning curve.

Still, it’s funny to hear the squeals of delight when she realises she doesn’t have to wait for one thing to finish before she can switch another thing on…..

What else did we do? Oh yes – the trees! Winter here can bring some pretty strong winds that would push and pull our poplars all over the place. On one particularly frightening stormy night/early morning, I was shocked at the sight of the two rather large specimens just to the front of the house bent almost double (it seemed like it at the time) over the house. They had to go! Not completely though. We brought in a local company to trim them right back to a manageable size. In effect they’re now only 10m high, instead of more than double that. The skyline changed further here at Le Chant when we lopped the two poplars by the barn, and gave one of our large ‘peupliers noir’ a shave too. One of the benefits of this work is that we now have plenty of wood stacked around the place to burn next winter – that’s also a good thing, as our usual supplier, Arnaud, has run out!

Arnaud, you may know from my ramblings elsewhere, is the owner of a local snail farm. Yes, really. He’s also happy for anyone to visit for a mini-tour (in French) of his farming methods and the ‘laboratoire’! You just have to ak us, and we’ll set it up for you. He also sells many & varied snail related dishes there too.

One of the things we had to do as a matter of some urgency was replace not one, but all three of the electric water heaters on site! The first one to go was the shower block chauff-eau. Luckily for us, it was just after a very busy Easter. We still had a few campers on site who’d noticed the water wasn’t quite as hot as usuaal. When we investigated further, the heater was indeed kaput. So, a trip into Saumur with the trailer, and back I came with a bigger version. This time, a 300l model, rather than the 200l one we’d had since we arrived here. Can’t complain too loudly, I thought, as this was the first time we’d replaced this particular one. A quick call to our favourite sparky to wire it in after I’d finished the plumbing, et voila. Hot water again within 6-hours of the old one giving up the ghost!

The large gite, Héron, had a bit of TLC earlier in the year too, with a completely fresh bathroom. The loo was lifted, turned 90° and placed against a solid wall, rather than backing onto a shower curtain hiding the water tank! we have no idea why this hadn’t been done originally, but hey-ho – we added it to our list of things to do years ago, but time got in the way. I built a cupboard around the water heater for all the cleaning tackle too. The bath was moved away from the walls, had a tiled surround fitted which is lovely to perch your glass of wine whilst reading your latest chick lit among the bubbles!

The first guests to use it were a delightful French family, and they loved it. The only comment upon departure was that they’d tried to have a shower that morning but there wasn’t any hot water! After a little investigation – sure enough, the chauff-eau had packed in! The second in as many weeks. No drama, I thought. This one must have been installed at the same time as the other, they’re like light bulbs – they all pop at once! Off to Saumur. New (again 300l) tank and a call to the sparky, who by this time was thinking I was some sort of a curse upon French hot water tanks. This all had to be done in the least amount of time possible as we had more guests arriving later that afternoon! I’d just finished fitting the tank in place when the sparky arrived and, once again, by the skin of our teeth we managed to install a new tank and have hot water ready for our guests’ arrival. Phew!

When, a couple of weeks later, I returned from the brico store in Saumur, with yet another 300l chauff-eau onto a trolley, after shelling out yet another €500; I suppose I could forgive our sparky for really thinking I was the kiss of death on water heaters! Yes, the third and final heater – our own, had trickled to a tepid halt. The first two weren’t bad to fit, both being on the ground floor. Ours is in the loft above the small gite and it feeds that gite, as well as the house here, with hot water. It’d been a tad lukewarm for a couple of weeks to be fair, but we just thought that we may have been taking baths and showers at inopportune moments, at the same time as guests next door. It wasn’t until one of them actually mentioned that the water didn’t appear to be too hot that morning that we realised that it had indeed ground to a halt! Much huffing, puffing, shoving and pulling of a rope attached to the heavy cylinder ensued. Another call to our tame sparky and hey presto – hot water! The first really hot bath we’d had in weeks was duly luxuriated in later that night!

Later in the autumn, after much frantic scrabbling around first of all trying to find manhole lids, then attempting to lift them, we had our fosse septiques inspected! By a man from SPANC – Spancy Man! There’s a ‘law’ of sorts been rolled out through France that dictates changes to the ‘norms’ for septic tanks and their drainages systems. I’ll ‘blog about the silliness of this another time! But, suffice to say, it’s a pretty stupid thing and has been met with great anger and frustration in village halls up & down the country. Our inspector came, saw, didn’t once get his hands dirty, and sat on our patio in the sun filling out forms with us. He passed both of ours, even though they’re of the same construction as a friend’s (but older), and our friend has to replace his! We’re now expecting an official, typed report on our fosses with reccommendations that we a) chop down the 100 year old oak in our ‘coeur’ and b) we move our swimming pool.

Hmmm.

So that was last year, that was.

What of 2012? Well,  we have yet more tree surgery planned. No! Not the 100 year old oak, but other, less beautiful and more youthful ones dotted around the place. Phase Two will get underway in the autumn of this year.

Because we were waiting for a decision on the fosses, it became a bit of a bind planning and then installing the long awaited chemical waste disposal point for the campsite. I just didn’t want to do it to be told that I’d have to rip it all out anyway. Now that Spancy Man’s been & seen, I’ll crack on with that in time for the season proper!

We’ve just ordered two very swish (and very expensive) replacement ehu (electric hook-up) bollards for the campsite. Ours are fine, they work ok and they’re tested yearly. They just look crap. We want the place to look nice and we want people to have a nice time here. Looking nice is all a part of that, so we took the plunge just yesterday and ordered them from the UK for delivery within a fortnight. No doubt I’ll be splattering piccies all over our facebook page when they’re done!

What else? Nothing much except the constant round of decorating, gardening, mending, cleaning, replacing water heaters and generally living la vie française!

So. If you’re coming to see us this year, please do mention how lovely our (drastically lowered) trees look and that you’re having fun tipping your chemical waste down our bespoke disposal point. Tell us that you love the plentiful supply of hot water, and that you’re struggling to extract your soapy bodies from the luxurious bath in Héron. Do tell us you’re laughing hysterically, listening to Syb and her squeals of delight as she boils the kettle and burns the toast – AT THE SAME TIME! You can, if you like tell us you have NO idea how you ever managed without the new, swish ehu bollards too! Then we’ll know we’re doing things right!  ;)

Until the next time,

Au revoir.

As the title says, it HAS been a while. It’s been a long, very busy summer for us here at Le Chant. Great weather, great guests (in the main), and lots of nice people have booked to return. That’s the upside. The downside is that we have had one or two ‘guests’ that seemed not to appreciate that Le Chant isn’t just a holiday destination, but also our home. Granted, this is what we do for a living, and yes – we do get ‘paid’ if you like, for sharing what we have. But that’s my point – we ‘share’ Le Chant d’Oiseau. We share it because we think it’s a pretty place, and because we would have loved to have spent our holidays here with our own kids when they were growing up. We share it because we’re justifiably proud of all that we’ve achieved with it, in just 6 years.

In year one, in the very first full season that we were owners, and only just after we’d finished work on completing the family accommodation in what is now our home, we were very green. We were very keen to please, though we didn’t have an awful lot of spare cash to invest in Le Chant. We still made great efforts to ensure that both the gites and the campsite were the best they could be until we could afford to improve what we had. Lots of what we inherited had to stay, as we couldn’t afford to change things. We knew our limitations, but we priced accordingly.

Once or twice in that first full season, we were taken advantage of by people who just didn’t ‘get us’, or Le Chant d’Oiseau. It took one of these people a whole TWO years to release his bile on a well-known review website. The fact that a) he blatantly lied about certain aspects of his stay with us, and b) in the TWO years he’d taken summoning up the spite to send in his ‘review’, Le Chant had undergone a massive improvement, didn’t mean that the ‘review’ wasn’t published. Published it was, and definitely to the detriment of our business, not to mention our feelings.

In subsequent years, we’ve put up with allsorts of comments from people. In the early days, the main one we laughed off was “How does a lad from Doncaster get to own all this then?” Well, I’ll tell you. By being absolutely convinced that we could handle the HUGE French mortgage, and by having confidence in our ability to graft like navvies in order to pay off said mortgage. Not only that, but also by being brave enough to sell up everything we owned in the UK to try and make a better life for our family here. Many people wish they had the same courage of conviction that we had in 2005.  Another comment we’ve had is “It’s like camping in someone’s garden.” This is true. It is exactly that. But, it’s a very lovely, large, FRENCH garden. This has been said to us both in a kind, complimentary way as well as in a derogatory fashion, implying that we weren’t a ‘proper’ campsite. Well, we are. With the registrations and insurances to prove it.

We’ve suffered the idiocy of people ‘reviewing’ our pets. The fact that our two cats catch birds was the subject of one reviewers ire. What the hell is wrong with some people?

We’ve had to put up with guests’ children scratching their names into our pool table with their cheap little penknives. We’ve watched them chasing our chickens around until they squawked in protest. Our pets have had to endure being poked and prodded as they snoozed in the sun, or had their heads battered with a table tennis bat.

I’ve had to restrain myself on more than one occasion, gritting my teeth as I’ve watched someone’s little darling  ripping said table tennis bats to shreds, or fighting siblings with the pool cues. I’ve also lost count of the times I’ve been told that the pool table hasn’t released all of the balls. Usually due to the amount of gravel clogging up the mechanisms. Usually carefully placed there by small children, roaming freely around the place, as it’s “just so safe here.”

Yes. We provide a safe environment. Yes, we keep the site gates closed all the time, and yes, it’s fully fenced all around. But that’s not an invitation for people to absolve themselves of all responsibility for their offspring. While you’re ‘relaxing’ after your long drive from the UK/Germany/Belgium/insert lieu of choice, YOUR kids are releasing their hours of frustration at being kept cooped up in a car watching re-runs of Thomas The Tank Engine on the in-car DVD system!

Very rarely do we say anything. Instead, we ‘take it on the chin’. Perhaps moaning to ourselves in the privacy of our own house that we need (yet again) to take a trip into Saumur to find/buy replacements for this that AND the other.

Oh, talking of privacy – the number of times we’ve had people walk through our own patio area in order to get from one gite to another, shared by extended family is astounding. Despite what we might ask in various ways, that we be left alone from time to time to just be ‘us’, people still have so little respect.

So, why the rant, you may well be asking? Actually, it’s a case of one thought train leading to another. We’ve had a couple of reviews in lately. One was extremely bad in that again, we felt we’d been treated very, very badly by the guy responsible for it. It’s all very well, the internet giving everyone a voice, but some people should have their voiceboxes surgically removed if all that springs from it are lies. We’ve spent an inordinate amount of cash ensuring we provide things to do on site here. For what? To have it ruined by a few small kids whos parents are happy to let them, as long as THEY get the holiday THEY want? Why bother to write the most lovely comments in our guest book, only to do a complete about turn once you’re away from here and in the safety of your own keyboard?

The other review actually said in far less words, and in such a way as to make it perfectly clear what we’re about, exactly why we take it so personally, this ‘job’ of ours. It said:

Stu and Syb’s unobtrusive hard work behind the scenes ensures you enjoy your holiday, from the generous welcome pack to the care for their environment is obvious.
This is essentially their home and garden which they open for you to enjoy, treat it with respect and appreciation in the hope that their commitment and enthusiasm will be sustained so you can come and enjoy it again and again. We will!

I guess you could say that our commitment and enthusiasm has just been reborn.

Thankyou all for your continued support in what’s been a very long, very tiring but ultimately successful season for us. Here’s hoping your first visit won’t be your last. Except in one or two cases, and you know who you are!

I’ve often thought, as I wander the highways & byways of our bit of France, what a beautiful landscape we live in. Because I’m a very enthusiastic photographer, I look at the scenery in awe sometimes, and wish that others could see it just as I’ve just seen it, you know? This train of thought is a constant in my head, and it’s not until very recently that I’ve had the wherewithal to try and realise the ambition to have a few days of informal, but informative photography workshops at our place.

La Loire and Saumur sunrise

The Loire at Saumur at sunrise.

Sure, I have a good eye, and I know how to take decent images. It’s not that difficult really, given where I live, and the types of photogenic landscape and subjects I’m exposed (forgive the pun) to on an almost daily basis. But what I lack is the reputation as a serious photographer. You see, to our guests, I’m just the grumpy bloke that owns the pretty gites and sociable campsite in the Loire Valley. They don’t realise that I do actually know a fair bit about photography, and what constitutes a decent image. If they do, then because of my ‘day job’, they fail to take me seriously if I say I’d like to teach them how to take the kinds of pictures they admire in local galleries etc.

Montreuil Bellay

Just one of the many chateaux within very easy reach of Le Chant d'Oiseau

So, when a guest here last year, Chris, at last took me seriously and put me in touch with his prospective father-in-law, UK based landscape photographer, Anthony (Tony) Blake, my creative juices began to flow again after a long period of hiatus.

To explain. Tony is an award-winning landscape photographer, making a living from his photography workshops held in his home county of Dorset. His eye for the shot is simply fantastic. His clients are mostly beginners or improvers, but he’s comfortable having professionals on his workshops too.

Image copyright, Tony Blake, Dorset based landscape photographer

Beautiful Dorset scene, taken by Tony.

Tony’s been looking into the potential for expanding his horizons, and after being introduced to one another by Chris, we got to chatting via. e-mail and arranged a visit to Le Chant d’Oiseau to get together and discuss the possibilities, and for Tony and his lovely wife, Miranda, to see for themselves just what stunning potential the area has for budding landscape ‘toggers.

They came and stayed in Chardonneret with us for an all too brief few days in April. The weather was beautiful. Warm, bordering on hot with the blue skies and clear light that attracts so many artists to the area. It bode well.

What we’ve decided, between the four of us, is to pilot a three-day workshop, based here at Le Chant, to be held in the week commencing the 24th September 2011. We’re currently looking into the costs involved, but accommodation can either be on the campsite, or in one of the two remaining gites (Tony’s bagged Chardonneret already!).

The autumnal landscape should be in full bloom by then, and the chance to bag images such as the one captured perfectly by Tony, below, shouldn’t be too difficult!

Image copyright, Anthony Blake Photography.

Autumnal splendour.

We’re working hard at ensuring there’s a superb itinerary for the three days, with a range of photo opportunities from landscapes, to sunrise/sunset shots (don’t worry, the sun rises late and sets earlier in September!), chateaux, river scenes, architecture, people, village life…. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination!

Here’s how we think it will work.

We’re planning on the cost to include a pitch on site for two people and their chosen unit, (though Héron & Hibou will be available too) with electric for the week. There’ll be an ample french style picnic lunch and four-course evening meal with wine for those attending the workshop. If partners wish to join us, then there’ll be a nominal fee and they’ll be made more than welcome!  If both people on a pitch wish to take part in the workshop, then a supplement for the second person will be charged. Transport to & from the locations for the three-day course will also be included. The remainder of the week will be yours to explore the area and put into practice what you’ve learned on the workshop!

For me personally, It’s exciting to think that as your guide, I’ll be able to share some of the ‘off the beaten track’ locations that I’ve come to find in the six years we’ve been here. Lots of these would be very difficult to find without local knowledge. It’s great to think that some lucky people will get to take the most gorgeous shots of the area, that they’ll be proud to hang on their walls at home, and that we’ve helped them to achieve that!

Places will be strictly limited, so please register your interest for the Loire Experience Photography Workshop now. You can do this by visiting our website at www.loire-gites.com and scrolling down the home page to the Newsletter Subscription box. Enter your e-mail addresss, and press GO! Then, tick the box marked ‘Photography’ to ensure that we keep you up to date with details of prices and itineraries etc.

Tony & I look forward to seeing you in September!

Until the next time,

Au revoir.

 

 

 

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