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Posts Tagged ‘gites’

Moroccans

Now, I have nothing against them personally. So I can’t help but wonder what I’ve done to offend them.

I’ve never been to Morocco. I’ve thought about it. Often. I’ve longed for the sun on my face, listening to the crash of the waves on the beach, my board parked next to me, waiting to have another hour in the surf. I’ve imagined the casbah’s, old men sat outside the street café’s, surgically linked to their hookah’s. I even took home a holiday brochure once. I even like couscous.

So it stuns me even more that in the past month or so our website’s been ‘hacked’ by fundamentalist Islamic Moroccans, intent on destroying the business of a white (very white – it’s been a long winter, I need some Moroccan sunshine) male, based in France who owns a few gites and a small (but perfectly formed, ladies & gentlemen) campsite. What’s the point?

In this day and age of wonder, the Internet stuns me on a daily basis. What I can learn amazes me. I find it enthralling and captivating to the point where I’m becoming geek-like, and I can’t help it. I surf like an ASP (Google it) champion, and I love it. But, in my business life I’d like to think that there are barriers that we don’t cross. I don’t preach to you, please don’t preach to me. I don’t send you spam, please don’t send it to me. I don’t want to bring down governments, I don’t want to cause traffic on the M25 to come to a standstill (doesn’t need MY help anyway), so please don’t hack my website!

So, what’s happened is that I now have binned my Moroccan holiday brochure, I’ve stopped dreaming of the sun on my face, as it’s starting to appear here in France now. I’ve stopped hearing waves crashing on the beach. And I bloody well won’t be buying anymore couscous!

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2008

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The first time I met Bernard was round at my mate John’s place. He was there just on the off-chance that a bottle of decent red had been opened. Not much chance of that because John & Mary only drink rubbish…they’re from Bratferd y’see? Anyway, there was indeed a splash or two of passable vin rouge being drunk and I’d just called in to see how they were getting on with a couple of guests we’d sent their way for B&B as we were full. The two English guests were decidedly confused with the level of (loud) French being spoken by John, Mary, Bernard & myself. Bernard becomes very animated when drawn on a subject he knows lots about. Bernard is very knowledgeable about many things – hunting (naturally), local places (naturally), wine (naturally) food (naturally) and many, many other things (er, naturally). He used to be a stonemason, and a pretty good one by all accounts (naturally). I’ve seen the evidence of his work a few times and I have to say I’m extremely impressed. But, on this particular evening we were chatting about hunting. That’s Bernard’s passion in life. His home is one big trophy room with many species of stuffed animal both large and small decorating the walls and shelves wherever you look. The two English guests were fed a translation of the discussion and I knew that one of them owned a local property with a lake attached. The guy in question was stocking the lake with good quality fish and wanted measures in place to ‘detract’ the local heron population from abusing the hospitality of the English lake owners by eating the new arrivals! So, I offered Bernard’s services as their very own gamekeeper! Bernard was thrilled with the prospect of a new place to shoot and after the necessary permissions were set down in black & white, we drank to the success of the venture! (Naturally!)

Quite a few months later, and Bernard and his wife Mauricette, have become regular visitors here at Le Chant d’Oiseau, often bringing large wooden crates stuffed full of the most delicious tasting home-grown produce from their potager, a huge expanse of land behind their home given over to growing all sorts of market garden produce, and very good it is too. They take no money for their stuff, but we sit down instead, have a chat and drink some wine. We often dish up the contents of the gifts from Bernard among our guests.

The first time Bernard & Mauricette came bearing gifts was to present us with the very first duck shot on his new playground! It was beautifully presented fresh for the oven. We accepted this gorgeous gift with saliva glands on overtime. A few days later, while Syb & I were on our way back from an outing, we asked Niall (by telephone) to pop it into the oven for tea. When we arrived home the smell of freshly cooked duck emanating from the farmhouse was delicious! I carved and portioned it out. Niall declined, insisting he wasn’t that hungry. Now, that’s akin to asking what religion the Pope is, or where bears go to the toilet… Niall is ALWAYS hungry. He used to eat for England until we swopped shirts at half-time. He can now eat for France! His appetite is legendary among those that know us well. The lad can’t take a 5 minute car journey to the supermarket without taking along a snack for the journey! he’s always been the same, ever since he was small. He’s no longer small, he’s HUGE, which brings us back to the duck. After reminding him a few more times of the reputation as France’s answer to Desperate Dan, he finally came clean. He couldn’t eat it, as he’d seen the bullet hole when he put the duck in the oven! Bless! So, due homage was paid to Bernard, and his skill with his fusil, and we toasted the poor birds demise with a bottle of red. A fit and proper send off we thought.

We’ve made some good friends here. Both French & English. All of our near neighbours are French, and they’ve been nothing short of welcoming with us. We’ve already told you about the invitation last Easter round at Gérard & Sylviane’s? We’ve also made friends with David Chevallier, the vigneron (very handy, knowing a vigneron) and his brother, Pascal the roofer (not quite as handy as we drink more wine than we build roofs, but still handy all the same…). Nelly et Bruno from the village boulangerie also. They’re lovely, and we’ve looked forward to their visits each morning with the daily delivery of fresh bread. Not just because their bread and pastries are fantastic, but also because they have a real zest for life, they’re what we call ‘Super Sympa’ too. They like the English, especially those that make an effort to chat and build a life here, the same as they do. There’s a few characters that we’ve become friends with in the local bar too. Alain and his wife took over from Miriam at the Café de la Poste after she sold up. The name had to be changed of course as the Post Office moved to the other end of the village, and the old one’s now the creperie. Keep up….the post office isn’t a post office anymore, it’s a restaurant and they’re tired of being asked by little old ladies how much a parcel to Marcel will cost. So, the Café de la Poste is now ‘Le Manureva’. Alain has come to know John & I quite well, as we spend a bit of time in there lately, after working on some project or other. They have opened up a little restaurant to the rear and it’s brilliant! Alain is the most genial bar owner I’ve ever met, and we often can’t get away from the place because he’s insisting on buying another drink for us. I haven’t a clue how he manages to earn a living, because he loses count after a few beers…
I took my Dad, my eldest son and my two brothers in law there a few weeks back and they were stunned! Because Alain was very chatty (although they understood little), and because he kept sending his little son out with plates full of goodies for us. My family couldn’t believe this sort of kindness, so Alain & I explained ‘C’est normale’. When he bought us all a drink after we’d spent quite a few euro with him, my poor old Dad was almost moved to tears! He’d never been bought a pint by a landlord in the Uk in all his years of drinking!

The village has certainly been brought back to life since we’ve been here. The creperie, Alain’s bar, Nathalie & Gilles taking over the small village store have all helped. Even ‘Rocky’ at Le Bar Centrale has smartened up his act and has opened up a small ‘Bistro’ in the back room of his bar. We’re building up to trying it out one of these days. Rocky isn’t really his name, it’s just what we’ve christened him since we heard he was a rock star in a previous life! He’s taken on the role of village entertainments officer where live music’s concerned and he seems to know his stuff! It’s a strange little bar though, and Rocky’s usually to be found asleep in the back. We’ve had to wake him up to be served before. It’s still a fairly friendly place for a beer, even though he & his wife (we think, though no evidence of a ring) seem to be completely bemused by the English, but don’t mind pouring the 1664! There used to be a fairly large restaurant at the end of the village, opposite Rocky’s place called Le Cheval Blanc. It closed down shortly before we came here in August 2005. The good news is though that it’s now up for sale, hopefully with a view to turning it back into a working restaurant/bar again. There’s always room for one more eaterie, after all – this IS France!

Until next time,

Au Revoir.

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2007

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Firstly, my sincerest apologies. It’s been far too long since I posted any updates. I know family & friends have been waiting with bated breath so I expect most of them are either dead by now or gotten bored and sauntered off to the bar.

Where to begin? It’s been so long, so much has happened and we’ve become so accustomed to life here now that it seems like I’m actually starting afresh with the Blog. From an entirely new perspective as it were. The last time we spoke, it was coming up to our second Christmas away from the UK, with all the heartaches that follow. Well, it didn’t go too badly as a matter of fact. Mainly due to the fantastic support of good mates who teamed up to come over for New Year and the brave souls who ventured south to the Loire as paying guests. Christmas & New Year came & went without too much ado and the New Year started off very promising, with guests calling in on their way south at a regular pace. Caravaner’s are a curious breed. Not strange, as there’s a part of the Nomad in most of us, just curious. They up sticks and leave loved ones behind at times like Christmas & New Year in search of fun, sea (sometimes), adventure (usually) and better weather….

Anyway, moving swiftly on….oh, ok. You want to know about the weather? Well this winter was one of the wettest here in France for a very long time. Rivers burst, lakes were overflowing and the fosses (roadside ditches) that hadn’t seen water in 15 years were actually flowing. With a current! In fact, if I still had my Action Man, he’d have been strapped into a canoe and force fed down said fosses being beaten with a stick to make him go faster.

Anyway, winter came & went and now the sun’s generally shining. March & April are cracking months here. The past few years we’ve either been here visiting Le Chant d’Oiseau or living here have given us brilliant weather in February, March & April, while May has brought wind and showers. Still, it’s twenty-to June now and the weather’s on the up. The pool’s been used already. We had some sturdy kids from the UK over camping at Easter and they begged me to get it ready for them. It was 20 degrees in there though which isn’t bad!

We’ve made some good friends over the period of time that we’ve been apart dear reader. We’re really fortunate to have John & Mary North as neighbours and we’ve become really good pals. They’re from Bratferd you see. That’s why they have the audacity to drive a blue van instead of French Standard Issue White…John & Mary also introduced us to Bernard and Mauricette Percevault who we’d like to think are good friends of ours. I’ll tell you all about Bernard, the duck and the bike in the fosse the next time we speak. Until then…

Au Revoir.

TBC.

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2007.

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So sorry that we haven’t posted an update in such a long time, we’ve been busy you see? Syb & I finally moved into our new bedroom on the 14th May. It was a Sunday. The kids, (well Hannah & Niall) had been in theirs for a few weeks previous. We’d been determined to have just one last ‘push’, a combined effort on two fronts prior to the defence of the campsite and gites from the massed hordes of holidaymakers waiting just across the channel….sorry, that’s ‘The Longest Day’…wrong movie! Anyway, we got the kids’ rooms decorated and bedroom furniture erected and they were in there, revelling in their new surroundings, while Syb & I were feeling the pressure to move out of Goldfinch (our ‘baby gite, remember?), and into our new room before our next lot of guests arrived. After several long days spent plastering, sanding, painting, re-plastering, varnishing etc. at 11:30pm after just having finished making the bed, Syb & I sat with legs dangling from our dormer window drinking large G&T’s. Actually, when I said ‘making the bed’, I really did mean ‘making the bed’. One of those flat-pack things from Sesame. Great bed, comfy as hell! We’d passed the component parts and the mattress through the open dormer windows and built it up, made it with our fresh, new bedding and in we were. A triumph of mind over matter!

So, there we were with some semblance of normality as a family. For the first time in almost a year, we were all of us under the same roof. Er, except for Liam! Liam was largely out of the equation as he’d accepted a job with a well-known camping holiday provider on the west coast of France, and was living over at Les Sables d’Olonne. That gave us a bit of ‘grace’ as we knew that he wasn’t due back at Le Chant until the first week in September! We had loads of time to get his room finished!

Anyway, we were by this time fairly busy with guests, both in the gites and on the campsite. Things were indeed looking up.

Actually, we’d been reasonably busy for quite some time. We’d had a steady stream of guests stay with us all through winter, some who returned a few weeks or months later on their way back from the south just to see how we’d got on. All were surprised by the amount we’d managed to get done in the short time we’d been custodians of Le Chant. I say ‘custodians’ because with a house this old, that’s all you ever can be. No-one will ever own Le Chant truly, it’s something to be looked after, cherished and added to without detracting from its natural beauty in the lifetime that you share with it. It’s a home, sure. It’s a fantastic place to live, and we’re very proud of it, but I feel that we’re only ‘looking after it’. Anyway, I digress. Some of the guests we’ve had have been the most marvellous characters, full of stories of where they’d been, what they’d seen. It does actually make us quite envious sometimes of the way some folk can just ‘up & go’. Then again, we chat to them long enough and they in turn tell us of their envy that we live in such a beautiful place. So, it’s all swings & roundabouts really. Remind me to tell you next time of some of the delightful people we’ve had through the gates at Le Chant d’Oiseau, it has been a priviledge to meet them all.

Until then, au revoir.

TBC.

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