Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Round up at the ruin

It's almost a year since we sold up and moved on but this is actually the first year we have been completely gite free. At the beginning of 2012 we were opening the gites after the winter, giving them a deep clean, preparing the gites for the first guests and taking bookings and keeping up with the marketing. Those of you who run gites know how much work that entails. This year it's all about us and with no gite guests to think about we can visit our family more often and have only ourselves to worry about.

Of course the best laid plans and all that and a simple fall down a single step put Kevin on crutches and hors de combat as far as anything physical was concerned. He's making progress but far from running for a bus yet. 

Le Pays Basque

Our first little trip away of the year was to the beautiful region of the Pays Basque about 3 hours south of here.  I had booked a small self catering rental close to one of the most beautiful villages in France as our base, but when we turned up it was far from the most beautiful rental in France! Why do people create web sites that don't reflect the truth about their properties? Why do they think it's OK to ask people to pay for mouldy showers and warped kitchen work surfaces. Why do they thing grey ,stained tea towels and mismatched crockery will make us feel at home? We didn't stay but found a small hotel not far away - welcoming, clean and well equipped.

P.S The owner has accepted that she hadn't prepared the property well after the winter closure and has now reimbursed us - that was good customer service as we didn't ask for a refund.

As Kevin wasn't mobile our friend who is a pharmacist let us borrow a brand new wheelchair so we were able to stroll along the sea front at Bairritz, wander around St Jean de Luz, visit Espelette with its houses covered in dried chillies and nip to the border to stock up on cheap booze and olive oil. We had a lovely meal at an auberge in Espelette with a taster menu of dishes of the region.

Wounded soldier on the sea front at Biarritz

View of the Pyrenees  at the top of La Rhune - we went up on the little train of course!

Just driving around stopping at one pretty village after another was a delight. We plan to return when we are both able to walk and go a bit further into Spain to San Sebastien and Bilbao for the Guggenheim museum.


With four children all living miles apart it's not easy to get a visit from them at the same time so we were delighted to have our son and daughter ( Kevin's brood) and two grandsons to stay for a long weekend. Lovely catch up and we all had a great time. The boys braved the chilly pool and we enjoyed watching them swinging through the trees at Le Parc en ciel - an adventure park nearby.

Taking the plunge

Next week I am off to visit our two other children ( my contribution to the four) - we haven't been together since my daughter's wedding last November as she has been on a honeymoon ever since! It will be lovely to catch up with them too.

Look what just popped into my inbox whilst I was typing this post - I'll be with these little cuties on the 14th May. 

Bouncing superheros - Charlie, Bethany and their friend Jimmy

The potager

Last year was a nightmare for us weather wise with the coldest temperatures for many years freezing pool equipment and holding up the start of work at the ruin. This year we haven't had the snow but rain, rain and more rain and low unseasonal temperatures. Again this has held up work on the building work but had also meant that early planting in the potager wasn't possible. Without my greenhouse, which I left at the old house, I haven't been able to sow as many seeds this year as I wanted to but have corn,squash, beetroot and lettuce sprouting nicely and I am buying the rest as plants from the market garden in the village. Our French neighbours have always advised us that May 15th is the time to aim for planting out here but as I am going to the UK next week this week I have been planting tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, cucumbers, courgettes and lettuce. I have also sown, french beans, carrots and parsnips. This weekend I will put in another row of tomatoes and more peppers. When I come back I hope to be able to plant out the corn and squash and do some more seed planting. I hope the weather is kinder for a while so everything gets going. The crop of broad beans that I planted in October are doing very well but those I planted as usual in February didn't germinate as it was too wet. Fingers crossed as always with this gardening game.

The Ruin

Things slowed down a little at the ruin as everything was waiting for the doors and windows to be put in. We had these made to measure this time and so the menuisier couldn't start on them until he was able to take the final measurements after the builder had finished all the openings. They are all done and installed now (just waiting for the front door) and so the other trades are back in action. We are hoping to be in by June so as to be on site to finish the interior decorating etc. A painter is due to start work here at the winter lodging so we will still be looking after this house for our friends ( and enjoying the pool) until then.

With Kevin out of action I have been the main gardener, painter and general dogsbody. Of course we have great friends and family helping us - rotovating the veg plot, cutting the grass and helping with the painting - so we aren't as far behind as we could have been.  Painting the ceiling of the terrace was really hard for me as I was just too short to reach the highest bits so some mountain goat kind of climbing was required and a few weary tears shed - but it's finished now and looking great. Our lovely friends Sandie and Mark have invited us to dinner on Saturday and drinks first courtesy of them but on our terrace at the ruin so we could all sit and sup and admire the woodwork.

I have started painting the ceilings in the house now, we are taking delivery of new white goods and bathroom fittings and we have chosen wall paint colours - it's beginnning to feel like a home.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
And finally

Sam came up with a good tip for facing life's challenges when he asked his Mum and me 'Shall I just jump in and shout Wheeeeeeee? Good advice isn't it?

A la prochaine.

P.S. I did try to finish this post in the morning I was leaving for the UK but the photos wouldn't play ball. Now back from the UK where I had a lovely family time and fingers crossed I've got it working this time.