Helpx number 5…. .

Having spent just over a week in Lagos it was finally time to move on.

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Street art in Lagos – having had enough of lounging in Lagos sitting out the poor weather we needed to get back on the road.

The  weather  improved on Monday 5th December 2016 so we moved 30km up the south west coast to stop in Aljezur for a couple of nights before starting our fifth Helpx assignment. More on our current Helpx later on in this post.

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Aljezur.

We were first introduced to Aljezur by our friends Chris and Di who have come here over the Christmas period on several occasions in their van.  In 2013 we gate crashed their holiday by flying out to Portugal to meet them and we were really looking forward to coming back here in the van this time.  It has been a really refreshing change leaving the hustle and bustle of the Algarve as this area is less touristy and much quieter.  The area around Aljezur is mainly cork oak, eucalyptus and pine.  There are also plenty of orange and lemon groves.

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Harvested cork.

The weather since being here has been fabulous with warm sunny days so we took the opportunity to break out the bikes for a cycle up to the small town of Monchique.  The market town sits below the mountain peak of Foia which is the highest peak in the Algarve at 902 metres above sea level.

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Cycling from Aljezur to Monchique.

We knew it was going to be mostly uphill all the way but I had miscalculated how far it was going to be.  I thought it was about 20 kilometres but it is actually 20 miles to Monchique from Aljezur.

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Orange groves.

It took us over two hours but the views of the surrounding countryside were worth it!

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Beautiful views on the way up to Monchique.

By the time we got there we only really had enough time for a coffee and a quick sandwich before heading back down again.

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We bought 3kg of oranges on the way back at 0.50c a kilo!  We gave half of them away to a dutch chap in the van next to us in Aljezur as there were too many for us.

So after a couple of nights in Aljezur we were welcomed at our current Helpx assignment.  This one is turning out to be our dream Helpx!  We are staying with a German family – Raban and Nelly (both 81!) and their daughter, Sophia.  They have just over 50 hectares of land and Sophia runs a donkey trekking business 🙂  We are in donkey heaven here!

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Romano helping us unpack the van to settle in to our accomodation.

Sophia currently has thirteen donkeys, ten of which are here and three that are on their holidays with another farm.  She also has another three arriving tomorrow.

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‘Ollie’ parked up next to the donkey fields.

They are sooo well looked after and we’ve spent the last five days, amongst other things, learning all aspects of donkey care!  It’s just lush!

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Olivia, Emilio and Chiquito.

Donkey feeding, donkey pooh picking, donkey grooming, donkey medication giving, donkey walking, donkey rounding up, donkey tug o war, donkey coffee morning, donkey, donkey, donkey!

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Another Monday morning at the office!

We know all their names now and we are getting to know their different characters.

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Margarida, always first in the queue at feeding time!
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Mooching about the pasture.

How anyone cannot just love a donkey I do not know!

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Romano, the oldest at 30 years gets special privileges and joins us on the sun terrace for coffee in the morning!

Suffice to say we have been doing other things as well as donkey stuff but I’ll write about them in the next post.  This one is all about the donkeys!

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Emil and Chico.

Did I mention the donkeys?!

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Playtime!

Boa Noite!

 

Back to Bergerac to repair the bump… .

We’ve spent another week with Marian at ‘la petite maison de bois’ in Cahuzac.  We’ve done various tasks this last week including tackling the leylandii hedge between Marian and her neighbour’s garden, painting another village bench, varnishing another side of the cabin, wood shredding, weeding, walking the dogs etc.

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The leylandii was a bit of a beast at over 6ft across.
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Taking shape.
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Shredding.
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Before.
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After.

Marian has had a house full with various family and friends staying.

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L-R Tim, Gareth, Evelyn, Marylou, Marian.

We had a very pleasant afternoon and evening at the lake at Lougratte a few miles away which has a small campsite attached to it.

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Lake at Lougratte.
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L-R Tim, Marylou, Sandrine, Marian, Lea, Patrick.

I brushed up on my basketball skills with Marylou but alas I’m not as fast, or fit, as I once was!

P1070188.JPGWe also spent last weekend at the campsite by the lake at Lougratte which was great as the temperatures have been in the thirties and too hot to do much other than swim, read and play petanque.

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Lakeside camping at Lougratte.

We have come to the end of our three weeks here at Cahuzac with Marian and her fur-kids and it’s time now to take the van in for the repair to the wing tomorrow.

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L-R Moi, Tim, Rusty (on Tim’s lap) and Marian.

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time here and it has given us a glimpse into village life in France.

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Nicole, Moi, Tim.

We’ve also met some lovely people and felt part of the community here, even if for a short while. Last night Marian’s neighbour, Frank, invited us all out for a meal with him, his brother, daughter and son in law to say thank you to us for tidying the hedge up which was very kind and we had a lovely evening in Villereal. Alas I forgot to take the camera though!

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Spot and Tim.

Whilst ‘Ollie’ is in for the repair, which will take 3-4 days, we are doing a bike tour around the area.  The forecast is for the temperatures to be in the mid thirties so I’m not sure how far we’ll get but I think we need to make the effort!

Bonne nuit!

Community projects in Cahuzac…. .

So another week has drifted by since I last updated the blog.  We have been soaking up the rhythm of life in the tiny village of Cahuzac which is about 25km south of Bergerac in the Lot-et-Garonne region of Aquitaine.  We are on another Helpx assignment with Marian who lives in the ‘petite maison de bois’ which she has had built on a piece of land overlooking the village square.  Marian lives with her three dogs (Johnny, Finette and Spot), five cats, several chickens and some Indian Runner ducks.

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Johnny, the senior boy.

We have parked up the van on the village square next to the house.

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‘Ollie’ parked up on the square outside Marian’s ‘petite maison de bois’

Marian has created a beautiful flower garden and a productive vegetable plot which she needs help with maintaining.  We were attracted to coming here as Marian is very active within the village on helping to improve the facilities and the environment.  She had a few projects which we thought we could be useful with helping to achieve in the time that we were to spend with her.

We had to be upfront about our zero gardening knowledge as we felt we would do more damage than good if left to our own devices on any green fingered project.  I think she got the picture when I asked, whilst looking at the tree in front of me,  if she made jams out of the plums from the tree.  She looked a bit puzzled before replying that I was, in fact, looking at a walnut tree!  Mmm, oh well, they looked like unripe plums to me!   From that point on Marian was probably glad we offered to do some of the community projects which would keep us safely occupied away from her garden!

So what have we been up to?

Our first task was to varnish the front of Marian’s wooden house as it bears the brunt of the weather.

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Varnishing the front of the house.

It’s the first time I’ve used a paint brush taped to the end of a stick but it worked very well and got the job done.  Tim painted the shutters and doors and it all came up a treat.

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Paintbrush on a stick!

We were on a roll with the varnishing so also painted two sides of the cabin behind the house as well.  Next up were three benches in the village that needed to be repainted.

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Transforming benches in the village.

I went off to do that whilst Tim wire brushed all the railings around the war memorial ready for painting.

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Voila!

Marian, and her friend Nicole had, after presenting a case to the Commune, received approval from the Marie (mayor of the village) to buy the paint needed to repaint the railings.

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I never thought I’d end up on the cross!

The painting of the railings was quite a big job and took a few days with some extra help from Nicole, Sonia and a couple of enfants!

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Villagers helping out with painting the railings of the War Memorial.

There were to be more ‘enfants’ helping with the task but they all mysteriously disappeared once Nicole had gathered together some paintbrushes for them!

 

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A man ‘tres content’ with his work!

With the railings looking fresh the monuments themselves needed a makeover too.  We took a wire brush to the moss and, violà, two rejuvenated monuments appeared.

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Clearing the moss from one of the Memorials.
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Clearing the moss from the base of the railings.

We have also wire brushed and painted the iron doors to the entrance to the cemetery and Tim fixed one of the damaged doors.

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Wire brushing the entrance gates to the cemetery.

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Looking good!

P1070149.JPGThe cross on the other monument adjacent to the church has also been painted.  Tim feels he’s earned his place in heaven now I think!  Basically if anything moves in this village it’s going to get painted whilst we are here!

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There’s no stopping Tim now!
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Rearranging the wood store.

In between our ‘work’ we have had plenty of time to do other things. We took a bike ride to the medieval village of Issegeac.  You’ll have to make do with images stolen from Google as the battery in the camera was flat!  I’m not doing too well with the camera at the moment it seems.

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The medieval village of Issigeac (picture courtesy of google!)
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Issigeac.

We’ve done some cooking on the Cobb.

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Tim (aka Ray Mears!)

Tim has strolled along to the church every afternoon to play his saxophone and clarinet (the acoustics in there are superb).

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That’s the first time the saxophone has been played in four months.

He did think he might be annoying the builder who has been working on renovating the building opposite the church but on the third day the builder approached Tim to let him know he was enjoying the music. It turns out the builder is learning to play the saxophone!

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Livening up the church with a bit of Jazz!

We’ve been to an art exhibition held in a very pretty church surrounded by fields of sunflowers.

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Fields surrounding the church where Marian took us to see an art exhibition.

I’ve done some French learning and have finally got through the Michel Thomas CD’s – although it would appear that I’ve gone backwards with it after having overloaded myself with information.  Every time I open my mouth now either nothing much comes out or it all comes out wrong.  Hey ho, I just have to keep going and hope it will one day all fall into place.  Maybe another ten years or so!

We’ve been to the AGM of the ‘society for the preservation of the church’ (our presence brought the numbers up into double figures!) where we were able to practice our limited French and meet some of the villagers.

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Restoration of the church partly completed.

 

All in all it’s been a very rewarding experience being here and Marian and all the villagers we have met have been so welcoming. We’ve learnt some more about life in France and enjoyed our chats with Marian and being surrounded by her pets.

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Finette (after a fur cut) and Johnny out on a walk.

 

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Spot says ‘Bonjour’ – that is actually a grin that he greets you with!

This coming week we are going to tackle the leylandii hedge on one side of Marian’s garden.

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Retirement seems to be agreeing with Tim very well!

The temperatures have been in the low to mid thirties these last few days which has meant it been too hot really to work in the afternoon unless in the shade.  Therefore, updating the blog in the shade seemed the best option.

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Rusty ‘helping’ me update the blog.

A la prochaine 🙂

Another successful Helpx assignment comes to an end.. .

So, after our three day mini-break in Coulon we headed back to Ralph and Sue’s near Secondigny for another week to help with a few other jobs that needed doing.  Monday and Tuesday saw Tim and Ralph making a start on the fencing in the top field where the horses will eventually go.

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Three months ago Tim wouldn’t have been able to lift that hammer!!!

I did a bit of raking out and clearing of all the vegetation ready for the posts to go in.

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Happy with power tools again.

Tim and Ralph did all the hard graft!  The farmer next door came and cut both fields this week and twirled the grass ready for baling later in the week.

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Not sure what that tool is called –  a fence post banger inner maybe?

I had a lovely couple of days on Tuesday and Wednesday being principal tour guide to Ralph’s sister Pat, and brother in law Alan, who were staying for a week or so.  As Ralph and Sue were busy with the animals and various different jobs Pat, Alan and I went out for a couple of days to tour the area.  It coincided with an improvement in the weather which made for a pleasant couple of days perfect for strolling and quaffing coffee at cafes!   I can add Tour Guide to my CV now which has always looked pretty sparse!

I also enjoyed taking some of the doggy residents out for their daily walks.  A little apricot poodle, which reminded me of Fluffles, the poodle on the Wallace and Gromit film, A Matter of Loaf and Death, was my favourite!

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The apricot poodle staying with Sue reminded me of Fluffles.

Finally on Wednesday and Thursday Tim helped Ralph create a second dog run in the garden for the unsociable canine residents that can’t be trusted to mix with the gang on the other side of the fence!

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Second dog run up and, err, running!

Sue and I cut the grass in the polytunnel with push along lawn mowers.  I haven’t used one of those since about 1979!  That was hard work and gave me blisters but is a better work out than paying to go to a gym!  The petrol lawn mower flings out too much shrapnel which would have potentially shredded the walls of the polytunnel though.

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Our next door neighbour in Trowbridge still uses one of these!

We rounded our stay off with a trip to a local bar to watch France hammer Germany 2-0 in the semi final of Euro 2016.

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Gooooaaaaaaaalllllll!
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Tim now seems to think he is French!

Parfait!  Allez les bleus!

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So, with France safely in the final, our Sunday nights entertainment is now sorted out!

We said au revoir to our hosts and their guest’s yesterday morning with our heads filled with plans of moving into the Dordogne area.  We are in no particular rush as we haven’t, at the moment, got any more Helpxing or Housesitting  gigs lined up.  (Tim could do with a rest after all the real man’s work he’s been doing in the last three months.  He is looking more like a racing snake with each passing day!)

We drove 100km to stop at Cognac which is famous for, umm, Cognac.  Our visit here has coincided with the annual Blues Festival and we managed to bag one of the five spaces on the free aire next to the river just as another van was leaving.  Result!

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The Aire at Cognac just between the flags – 5 minute walk into town.

Life doesn’t get better than this!

Bonne Journée:)

A quick flit to Venice for the weekend….. .

We had another mini break from work at the weekend and headed down to the Venise Verte (Green Venice).  It’s situated in the Marais Poitevin area of Poitou-Charente which is the second largest wetland in France.  We parked up for the weekend at an Aire in Coulon, known as the capital of the Venise Vert,  on the eastern edge of the Marais Poitevin.

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Sevre river at Coulon.

The area is criss-crossed by a system of canals lined by willows and poplar trees .

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Coulon.

The canals are essential to control the water levels in the region.  Coulon itself sits on the banks of the Sevre Noitaise river and is a very pretty village with much character and charm with waterside frontage lined with restaurants, galleries and fishermen’s cottages.

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Coulon Centre Ville!

Boats and canoes can be hired to explore the many canals nearby.

It’s a really lovely tranquil spot conducive to doing not much of anything.  However, if Tim thought he was in for a lazy weekend by the river he was sorely mistaken!  We couldn’t come to this area without exploring it by bike as this really is the best way to see it if you are tight like us and don’t want to pay the extortionate fee to hire a boat!

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Pretty houses line the banks of the Sevre.

The area is as flat as a pancake though so Tim needn’t have worried – wait till we get to the Alps and then see the fear on his face!

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Tres belle maison.

We had a very leisurely tootle around and about on the bikes taking in the lovely stone cottages lining the river and the little tiny holiday shacks which would have done us as our main residence.

P1060485.JPGWe went out at the quietest time in France, between 12.00pm and 2.00pm, when everyone was having lunch which meant lovely car free roads and tracks for miles.

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Little holiday homes – we could live in one all year round!
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Holiday Gite available to rent.

We stopped and had a stroll around Arcais which is a very old and interesting village with a mix of derelict and renovated houses crammed in down little alleyways and lanes.

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Arcais.
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Lots of interesting places in Arcais.

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We didn’t know it when we planned on visiting Coulon that the Fête du Miget was being held over the weekend right next to the aire.  The fete is a celebration of all the old traditions of the area with demonstrations and exhibitions depicting traditional farming methods, schooling, washing, rope making etc.

P1060498.JPGIt kicked off at 2.30pm and was a really good afternoons entertainment. Oh, and free!

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Traditional schoolroom.

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A big part of the day was a three course set evening meal served on long trestle tables.

P1060536.JPGA quick flick through my French-English dictionary revealed the main dish was stuffed eels………………err, mmm,  hmpf I think I’ll give that a miss then!  The finale to the days activities was a parade of traditional boats skippered by people in traditional costume.

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P1060535.JPGMy favourite was the goat boat but if those goats got a bit restless it could have been ugly.

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Goat boat!

On Sunday we called in at Niort with its medieval houses and buildings.

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Niort.

We were able to have a stroll around the 19th Century Market Hall made out of glass and steel and quite impressive.

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Niort’s 19th Century glass and steel market hall.

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It was all very lively in Niort for a sunday.

Niort had a cosmopolitan feel to it and the new blended well with the old.

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Finally, on our way back to Sue and Ralphs we stopped for a mooch around Parthenay.  We weren’t too impressed to start with as it looked a bit neglected and run down but we soon found the attractive 15th and 16th century medieval part of the town and the castle whereby we quickly changed our minds!

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Parthenay’s old town.

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13th Century fortified gateway to old Parthenay.

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We have decided to stay on a little longer with Ralph and Sue to help them get some fencing done before their next pair of helpers arrive from Russia no less!

Bonne Soirée.

A big tick on the bucket list…. .

Well, I think it about time to meet some of the animals at Sue and Ralph’s.  First up we have the two Tamworth pigs.

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Tamworth porkers.

They are about five months old and don’t have names as yet.  I’ve taken to calling them Bert and Ernie as they remind me of the two characters on Sesame Street.

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Bert and Ernie have a certain likeness to the pigs I think.

They are brothers and Sue is keeping them as pets.  Très lucky pigs these two are!  They are like puppies and will come racing across the field whenever we go out to see them.  They love a belly rub and will lie down on the grass for some attention.   They are supposed to earn their keep by eating the bracken in their field but so far they don’t seem to be that interested in it and would rather have a baked potato! Last week Bert, or was it Ernie, escaped from the field and had a little soirée up and down the road outside the house.  We were alerted, whilst having dinner, by the dogs that something was amiss and sure enough a pig was on the loose!  Apparently it was Ralphs pig – when any incident happens it is always Ralphs pig in the thick of it!  Said porker had got out under the fence.  Three sides of the field have an electric wire around but one side if just wire fencing.

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Enticed back into the field by Dr Doolittle!

After much tooing and froing we enticed Bert (or was it Ernie) back into the field with some food and secured them in with another line of electric fencing.

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This little piggy goes to market!

That’s another job in the pipeline for us to help out with – pig proof fencing.

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Don’t you give me the eye!

Then we have the three donkeys.  Chocolat and Café are sisters.

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Chocolat – with her fly mask on.
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Cafe.

I felt sorry for them at first as their necks looked a bit odd and, having an over active imagination, I assumed Sue had rescued them from an awful situation.  It turns out, and I didn’t know this, that donkeys store fat in their necks so instead of being poor mistreated animals they are just fat!  Sue has had them from foals!  They are now only allowed out for a limited time in one of the fields to try to stop them eating so much and slim them down a bit. Kind of like Weight Watchers for donkeys.

Then we have Wonkey Donkey.

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Aww Wonkey Donkey is sooo lush 🙂

So named because she trips over her own hooves when she walks and is a bit, well, wonkey.  She is like the Ile de Ré donkeys with a thick shaggy coat.  She is just adorable!

I fulfilled one of my bucket list items on Tuesday with Chocolat and Café.  Tim and I took them out for a 5km walk around the lanes and through the forest.

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Roadtrip with Chocolat and Cafe 🙂

I’m not sure what motorists think when confronted with two donkeys on a lead on the road ahead but I’m sure they’re used to it in these ‘ere parts.  They were both incognito anyway with their fly masks on hoping not to be recognised!

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Chocolat wanted a selfie!

We were armed with a carrot each and we weren’t afraid to use them.

P1060454.JPGNeedless to say we did have to entice both of them with the carrots as once they decide they’re not going anywhere they mean it even if a car is coming.

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Cafe says NON!

It’s not easy trying to shove a donkey over to the side of the road to let a car pass when they are adamant they want to have a rest and a ‘chat’ with the cows in the adjacent field. 

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At least the roads around here see few vehicles.

Suffice to say, with much cajoling, we got them round the 5km circuit in one piece and then let them go free range in the top field for an evening snack to replace all those calories lost on the walk. 

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Free range at last.

They need to keep up their fighting weight!  People would pay good money to do this sort of stuff you know! 

À la prochaine.

A ‘Grand’ day out…. .

On Saturday Ralph and Sue took us to see some of the local goings on in the region starting at 11.00am with the grand opening of ‘La Moulin à vent du Chêne’.

 

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Le Moulin a vent du Chene.

The windmill dating back to the 17th Century has taken three years to restore with the help of donations from public funds and private individuals.

 

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Grand opening of the restored windmill.

It will now be used as an educational facility and will also be open to the public.  The grand opening attracted a fairly large number of people and it was really good to see the local people out in force supporting their heritage.

 

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In full sail.

We were able to see the windmill in action producing three different types of flour.  Well that’s what I think he was trying to tell me in French!

 

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Three different types of flour being collected.

Of course with anything done by the French everyone had an aperitif of Rosé to celebrate in style!

 

 

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Millstone above our heads.

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After the windmill we went to ‘Le Nombril du Monde’ at Pougne-Herisson.  Roughly translated it means ‘Navel of the World’.

 

 

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The entrance to ‘Le nombril du monde’ garden.

It’s a garden now open to the public which was created by the village blacksmith.   I can honestly say it was one of the most bizarre, surreal but interesting and enjoyable places we have been to in a long time.

 

 

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Mmm, not sure what this is meant to represent?

On the day we visited I couldn’t really get my head around what it was about and having scanned the internet since then I’m not sure I’m any the wiser now!

 

 

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This was something to do with a Sputnik.

Google translate is all very well but it gives a direct translation of what is written which makes the text even more confusing I think, or maybe that’s just me!

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Erm, ??

All I have gleaned is that ‘Le Nombril du Monde’ is a garden that was created by …. Jarry, who was , at one time, the village blacksmith and compulsive inventor who died in 1976.

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This was the ‘arbre mort’ – the dead tree.

He created the garden using recycled materials and a wacky imagination.  Hopefully the pictures might make sense more than I can but I doubt it.

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These poles had red lines on them (we think) depicting the heights of different characters in fairtales.
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I think I was number 19 – ‘Le chat Botte (non botte) – whatever that means!

Going round the garden I didn’t quite understand what it was getting at and I still don’t!

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The seven sons of the giant??

It was free to wander round though and we wiled away a happy hour there!

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Woodhenge!

The garden is also used for story telling, poetry, theatre, umm, err, mmm and other stuff!

P1060361.JPGThey even have a Biennial Navel Festival! I think we’ll probably give that one a miss though!  

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Anyone care to translate?

If you’re interested (highly unlikely) and want to find out more about it for yourself, Google it and get back to me with what you think it all means! 

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They could use these on Top Gear – there was the top of a car above it for a gazebo effect!

The finale to our day out on Saturday was the Grande Prix Historique de Bressuire. 

P1060389.JPGThis was a brilliant evening’s entertainment….. and free!  The Grand Prix Historique de Bressuire re-enacts the original Grand Prix race which was held in the small town of Bressuire in the early 1950’s.

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And they’re off.

Hundreds of vintage cars descend on the town for two days of demonstrations and racing around the town’s tight streets.

P1060392.JPGThe racing goes on well into late evening with the last race finishing at 11.30pm.  The pictures hopefully give a flavour of what it was like but unfortunately I can’t upload any video footage to the blog.

WARNING:  What follows are many pictures of old cars – if you are not the least bit interested in cars then I suggest you look away now!! And don’t ask me to name the types of cars as I haven’t a clue!

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Nice ‘H’ van now an ice cream van.

So, a jolly good time was had by all on our Grand day out which all had a Wallace and Gromit kind of feel to it!  Cracking!!

 

 

 

 

Back to ‘work’…. .

We left the Ile de Re on Sunday 19th June 2016 and headed over to Secondigny, a small town near Parthenay in the Deux-Sevres region of Poitou-Charentes. We were due to start our next Helpx assignment on the Monday so we stopped overnight  in the village of L’absie on an aire which was free and provided free electric and free water!  Result! We didn’t know it at the time but the only hotel in the village was having a Karaoke night!  Now, I think all French chart music sounds like a eurovision entry so imagine all those songs being  murdered in French and you will get the idea of how dire it was!  We battened down the hatches and put the blinds up to try to block it out but it still crept through assaulting our little ears (well, my little ears……………….Tims aren’t so little!).

A leisurely Monday morning followed with a brew of fresh coffee before we drove the 10km to Sue and Ralphs near Secondigny.

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A very civilised start to a Monday morning!

We were welcomed by Sue and shown around their smallholding and given an idea of the type of jobs they could do with some help with.  They have about 10 acres of land and run a small kennels and cattery.  They also have two dogs, two cats, a horse, three donkeys and two Tamworth pigs:) You’ll meet some of those characters in later posts!

 

There are lots of jobs that need doing so we cracked on with clearing and cutting back the edge of one of the fields so that Ralph can put up a second fence to keep horses in.

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Cutting back all the vegetation to make way for a new fence.

Sue is offering a couple of fields to a friend who needs somewhere to keep her horses but the fields need a secure fence first.

 

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Taking out the old electric fence.

Tim spent an enjoyable afternoon with Ralph cutting and clearing the vegetation back to the original fence whilst I took the mother of all lawnmowers down to the bottom field to trim back the pathways in and around the pond.

 

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A happy man with a power tool!

On Tuesday we set to work clearing more of the field.  On Wednesday we helped finish off Sues polytunnel.  A quick gander at a Youtube video on how to erect a polytunnel and we were off!

 

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Poly tunnel frame befpre we started.

The framework was already in but we needed to put tape on all the outside edge of the frame first before the plastic sheeting went on.

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Taping up the frame.

The tape is there to prolong the life of the plastic and protect it from the heat when the metal framework gets roasting hot in the sun.  Ralph had roped a couple of friends in to help get the plastic sheeting on.  Fortunately Tim and I had just finished the taping up as they arrived.

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Reinforcements arrived at 10 o’clock to help get the plastic on.
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Yay, the plastic sheeting went on a treat!

Surprisingly, despite its size, the plastic went on pretty easily which then led to a prolonged discussion on how to get the front and back ends secured.

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All that Dockyard training has now paid off – no matter where or when I looked Tim seemed to be leaning on a pole of some description!

After much ‘chat’, chewing of the fat, reading instructions and leaning on poles we finally got all the ends secured and battened down.

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Voila, a poly tunnel!

A quick whizz round with that mother of all lawnmowers again to tidy up and Voila, job done!

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Un grande lawnmower.

Sue was delighted to be able to start getting all her tomato plants and seedlings in.

Wednesday saw us clearing the pond of the weeds and reeds.

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Just don’t think about what is underneath.

The easiest way to do it was to just bite the bullet and get in there and pull it all out.  No messing!  No thinking about what was under my sandals and potentially nibbling at me.

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Pond cleared of reeds and weed.

I did have a fleeting thought about leeches which freaked me out a bit so I did do a leech check when I got out.  There are tonnes of noisy frogs in the pond though but Sue assured me that they would get out of my way and I wouldn’t step on them! We cleared about two thirds of the weed and left the rest for the frogs to perch on.  After we’d finished we spent twenty minutes watching the frogs that had all come out to bask in the sunshine.

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These little chaps make lots of noise.

I took a video clip of them as they are really noisy but I can’t upload it on to the blog.

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The pond is now clearer of reeds and weeds.
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Another one 🙂

Now that the poly tunnel is up and running we helped move and clean out a large water butt to use for watering the plants.

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Cleaning out the water butt.
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The ‘A’ Team – Ralph, Brian and Tim.

That evening Sue and Ralph took us to a village about 10km away that do English fish and chips and have a quiz night.

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Fish and chip night at a French bar.

Safe to say Tim and I weren’t much help with the quiz as we are completely rubbish at that kind of thing!

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The glasses are an illusion – I’m not the least bit intelligent at quizzes.

We came last but we did win a Mars bar!  It gave us an insight into the rock ‘n’ roll life these British expats live here in France!

Yesterday we finished off clearing the rest of the field ready for the fence posts to go in to make the field ready for the horses.

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More power tools!
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We’re getting there.

We’re really enjoying the physical work and we are working pretty well together too!  Tim just agrees to do everything my way and we’re all happy!  Simples!

A toute a l’heure 🙂

 

Our final week at Le chateau… .

We returned to the chateau on Sunday evening (6/6/16), after our mini vacances, refreshed and ready for the next tasks that would be thrown at us!  The weather had improved and we awoke on the Monday morning to bright sunshine and clear skies. Yay!  Now that the music festival has ended, the apartments have been furnished and most of the investors have returned from whence they came the majority of the work that needs doing is in the grounds of the chateau.  The large bulk of the work is done by a team of guys who come once a week to cut the grass and strim some of the grounds but there is sooooo much to keep on top of that we weren’t going to be short of things to do.  Our first job was to clear the ivy and weeds from the front wall at the top of the chateau drive and to cut back any low hanging branches from the trees lining the drive and strip them of all their ivy.

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Cutting back the vegetation on the approach to the chateau.

We spent two days working hard at clearing the ivy on the trees on the right hand approach to the chateau.

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Clearing low branches and ivy from the trees.

You can see in the pictures the difference – the ‘naked’ trees on the left!

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It took two days to clear one side – 30 plus trees in all!
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Trees now ‘naked’ of the ivy!
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We’re leaving the trees on the other side to the 4 kiwis who arrived on Wednesday!
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Now there’s a man satisfied with himself!

Tim was finally able to unleash his new speedos and have a dip in the pool on Tuesday.  He bought new trunks before we left the UK as in France it is forbidden to wear shorts in the swimming pools. It was a real treat to swim in such salubrious surroundings.

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We had the pool to ourselves – and it is heated too!
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Tim learning French after ‘work’ – I think he’s nodded off though!

Wednesday saw us clearing the area behind the Helpx accommodation which is affectionately known as the ‘Hi-de-hi’.  I set to with the lawnmower and Tim broke out the strimmer, or ‘whipper-snipper’ as Jenny called it!  I think whipper-snipper sounds better than strimmer so it will forever be known as that from now on!

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I didn’t have to do all that grass!
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Clearing the land behind the Hi-de-hi with the ‘whipper-snipper’!
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Dumping the waste vegetation, from behind the Hi-de-hi, in the woods.

We had another  trip to the Super-U on Wednesday as four new helpers from New Zealand were arriving that day and we needed to make sure we had enough in to feed them.  Tim particularly liked the basket trolley thing which we hadn’t noticed on our previous trips. He looks like a true pensioner ready to do his shopping I think!

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Bloody pensioners holding me up when I go shopping!

Thursday saw us dealing with all the weeds on the pathways in the chateau garden.  Jenny had been beavering away for the last two days treating the weeds with a mixture of vinegar, salt and washing up liquid which kills them without the need for pesticides.

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Vinegar, salt and washing up liquid mixture to kill the weeds!

However, with a garden this size, hundreds of bottles of vinegar were needed.  Jenny can probably be seen on every CCTV camera, at every supermarket in the Loire area, clearing their shelves of white vinegar!

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Only another 2 miles of path to go!

Our final job on Thursday was a trip to the local recycling area 10kms away in Longue-Jemelles to dispose of the last load of packaging from the apartment furniture.

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Recycling all the some of the packaging from the apartment furniture.

We called it a day early on Thursday as it was our last day at the chateau and we went for a tootle on a couple of chateau bikes.

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Tim on Jonathans retro bike!

We called in for a beer at the local tabac in Vernantes villageon the way back.  This drink was courtesy of my friend Claire in the UK who had wished us luck for our travels with a card containing Euros – that’s my kind of card!  So, thank you Claire:)

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Cheers to Claire for the drink:)

Jonathan and Michael very kindly took Tim and I out to a bistro in Saumur on Thursday evening for a slap up meal as a thank you for the work we had done over the last two weeks at the chateau.  We were able to sit outside in balmy temperatures and soak up the French ambience!  The food was superb and a real treat for us to sample the kind of food France is so famous for.  We both agreed that the dessert was the best deconstructed lemon meringue pie we had ever had!!

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Bistro in Saumur -sorry should have got a picture of the four of us but forgot to get the camera out…….again!

Thank you so much guys, we have had a superb time here at the chateau and have felt very privileged to have been a part of something so special even if for a short while.  Jonathan, Michael, Jenny and David have been tip top hosts and have made us feel so welcome and involved us in everything that has been going on at the chateau.  It’s an experience that neither of us will forget and we are so grateful to everyone including Eric (handyman)and the two cleaners (one was called Michelle but I’m not sure what the other one was called – sorry) for helping us practice our near non existent French over our lunches together – you were all very patient! Thanks:)

It’s all go at le chateau………. .

Well time is moving on apace here at le chateau. I’ve been a bit slack with the blog again as we have been so busy and I’ve been too tired to write it up!  I was hoping to get this blog post out on Friday but we’ve had flaky wifi for the last three days so my plans were scuppered.  Being so busy at the chateau has been our choice, though, as we are enjoying all the tasks that have been thrown at us and we have felt like we are being useful.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen doing various catering tasks which have stretched my culinary skills to the limit!  We had ten people to provide a meal for before the first concert of the Chamber Music Festival.  Michael bought all the food and Jonathan and I were earmarked to do all the preparation.  Jonathan happened to mention that he needed to pick up some more musicians from Nantes airport and may not be back in time to help.  Oh crap. He detailed ‘his vision’ to me for what he wanted everything to look like.  Jonathan did tell me the French name of what was being served but I can’t remember what it was but it was basically a posh French buffet.  There wasn’t much cooking as such as most things were pre prepared but presentation was key – yeah right, like I do presentation!!  You know how foodie the French are, so no pressure like!  Everything I cook is normally just slapped on a plate and grudgingly dumped on the table with a look that say’s  ‘if you think you can do better, do it yourself’!  Ah well, keep calm and carry on as they say. So, armed with blunt knives, I set about presenting a posh buffet fit for a French audience.  All I can say is fiddly, fiddly, fiddly.  I know how they feel on Masterchef now.  Fortunately Jonathan did get back from Nantes in time to give some help and guidance which was much appreciated.

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It always helps to have a glass of something sparkling when under pressure in the kitchen!

Tim, meanwhile, had been helping David complete the finishing touches on one of the apartments putting up pictures and mirrors etc.  I sent him a text to see what he was doing as we could use some help in the kitchen to which I got a reply that he and David were sitting on the settee, in said apartment, having a beer whilst tuning in the TV!!   I won’t say what my reply to that one was.

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More apartment prep.

Anyway, the buffet apparently went down a treat and everyone was happy.  Needless to say I was so stressed I didn’t get take any pictures.

Just when I thought I was in the clear Jonathan let me know that twelve people were booked for a traditional English afternoon tea the next day.  Just as well I’d had a bit of practice scone making on our last Helpx assignment then.  Fortunately, lots of helpers were roped in for this one though so scones and butter icing were my tasks.  Jonathan did look at me like I was some sort of imbecile when I asked how to make butter icing though! As I’ve said before baking has never been my forte and I can’t remember the last time I made a cake – we’re talking thirty plus years ago. What can I say?  It’s been a steep learning curve!  Again, I completely forgot to take any pictures.

Despite being so busy we did get out to go to the church mass in the village last Sunday. We went because the musicians were playing with the choir for the service.  It was a Catholic Mass and Tim freaked out when it came to the ‘Peace be upon you’ part as, this being France, we would have to kiss the people around us!  We got away with shaking hands in the end though. Tim freaked out even more, however, when the collection plate came round and he didn’t have any change whatsoever and I made him hand over a crispy five euro note!  It took him a while to recover from that one!

Tim has also helped set up the crypt under the chapel for a wine tasting evening which we were able to catch the tail end of.

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Tim’s crypt creation! (shame about the fire extinguisher).

Unfortunately, the pictures came out really badly and this was the only one I could put on the blog, which is still rubbish.

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Rubbish picture but it gives you the idea.

We were also invited to a talk on the history of the chateau and a tour of the apartments and caves.  I didn’t take any pictures of the apartments but just managed to capture this one of an old wine press in one of the caves and some pictures of the moat.

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The chateau moat.
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Entrance to the moat.

On Thursday we took two guests to the railway station in Tours and stopped off in Langeais on the way back which is a very pretty small town with a chateau.

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Pretty street in Langeais with Chateau in the background.

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We saw a couple of these music sculptures.

 

We had a mooch around and then decided to have lunch at a little cafe.  We opted for the formule which is a set meal of three courses including coffee.

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Entree.

Entree was self service and I had good intentions when I put this snail/winkle type thing on my plate but after Tim suggested it might still be alive I went weak at the knees and had to leave it!

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Non, je n’ai pas manger!!

 

There were two choices for the main meal so we ordered one of each and hoped for the best as we weren’t able to translate the menu!  Mmmm, a giant piece of black pudding for me (yum….not) and a chicken liver/kidney (read Offal) stew for Tim.

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Mmm, black pudding, my favourite……not!

The black pudding was a step too far for me so we swapped and I ate the stew which wasn’t actually too bad but I can’t say I’d be having it again any time soon.

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The coffee was good though.

Thursday evening was the final day of the Chamber Music Festival which was celebrated with guests attending a gala dinner served in the chapel.  Thankfully outside caterers were in for this gig! We snuck up onto the balcony where no-one could see us and supped wine whilst listening to the music (two pianos and two flutes).

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Tim on his way up to the balcony above the chapel.
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View of the gala dinner from the balcony above the chapel.
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Selfie in the balcony!

Now that the music festival has finished we are taking Friday, Saturday and Sunday off to have a break and a bit of the tour around the area.