Friday, 28 September 2007
You'll never believe it, and indeed you probably wouldn't if I hadn't taken this very shot an hour ago hanging out of the bedroom window but there is snow on the Pyrenees. Enough for skiing in the Pyrenees I shouldn't wonder. I would have posted it up sooner but you know I'm still busy learning this cropping, resizing malarkey with something called IrfanView so that when you send photographs the image of a red cat looking splattered appears in the corner. Oh I don't know, I'm going slightly off the ski slope.
Anyway I wake up this morning,(good start) open the shutters with a flourish and flinging back my head sing out to the early dawn 'oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I've got a wonderful feeling, everythings going my way'.....and so on and so forth as all of you should do every day. Because the air has a definite nip which sends me reeling backwards I peer further afield and onto the horizon. There in front of me in all their splendid glory lie the Pyrenees only they are covered in snow. And it's not just the tops either, it really does look as though someone has poured oodles of gooey icing sugar all over them in the night.
And suddenly visions of snow suits, ski's, woolly hat's, mittens, for hill skiing, cross country skiing,tobogganing and sledging, country snow hiking for the very fit appear. We are lucky enough to be a mere 1 hour from the nearest ski slopes of Mont d'Holmes and Ax-Les-Thermes, I like a visit to the natural spa thermal baths myself, and further afield we have the well known resort of Andorra, a haven also for tax free goods.
'Come on' I shout (regular readers will recognise this well worn phrase) let's get going to play in some snow' up in the Pyrenees.
His Lordship is gently frying some thinly cured bacon ready to be slapped between a chunk of the fresh baguette I sent him out for looks at me wearily. 'You ordered me out last night in the pitch black to pull over the pool cover' he reminds me. 'This weekends forecast is for beautiful hot weather'
Are any of you remotely surprised that some days I feel completely topsy turvy ?
Tuesday, 25 September 2007
The weekend saw some old friends arrive for some fun. As the house was empty they were spoilt for choice. They plumped for the master bedroom with the views of the Pyrenees and vineyards stretching into the distance, I'm not entirely sure however that they appreciated my gesture early in the morning. Flinging the windows wide open so they could fully embrace the French countryside I was reminded gently that they were on holiday. Of course I couldn't possibly divulge who they were and how they swung four idyllic days with the entire place at their disposal but I will say one thing. Guests that insist on shopping, sourcing local gastronomic delights and then taking full charge of the Aga will generally find me very ameniable when finding them a quiet slot !!
'Where should we really visit when on a trip to Carcassonne' ? they enquired. My heart generally sinks at this one because there is one seriously popular hotspot that seems to heave, bulge even, at all times of the year. It is of course the medieval walled La Cité. If you want to rub shoulders with every nationality then here's your place. 'Come on' urged The Small Cross One, it'll be a laugh.
We took them the scenic route so that instead of arriving through the town of Carcassonne we approached it from a side which just showed the entire walled city itself sitting on top of the hill. 'Wow' they said. Even I had to admit it was impressive, the superbly renovated points of the towers looking down menacingly at those below.
We quickly weaved our way through the milling crowds, 'don't go into any of the shops' I warned 'they are full of touristy tat'. In the end they purchased a lovely hand made bag with sequins and a bar of heavenly smelling soap. I guess it's just knowing how to cut your way through all the plastic Cathar swords and provencial tablecloths.
The Small Cross One twirled and danced her way down the steep descent of the inner walls and gazed out over the town from one of the 52 towers. When we were leaving I spied the little train that takes you slowly round the outer circle of this awesome place dating originally back to the 12th century.
'Come on' I shout excitedly, 'all aboard'
Afterwards we came home to the most delicious bean and pork stew that had been slowly cooking in the Aga.
I think I could get to quite like this holiday lark.
Oh look, I've just discovered how to crop my pictures, oh well practice makes perfect as they say !!
Thursday, 20 September 2007
I found myself having to go into Carcassonne yesterday but not for a particularly wonderful reason. (Yes I have off days too you know) and I don't mind telling you this because if I was reading this blog I might question whether I was real or not, Doesn't the woman ever have a duff day ? I would be thinking.
Anyway to make it bearable I treated myself and companions to some wicked croissants filled with rich almond paste and lightly dusted with sweet icing sugar. Feeling surprisingly better I found that we were near to my little treasure troves where I always find a little something for myself, or lately supposedly for Sallys Chateau, my on-line shop. Except it's not on-line yet as I'm having difficulty parting with anything, the specification being that I have to love what I sell. Whoever says you cant become too attached to things is wrong. Grumbling reluctantly the others (male as you may have guessed) mooched around. One of them spied an upright 1960's style ashtray, the sort that took the tip of your finger off when you tried to dispose of your butt. And, oh dear, I found two divine bedspreads. 'You don't need them' a voice said in my ear. 'They are for my shop' I replied on the defence. As soon as we got home they were laid on beds, just testing you understand. The white cotton one trimmed with lace belongs in the garden bedroom as it sets off the stripped floorboards a treat and the one with gorgeous little embroidered flowers looks rather scrummy in the master bedroom.
To absolve myself from any guilt I might have been feeling I set to today in the garden. Ten wheelbarrow loads of weeds. I would have had a bonfire but it's not allowed yet, it's still (whisper) too hot and dry.
Finally struggling with the inevitable shall I ?, shan't I ? keep quiet about the bedspreads and hog them all to myself I decided a swim was in order. Everyday now is a bonus, the thought that it will soon be too chilly always makes every dip a complete thrill.
You can understand my dilemma though can't you ?
Monday, 17 September 2007
I can't help but notice that words such as dank, dark, rain and autumnal are creeping up on us but if you are looking for that here then stop reading right now.
Yesterday as I contemplated having my entire 'dolls house' to myself (my nickname for Le Chateau) and relished a day of play in moving furniture and generally titivating overall I thought of some of the very many readers who peek in from around the World. What is it that attracts you so ? I floated, rather like a giant frog on a lily pad on the bright yellow lilo being swirled gently by the water pump of the swimming pool. The sky above was the sort of piercing blue that could hurt your eyes. The startling green leaves of the fig tree seemed almost fluorescent to me. Every so often a gentle thud announced the fall of another over ripe and squishy fig. From my languid position I could squint at my house and wonder as to the events that led me here. It was funny, when I was a small girl all I ever wanted was a large dolls house filled with lovely pieces of furniture so I could happily wile away the hours moving the pieces around as I pleased. And so as I pushed the feelings of guilt away for daring to stop toiling and lifted my face momentarily to the sun I toyed mentally with rooms and how I could adapt them to the coming seasons. I suppose it was work of sorts.
However I am well aware that none of you are so shallow that you would pop by simply to keep being force fed descriptions of sumptuous sun and idyllic moments. No sireee it is time I came clean with you all and described truthfully one of my days to you.
Saturday called for my new white linen dress to be worn, enhanced only by a simple piece of jewellery (diamonds) and a hint of Clinique lip gloss. One of my guests who just happens to be on his fifth visit now had invited a friend over to view Le Chateau. I had drawn the thick linen drapes to keep out the sun and hastily applied lashings of old fashioned wood polish to the panelling in the hallway so that on arrival they would be captivated.
Lunch was suggested and who am I to be so busy I can't pop out for a spot of luncheon ? I suggested we go straight to Domaine Gayda a restaurant and cave situated in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Crisply folded starched tablecoths and napkins are just my thing on occassions and I thoroughally enjoyed a fois gras accompanied by a chilled glass (or two) of Viognier.
Afterwards back at Le Chateau with the Grand Duchess parked on the driveway, alas she was rather put out to be sharing space with a gleaming black BMW and a turbo charged black Porche, a quick trip roaring around the village ensued my reputation as a hard worker with no time for fun remained intact.
I wouldn't want any of you to think otherwise.
Friday, 14 September 2007
Forgot to tell you that we had another unexpected pregnancy here at Le Chateau. I know, I know before all you cat lovers descend on me I admit, completely irresponsible, shouldn't be in charge of a gerbil/goldfish etc etc. There you go, we learn by our mistakes.
Anyway it's a baking hot afternoon down here in the Languedoc. The guests are sleeping after deciding they want to stay longer, the cats and kittens are snoozing. The only mug that's wide awake feeling she has to keep working despite clearly being the only one with open eyes in this tranquil village it would seem is moi. Why is that do you suppose ? was I conditioned at birth to constant slavery or is it just the territory of Wife and Mother ? Answers on a postcard please !!
Meanwhile the zzzzzzz's emitting from the contented slumbers here is ridiculous, apart from these you could hear a pin drop. The harvester has stopped rumbling up and down the plump vines in the distance and all you can hear is the faint rustle of the enormous lime tree outside.
Well you know what they say ?
If you can't beat them, join them !!
Thursday, 13 September 2007
This morning I decided to accompany my guest to a house for sale in the Languedoc. I knew the agent so we could discount the other ten and not waste time. In fact I found the house on the internet and immediately suggested we go and visit. It ticked all the right boxes, the box that this particular client staying with me wanted ticked at any rate. Lovely small well kept village, handsome facade, private and divine garden with pool, price range ? 270,000 euros (that's 184,850 pounds) It 'had it', if you know what I mean, look at the terrace for heavens sake. The most depressing thing is though that it is the first property they have viewed so they won't realise without looking at another twenty five, and by that time this one will have sold. I like to think that I 'know' instantly when something is special. Within five minutes of walking into Le Chateau it was sold to me. Half an hour later we shook hands on the deal. Some cynics might say 'well look where it got you' to which I would reply 'exactly' !!
Short and sweet today, bet that's surprised you all.
I guess if you like the look of the house give me a shout, the disadvantages ? it's ten minutes away from me, the advantages ? it's ten minutes away from me.
The choice is yours !!
Monday, 10 September 2007
The weekend saw the first 'friendly' football match for 2b and his team. Being forever the dutiful Mother I had forsaken the enticing clear blue pool that beckoned to me on a hot Autumn day and trotted along with The Small Cross One. We found a spot in the shade and were joined by friends. She pulled out a bag of pains au chocolat and I squinted at the mass of enormous brutes frantically running up and down and swearing wildly as though their lives depended on it. From where I sat playing with my camera it was just a game of football. When 2b went to take a corner and I took up the pose to take the shot of all shot's I was hissed at to sit down. 'You think Victoria Beckham keeps taking pictures of David' The Small Cross One said between mouthfuls. 'I'm his Mother' I hissed right back. Really and honestly.
This morning started off incredibly well insofar as it was promising to be another scorcher and the guests had left early for the market in the medieval town of Mirepoix. My scheduling of 'tasks' were falling nicely into place, in my mind at any rate. I ambled down into the garden and picked a ripe juicy fig. I was idly minding my own business and lazily flicking a few leaves out of the pool when suddenly a small furious looking dog launched itself towards me growling furiously. I wouldn't dream of repeating what I was thinking but the two words pit bull had certainly managed to lodge themselves into my subconscious whilst in a two way sort of conversation with my delightful Spanish guests. It seemed to think the net was some sort of toy but once that kill was over it was eyeing up my ankles. Thinking that the guests must all be out and had left their gentle doggie to house sit I may well have let my demur slip. The option of throwing myself into the pool was looking a good one. Suddenly Grandma came charging out of the house, sturdy arms waving frantically and issuing forth expletives in rapid Spanish. My grimace hastily turned into a smile and I beat a hasty retreat and wondered if my pulse rate was normal.
Meanwhile an unperturbed Grandma busied herself in the kitchen, and having taken total control of the Aga on arrival, required an enormous Paella dish with which to rustle up lunch for 14. There was a huge pan of fresh prawns boiling away and a phenomenal pile of fresh bread. I heaved the largest copper pan you ever did see right off the top shelf of the kitchen whilst pit bull continued to eye up my ankles longingly adopting the 'butter wouldn't melt in my mouth' pose. I suppose I might be being slightly unfair here, the wee doggie probably just wanted to lick them slavishly.
Finally I flopped down in the sanctuary of myspace and glanced at the clock. It was lunchtime and I had achieved precisely nothing yet felt exhausted.
PS. I've just had the sudden realization that pit bull might have been bull dog but I can hardly go and take a close inspection now can I ?
Thursday, 6 September 2007
La Rentrée (back to school) has finally arrived. For me this now heralds that delightful stretch of rising at 6am. I said delightful ? This morning the sky was a clear deep inky blue with stars dotted alarmingly bright, galaxies stretched far away and the hooting of an owl nearby breaking the eerie silence.
Soon the deluge of walkers, artists and writers will emerge all seeking inspiration and tranquility from the region that has played host to the sun seeking crowd of holiday makers in the high season of July and August. Now the house hunters also appear clutching details from the numerous Immobiliers (Estate Agents) of the Languedoc. Their aim, to find that elusive bargain tucked away, an undiscovered gem waiting to be snapped up complete with beautiful original features. Add onto that a spectacular view, preferably of the Pyrenees, a discreet and unspoilt garden with room for a pool, situated in a small village closeby to Carcassonne airport so they can jet in regularly courtesy of Ryanair's bargain air fares. 'How did you find this wonderful house' ? is a regularly asked question. 'I rather think it found me' is the reply !
Meanwhile the Autumn is a time for new ventures, exciting projects and unexplored horizons. I'm hoping to combine my love of all things old and shabby chic alongside photography and writing to launch Sally's Chateau, an on-line site of items painstakingly sourced down here in the Aude, the only criteria being that I have to love it ! This sounds good until I have to remind myself that with a 20 room house I do have a tendency to hoard somewhat and the phrase 'I'll just keep this little find' rings true.
Meanwhile the day has dawned fresh and clear, so rather than sit here working, the impulse to go and savour the moment with an invigorating walk in the countryside right here on the doorstep of Le Chateau, beckons.
Bargains in the Aude will have to wait.