Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Sweet was the walk along the narrow lane...

 is the opening line of William Wordworth's poem about walking and it's so relevant to our region of Corrèze. When we bought the house we had no idea that there we had glorious walks (and cycle paths) from the village. We have wide skies and tree covered lanes and you're never far from the sound of water.

In winter when the water level is high there is an energy to the river that's invigorating. Summer brings quiet pools, perfect for paddling and cooling down a hot Mortimer.

Footpaths in France are well marked and easy to follow, most are colour coded with cycle paths tending to be numbered. We also have the Saint Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage route (Santiago de Compostela) running through the village, in fact we walk some of it each day.

Feeling more adventurous? You don't have to spend long in the car to discover some fabulous walks. Our favourites include Château de Sédières where you have a choice of lakes to walk round (or fish if you want to stay awhile) and some rather challenging off road biking. The abbey town of Aubazine is another favourite spot where you can walk along ancient canals. The abbey is also where 12 year old girl learnt to sew, you may know her name - Coco Chanel.

For big skies you may want to go further into the Millevaches National Park with it's rolling hills and secret forests.

Well I could rattle on but I think the photographs tell the tale better than I! If you want to know more about our life in Corrèze then you can follow us here on Facebook or on Instagram

Sunday, 18 April 2021

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

Enjoying the spring sunshine
Shelley was quite right, spring always comes but it did seem to take it's time this year (bit like this blog post!) Last time you dropped into the blog, winter had just begun, as had another lockdown and I feel like not much has changed. We thought winter had finally been banished a couple of weeks ago when it was warm enough to take coffee and croissants to the river and I wore sandals. But the old saying 'ne'er cast a clout til May is out' held true as bitter north-easterly winds swept through this week. We lost some blossom on our magnolia but some of the French vineyards have fared far worse.

Nevertheless there are signs of spring all around, the days are longer, blossom is out and there is an air of optimism. I confess we did slow down on renovation work during the dark, cold months. There is something unappealing about dressing like the Michelin man to work in a freezing house but we bravely soldiered on. We also did quite a lot of planning which is always a good thing, particularly when it took place in the warm, bright, comfortable barn!

Garage & plumbing
I know you're eager to see progress aren't you? I can hear you now "stop the waffling Sharon and show us the photographs" Alright I will, but please allow me a little explanation too? A lot of the work that we, well mostly Andrew, has been doing is hidden. Electrics and plumbing are rarely seen. Old walls came down and new ones have gone up, to all intents and purposes nothing has changed. But it has, oh yes! Last time you and I had a chat we had just finished the complete re-wire of the house and were about to move on to plumbing. Now in normal circumstances this doesn't sound too onerous but it was a major job. The old house had one bathroom, two loos and an upstairs kitchen. We were moving the kitchen downstairs and adding a utility. The garage loo was staying in place (the only thing that was) and we were installing a total of four new bathrooms. Poor Andrew has been sliding on his back under floorboards, contorting in small places and joining pipes in confined spaces. The manifolds would not look out of place in an art gallery. He has worked so hard and he's also been putting plasterboard up so that I can start the slow task of prepping for decoration.

From top left clockwise: Bedroom 3; sitting room; entrance hall; sittingroom
What have I been doing I hear you ask? Well a lot of sanding of walls and multiple, and I mean at least six, coats of paint on two of the bathroom ceilings. I abandoned the restoration of the windows as the cold weather was effecting the paint but I'm hoping to get back to that soon. I did actually finish decorating a room, our tiny office which we've shoe-horned into a dead space. I would love to show you a photograph but we've filled it with packing cases!

Oh! I nearly forgot the excitement of new insulation. We qualified for the French government's one euro scheme and now have additional insulation in the attic plus the garage ceiling was done too. Roll on winter. Well actually no, hold your horses for a few months yet.

We have been enjoying some lovely walks though. Mortimer much prefers walking in the cooler seasons and our lockdowns have allowed us to continue to go to some favourite spots. Up until a couple of weeks ago Emmaüs was open so I was able to indulge in some retail therapy to keep me sane.

Watery walks
At the present time we're not sure what summer will be like, whether borders will open and what freedoms we will have. We're hoping to get enough of the house finished so that we can move in and then our barn conversion can become the holiday rental, which is what it was designed for.

Beautiful Corrèze
Well I think you're pretty much up to date now. If the wait was too long between posts then why not follow/friend us here on Facebook or to follow our photographic journey of life in Corrèze then we're on Instagram too.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

Corrèze in confinement

Just two weeks after writing my last post France went into confinement for the second time, scheduled to last for the month of November. Only essential shops and services were open and once again we were limited to one hour a day exercise and no more than a kilometre from home. It's fair to say we found it harder than the first one. In March there was an optimism, summer round the corner and the fact that many of these types of virus tend to peter out during warm weather. Covid-19 is more tenacious than most and it didn't disappear.

The view from the barn is ever changing

We have been blessed with some beautiful weather though. Crisp days with bountiful sunshine and hardly any rain. We were also allowed to travel in a car together and unlike first time round the DIY shops were deemed as essential so we could get supplies. The focus on the restoration has been on plumbing (Andrew) and window renovation (me). We both despair of the T.V programmes where everything seems to get done in a couple of months, in reality it's not like that. True we don't put in 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week but most days we are doing something renovation related. I think it's just that the scale of this project is really quite large. When we bought the Old Notaires House it was really a first floor 3 bedroom apartment with one bathroom, minuscule kitchen with an entrance hall, summer kitchen (room with carpet up the walls & a sink!) and offices on the ground floor. We've knocked the four offices into two large spaces which will become the kitchen and our suite (a.k.a. the servants quarters), the garage will also house a utility area and loo with the summer kitchen becoming a guest dining room. Upstairs two bedrooms have been combined to make one large bedroom with bathroom and a second bedroom has been fashioned from the old kitchen, a corridor and a loo. The third bedroom has had its entrance changed and the old bathroom (which was bigger than the kitchen) has become two en-suites. And we've managed to squeeze an office in too. So when I say Andrew is re-doing the plumbing it's not a case of simply replacing the pipes and a new shower.

The only loo is rather exposed at the moment

One of the joys of renovating an old house is being able to re-use original items. I'm working in the entrance hall at the moment which is the oldest part of the house, originally two rooms downstairs and we think one upstairs. It has two windows but we think one opening is newer than the other as they both have different fittings. I spent a happy few hours getting the layers of old paint and varnish off, then polishing with my trusty Dremel before a light wax. We really love the slightly industrial feel the polished steel has.


Once again we explored footpaths around our village to give us more variety of walks but it was a relief when President Macron said that we could exercise for three hours a day and up to 20 kilometres from home. We bundled Mortimer into the car and headed for one of our favourite destinations - Château de Sédières.  It's such a beautiful place to walk and it was a perfect autumn day.

Château de Sédières

We've been taking quite a lot of time with planning too. Although I had done concept boards for the bedrooms, I hadn't for the kitchen neither had I actually selected specific paint colours for rooms. I needed to get this sorted as radiators off walls gives me an ideal opportunity to paint behind them. A lot of negatives things are said about French paint but I do like Leroy Merlin's own brand Luxens and I've also just discovered that Liberon do a wall paint which is very similar to Farrow & Ball. Colours here can be quite, how can I say, primary and I want some subtlety so I ordered a RAL colour swatch so I can get some paint mixed. RAL is a European colour match system and at most paint mixing outlets you can specify one of the unique number and know that the colour is true. This system is so common in France that you will see a lot of pre-mixed paint tins with a RAL number alongside the colour names.

Kitchen concept board

My RAL swatches

Despite social media being full of images of people's Christmas decorations I have resisted being early. I just can't do it in November but will probably be a little earlier than my usual mid-December. I've also had to wait for the non-essential shops to open (particularly Emmaüs) as my Christmas decorations are buried somewhere under packing cases and it's too much effort to hunt them down. Inspired by an on-line video workshop I did on the subject of 'A winter table' I may take the opportunity of going for a more natural look this year. Watch this space!

Christmas is now just three weeks off and we will give ourselves a break from physical work for a week, that's not to say we won't be doing something. I need to re-cap on furniture requirements and we really need to nail the kitchen plans down and maybe even order it. I'm really hoping that we can see friends properly instead of doorstep conversations and chance dog-walking meets, after all we have a very large Christmas cake to share. Oh and I'm doing another online workshop this weekend baking two sorts of Italian biscuits. It's one where we bake as the we go but I'm definitely going to turn the camera off, no-one deserves to see the mess I'll be making!

I'm really hoping to show you some lovely progress shots soon but meanwhile if you would like to see what life in France is really like then feel free to follow/friend us here on FaceBook or on Instagram

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Sweet was the walk along the narrow lane...

 is the opening line of William Wordworth's poem about walking and it's so relevant to our region of Corrèze. When we bought the hou...