Provence sabbatical day 19 – caves and pain

Sounds weird doesn’t it? But it’s not got anything to do with painful cave exploring. It’s cellars along the wine route and stocking up on bread … don’t you love the French?

We woke up with sunlight pouring into the room from the passage. Delightful. Full of energy, I was more than ready to tackle the last task for a while. The room downstairs. So we can enjoy a cosy, comfy Christmas. Before I knew it, the ceiling was grey. And honey was ready for a drive to Brignoles.

We missed the market in the village, to swing past Derek to borrow his axe, and then decided to carry on via Carcès. Part of the wine route … what a gorgeous road. And we had it pretty much to ourselves. Can imagine how different it must be in the summer. A lot of the vignerons are open from Wednesday to Sunday – excluding siesta, of course.

We haven’t had a real Christmas tree for many years. The last one was a little conifer that we planted in the garden afterwards. But after helping Patricia with her monster tree, we figured we gotta do it. It’s really funky in Brignoles, just outside the L.Eclerc, how you choose your tree, and then they squish it into a sausage machine, and hey presto! It’s ready for transportation.

We got cement from Mr. Bricolage to fix the gaping hole in the bedroom floor, and checked with them if the colour of paint we needed was available. Apparently they can mix it at will. Takes two minutes. I’m amazed at how many Frenchies speak English. Trying to put us out of our misery with our limited French?

It’s such a tough call … which is the prettier road? From Cotignac to Entrecasteux to Carcès? Or from Le Val to Châteauvert to Barjols? Both are simply stunning. What a nice way to do the shopping!! We even made a quick detour through Pontevès. Apparently an ancient village … will have to come back and sink ourselves into the history.

Back at the farmhouse, Marcel tackled the gaping hole in the bedroom floor. First with a rougher concrete mixture, to take up the bigger holes. And then with a second batch to make it smooth. I really expected everything to disappear between the logs (don’t tell him).

I’m working on the little room near the fireplace. It’s white again, but needs another coat. And then we can set up our Christmas tree, put our feet up and relax into 2014. Yeah man!!

Provence sabbatical day 15 – festive season creeping in

Got some lovely sleep in last night, and only stirred after 10am! Mado was happy with the late morning too. He’s eating well, and doing fine. As if the little blip on radar didn’t occur.

Installing a 4-metre tree into your lounge is a lot easier with more than two hands. Marcel and I lent ours. Even if I say so myself, it all ran very smoothly. Marcel used his laser metre to see how tall the ceiling was, we removed a ruler’s length off the bottom, popped the tree into an old tub, and wedged it straight with blocks of wood. Quite simple really. And it’s going to look amazing when it’s decorated. Afterwards, we enjoyed the gluhwein Patricia made – with her own herbs and spices – and the “olive picker’s lunch”. Poppy tried to join in, but was shooed off the table.


Talk about arguing with the Tom-Tom! Our GPS stubbornly refused to let us follow an alternate route to Brignoles. Finally, after figuring it out ourselves for about 10km’s it relented. And our route was fabulous. Through Barjols and Chateauvert. WOW. What beautiful countryside!

Mr. Bricolage cut a few more window panes for us, and we got some grey paint to cover the roof leak stains; a handy tip from Christiane. It’s apparently easier to paint it white afterwards. We visited our first local CAVE, a co-op wine cellar. Nice to be supporting locals. We’re starting to feel more settled. These things take time. Especially when you’re thrown the curve balls that we’ve recently faced. But hey, it’s all part of the experience. C’est la vie!

Provence sabbatical day 4 – taking care of the supplies

3am and I can’t sleep. Wide awake and thinking about everything and nothing at all. A little blue light on the screen casts a lovely shadow of Marcel on the wall. He looks like a reclining Moore sculpture. Tossing this way, turning that way, I eventually nod off again. Mwaauwwww. It’s late-o’clock and Mado, the cat, reminds us of our obligations.”Hey, I’m here. Feed me.” First time he’s reminded me.

Feeling ever so groggy, I decide a bath in the Hobbit’s cove is just what I need. The plug system is the same as ours at home. Some stupid knob you turn to lift the plug in/out of the water. And just like ours at home, the mechanics have rusted away. A great idea … on paper. Only, I realise this after the bath is full. And I can no longer get the plug out of the bath!! Much swilling later, the plug finally lets itself loose 🙂

Feeling out of it, I move from one thing to the next. And finally, Pen’s brass candlesticks can taunt me no more. The one sits perfectly taught, and the other is like me after an evening of too many rosés – way too wonky for it to be safe. They’re dismantled, old wax removed, and soaked in boiling water. Marcel helps out with a particularly sticky stick and we manage to reassemble them tight and proud. Hoorah. A SEAL team would be proud.

“How will we know which shade of green to use?” “I have no doubt you’ll be fine.” Aunty Pen has full faith in us. Nothing like a bit of pressure then. Trying to match a piece of heaven? Marcel and I looked around for an easy-to-loosten piece of painted green. The flaking pieces in the front are sun-bleached and have gone yellow, and the garage door looks decidely blue. The bath panelling has come loose, and I’d made a note to fasten it down, but then we figured .. that’s got to be perfect!! Marcel expertly wiggled it out, and we had at least something to go by. And what a choice. At Mr. Bricolage in Brignoles, about 20 kms away, I was happy to settle for “Verte Provence” but comparing it to the slat … way too blue. Hoo boy!! We organised a whole bunch of other stuff, like window putty for the bedroom windows where the glass panes are “hanging in there” and even found a universal plug with a little loop handle thingy for bath time bliss.

After 14 years, I know the secret to shopping with you is to keep moving. If you spend too long in one place, you zone out … so c’mon …” I’ve said it before, shopping is not my thing. Especially on a few hours of sleep. Thanks honey, for knowing me so well 🙂 The drive home was pretty fabulous. In the dark, no street lights, no protective barriers and windy bends.