Provence sabbatical day 17 – Cotignac Christmas market

It’s a little weird not joining other Landy owners for the annual LRCH Christmas drive. I’m wishing them well. Thinking of my bruv and Kinga too. Can you believe it’s been a year already? Love you guys!!

We were only planning on going to the village after 2pm, so I tackled the bedroom corner; trying the grey paint on the leak stain to see if it’s easier to paint over. I’m sure Christiane meant for it to be painted evenly, but I was kinda digging the abstract coloration. Funny how the leak part was a completely different colour?

It was lovely being in the village with my honey. Nice showing him the little places I’d discovered, and he discovered a few of his own. Why did I decide to wear boots with a heel? Hello?!? It seriously hampers my sense of adventure ūüėČ

Not much text today, I’m going to let the photos speak for themselves. And get back to the crackling, sizzling fire. Not all the logs of wood are dry, methinks?

Provence sabbatical day 12 – a drive to Darty in Frejus

One of the best things about this part of France, is that it’s an hour and a half from the Med, and a couple of hours from the Alps. Marcel was itching to get closer to the coast, so a little drive to Fr√©jus was on the cards, some 60 kms away. But first, market day.¬†Patricia and I walk down. Marcel lugs the old washing machine into the van, and meets us there. Everyone kinda does their own thing and then meet up at Caf√© du Cours for a “verre vin” (glass of wine).¬†We had a brief chat with Philip about his work, and requested an interview. Hopefully we’ll be able to join him for a day to get a glimpse into “the life of a beekeeper”.¬†Sidsel gave us a tip for the washing machine, Darty. And that you can order online. But we thought we’d go check it out in person.

Kirsten mentioned a sleeper couch that she’d chatted with Pen about, which we could use if it fitted. A comfy couch would be rather cool, so after the market, we swung past. The house used to be a restaurant. I love how we’ve been to a couple of different homes, and they’re all so different! We took measurements, and headed off towards Carc√®s.

D562: Cotignac, Carcès, Lorgues, Les Arc, Les Muy, Fréjus

Instead of buying wood at Mr. Bricolage, and not wanting to order a year’s worth for EUR 300, we found a great solution enroute at a “bois de chauffage” where we loaded a cube of wood into the van for EUR 82. Hopefully it’ll last us a good part of the Winter. ¬†I’d love to yammer on about the scenery … but the photo’s aren’t doing it justice. You’ve got to do more than a drive-by shooting. So, we’ll have to come back. The most important thing right now, is a washing machine.¬†We went into a huuuuuge hardware store, and saw the cutest mosaic tiles, but no washing machines. Then around the corner, we found a Darty, which Sidsel had tipped us off about. Great stuff. A bright, sparkly store – we found the “laves” straight away. A very friendly saleslady helped us seal the deal, and organised to have the old machine swapped with the new one. Amazing what you can do with a couple of choice words.


The sun sets around 5 / 5:30 pm. Peak hour traffic. It didn’t take long before the engine wasn’t the only thing making loud noises. I dozed off big time. Too much excitement in one day!! Ha ha ha.

We’ll unload the washing machine and wood in the morning. I’m going to call it a night. Gosh, it’s getting close to pumpkin time … √° bientot!

Provence sabbatical day 5 – beekeepers and olive groves

Back in ’99 when Marcel and I first started getting to know each other, we discussed a gazillion things, like the things we’d love to do. On my list, was the romantic notion of picking olives and grapes in France or Italy. So when Patricia told me about hoping to achieve 300kgs to have her own pressing, I couldn’t resist offering my help. She’d organise the picnic, and I’d get fresh bread in the morning.

The alarm clock went off far too early after another night of insomnia. But I thought of the day ahead and got up, splashed my face with icy water, grabbed one of Pen’s hats (she wears them so well) and trundled down the lane.

I couldn’t get over the light. It was all sparkly as sunshine mingled with frosty air. The Pentax worked overtime, as I stopped every two seconds in my attempt to do this magical place justice. I took “the other route” Pen showed me, and got myself a little “lost” – best way to discover a place – and then found my way to the market. A bunch of organic veggies … for EUR 8! Wow. Locally grown, and yummy (writing this after dinner).

A beekeeper asks me something in French. I apologise and say I’m learning French. He says, “which language do you speak?” A British expat who’s been living here for decades. He was a mechanic and gave that up 6 years ago. His story gets interesting, when another client rocks up. Turns out she also speaks English. I giggle for ages at the number of expats; and trudge back up the hill … I wanted to get fit again ūüėČ

I dropped off the veggies and went for my bicycle. Flat front wheel!! Argh. Pump doesn’t work. Try the new one we got yesterday. Helps a bit, but as soon as there’s weight on the wheel … flat! Argh!! I leave the bike out for later and start walking. The roads can be very narrow. When we arrived last week, getting the big Renault van (and trailer) past this farmhouse was quite tricky. I considered myself lucky to be in Muddy Boots with his gammy clutch. Ha ha.

By the time I arrive, Patricia and Phillipe have already started. Being used to manual labour (installing laminate flooring with my honey) I expected a tough day ahead; seeing the electric fork, I almost felt cheated.It took longer to set out the sheets than to get the olives on the ground. So to make me feel better, I tried the little plastic forks that are used for manual picking. Bah, didn’t work for me. Hand picking was better. We took stragglers off the trees, and from a small olive tree on a big hill. That made me appreciate the fork a whole bunch more.

We worked really well as a team. I was expecting netting, but apparently the plastic sheets work better … guessing they don’t get caught in the underbrush. Handling them is like volumes of tulle on an over-sized wedding dress. We giggled a lot as we disappeared under them to funnel the olives. We managed to collect 4x 25kg buckets!! Great feeling. The olive trees have done their bit, and we’ve done ours.

Around 1-ish Patricia and I fetched the lunch goodes. Her home is gorgeous; something Hollywood would ADORE to get their hands on. But then again, this whole valley is so inspiring. It’s very difficult not to fall hopelessly in love. We felt very privileged with short-sleeve weather, fresh bread, camembert, pate. A lovely, lovely experience. But it didn’t end there … and got back into moving sheets and gathering olives. I left around 4-ish before it got too cold or dark.

Patricia, thank you for helping me cross off this bucket list item in such style and fun. But I suspect this won’t be the last day of picking olives?!?

Best apple pie in Amsterdam (day trip)

Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, where you can easily while away the time absorbing the vibe, looking at centuries-old buildings, and watching people. Yvonne and I met at central station and our goal was a leisurely stroll through the Jordaan and then to partake in a high tea; the English tradition being surprisingly popular with Dutch ladies.

We made our way to the Jordaan, where the Farmer’s organic market is held each Saturday. Magic seeing lots of lovely fresh produce, as well as other goodies. All the browsing left us a little thirsty, so Yvonne recommended coffee and the ‘best apple pie in Holland’ at Cafe Winkel 43. She wasn’t wrong as we patiently waited our turn to grab a piece of steaming pie fresh out the oven. YUMMY!

We meandered¬†our way to PC Hoofdstraat; the¬†high street to be seen shopping in. At those prices, I was more than happy only sticking my nose in to take a pic. We visited all kinds of interesting stores and stopped to listen to the ‘draaiorgel’ a traditional mobile organ.

Still satiated from the unexpected apple treat, and expecting scones and cucumber sandwiches, I was a little disappointed with the high tea. The pastries were a tad greasy, the sandwiches a little weird and I could only swallow one spoon of the overly sweet cake. Note to self: go to London and see how it’s done there!¬†Fortunately it didn’t dampen our day out. The sun was shining, we’d enjoyed fab markets, caught up on some natter.

Amsterdam is very entertaining with people from all over the world, doing their own thing. I love the canals, trees, pot plants, buildings and especially the house boats! A wonderful day out …