Sunday, 3 July 2016

Week 3/4 Work is completed.




3rd July

So here we have our after shots...

The Children's bedroom 

Before we had a double bed with wooden fixed headboard and also a couple of wooden fixed tables - you'll need to see previous blog photos as Carol hasn't got them on her ipad. And a few strange wiring cover up jobs needed as reported in previous blog updates. 

Now a nautical theme




The landing is similarly themed - to be used as a play area ( see previous blogs for it's deep red glory!)



The main feature the transformed kitchen diner




And the completed corner cupboard project - what a good job! - well worth the time and effort - thanks to Roger for frame construction and consultancy advice, well... the whole job really.

  

Thanks also need to go to John who disassembled the old kitchen left in the garage into manageable bits to enable to get it to the  tip in several car trips! And Patti who helped with painting duties ( all visiting friends have been given "jobs" before being allowed any sight seeing pleasure!)

We also have assembled a gazebo structure for added shade on the terrace ( we had several days of scorchio weather with hot sun)
Unfortunately also some rain which collected in pockets on the canvas roof - so a job in progress.
We guess that in heavy rain it will need to be removed and reassembled... Not ideal but took 8 mins to reassemble during the time trial! - not too bad.


July 5th ( Happy Birthday Ben!)

Another month has flown by - we leave with a sense of achievement in a good kitchen job done (mostly - still a few snags to fix).
Disappointed we couldn't have room to bring all the finishing touches - books, games, pictures etc - they will arrive next time - end Aug/beg Sept. When the next project begins - the swimming pool digging!

Yes we have decided to construct a small pool - bought from a company that provides a kit - you arrange the hole digging,construct a linked frame and they line it once constructed. Rob the kitchen fitter is to help Graham put the frame together ( he's done a similar job before) early Sept. A local digger owner is to dig the hole and take away the excess soil etc. Then plan is for Aaron to do some terracing/decking around it in March/April ,the finishing liner and edging stones to be done May/June ready for next summer. 

A la prochaine!


Monday, 20 June 2016

Renovation and Repair week 2





June 13th

Ian and Aaron reported at their usual time for their next week of thrills and spills chez nous.
With the kitchen fitting being seriously delayed due to the unexpected building demolition problems - another worker has been allocated the job of fitting the new windows in the kitchen and the ensuite bathroom.
However waiting for said window fitting has impact on the order of progress in the kitchen fitting - at least there is plenty of other stuff to be done! 
Plaster boards have been applied to the rails and the electric sockets and feeds to the appliances are done.

June 14th

We are ordered to go out for the day as Ian is to fit the new electric circuit board and there will be no electric all day.
We headed off to Puilboreau on the outskirts of La Rochelle - a large out of town shopping complex.
We have to purchase a fridge freezer and return with kitchen tiles. A nice light fitting for the kitchen is also in mind. We trawled around the various superstores in search of our treasures.
Carol was disappointed on visiting her favourite shop - Maison du Monde - there was nothing in the store to contribute to the kitchen purchases in mind.
After an exhausting morning we lunched at .......... McDonalds! Oh yes it was well worth Carol taking the effort to wear a skirt and apply make up - what a treat!? We gobbled our "tasty Mcdo sandwiches" whilst surfing the web on our ipads comparing prices of electrical goods and catching up with emails.  
   We returned to Castorama the chosen place for the fridge freezer and were disappointed we could not fit it into the car - delivery will be Mon 20th - 27€ extra ( How much ! - G )
    Then on to Leroy Merlin a diy superstore to choose the kitchen tiles. After much debate we went to inform the salesperson - 10 days delivery - what!! Back to the displays and an alternative was agreed on and purchased - however they are more expensive than we anticipated - ( would be - G )
    However to cheer Graham up we found a light fitting for 6€ ! -( plus an extra 13€ for the large bulb)

         We returned to the beginnings of a carcase of a kitchen 


  June 15th

Work continues - most of the electrics done .
The window fitter arrived - at last.
But the day ended in a bit of a drama when the double sink  is too large for the space - we dashed to  Niort 40 minutes away to a large diy store and bought a single one - not our favourite but the choice was limited and it will do the job.
Work finished at 8.15pm for Ian and Aaron - a long stressful day - duly rewarded with a couple of beers ,Rob the extra labouring help arrived just as the beer was opened - perfect timing as he was politely greated by the boys.


June 16th

The boys arrived this morning with tales of a good evening last night spent watching the Euros French game at Le Grand Cafe - the atmosphere was reported to have been great amongst the partisan crowd. However Aaron looked rather green around the gills - apparently the mix of beer and cocktails didn't agree with him?
It looked touch and go whether work would be done this am, but after rehydration with tea, toast and paracetamol he rose to the challenge and soon the heavenly sound of heavy drilling filled the air.

 By 9am we had 3 people working on the kitchen and 3 people fitting a woodburning stove in the dining end ( that's a lot of tea making! - C)

The woodburning stove was fitted with no problem - amazing.


Good progress was made with the kitchen and hopefully it will be completed tomorrow.
The boys have sacrificed their anticipated afternoon visit to a local bar to watch the England game - what professionals! Having monitored the score regularly on their phones it appeared to have been the usual nerve wracking England game, so it was probably better for their health that they had remained chez nous. 

June 17th

Today is the final push as the plastering, jointing and tiling are completed. However because of the unexpected extra building work needed  there remains quite a lot of finishing off for us to do.
Friends are arriving tomorrow so apart from some rubbing down and serious cleaning we have suspended decorative duties for a few days.


Just the painting and decoration to go.......!

Monday, 13 June 2016

La Maison Pierre - June 2016 - major repair/renovation month!


June 7th
After expecting a delayed start to the arrival of the kitchen fitting/building team - we received news that they could start the work a few days earlier than we thought. We managed to telephone our french neighbours and arrange for a key to be left - they arrived the morning we arrived in St Malo.
When we got to the house 4 hours later- remnants of kitchen furniture and appliances were already decorating the patio.

Ian the electrician and his stepson Aaron kitchen fitter are a powerhouse team of 2!
Unfortunately the stud wall that Scott the kitchen fitting boss ( from his previous assessment visit) had promised us would fall down when the gentlest of pressure was applied, turned out to be concrete!! Cue detailed investigation. Why was it concrete? Was it holding anything (ie upstairs) up? After a few spy holes it was decided thankfully No, this was not a load bearing wall.

Aaron the building allrounder had not been anticipating this and had not brought any heavy equipment.
However after much cursing before and after, a mammoth effort of brute strength and determination hammer wielding Aaron demolished the ******d wall in a day - all by himself - we observed in awe. 




Aaron the champion wall destroyer heads off for his beer reward.

However that was not all .... Preparing to remove the window in readiness for the new one Aaron discovered that the wall was not supporting the lintel - the window was the support - so fearing the possibility of wall collapse when the window was removed - concrete supports were created either side of the window - creative but time delaying - adding another 2 days to the job.

Bizarrely the door frame was held up by a steel lintel seen above right - this was removed a day later when Rob the labouring reinforcement arrived with suitable heavy cutting equipment. This was proving to be not the simple small kitchen fitting job they/we  anticipated.
Well truthfully what else could we have expected!

June 10th
Things are beginning to take shape. Rails have been constructed ready for plasterboarding after the weekend. A ceiling has been made and electrics in place.


Graham has many projects to complete - building a cupboard to hide pipes, meters etc in the dining room. Also a cupboard in the "children's bedroom" - which can be locked to store any personal belongings if we do rent to holidaymakers. 


Graham at work. OK, so not quite as demanding as a concrete wall, but important all the same.

Carol has been controlling the garden - which was overcome with many weeds. And usual catering and cleaning duties!
 
A bed post weeding.


Amazingly the pond and fish have thrived - the pond pump had failed as we left for home last time and we anticipated to see dead fish. Thankfully all fish alive and counted for, and after a clean and dry out the pump now works ... for now!

We have had wonderful weather this week - in the 30's C some days however next week is forecast to be rainy - just as we have bought a BBQ - we're getting sick of salads!

Saturday,Jacques an elderly deaf neighbour living in the house opposite, who we spoke to once in March when his car wouldn't start,sent his carer round with a bottle of bubbly. How kind. It looks not shop bought. Hmm. Was he, or is his son a viticulteur? We need a evening to find out....

June 12th
Sunday - a rainy day makes a day painting and more diy not so bad.
Graham wallpapered a wall , replaced various electrical sockets and continued his quest to sound proof the down pipe from the upstairs bathroom - the macerator toilet sounds like a jet fighter flying by as the waste goes down the pipe situated in the dining area cupboard!


Carol applied paint layer one over the destroyer grey paintwork.



We hope to achieve a light grey, white, with a touch of zingy yellow colour scheme in the kitchen diner.

Tomorrow Ian and Aaron return to begin the kitchen transformation!

Tonight we had barbequed sausages for dinner - we bought a cheap discounted bbq  - however still only with salad to accompany them ( oh how we dream of roasted vegetables). The sausages were delicious!


Monday, 11 April 2016

Week 4 - first week of April




Had a full on weekend courtesy of the Beverley/Nogent sur Oise twinning society and our hosts Annie and Adrian Petit. We were treated royally by the food-and-wine-loving Petit family!

Back to work Tues 5th April. 
A return to painting the front twin bedroom. Unfortunately we have exhausted our Dulux home bought paint so are now using french paint bought from the french B and Q. We hope the bedroom will have a seaside feel - white beams, blue ceiling and sandy coloured walls. We think this will be the most transformed room if the scheme works. Graham has spent ages hiding various wires, sockets and bodged bits of wall - he hopes to create a platform to house a bookcase to hide the worse.

It is nice to have a tea break in sunshine in the garden - today it has been in the early 20 degrees C - very pleasant!
A view of the ? Almond tree - in the sunniest part of the garden late afternoon. The thermometer says it is 22 degrees C at 6pm.

Graham has also demolished a cupboard in the dining room - unfortunately revealing a rather damp wall. More work!
 


Another before - the landing -

And after -

Tomorrow a trip to Nantes - to Ikea - Graham can't wait!

 Graham then spent a few days assemblying the purchased Ikea products - 2 beds, a bedside cabinet, a chest of drawers and a tall bookcase - all for the "kids" front bedroom which is now finished - again difficult to get a good photo on the ipad.

The panelling which is to hide the wire which is being re-routed.


The new colour scheme

And the beds - we think it will be a lovely bedroom - especially once dressed with curtains, bedlinen,headboards and a few seasidey/nautical decorations. We will get these in England as we think they're cheaper there.

We are almost on first name terms with the workers at the dichetterie (tip) having made frequent visits!
Here we are preparing for another trip. As you can see we are not content just to attack the inside of the house - we have attacked the garden just as enthusiastically!

We will leave the dining room and kitchen until our return in May/June. A new kitchen is planned to be fitted then as well as a wood burning stove.
Further exploration of the damp has now left a stone wall needing drying out 

The wall between the kitchen and dining area is to be demolished

So we have come to the end of our first trip of redecoration and some renovation - we have booked a ferry to return 12th April. Just a few more decorative jobs over the last few days and a clearing out of the kitchen ready for it's demolishment. 
Back to Angleterre for a rest!

On the positive we feel that the house is beginning to feel more of a home.
We have also had time to have a soiree with our french neighbours who have kindly offered to help feed the  fish, water the  plants AND mow the lawn whilst we're away. We even have a lovely lady Christelle lined up to do changeovers once we have paying guests in the summer - result!!

Just a few photos of the many little decorative gifts left by our french vendors.
A pirate ship with firefighter and pirate - in the garden BBQ shelter - along with

A plaque dated 1922 for a prize for a dog show ( we hope!)

A budding duck collection in the downstairs loo


And in the hallway a few objects d'art

One person's tat is another's treasure - It certainly adds character!

A la prochaine!

Friday, 9 October 2015

Week 4. Charente Maritime completed!

Thurs 1st Oct ( white rabbits!)

Another sunny day so we decided to cycle to another part of the island. Set off just after noon - our usual travelling time, but to be fair at this time of year the sun only gets going at mid-day and we're not working. 

We decided to have lunch out today to try the local seafood (Graham dusting off his wallet!) - heading off to St Trojan les Bain -  stuated in the south of the island.
En route we saw a typical charentaise fishing building at a place called Port de Salines  - near a salt  eco museum visiting site. This would do just fine- as we approached the place it was evident it was a well known restaurant (Michelin recommended said the sign). We were given the last table outside on the terrace overlooking a little harbour area and marshland - very pretty.





We had the fixed price 3 course menu and a bottle of rosé - very civilised. Lobster bisque, followed by Fish pot de feu (fish stew) or Duck with a chickpea mash, and apple compote with meringue or a chocolate bombe creation containing sponge,cream and banana - we decided to try everything on the menu bar the oysters which unfortunately neither of us like! Not the simple seafood spagetti €9 lunch we had in mind, but it was a delightful surprise which we thoroughly enjoyed!  

As in all such places we enjoyed people watching - as usual most had fleeces, jeans, quilted jackets and the all important scarves, as we sat in out tee shirt and shorts enjoying the sun! Fashionable french men appear to find the need to wear a scarf ornamentally wrapped around their necks whatever they wear! 

View from our table whooo!

The flat bottomed barques are used to harvest the oysters and other fruits de mer. 

Onwards to St Trojan les  Bain - a village that overlooks the bridge to the island and mainland France.
The tide was out so inevitably the coastline was inundated with - yes- cocklepickers!! We talk to one, an old chap and ask him what he is catching.  Ver! (Worms). He says they're for his fish, not for eating ha ha, you idiot, which Graham, thinking of the carp in our (new) garden misunderstands. They're for fishing, bait for for cod and others. Evidently you need to be quick otherwise phut! They descend! He's not as quick as he used to be, he says, but he seems to have been quite successful today.

We cycled along the coast with pine forest to the other side to another sandy beach where we spent a while resting to allow our stomachs to settle post lunch. This beach was covered in cockle shells - a shell gatherers dream!

Then back to the site following our tracks with a little detour when we lost our way - 18 miles in total  today. Extra little photo showing the interior of ile d'Oléron. On first look it's boring swamp land but we think it has a certain charm and definitely recommend a visit.



Friday 2nd Oct.
All good weather must come to an end! - with a forecast predicting rain for several days we left the Ille d'Oleron and headed for the big city - Bordeaux. We have an ulterior motive: there are Ikea and Maison du Monde shops in Bordeaux and it would be useful to try out a budget sofa in case we have to buy online - are they cheaper in France?

Arrived late pm after the usual lunchtime drive, supermarket shop we arrive in rain. Dinner chez Rex - ready meal - Paella- watching the French rugby world cup with the odd glass of wine .. We are really embracing  the french way of life!
A restless and mostly sleepless night for Carol, as it lashed down with rain, thunder and the constant drips and plopping sounds on Rex's roof and sides felt like water torture! - Thank goodness for a backlit kindle! Graham slept on regardless.

Sat 3rd Oct
We cycle to the nearby shopping complex -with Ikea and Maison du Monde. The cycle paths are very impressive here - an easy flat ride took us about 15-20 mins from the campsite direct to the shopping centre.
Spent hours pricing up furniture with the rain beating on Ikea's tin roof, with a break for lunch in the self service restaurant which was good value and surprising tasty! No we did not have the swedish meatballs! Answer: Cheaper, with an exchange rate of 1.35 France is 10% cheaper (excluding delivery which are astronomical and increase the more you spend!?)

A race back through the rain and a Carol freezer hot pot special dinner, then watched England's demise against Australia at rugby. Spent a while also watching a young German couple in a makeshift van putting up an inventive awning comprising of a sheet of plastic, rope and what looked to be a couple of broom handles! Well the male was working and hammering away whilst the female checked her phone. After about 3 attempts the awning was up ,although the female did not look that impressed as they huddled under it ,glancing at us cozy and warm in our heated van drinking wine and eating hot food! Ooh to be young again ....

Sun 4th Oct.
Decided despite the rainy weather we would do Bordeaux. Cycled the 8 kms to the centre along the again impressive cyclepath network. Bordeaux is one of the most cycle friendly cities we have visited - plenty of wide pathways for pedestrians and cyclists and a great tram network. Must be all those wine revenues. 
Cycled along the riverfront to the Place de Bourse - a mirrored pavement installation occasionally poured a stream of misty steam around the people standing upon it.
Now you see him..


Now you don't!



Walked around the centre - Bordeaux does not appear to be a poor place!


There were lots of river cruise boats moored on the river and then we saw this miracle of man's ingenuity- which explains all the American voices round the city. How does it stay upright?


Cycled back and arrived back just before the heavens opened .. Again ..! Could be worse - 17 dead in Cote D'Azur in worst floods for 20 years. 

Tomorrow we will head back up north. We purchased some chocs in a rather nice looking chocolatier today, and aim to drop them off for Ingrid the agent tomorrow as a thanks for all her help. 

Mon 5th October.

Decided to stay over in Aytre just outside of La Rochelle with the aim to visit La Rochelle tomorrow to remind ourselves how nice it is.
Weather not too good - cloudy with showers - still 20 degrees C though. Arrived at the campsite to discover the pool was still open - an enormous indoor one as well as outdoor. Enjoyed a brief swim - indoors- as it started raining as soon as we donned our cossies!

Tues 6th October ( Happy Birthday Philippa!)

Heavy rain overnight - we're both ready to head back home .
However we will not waste our last day! Walked a very long km to the bus stop and caught the bus in to La Rochelle. The harbour and marina looked as lovely as we remembered but after a quick picnic rain arrived, so we meandered around the shopping area - very sophisicated! A few souvenir purchases were made ,but Carol disappointed as we didn't find the usual seasidy decor shops - she had hoped to begin building the decoration section of La Maison Pierre!
No photos here of La Rochelle as we took them for last year's blog.

Back to Rex and over a cuppa Graham got out the paperwork for our return crossing tomorrow night - yes we are booked on the 8pm crossing on the 6th Oct - WHAT! - that's this evening!! Oops - Graham had entered the wrong date on our calendar... It was 5.30 pm there was no way we could get to the ferry in time.
After several calls to the Caravan Club we managed to rearrange our return - we leave at 4.30 pm tomorrow from Caen ,and as the ferry arrives at 9.15pm in Portsmouth we will stay at a Caravan Club site overnight near Fareham. Not quite the relaxed overnight crossing we had hoped for!
Oh Well ... It could have been a lot worse.
A long drive anticipated tomorrow and we will need to head off by 9am - a difficult concept for us to grasp as we have been managing to awake and breakfast by 11am the last few days! Nothing at all due to the tasting of the tasty cheap wine in the evenings! 

Tues 7th October

Up and at em - and on the road by 9.30am.
A long drive -    miles, just got to Caen at the advised 1 hr before departure. No time to stop for all the
 bargain wine and food purchases or even the cheap diesel ... Boo Hoo. One of our friends is going to miss out on the promised bumper french sausage selection! Thank goodness we managed to buy a few bottles of wine at Leclerk a few days earlier.
A rather bumpy crossing followed which seemed to last much longer than just under 6 hours. Graham had to abandon his dinner just as the cheese course arrived, having suddenly felt a need to lie down. Carol gamely stayed at the dinner table to finish the cheese and remaining wine - always willing to do the polite thing.
Then back to Blighty - as usual all good things come to an end...... With the promise of a very exciting French adventure in 2016!

A bientot! A la prochaine!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Week 3. Time to chill and enjoy the rest of the trip.

Thurs 24th Sept.

A late start to the day - quelle surprise!
After breakfast cycled in to Chef Boutonne to buy a baguette for lunch and a chance to check out C-B. A grey town we thought, full of bagnoles (old cars) and a fair percentage of Brits. 
After lunch took a pleasant walk around the woods overlooking the site and then in to Chef Boutonne.
Visited the grounds of Chateau de Javarzay which is just on the edge of the village. A pretty chateau built in the early 16C - one of the earliest examples of a renaissance chateau in Poitou. 

Tomorrow we will head to Melle. We are really killing time, exploring the interior, waiting for Saturday to meet up with Jackie and Peter, who we met last year as they were in the process of buying a farmhouse and gite as a permanent move. 

The campsite turns up a mesmorising attraction, at least for Graham. A couple of martin pecheurs (kingfishers) patrol the stream behind us. There he sits, french book in one hand, binocs in the other happily watching kingfishers and the kestrels which hunt the cornfield behind.

Rex pitched near the duck topairy!

Fri 25th Sept.
Another leisurely start ( what else) and arrived in Melle as everything closed for lunch as usual.
Picnicked in the park with a shop bought Croque Monsieur - remembered we didn't really like them as we got to the end of consuming them!
Melle - " the gateway to Poitou" appeared a tad scruffy and the promised gems of churches appeared not in walking distance of the centre - so we left.... After doing a reccy of the campsite which looked dire!
On to Celle-sur-Belle a very pretty village with a royal abbey. The gardens were free to wander which we did but we also paid to visit the inside - those monks knew how to live!

We chatted to an English couple who just happened to be sitting where we parked - they have 2 holiday homes locally - 1 just outside of Surgeres - which their son now manages as a holiday let. We exchanged phone numbers as their son had used a local builder to help build a pool. Already building up contacts!
 
So back to Chef Boutonne for another nights stay, and the kingfishers, for want of any near alternative, tomorrow we visit Jackie and Peter who now run a gite in Les Eglises d'Argenteuil. 

Sat 26th Sept.

Another leisurely start and a drive through the back roads to Aulnay. Shopped at the supermarket on the outskirts in which most voices heard were English! and prepared a picnic lunch. In to the centre to visit the church of Saint-Pierre d'Aulnay - standing in a cemetary - it is a beautiful building remarkable for the sculptures that adorn the portals - apparently classic themes of Romanesque art. 

We ate lunch in a medieval themed garden overlooking the church.

Onwards to Les Eglises - where we met Jaquie and Pete at their charentais house overlooking extensive gardens including an orchard. Also a large enclosed pool area.They have a seperate gite  which Jaquie manages and Pete currently supplements by working in London Mon - Fri and travels back weekends - in time to mount the ride on mower! They have been here for 1 year - we met them on the campsite in St Jean last year just as they were signing for the purchase. A lovely peaceful spot it's easy to fall under it's spell. The gite is called Rue Vincent (google) if anyone fancies a peaceful week away. 

We tear ourselves away and on to Saintes as there is an exhibition of Salon d'Habitat and du jardin  tomorrow where we may get some ideas. A minor panic as we thought we couldn't get a tv signal - it's the England v Wales rugby game tonight! - panic over the signal is found!

Sun 27 th Sept
Visited the exhibition - not the house decor design idea place we anticipated but spoke to several pool companies and log burner/pellet burner salespeople to get some idea of what's out there. As anticipated costs were top top end of the budget! Food for thought!

Set off to head for the Ille D'Oleron but decided as we travelled to stop over in Fouras instead - as nearer to Surgeres. We have an appointment with the bank manager Tues pm and also a stop off to chat with Simon who ownes several gites just outside of Surgeres late am Tues- thanks to Ingrid our intrepid agent! 

Arrived in sunshine in Fouras - checked in with the municipal site and explored the sea front. Walked the penisula to the port where the ferry to Ille D'Aix departs - about 3 kms. Fouras is the place for oysters and other shellfish in the whole of France- hang on haven't we heard that before! The place was buzzing with people lunching and purchasing shellfish at the various stalls.

Windy but sunny - we decided to plan to visit the Ille D'Aix tomorrow.
Walked by several windsurfers and kite surfers doing their stuff in the sea off the promenade back to the site - they were very impressive picking up what looked to be great speed across the bay.

Mon 28th Sept.
Service wash this am - clean towels, bedding , clothing and undies today - luxury!
Prepared a picnic and then headed off to cycle to the ferry to Ille D'Aix. Passed lots of people on bikes clutching buckets of clams and mussels - the tide was out and amateur and professional shellfish harvesters were out in force! 
Windy but sunny the crossing proved easy and uneventful. Arrived on the Island which is 4 kms by 2.5 kms aprox and was basically a fort in Napoleonic times to protect the entry to Rochefort and La Charente river. Now it is a tourist destination and today the ferry was still busy with holidaymakers. It is a car free island other than service vehicles and easily walked or cycled around.
Had a picnic on the windier north side and then practically circumnavigated it! We soaked up the sun at a completetly secluded beach on the east side. 
Many of the beaches consisted of what looked to be millions of shells - mainly oyster and clam - bleached white by the sun.


Egrets are in abundance all over these islands - presumably, like us, they don't eat oysters. 

We would definitely return. It is well worth a visit and we guess it will be mobbed in summer! Had a fabulous day trip. 
Tomorrow back to Surgeres - again!

Tues 29 th Sept.

Late start again - we have an appointment to call in to see Simon, a Brit who owns a 5 gite farm house complex just outside of Surgères and has kindly offered us a cuppa and chat about life in this part of France.
Although late we decided to detour to Muron where a road sign promised a biscuiterie - rather be a few minutes more late with a gift than arrive late with nothing we thought. The biscuiterie was a small unit making traditional charentais cakes not biscuits as we thought - bought one for Simon and a couple for us as the owner tried to press us to buy a selection of all cakes he made!
Simon appeared a man resigned to submitting to the french system to enjoy the french life,who despite his rather gruff first impression supplied us with lots of useful information and advice. He has lived here for 12 years - his eldest (of 4)child was 10 years old when they arrived and now firmly integrated in to the french way of life. He says he came to France to embrace all things french and so deliberately does not mix with any expats. He is happy for us to contact him once we're in Surgères should we need any further info. 
So on in to Surgères and having a couple of hours to spare until our interrogation had lunch in the Cafe de Paris near the Marché and opposite the bank. Had a lovely Plat de Jour - think this will be a regular spot once here. Graham thinks we should frequent several local restaurants regularly once we're holiday residents to get known in the community, and who is Carol to argue - she'll force down the food and wine for the cause!
Just over an hour this time with Geraldine the bank manager to arrange home and contents insurance cover - evidence of this is required by the Notaire BEFORE the final signing for the property.

Then off to  the Ille d'Oleron - a larger island with bridge access. Promising some of the best oysters in France - again,and vineyards, forts ,forests, beaches and white painted villages. We pitched up at our selected site and had a pre dinner drink as the sun set. We hope to explore by bike tomorrow.

Table setting chez Rex - we don't like standards to slip!


Weds 30th Sept.

A cloudy start with a sprinkle of rain but by midday the weather appeared to be changing.
So we packed a picnic and cycled off to explore the island.

First port of call Le Chateau d'Oleron and a visit to the Citadel. Another fort built by one of the Roi Louis's - which unfortunately was bombed by the allies in the 2nd World War - it appears work is being done to renovate some of it, but in it's present state other than views across the Charente, it was not a very exciting sight. The tide was out and scores of cockle pickers were out scouring the mud, yuck!


We did wander round an art expo sited there but all a bit too modern and difficult to appreciate with our uncultured eyes!

Then on towards La Grand Plage - after a while battling along the main roads we found the designated cycle paths - much easier and prettier- we picnicked in a forest at a picnic table. Then on to the beach- and what a beach!- not the choppy muddy Charente but the blue Atlantic with dunes and miles of golden sand. We walked along the sea observing the surfers,the sand kites, the wind surfers and .... cockle pickers!



Apologies, our fly has returned inside the camera. 

On our return we passed by a pond area with ducks, geese and a beaver rat looking thing, Coypu? - am sure those avid nature watchers reading will put us right! Have to say they gave us a bit of a surprise.



Back at the site  sheltered from the wind and in full sun the temp in Rex was 32 degrees C ! Not bad for the last day in Sept!

Tomorrow we will decide to stay a little longer if the weather holds as there are many more places to explore. Or head inland. Life is hard for the retiree van owner!