Hibernation is over!

Time goes fast! It has been about five months already since we moved here.

I have never spent a winter in as mild climate and yet never felt as cold as this year. Trouble is, that houses are built to protect from the heat rather than from the cold. During the very coldest period in early February, we were luckily in Bordeaux. The house was without any heating for two weeks, and when we returned, it was so cold that even inside the house we could see the steam coming out when breathing!

It took us almost a week to get the house heated to somewhat bearable temperature. I was very happy that I took enough winter clothing with me, included two pairs of leg warmers. One pair for the legs and other for the arms 🙂

Naturally this winter was the coldest in years in this area of France…

We have burned 11 cubic meters of wood in the fireplace, that being our only source of heating. By the way, as a scandinavian, it feels quite odd that the most common wood to burn here is oak…

People (including us) have suffered from burst water pipes and lot of plants outside got damaged during the couple weeks of cold. The weather this winter has been very popular subject in the news and in peoples discussions 🙂

Excellent thing is that winter here is very short. Already in late February we had over 20 degrees to remind us why we came here in the first place. It is now mid March and the last week was very hot! The whole life changed over one night. It is difficult to describe how wonderful it felt when we got the heat! The body and the soul just soaked in the warmth from the sun and it felt like something was giggling inside 🙂

As in every spring in any country, one gets burning urge to build and grow something and energy level increases tremendously. We started with taking down the curtains from the conservatory to be washed and that I could clean the windows. It might sound like a small thing, but I promise, it wasn’t! There are 20 curtains and 14 two meter high and 1.5 meter wide windows in there. Now the curtains are washed and almost all windows cleaned from the inside. To get them cleaned from the outside is going to be a nice challenge, since we don’t have a ladder high enough so we need to assemble some kind of equipment to be able to reach the highs…sometime later on.

Next in the plan was to make a vegetable garden. Charlie spent a day digging and turning the earth in the garden. The earth here is wonderful, it is very rich and airy and you can grow almost anything here.

The day after Charlie had made the veggie bed, there were lot of dig holes all over it. It was probably wild boars that have been looking for something to eat. Charlie had to build a fence around the area to protect our coming harvest from any beasts 🙂 Next challenge will be to try to protect the plants from insects and more importantly from the “escargot”, garden snails, which are plenty here. The kind that people eat with garlic 🙂 We have been collected eggshells to be crushed and sprinkled around the plants, since I read somewhere that the snails can’t cross that kind of sharp material. We’ll see…

We haven’t planted anything out yet, since there might still be cold nights ahead, but the conservatory is full of pots with pre-planted veggies. Thanks goes to Charlie’s parents, who sent us large variety of seeds. There are now radish, couchette, beetroot, carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, leek and three types of lettuce growing nicely, waiting to be transferred outside when the temperature allows it.

Food is on the way 🙂

Things will start cooking again

Yes, there was definitely something wrong with the owen. We spent a lot of time trying to find an electrician to come and have a look at it. Finally we found a place in the town where we could go and ask some help. I took a picture of the owen with my mobile phone and we prepared a little note (with a help of Google translator) to help us explain the situation to the electrician.

 

The first bit went really well (bonjour). Charlie started to describe our problem to the guy and I supported him by spinning my finger wildly in the air, which was meant to resemble the broken fan. If the electrician would have lifted his eyebrows any higher, they would have reached the back of his head. But he seemed little bit curious at the same time so we continued bravely, and managed to make ourselves understood. His opinion was that the thermostat is broken and it needs to be changed. We set a date when he could come and replace it, just couple of days before Christmas.

He came and we chatted a little before he started to repair the owen (bonjour). In his opinion, there was nothing wrong with the fan, but I asked him to disconnect it anyway since I was sure that was the reason for the loud noise. It is really handy to have Google translator, we wrote in turns what we had to say and we were able to understand each other.  Finally the owen got fixed and I was extremely happy that I would be able to continue my French cooking without burning everything 🙂

By the way, the noise is still there, but otherwise the owen is working well…

Things ain’t cooking in my kitchen

When we settled in here, I reckoned that since we are in France, one needs to approach cooking with passion, devotion and respect. And one has to sacrifice a lot of time to it.

So I bought myself a French cook book to give me direction and guidance. The book is called “Cuisine Petit Prix”, full of delicious semi-easy recipes with reasonable cost. The first recipe I wanted to give a go with was “Quiche aux poireaux”, Leek pie. (you will find the recipe in the cooking section later on if you want try)

I felt myself like one of those celebrity chefs with my apron on and cheeks red out of excitement, maybe partially because of the red wine I was cooking with. And I was in a FRENCH kitchen with a kitchen isle and above it all sorts of pots and pans and cooking equipment hanging. Just like on tv 🙂

After I’ve made the dough, prepared the leeks and onions it was time to turn the owen on. When I switched the button, the kitchen was filled with loud, trembling noise. It came from the owen. It also looked like the owen could start roaming uncontrolled around the kitchen in any minute. I observed the situation for a while and since it looked like the owen is getting warm and staying more or less in place, I finished the pie and put it in the owen to cook. Because I have sometimes tendency to forget things, I also put the timer for half an hour to tell me when the pie will be done.

While I was waiting for the pie, I set the table, light the candles and opened the wine.

After about 15 minutes, I smelled burning. I rushed in the kitchen and opened the owen door and what did I see? It was a rather sad sight. The pie was totally black from the edges, or actually everywhere that it could get black.

Well, well, there was nothing else to do but scrape the burned edges to make the pie little less hideous and serve it.

Not only that it turned out to be burned from outside, it was also near to undone inside. The taste wasn’t at all bad and the wine was delicious 🙂

I will give Quiche au poireaux another attempt when I have plucked up my courage..

It was time to get someone to fix the owen, I will tell you later how did that go and also what else has or hasn’t been cooking in my kitchen.

 

Cheerio

 

Paris and Louvre

We had a wonderful Christmas in Paris! The long, 1200km drive there and back was well worth the effort. We arrived on 22.12 in the evening, and we were welcomed by lovely dinner and wonderful company.

The next day we took a train to Paris with Charlie. We walked more than 20km that day and if there would have been more time we would have walked three times as much! There is so much to see! We first went to see Notre Dame and from there we walked to Louvre. We hadn’t planned to actually go in the museum but we realized that it would be so very stupid not to since we were already there and who knows, maybe it was our only chance ever to see it. So we did go in and fulfilled both our lifetime dreams!

It felt almost surreal to actually be in the Louvre and to be able to see all the amazing artwork in there! It is hard to describe, one felt oneself so small…All the sculptures and paintings that have survived hundreds of years. The museum itself was a piece of great art! And it is big, it would take several weeks to really study all the work in there. Unfortunately we only had about three hours to rush through, but we did see everything except the Asian art section, which didn’t interest us right at the moment as much as the rest. We were surprised that they allowed us to take photos, only without flash of course, but still. I think it is brilliant that we were able to take memories with us in picture form 🙂 Here are some examples of the ones I took:

Cupid Playing with a Butterfly by Antoine-Denis Chaudet (1763-1810)

Cleopatra’s Death by Giovanni Pedrini Giampietrino sometimes in 1500-hundreds

This is called “Psyche and Cupid” and the artist is Francois Gérard. I can’t believe that someone can paint see-through material like the clothing on this picture!

This is “The Consecration of Napoleon” by Jacques-Louis Dacid (1805-1807) True masterpiece! The size is 621cm x 979cm and it has 191 figures painted in it. Wow!!!

This was the closest we get to the most popular picture in the Louvre! It was surrounded with a fence and crowds of people! Charlie and Mo 🙂

 

This is the sculpture of Mary Magdalena by Gregor Erhart in early 16th century. It is very tall, 325 cm! And beautiful!

 

After visiting the Louvre we walked the The Avenue des Champs-Élysées and admired the Christmas market that reached at least a kilometer long. There we loads of people and endless row of stalls where they sold everything between food and christmas decorations. Then we went to a tiny little restaurant to have a nice glass of Pessac-Léognan wine and after that we strolled to see the Eiffel Tower. Perfect timing since it had become dark and they’ve just switched on the lights! Beautiful as anything!

Monflanquin

We did a day trip today to town called Monflanquin. It is a very beautiful hilltop village about 13 km from us, which has been said that it is the most beautiful “Bastide” in France. It truly was impressive! It is on the top of a high hill and from there downwards leads tens of narrow and charming alleys. Monflanquin celebrated it’s 750-year anniversary in 2006, so it has seen a lot even after the Hundred Year War.

The views to the surrounding countryside from the town are breathtaking to say the least. Now that it is autumn, the colors change in hue from yellow though orange, red and all nuances between. Today was also a perfect day for visiting Monflanquin, sun was shining from a bright blue sky and it made the alleyways look so cool with all shadows.

Here are some pics I took:

This is how the town looks like when approaching from Villeneuve Sur Lot

These are some of the many alleyways in the town

            

Cute details in people’s houses and a name of a street which was bit funny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunting season and other fauna news

It is hunting season for game birds here at the moment. In the mornings, especially in the weekend, we hear loads of dogs barking, followed by gunshots. We have seen variety of wildlife around our garden. When we were walking, we saw three deers and several pearl hens and pheasants. One great bit male pheasant was sleeping in one of the trees in the front yard. I didn’t even know that they go on trees…We were laughing to the thought that the birds see that our car has swedish plates, so they come here since they think they are safe. And they are right 🙂 (we don’t possess one single shotgun)

There is a woodpecker couple living here and I enjoy watching them doing their bird stuff. They are rather large and colorful. Unfortunately I don’t know what they are called, but if I get a change, I will take a picture one day and post it here.

And I have seen a real toad! First time since childhood for sure. It was in our porch one rainy day. We have our own house bat too, living in the grunge. And green and black patterned salamander living in one space outside where we have our water meter under a concrete “lid”.

Had to update the previous one because when we went to see the salamander, there was two of them now and they had twins there too. Happy family 🙂

We find it most interesting to find out new stuff every day! During the daytime there are tens of hawks hunting in the fields and in the night time we hear many different owls.

Ho-hoooooooo!

Challenging start

Hiya,

It’s been two weeks now since we moved here. We had quite challenging start because one morning when we were about to drive to town and do some shopping, our car didn’t start. I found out that I had “mobility guarantee”, which means that if the car breaks anywhere in Europe, it will be taken to the garage without any cost. Which was extremely lucky in our circumstances; the nearest VW service is more than 40 km away from here.

I called to the service centre in Sweden and they contacted the French service. They called me (!) and it took all our not so excessive French language knowledge to explain to the mechanic how to get here. We managed in the end and he arrived here. He checked the car and said that there is nothing he can do and that the car needs to be taken to the VW service. We pushed the car on his lorry and he drove away. He said that we will get contacted by the service when they know more.

It took three days before they called. Something wrong with the injection system and it will cost us around €600 to get it fixed! Well, what else is there to do than just tell them to fix it…

In the meanwhile when we were here without any transportation, we walked to town and back (14km) to fetch bread and milk 🙂 On the positive side, we got some good exercise. They don’t have public transport in these parts, so we picked the car up with taxi. That cost us €65 more. Though we are trying to get that back since we think it should belong to the guarantee. We’ll see…

Now Fergie is back home and she feels fine. And we feel little bit less stressed 🙂