mercredi 27 avril 2016

An old friend lost..............

Not too far from our home an old chateau lay silent and closed. I could never resist the temptation of passing the big iron gates without driving in. 

I loved walking around the deserted gardens where statues were hidden by the over grown foliage. I always wanted to enter the orangerie but it was locked tight.

It had the most perfect proportions and I have often wondered what it would be like to peer out from one of the oeil de boeuf zinc top windows.

In the 19th century it had been a home for an aristocratic family. I truffled a few old sepia postcards around the local brocantes and loved to see how little it had changed.

During WW2 it had been used as a headquarters for German officers.

After the war it was bequeathed to a local order of nuns and in the 1950s it had been used to give holiday breaks to needy children.

The doors closed in the 1960s and had remained firmly shuttered.

I have sat on those steps so many times in the sunshine just listening to the birds singing and it always felt like a  wonderful secret hideaway.

Until,  a few months ago the gates closed and a padlock and chain appeared. Soon a very elegant name plaque appeared next to the gates.

Apparently it has been purchased and renovated.

I have never seen it since. Sometimes the gates are open but I cannot bring myself to drive through the woods as my perfect dream would be shattered.

I just hope the renovation has been a kind one.

A la prochaine mes belles


vendredi 15 avril 2016

A guessing game....

A little competition and the winner will receive a simply-chateau brocante bundle of treasures!!

The best caption for the photograph will be the winner.

I will leave it to run until next Tuesday and Bonne weekend!!


lundi 21 mars 2016

I wanted to win....................

I had no idea when I opened my eyes this morning that I would be entering an international sporting event. Indeed I hadn`t even done any training.

About 11.45,  having visited our accountant to sort out some particularly confusing French paperwork,  we passed a small local restaurant and  thought "Why not" - and so we did!

An hour later and having enjoyed a wonderful three course meal for less than £11.00 each  we turned  off the car park onto the road to head home. We had travelled no more than some 30 yards when  a rather officious looking man wearing a yellow 'gilet' and carrying a clip board made it clear that we could not continue  but had to turn around go in the opposite direction. It was clear we had been 'barriered' in!

Driving along by the side of the canal we soon fell in behind a large supermarket advertising van with an immense video board on the top listing lap numbers. Then a few lycra clad racing cyclists on very streamlined bikes zoomed past us and disappeared into the distance.

We continued on our way eventually falling in behind a small convey made up of cars and a few small trucks carrying spare bikes. We passed various camera men proudly pointing their very long extended lenses directly at us and and a few spectators, some enthusiastic enough to have  brought their own seats with them - but no matter how we tried to leave the road we couldn`t do so as all the side roads were cordoned off., and we were simply waved on. I tidied my hair...paparazzi and all that you understand!

More cyclists began overtaking and then hoards of people sitting on the pavements on their folding chairs. It suddenly dawned on us that we were actually on the course of one of the legs of the Tour de Normandie cycle race taking place that afternoon. I was very tempted to wave but hid my face instead.

We actually drove quite close to our friends Viv and Mike`s house and were desperately hoping they had turned out to watch the spectacle as I wanted to give them the Queen`s wave and watch the shock on their faces!!!

We started to head back towards the town and came to a traffic island surrounded by gendarmes and more 'yellow' men. We  assumed that we would be moved off the course but, again, we were simply waved on. Did they think we were an official vehicle and perhaps Mark was a timekeeper or medic?

WE had already passed the sign arrive  (start/ finish) 3 kms - and then we passed the 2 km. sign. It then became very obvious from the growing number of people standing at the side of the road that we were almost at the start point - and were destined to do another lap!  I was very tempted to do just that as, by this point, I was getting very competitive and wanted to win!

At the next side road Mark managed to make a quick swerve, mounted the pavement and  managed to squeeze past the barriers before the 'yellow coats'  could stop us.

Let it never be said that life in this quiet backwater called Normandy is ever without excitement! 

A la prochaine mes belles


dimanche 20 mars 2016

A peek around the chateau....

Just a little peek around the chateau at some of my favourite things........

Hope you are having a restful Diamanche!!

A la prochaine mes belles

samedi 12 mars 2016

Oh Tartelette..................

Amy - otherwise known as Mademoiselle Tartelette from Oregon has been staying here with us at the chateau for a truffling trip.

She began her trip down in the South of France where she spent a week of truffling before starting the long haul drive to us here in the North, in Normandie. She had intended to stop over in Paris mid-journey before carrying on the next day, but as she was still wide awake after the expresso café stops en route she called us to say that she had decided to carry on and would reach us about midnight.

When she was about an hour away she called again to say that her fuel was getting low in her hire car and was getting a little worried as she did not know where the nearest service stations were. We re-assured her that she only had a little way to go before she found a petrol stop and that she should have sufficient fuel in her tank to make it in time.

She called us about 45 minutes later to say that she had arrived at the service station, would top her tank up and be with us very shortly. However some five minutes later she called again to report that her hire car was refusing to start.

She was only about five miles away so we jumped in our car and set off to rescue her, wondering what had happened to cause her car not to start. When we arrived at the service station she appeared in high spirits, sitting in the all night café stop and  causing great hilarity among a group of truck drivers wearing yellow coats, trying to explain in her broken French that they looked like a gang of Minions!!

A few calls to her insurance company and  it was not long before a truck arrived to transport her car to the nearest garage. And the reason it wouldn't start? Tartellete had put petrol into her tank instead of diesel!With her car safely locked away in the garage for the rest of the night [it was about 2.00am by then!]we packed her along with the treasures she had bought and her suitcases into our car and headed home.

The next morning we went to collect her vehicle, having been duly drained and re-filled with the correct fuel and our truffling began in earnest.

I take her to brocantes and dealers off the beaten track and I have threatened to blindfold her a couple of times as some of my truffling spots are in well-guarded 'simply chateau' secret locations!! Some old dealers with amazing hauls and collections have supplied me for well over 30 years now.

Tartelette has a very serious case of incurable 'brocantitis' but, teamed with a very good eye, that makes for a whole hoard of delicieux treasures for her to pack up and take to La Poste.

We have had half the salon brimming with boxes, bubble wrap , rolls of tape, baskets, books, zinc finials with the other half full of her purchases: old chocolat boxes, rustique farmhouse linens and cuisine items,18th century giltwood fripperies, old boxes of candles, frames,18th century engravings, salon chairs and tables, and bed canopies - and that is to name just a few!!!

And so, with parcels packed and labelled, it's off to the post office.

This is just a small peek at her haul; and there is more to be shipped back to the States, including not only the two chairs she bought on this occasion but also two others which have been decorating our lounge for the last 18 months or so!

She leaves tomorrow, returning to Paris for the last few days of extra truffling, but under strict instructions to buy "small" as anything else would have to go in her suitcases. I shall be amazed if she manages to do that as she usually finds the temptations of the Paris flea too much to resist.

Of course I came home with a haul of confections myself so after a day of recovery tomorrow I shall be back to  listing my own treasures on Monday including..............

....... a beautiful timeworn chateau Lit Polonaise

Plumply upholstered with horsehair and traditional batting inside it will be an easy project to re-upholster.

A la prochaine mes belles and "Au Revoir and Bon Voyage" to Mademoiselle Tartelette; have a safe journey home.

Oooh la la...... it seems so quiet here now.

vendredi 4 mars 2016

Family ballerina......

Looking through some old family photographs we found this divine old sepia photograph of Mark`s mum in the 1930s.

How I wished that tutu had been packed away too!

Have a wonderful weekend mes belles

samedi 13 février 2016


The constant rain has caused the marsh to be higher than ever. Our garden has never filled with water but it has come close a couple of times.

Our little chateau is built up and has stood here since 1838 so I don`t think a little more rain will worry her!!

But, the local roads seem to be disappearing fast!

The best part of the day for me is standing at an upstairs window watching the pairs of swans gliding past and storks wading around the edges.

Have a wonderful and hopefully "dry" weekend mes belles!

I have a truffling trip followed by a couple of days in Venice next week................oooh la la!!!

A la pochaine.

jeudi 11 février 2016


Oh what a tiny waist this was!!! A waist that would have been tightly laced in a corset to produce this incredible 18".

Is it any wonder young mademoiselles swooned!!!

A la prochaine mes belles


mercredi 3 février 2016

Lettres D`Amour..........a moment in time...

When I opened these old letters from the 1920s this morning I almost felt guilty.

 Written from a soldier to his "Grand Amour" Clotille he embraces her with all his heart and sends her a million kisses.

The little flower has been between that folded letter for over 80 years.

I wonder how their lives continued?

I have listed this batch of sweet moments in time in my Etsy shop.

May you days be filled with love just as those of Clotille....

A la prochaine mes belles


vendredi 29 janvier 2016

The case of the missing money.....

Yesterday, with our business tax payment imminent, we went off to the nearest town to transfer some funds into our French bank, Credit Agricole.

As it was lashing with rain I chose the cowards way out  -and stayed in the car whilst Mark dashed around the corner to make the deposit.

As Mark got back in the car he mentioned how the paying in process had altered and the paying in envelope was in such a different format that he had asked the assistant to help him. The assistant had obliged and even took the bank card off Mark to open  the automatic deposit flap and placed the money inside. Job done.

This morning we checked online that the money had gone in ( it normally happens within 24 hours) but the account showed that it hadn't.  We just assumed that the usual service was running slow, so we went out truffling as planned.

By lunchtime the deposit was still not showing in the account  so we went in to another branch of Credit Agricole to find out why. The clerk agreed to phone the branch we had paid in to and would make sure it was recorded.

By 4 o`clock there was still no sign of the payment in so we decided to drive to the original branch in Carentan where Mark had deposited the money to see what was happening.

As we drew up in the car opposite the bank Mark let out a groan of dismay. Well - not quite true. The air turned very blue!!

On the right in the picture is Credit Mutuel bank ( who we do not bank with);  next door is our bank  - Credit Agricole. 

Mark had suddenly realised that, in the rain and with his head down against the wind, he had gone into the Credit Mutuel bank the previous day, and had deposited the money into the wrong bank! My heart hit the floor.  French bureaucracy can be hideous and I knew that we would probably have to jump through hoops to get the money back.

What amazed me was the fact that our Credit Agricole bank card had opened the Credit Mutuel safe deposit box - and the clerk had used it to do so!

We crossed the road, walked into Credit Mutuel, explained the error to the bank clerk and he directed us to some seats to await one of his colleagues. We sat there for what seemed like a lifetime with me making my feelings known to Mark:  " Well, I am not leaving here without the money". With us not having any receipt or proof  I looked to see if there were security cameras trained on the cash dispensers so at least there might be a record of him paying the money in. To my relief I saw several.

Finally we were led to an office where a very official- looking lady explained that she had seen the envelope but had been unable to recognise the strange account number written on it. She had checked her records and , to our surprise, informed us that there was in fact someone who banked with them  who had the same surname as me - and they were thinking of simply paying the money into that account.

My heart hit the floor as I have heard of internet payments being directly transferred to wrong accounts and the money never seeing the light of day again!!

We explained that her colleague had used the card from the wrong bank to open their deposit box. She simply advised us that any card, even a French health card, would have opened it!!

We tried not to make too much of the fact that Mark had actually entered the wrong bank and had not noticed his mistake!!!

Much to our relief she produced the envelope with the money still inside it - but then asked us for some proof of identity.  Mark shot out to the car like a brocanteur at a chateau sale, returning in less than a minute with our driving licenses.

Phew! We were saved! She handed over the envelope and we sheepishly left, immediately going next door into Credit Agricole to pay the money in.

The only saving grace for Mark is that the lady who had returned the money to us admitted that she, too, had turned up at work one morning and had walked into the wrong bank!

And so the tax man will be happy after all  - but as for Mark...........................!!

A la prochaine, mes belles