Wednesday, July 16, 2014

picturebook perfect: the cotswolds

See this? This is Plum Tree Cottage, our storybook home for four days in the Cotswolds. Isn't it just super-cute? The garden's off to the side, and way up the top there, you can see the historic church which dates back to 1180. It's just stunning.

This house has been recently renovated with a real decorator's eye. It's a Grade II Listed cottage, in a row of terraces which were built around the mid 1800s. Spring chickens really.

How's this for detail? A wee windowsill on the stairwell contains this pop of prettiness!

I adore this kitchen and feel terribly guilty for not cooking in it, but, a mere two minute stroll up the road is the Great Western Arms, a recently renovated pub that serves rather delicious meals such as Toad In The Hole, scampi, fish and chips and cottage pie.

Oh, tonight I had scampi followed by a steamed syrup pudding.


Check out the girls' beds. What you can't see from this shot is just how high they are. They have gloriously soft mattresses AND mattress toppers! So soft and pillowy!

Our room is right at the tippy top.

How's the serenity in our secret back garden? I really need to purchase some Pimms to sip up here one afternoon don't you think?

The house across the road has the most stunning shocking pink climbing rose.

Here's a dream house, just behind us. Can you even IMAGINE driving in those gates and calling this place home? Oh, I can!

Today we visited Upper and Lower Slaughter. Despite their gruesome-sounding names, they're utterly gorgeous. We wandered around, took snaps, ate icecream, and sighed.


Oh, finally we went to Bourton on the Water. A stunning place, but so heavily populated with tourists it was hard to catch breath. We found a fab little Italian place in a quiet back street where we ate a delish pizza, then the girls got lost in a maze (my worst nightmare, but they had a ball!)

Tomorrow we'll head back up to Brockley Village Shop and café again where we had the most amazing breakfast of a scrambled egg and (OHMYGOD) bacon on a bagel, with GOOD coffee.

This place is a delight. All the joys of the Cotswolds without the hoardes of tourists.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

au revoir france

We sadly said au revoir to France, but only after totally making the most of it. We took a cruise on the The Lot river where we were treated to blue skies and stunning scenery.

Including breathtaking scenes of St Cirq Lapoppie from below. Isn't it glorious?

At one stage, the river becomes too shallow for ships, so the clever French have created these locks. What happens is the gates are opened, you ride in, and then the water is slowly equalised to the new level - either up a few metres, or down. It's very clever. And apparently was invented by Leonardo Da Vinci. Once you go through the lock you then travel along a totally manmade canal, until the river's a decent depth again. One thing I loved was the detail - see the flower boxes on the gates? Everything's considered an opportunity for a bit of fabulous. 

We also visited the historic hilltop city of Rocamador. We parked our car down the bottom and rode a wee train up to the historic village. We wandered up the streets, ate some icecream, then climbed the 200+ steps to the historic chapels. Apparently pilgrims would make the journey up the stairs - on their knees! My knees had enough difficulty with just the walk.

When we arrived there were massive groups of school kids who'd just completed some kind of bike-riding pilgrimage. Groups of family and friends lined the stairs and applauded them as they climbed into the chapels for a service.

Because of the crowds we couldn't fight our way inside to see the very famous Black Madonna. But we saw plenty of fabulous.

Now we're back in England and have a jam-packed itinerary planned. Today we're off for a family bbq at my brother-in-law's family home Cherry Hill. Our visit coincides with the annual family gathering, so that will be lovely. Tomorrow we're off to The Cotswolds for four days, then three days in Cornwall. 

Taking advantage of every minute of this trip? Damned straight I am.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

how's the serenity?

We just keep discovering the most darling things here in The Lot. Such as this brocante store nearby. I need that car. And those pots. But don't fret, we didn't walk out of the store empty-handed, we bought a few pretty things for our house.

The extraordinary history of this place is still blowing me away. Check out this nearby chateau, with parts still standing from the 13th Century!

We arrived just as they were closing for lunch, but never mind, they do night tours Wednesday and Friday nights by candlelight and in COSTUME! I chatted with the owner who told me all this. I'm pretty sure I understood around 60% of what he said and he spoke nice and slowly, and used a bit of English for me. A few more weeks and my French would really improve I'm sure.

We stopped in a village for lunch, and I just couldn't stop snapping pics of prettiness. The care people take with their homes here is astonishing, so many pots bursting with floral prettiness everywhere.

While there's been grey skies, and even some rain, there's also been plenty of sunshine and time to lie beside the pool. And my gal's taken full advantage of it. This house is just sublime, so perfect for two families. I wonder if they'd sell it to us...

If I moved down here I'd probably need one of these don't you think? In either red, blue or creme.

Look at this! Troglodytic houses built into the side of the cliffs - yes, their rear wall is a cliff-face - how were they built? I spend a lot of time pondering building methods from days gone by.

Just in case you're wondering how good entrecote steak and corn-fed chicken tastes when cooked over an open flame, seasoned only with salt, pepper and really good garlic - the answer is SUBLIME.

Today marks the halfway point of our trip: two and a half weeks gone, two and a half to go. We have certainly enjoyed every second so far, and have a lot more to look forward to.

I love The Lot.

Monday, July 07, 2014

the lot south of france

I thought we were spoiled in Paris, but oh my, the South of France is putting on a show. We drove for four million kilometres yesterday {approx} in school holiday traffic {merde} and arrived at our next holiday house is Tour le Faure around 8pm. We arrived to this view.


I went out, lay in a deckchair for five minutes, then leapt into that pool - frock and all. Divine.

My brother-in-law went out in search of food and found some awesome pizza, which we consumed with wine on the terrace.

How divine is this? See that room in a wee wing off the main house? That's our bedroom.

The pool? Oh, it's just carved into the side of the hill and overlooks the valley in the most perfect possible manner.

This is our bedroom complete with MASSIVE king sized bed and stone wall. Hello heaven.

This is our bbq, how proper is that? We went to a market this morning and I bought the most amazing steaks that shall be cooked over an open flame on that later tonight.

This morning we went to our neighbouring town, St Cirq Lapopie and discovered why it's won the title of Most Beautiful Village in France on more that one occasion. It's magnificent. You have to park on the outskirts and walk up or down to the village, and it's simply breathtaking on every level.



How's this for a pop of colour? Because the town's so steep there are loads of places to stop, to sit, to catch one's breath and admire the view.

We had lunch under these vines. Nobody spoke, we just kept mumbling, "mmmm", 'Ohmygod" and "delicious". I had a forester's plate {assiettes des foriestes - I think} which was an amazing salad, carrot salad, smoked duck breast, omelette, CHIPS, walnuts and goat cheese. It was massive, and so, so good.

So much history.

The French really care about asthetics. Everywhere you look are gorgeous flowers which perfectly match the buildings. Each area has its own distinctive style. It's incredible.

This week we'll be boating, canooeing and swimming in this.

I needed an icecream to sustain myself before walking up the hill to collect the car. Yep, it tasted of watermelon and the seeds were crispy bits of chocolate.

Bears crossing. Apparently. Or is it more sign mischief?

I think I've found where we'll retire...

Saturday, July 05, 2014

monet's garden at giverney

Well, we had a false start to attending Giverney on Thursday. It requires a LOT of serious metro work, and the trains to Vernon only leave every two hours. 

We didn't make it.

Instead we explored a new area of France and had a divine lunch.

Then we went to the Musee D'Orsay for dinner.


But today we left home at 8.30am for a 10am train to Vernon. We made it with plenty of time. Enough time for a baguette and a coffee at Gare St Lazare. 

It was so worth it. Look at it.

Is it any wonder that Monet apparently painted these waterlillies 175 times? Did you know that Monet employed a gardener whose sole role was to polish the waterlillies every day before Monet came down to paint? The house is right by a road, which used to be unsealed, and the dust would settle on the lillies. Before Mr Dust-remover came along.

After a few years Monet offered to go halves with the local council to seal the road. No more dust-polishing required.

I reckon I'd be inspired to paint if I lived here. The gardens are sublime. A rambling array of colours, textures and shapes.

Look at this. How divine are these pink pretties lining the lilly pond? Divine.

Oh, you want to see the lillies again? Don't blame you - they're glorious.

LOOK at these borders! LOOK!

 Dahlias were the queens of the garden at this time of year. Just stunning.

Oh, and did I mention we rode bikes out? We did. What a ride. However, a warning, if you're used to a very upright bike with a lovely soft, squishy, wide seat you may be in for a painful 6.5km trek. It was beautiful, but man, I am saddle sore.

Now we're in our apartment for the final night. Drinking champagne. This one actually, and watching France vs Germany. Tomorrow it's a road trip to the South. Seatbelts on?