January 2023 – Bon année

A very happy new year to you all. So new year is a big thing here in France – not so much the fireworks (can never find any…) but parties in the village Salle de Fetes and at home. Lots more decorations, party hats and party poppers can be found in supermarkets and party shops than for any Christmas celebrations and everyone keeps eating right through to Epiphany.

The Galette des Rois or Kings Cake is eaten on January the 6th and for the rest of January.  The cake is made from frangipane and puff pastry with a butter and sugar stuffing. In the South of France, where we are, it’s more like a brioche with candied fruit and comes with a gold king’s crown and a hidden bean inside (a bit like the sixpence in a Christmas pud).

Traditionally the bean (une fève) was hidden inside the kings cake and the person who finds the bean in their slice is king or queen for the day and gets the crown. I have heard from local French friends that if an adult finds the bean they then have to provide the cake the following year. Nowadays they have small figurines made of porcelain that some people collect . When I heard this I thought it will be just my luck to break a tooth on the porcelain figure … reminds me still cant find a dentist!


Before we left in July last year we were lucky enough to appear in a Sunday Times travel feature “Inglorious Bastides” . The article was written about people buying Maison de Maîtres or Manoirs instead of chateaux – the Escape to the Chateau experience maybe a little last year. We were asked questions like why we bought a manior rather than a chateau and about our life change. 

We were also asked to be part of the January edition of French Property News. We were asked why we moved to France, why we chose our house and village and how we are enjoying life so far … makes for a nice read and all helps put us on the map. 


So it’s one thing to be able to wallpaper and paint a salon and feel chuffed until the real renovations start!  Oh my January is the start of the real chaos in the house. The French electricians are here rewiring the whole place so old surface mounted lights are out and they are drilling into walls to set new switches in. Drilling, drilling, drilling, dust, dust, dust ….arrgh!  

But when dark corners light up and the one plug socket for every charger, hoover, hairdryer or lamp suddenly becomes two or so per room.. Small things make you so happy and also I’m not constantly walking round looking like Brian May.

This week we have the plasterer here. The walls have a strange concrete crazy paving texture to them. I tried to paint them a nicer colour than the yellow cigarette beige it was but the lighter the colour the worse it looked. So a quick skim to create smooth walls in the hall, landing and dining room was definitely needed. At a cost of course… I sweat every time I write a cheque.

Actually on that point, cheques are still a thing here. Back in the UK who uses a chequebook? But In France they are serious – if you write a cheque which bounces it’s a serious offence. 


We have almost finished Cersei’s room and the bathroom. It takes ages to fill the cracks, prep, mend the woodwork, paint the high ceilings, seal any fly poo and water stains, and mend the old plaster alcoves and fireplaces…. It’s fun, obviously, but if this were a TV show you would see that start and then it would cut to the amazing cushion, vase and curtain makeover ta dah! Oh my not the boring 10 days of painting walls four times and sanding. But next week I’m curtain making and dressing these two rooms at last. A big thank you to Jenny Gale at www.needleswift.com for getting me back to my sewing machine before I left the UK.


We have also been working on the little house atelier in the grounds. This is going to be my own personal little studio where I can do my artwork. We are trying to get this ready for early February so I can get back to painting. I’d like to hold a little art exhibition as an opening launch of the big studio in spring.  


Our website is now live – click here to follow our journey, view lots of pictures in our Studio and House Gallery, volunteering breaks and the events we are planning.

If you are interested in volunteering here this year there are details on the website. For more details about staying with us for a few days of work and play please click here.

We hope you are finding the trials and tribulations of interest. We would love to hear any questions you may have.. please ask away.

With love from France – a bientot 

Leesa, Alastair & Cersei xxx

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