So the start of May, the 1st, is a significant bank holiday in France known as La Fête du Muguet. Long associated with spring, renewal and luck, lily of the valley blooms everywhere and the beautiful fragrance fills the Manoir’s front garden, It is given as a gift and it’s thought that the tradition of offering le muguet to family and friends can be traced back to 1561 when King Charles IX of France received a sprig of the plant’s sweetly scented, bell-shaped white flowers. Told that it would bring him luck and prosperity for the year ahead, he decided to share the good fortune by offering lily of the valley to every lady in his court, and continued to do so each year.
Around 85% of France’s lily of the valley is grown in the Nantes area with the rest coming from Bordeaux. Today, the French continue to offer lily of the valley to their loved ones on 1 May, with many families getting up early to go into the woods to pick the flowers themselves. Plants and bouquets are widely available for sale across the country. However, on 1 May, and on this day alone, anyone in France can legally sell bouquets of lily of the valley on the street, without having to pay any taxes.
In more recent times in France, le muguet has been linked to the workers’ rights movement, with 1 May also marking La Fête du Travail (Labour Day).
May has been good for moving things along a little bit. We had a lovely anglo/franc couple stay in the middle weekend to volunteer some work and they have become firm friends.
We managed to paint the outside of my small studio (see before and after pictures below) and Alastair had help starting the breakdown of the toilet in the cupboard! We will create another bathroom on the landing (lots of rotten beams to replace – see photo) ..Yikes! When the work was done there was good wine, good food and good company.
The next day we took our lovely volunteers to an enormous brocante and vide grenier (car boot sale or empty your house sale) in Eymet. Bargains galore before lunch in the wonderful bastide village square.
We definitely enjoyed having our volunteers to stay and they are booking to come again in August. We have quite a few young volunteers staying in June so I need to get on and sort another bedroom – no mean task but working to a deadline is good!
If you would like to join the fun and work, please email us – we would love to see you.
BEFORE AND AFTER
Here are some before and after pictures of moments in the house. The pink deco bathroom, small studio atelier, living room (salon) and garden. A few projects almost complete.
The heat is starting to pick up 27/28 degrees so we are starting to work earlier in the day – the next project in the garden is raised beds and making areas pretty for guests and an open air theatre production which is happening in June.
These are looking pretty harsh at the moment but with a touch of Angel Strawbridge (minus the falling out with Channel 4!) I will render the raised beds, pea gravel the surrounding paths, convert 100 year old ladders into arches and fill the beds with trees, white tulips and then white hydrangeas – you know just like that!!
We thought it would be nice to invite guests, volunteers and visitors to share their thoughts and experiences of the Manoir and write their own piece in our monthly blogs.
So with that in mind Nikki and Sophie visited recently as my key team behind the scenes, making the business all run smoothly They enjoyed a few days by the pool, visiting the area as well as excitedly opening doors and cupboards around the old Manoir.
THANK YOU for all your comments on the blog last month. We hope you are finding the trials and tribulations of interest.
We would love to hear any questions you may have.. ask away.
With love from France – a bientot
Leesa, Alastair & Cersei xxx
Here is Nikki’s Blog for the first week of June…..
We spent a fab 4 days with Leesa, Alistair and Cersei at the manoir. We flew to Bordeaux and took a 45 min train to Marmande where Alistair and Pip met us.
Seeing the house for the first time was incredible. We had both seen lots of photos and videos and Leesa had Face timed us but you never get the full impact until you are there in person. Photos just don’t do it justice.
Set in beautiful parklands with a lovely outdoor pool in the middle the house is imposing with its white shutters and huge wooden doors. There is a separate studio where Leesa will paint and a huge barn that will be transformed into guest accommodation and another teaching studio.
Walking into the house is like going back in time. It’s like a giant dolls house. The rooms are full of beautiful furniture and antiques and cupboards are brimming with antique crockery and linen. There’s a desk full of newspapers, photos and old correspondence going back over 100 years. The house has such character and history that they are so keen to preserve. As a family tree researcher I am looking forward to trying to help them find out more about the house and the family who lived here for so many years. It’s a fascinating historical insight into life in France over the last two centuries.
We spent time in Leesa’s mini, with the roof down, visiting beautiful local Bastide towns. The whole area feels like its lost in time. The pace is slow and the locals are so friendly. We practiced our French buying croissants and ridiculously cheap bottles of rosé from the local épicerie every morning and came home with local honey, saucisson and a wicker basket!
But it was really lovely just to spend time taking in the house. We sat by the pool, walked to the local pub and ate long lazy lunches in the garden while chatting to Leesa and Alistair about their plans.
The whole family, despite working very hard, is so relaxed and happy. Their enthusiasm and love for the house and its history is abundant. Cersei is settled in school and playing football for a local French girls’ team. She is speaking French confidently and loving her new life. It was great seeing her so happy.
We look forward to going back to see the progress although we may have to pick up a paint brush rather than a gin and tonic glass next time! Thank you for having us.
Nikki et Sophie