July guest blog by Archie & Bertie

Bertie and I spent the most amazing two weeks volunteering at Maison Du Fort. I had not seen Leesa for several years after leaving her weekend art classes and had last met Alastair and Cersei way back in 2011! I noticed Maison Du Fort’s volunteering scheme on Leesa’s Instagram and could not help but get back in touch. As an architecture student, I was immediately convinced by the photos of the 17th Century Manoir and it was even prettier in person (the house really was as typically French as a Chocolate Box Cottage is English). The Le May/Perdriel Vaissieres have found an amazing balance between continuing the Becq family legacy and restoring the house into the 21st century.

Our first volunteering task was to get one of the spare bedrooms into shape before Henry (Leesa’s son) and Izzy arrived three days later. We christened ourselves ‘Patchy and Blotchy’, perhaps for a very good reason. We may have all gone a bit white-blind painting those walls, but it was very exciting to see the room come together so quickly and to dress it with the original furniture from the house (including the essential, if slightly intimidating, portrait of Madame Becq herself).

We were very fortunate to be visiting the exact week many of the local night markets opened for the summer. On our first night, we went into Eymet and had our first of several moules frites! The 1st of July marked the first Lauzun night market which was equally fun despite our failure to win the raffle’s prized ornamental cow… Miramont market was equally as fun with a more local feel, where several pots and paintings were bought that perhaps wouldn’t have been if Bertie and I had been less of a bad influence.

That evening was our first large group outing to the Old Raglan pub! Leesa’s son Will and friend Georgia arrived the evening before, soon to have the addition of friends Harry and Sarah. This may have been the largest group to have stayed at the manoir before, but as everyone was so willing to join
in it was the most welcoming atmosphere. Here we discovered Leesa has a number of habits that give away when she is lying in ‘Cheat’, but for Leesa’s sake, I will not disclose these.

Our next task was to help decorate the interior of Leesa’s small atelier and unpack some of the art boxes from the Lindfield studio. As a Saturday-art-class-goer since I was 11, this was a bit of a blast from the past! Our other jobs included helping to paint the dining room and doing different bits of gardening (training the flourishing trumpet vine and planting various additions to the borders).

Leesa and Alastair were extremely generous in their work-to-holiday balance and were really kind in taking us to many local towns. Perhaps my favourite was Monpazier’s morning market, which was followed by a swim at the lake in Lougratte on the way home. We had many afternoons by the pool and in my case many times I could be caught floating on several lilos at once… so there was definitely more than our fair share of relaxing.

Leesa, Alastair and Cersei were such generous hosts, cooking the most delicious food for us, providing extremely comfortable accommodation and endless entertainment in the form of Uno, Dobble and Gheist (warning: Cersei is a demon at each of these and should not be messed with). Frankly, I don’t know how they stood our antics for two weeks, but I’m immensely grateful that they let us experience a slice of their new French lives. This was such an enjoyable experience; Bertie and I have made some lovely friends and hopefully will be back very soon.
Thank you for having us!!
Archie and Bertie xx

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