We just recently got back from a lovely little break in France, just what the doctor ordered! It was lovely spending a few days with my parents and I think my Dad really appreciated having Jack out there to help him with some jobs.
The weather was kind to us all week, a few cloudy spells but for the most part it was warm and sunny. Dad and Jack were busy building a shed in the garden, it's flat-pack which is a fantastic idea as it was so easy to put together. They're painting it an olive green colour and it looks lovely sat nestled between the old stone barn wall and the Hibiscus. Jack also helped Dad with some strimming and other jobs (anything with an engine and Jack is a happy boy!).
Shed building in the sunshine
The house and gardens are looking fantastic now; the shrubs my parents planted have all taken well despite fending for themselves over a warm summer. The tomatoes had gone mad while my parents were back in England and my mum has buckets full to use; I suggested making a nice chutney or some pasta sauce as they can't eat them quick enough in salads and sandwiches. The peach tree in their garden is also full of fruit and they're lovely and sweet; mum made a lovely peach jam which they enjoy on fresh French bread most mornings (they're living the life I tell you!).
Dad's self-built Boules court in the garden, we had many games and I am pretty useless!
We didn't go on many trips out while we were there as it was just nice to relax at the house and sit in the garden reading a book or doing some crochet. We did enjoy a couple of lovely lunches out in Saumur; one at Le Panorama Bar which overlooks the Chateau, town and Loire River and another lunch at my favourite restaurant L'Entracte (formerly called Brussels Café) where I enjoyed some tasty Moules Mariniere!
Jack, Dad and Mum enjoying a nice drink at Le Panorama Bar
Haven't yet managed to visit Saumur when there hasn't been renovation work going on at the Chateau
Jack and I also had a nice afternoon walking through the forest near to my parent's house foraging for goodies. We came home with lots of mushrooms (we'd managed to pick mostly poisonous ones oops!) and a bag full of chestnuts (the trees are overflowing with them at the moment and they're all over the roads and tracks)
Lots of chestnuts ready for roasting on the fire
Hazlenuts from the tree outside the house too
We also had a drive out to the vineyards at Bourgeil. They're as far as the eye can see and are weighed down with grapes at the moment. The specially-designed tractors that harvest the grapes are very odd looking as they hover directly over each line of vines but quite fascinating to watch. I got out of the car at one point to take a couple of photos and "borrowed" a grape, I was surprised at how lovely and sweet they were. Bourgeil is quite a famous red wine region.
Vineyards at Bourgeil
We had a lovely time anyway and I was so glad the weather was kind to us too so we could spend time outside. It was lovely lighting the fire in the evening, I love watching and listening to a real log fire. That will be our last trip to France for 2015 (two visits this year, three last year), but I'm excited at the prospect of some nice holidays out there next year. We hope to take Barry with us too now he's getting better with car journeys. He'd love walks through the forests and my parent's big garden to run around, I'd just have to make sure he didn't take too much of an interest in the next door neighbours' poultry, sheep and donkey!
Mum and "Tulip" the donkey. We'd give her a carrot every evening along with Horace
Horace the Percheron Stallion
Barry had a lovely holiday with Jack's parents at their house back in Cambridgeshire while we were in France. I think he totally tired himself out running around their big garden, eating all manner of things he shouldn't and rolling in everything else! We have him on some anti-anxiety medicine from the Vets at the moment which is made from a natural milk protein and so far it seems to have really helped with the car journeys. He no longer cries, shakes or vomits and instead just lays in his crate watching the world go by or has a snooze (they are anti-drowsy as I didn't want anything that sedates him). It's so nice to see him happier in the car and we're continuing with the short trips to make sure he's used to the car. Hopefully we can wean him off of the medication soon and he won't be so stressed out about going in the car, he even jumped in the other day as if to say "where are we going?" which is totally unheard of! He hasn't let us out of his sight anyway since we've been back and jumps straight into my lap at every chance he gets, I did really miss him.
We enjoyed a nice lunch out on Sunday for Jack's brother's birthday. We also picked some lovely apples from the trees in Sarah and Richard's garden and I enjoyed lazing in the sun by the beautiful windmill that sits in their garden.
The beautiful 'Cattels Mill' Windmill that sits in Jack's parents' garden. More photos of the mill on this website for anyone interested http://www.windmillweb.net/gallery.htm
One final note (before you've had enough of all the photos!); I read a brilliant book while in France called "Pigs in Clover" by Simon Dawson. It is one of the best books I've read this year and really hilarious. Not only that but it was also heart-breaking in places and has really opened my eyes to the "good life" vision (I knew before that it's not half as "good life" as what you assume and you have to work harder than you've ever worked before). It's also made me realise that however much money I think I need for a smallholding I'll need more! I've been doing a lot of research into it recently though and it is definitely still my dream that I hope one day I can achieve and it's probably best to be better prepared now even if its still years and years away. Anyway, I definitely recommend this book and a second book has recently been released which I'm also itching to read. They do have a website too; http://www.hiddenvalleypigs.co.uk/
Hope everyone is enjoying the sunshine and having a lovely week! :-)