The builders finished up mid-September and suddenly we were alone in our house. It felt both good to have the place to ourselves and scary, that everything that remained to be done had to be done by us.
Just before they left, the builders put the radiators back on the walls. We tested out the ancient boiler, and it shuddered to life, filling the cave with smoke and fumes. We crossed our fingers while we got a boiler specialist in to tell us whether it would last the winter. He reckoned it will hobble, in a smoky and smelly way, through to next year. (Another few grand we’ll have to find next year.) We grouped together with the neighbours to get a better price on a mass order of oil. Now we have the oil, next is to try out the radiators….
We ploughed on with the painting, finishing the walls of the bedrooms and hallway upstairs and starting on the woodwork – skirting boards, doors and door frames. The beds arrived, giving us a better idea of the space in each bedroom. We were pleasantly surprised by how spacious they all seemed 🙂 We started thinking about the kind of furniture that would be best in each one.
We continued trying to clear and tame the jungle, making some bizarre discoveries, such as 150 large picture frames buried up the garden under years of leaves, ivy and other overgrowth, which we duly hauled down and brought to the dump. Why were they buried up the garden and not dumped ten or twenty years ago??
We took down one of the huge cypress trees in front of the house – the one which had broken the garden wall and the waste pipe. It opened up a stunning forest view from the other side of the house and gave the house more light. Pruning some of the other trees and planting some of the flower beds tidied and brightened up around the house.
We had our first trial guests at the start of October, and realised that we had no pillows or duvet, a slight inconvenience for them! Luckily enough, they were able to bring their own and we ordered all the bed linen, duvets, pillows and towels online, so we’re ready for the next guests from a bed linen front anyway! No doubt they’ll catch us out with some other minor oversight!
I visited Fondation Maeght – a fantastic, world-renowned private modern art collection in a villa only a 40 minute walk through the forest from us, in Saint Paul. It gave me a taste for visiting some more of the museums and galleries in the area. There’s no shortage, due to the fondness that so many 20th century artists had for the area. What Matisse himself declared as his finest work, la Chapelle du Rosaire, is only 15 minutes’ walk from the house. Of course we haven’t been there yet, shame on us!
We visited some more of the mountain top villages nearby, such as Tourettes-sur-Loup, which is a beautiful little walled town full of lovely restaurants, shops and art galleries, breath-takingly set on the edge of a deep gorge. There we saw the reason that the railway that historically connected all the mountain villages no longer runs – part of the stunningly high Roman aqueduct on which it ran has collapsed into the valley. But the Irish highlight of the visit was a great little wine bar perched on the edge of the gorge. It might be somewhere we’ll recommend… but we’ll need to test it out a few more times to be sure (to be sure).
Between testing out bars, we finally figured out how to register our businesses and got tax and social security numbers, so we now officially exist in France. We finished cleaning and painting the bedrooms and started on the bathrooms – painting, cleaning windows and tiles, painstakingly applying grout protector. All we need now to be able to build our website and be able to take bookings is some furniture in the rooms, to be able to take pictures…
Meanwhile, we put together a flyer to start raising awareness, which the organisers of The Lost Sheep triathlon in Kerry – Andy’s favourite race – were nice enough to put in their goodie bags. Home stretch now!