Enjoying winter days, and a bit more work

After all the work that Andy has managed to get done over the last couple of months he has finally felt able to relax a bit and enjoy himself this week.

Blue skies and back on the bike

That’s probably a bit unfair, as it suggests that he hasn’t enjoyed himself whilst he has been doing the work, which isn’t the case at all. In fact, if the truth be told, he has rather enjoyed the whole process, and is now at the point where he can sit back a little and just enjoy the moment.

It also happened to be the perfect way to pass time, during the most restrictive stage of the recent lockdown in France. Only having 1 hour of exercise within a 1km radius of the house was fine for the daily dog walk, but if he had got nothing else to fill his days, I think he would have very happily started climbing the walls.

The work certainly kept him going during lockdown

So with the restrictions being extended, allowing him to do up to 3 hours of exercise within a 20km radius of the house, he has been able to get back out on the bike again, for the first time since mid-September.

The weather has been glorious, but chilly, with bright blue skies and that clarity of light that just fills us with joy.

The December light is beautiful

He has been off on some of our favourite roads, pottering up to Caseneuve….

Looking back down the valley from Caseneuve

Saying ‘Bonjour’ to the donkeys grazing on a rough patch of land just below Auribeau….

Very happy and curious donkey

And pottering across the Plateau des Claparedes to Bonnieux, just to enjoy the ride.

Bonnieux , entering from the Claparedes direction

It was just a delight for him to be back on the bike again, although he really hadn’t had time to miss it, as he had ploughed on with the jobs. Pedalling up the hills gave him a chance to clear his lungs of all the dust that must have settled there, and also helped ease his knees after so many hours of kneeling, whilst he was laying the tiles.

After all the tiling, his knees needed a break!

On one ride he was stopped in his tracks, coming down from Bonnieux, on his way back to Apt, by the scent from a carpet of heavily-perfumed white flowers in one of the vineyards. The whole area was alive with bees, making the most of the early December sun as they dapped between blooms in their search for nectar.

The flowers were so scented

There were a few vineyards where these flowers were filling every last inch of earth under the naked vines..

Whereas others were simply the expected, bare earth of winter, with the vines showing as russet coloured lines stretching into the distance.

Vines near Castellet

It may be the start of winter, but the colours and scents of Provence are still very much there – they may be different to the summer, but provide a much needed boost, at the end of such a difficult year.

Winter is such a wonderful time in the Luberon, with the valley often softened with mists and the colours vivid against the cold blue skies.

Soft morning mists in the Luberon

It is also incredibly peaceful, especially so at the moment, as travel is still restricted between regions, so there are no visitors exploring the area, and during his rides Andy didn’t really see anyone else on the road, in fact a gentle & comfortable peace has settled across the area.

He has also managed to take Fifi out, when he needed to replenish our honey supplies and buy bread. So he filled in his attestation and headed off to Simiane, where not just honey, but also bread, pain au chocolat, and some of Patrick’s incredible chocolates found their way into his bag (I understand chocolate may be the best medicine for broken bones, and I’m willing to give anything a try!).

A perfect shopping trip

It was another incredible day, with the distant hills of the Alpes de Haute Provence, tinted in shades of purple under the cerulean blue skies and Andy stopped for a moment at Viens, just to enjoy the view, on his way back to the house.

The beautiful view from Viens

It may sound as if he has really taken his foot off the pedal, as far as the work is concerned, but he has still been pottering on with jobs during the week.

Having managed to get rid of most of the dust, that had settled on every possible surface, he decided to removed the cement layers that covered the beam above the window, in the old kitchen.

Just look at that dust!!

We have permission to make this a full-length door, but Andy (just) managed to restrain himself from making the opening there and then, but simply focused on revealing the old beam and adding yet more wonderful character to the room.

Instant character by revealing the old beam

Once done, he then had to clear yet more dust, before we had a chat over coffee, whilst he was painting the room, finally getting rid of the final touches of pale peach-coloured paint.

Starting the painting – over coffee via WhatsApp

So not only will I return to the new space and terrace, but a newly painted room too. I can hardly believe it, although I really will not miss that colour!

The thing is, that we are starting to have to really think about everything, that comes now the main construction work has been done. I’m sure that many people would think about the final fittings and fitments at the beginning of the process, being able to visualise the finished space, with every last detail. We haven’t even decided on what kitchen units to fit, so when Pascal came out in the middle of the week, to take the final measurements for the doors that he is making for us, we realised we have now reached the point, where we are going to have to start thinking about the detail.

Pascal arranged to arrive first thing in the morning, and we’ve regularly found ourselves making sure that the coffee is ready by just after 7am for his early visits, so when he also arrived, with a croissant for Andy, it was the perfect way to start the day.

Beautiful sunrise, waiting for Pascal

Measurements taken, he was able to start making the doors, starting with the oak ‘porte-fenetre’ that will lead from the new kitchen onto the terrace. Even laid out in his workshop, waiting for the glass, it looks beautiful, and the oak will look stunning, from both inside and out, once it is fitted.

The new oak doors taking shape in the workshop

With the photo, came the first request for detail …. what finish would we like on the wood?…… and what handles? To be honest, we hadn’t even thought about this, and although we quickly settled on a clear matt varnish for the finish, making the most of the beauty of the oak, the handle question was much more taxing.

We quickly decided on something simple, rather than swirly and fussy, but apart from that, we hadn’t any firm ideas on what we wanted. So after spending some time searching through suppliers sites, looking for inspiration, we decided on this simple, but elegant one from ‘Brionne’.

This should look good

So that’s it, we’ve started on the detail, the little touches that will make the space we’ve created, seem as if it has always been part of the house, rather than a room that has just been used to store junk and the washing machine. It’s exciting, but also a little daunting, as often it’s these little details that people notice, and if they are wrong, they stick out like a sore thumb.

We have yet to decide on the kitchen units that we will fit, so to allow us to use the new kitchen, Andy has plumbed in the old, broken sink, which is set up on blocks, but at least we have running water.

More ‘camping’ than ‘campagne’

We will also shift the rusty old hob and dilapidated oven in there too, just until we really decide what we want. It’s not really the height of style, in fact far from it, and is best described as more ‘camping’ than ‘campagne’, but we’re not proud and it will do us perfectly for Christmas this year.

As far as Christmas goes, I am surrounded by the chaos that comes ahead of travelling, boxes filled with presents, bags to be filled with clothes, and a list of everything I have to do before I leave with Tom on Tuesday evening. I write that sentence with everything crossed, just in case this year hasn’t fully finished with us yet, and something else happens to prevent us joining Andy back in Provence. I’m not sure what I will do, if it does!

i miss this view

So all being well, this time next week I will be back in Provence, will have seen the work that Andy has done, in person, rather than just via photos and videos, and will have had a first glass of wine on the new terrace.

And we’ll finally be able to celebrate what he has achieved and really start chatting about the detail on golden, evening walks with Millie.

The sun putting the golden into the golden retriever!

Until then please keep everything crossed!

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