What a difference a year makes! This time last year we were waiting anxiously for confirmation that all the paperwork and finances were ready and we could book our flights to Bordeaux to complete the purchase of Le Poteau. We finally got the green light after a few last minute hitches. It was just a wee bit stressful – for us and for the previous owners Joop and Marijke. The actual legalities all went to plan, apart from giving us both cramp in our hands from signing every single page of a 200 odd page document. Be prepared for that if you ever buy a property in France – warm up your fingers in advance. When selling in the UK, I think we had to sign twice. Not that we are complaining as it was worth every twinge.
And so, one year on, we’re writing this under a beautiful winter sun on a crisp, clear winter’s day. The Le Poteau family has grown over recent months with the arrival of Noelle – donkey number 2 and Logie – dog number 1. If you’d like to see a video of how excited Joel was to meet his new girlfriend for the first time, you can watch by clicking here. Unfortunately we didn’t record the first time that Logie met the donkeys – it was very funny, very noisy and very exciting. Happily things are calming down now and they are much calmer with each other. Logie certainly seems to like the change from town dog to country dog.
The animals now outnumber the humans 3 : 2 and we’re thinking of getting some sheep to help control the grass in the pastures. This is all fairly normal for Fiona who grew up on a farm, but it’s a complete and, at times, alarming change for City Boy Alasdair
We had a great time catching up with everyone back in the UK a few weeks ago. A pit stop in Paris for a 50th Birthday bash and an unexpected stop in Holland (thanks to Alasdair completely flattening the car battery and missing our sailing) allowed us to meet up with some great friends (Paris) and Fiona’s sister and brother- in-law (Holland).
Our early family Christmas with all the children, grandchildren and Alasdair’s mum and sister’s family was special at many levels. We laughed a lot and introduced Floc to the north east of England! We even managed a small Le Poteau reunion with friends who visited earlier in the year. Fiona also squeezed in a road trip with Logie to Scotland to see her aunt, uncle and cousins and a trip to the family farm in Port Logan to see her brother, sister-in-law and old school and family friends. It was all a bit hectic but worth it.
We’ve been working to improve the fabric of our buildings by re-roofing our old barns and workshops. As with most of the things we’ve done in our first year, we’re having to learn how to do it ‘on the job’.. However, despite the odd moment of “Oh b……..we are going to have to completely re-do this” or “How much?!” or “Right deep breath, it hurts like hell but I don’t think anything is broken except that roof panel“, we are progressing and are even enjoying the work. Work we thought we’d struggle to tackle is now relatively straight forward although it’s never without the odd problem. It just takes time, patience and decent weather. We have just finished one side of the big tractor shed which was a bit epic but should now last a very long time.
Next steps is to get the other side of the roof finished and the additional toilet and showers installed. We are currently at the design stage so if you have experience of any exceptionally wonderful facilities, or if there’s anything you think that we should include, then please let us know. We are always delighted to steal other peoples’ ideas! Bookings are already coming through for 2018, so we better get a move on.
Despite being forewarned that winter is usually very quiet in France, we are managing to keep busy. There’s lots to do on site but we do have a bit of a social life as well. It is true that you have to make a bit of an effort but there are events on and the tradition of apero continues throughout the year so we see friends and locals regularly – a French tradition we thoroughly approve of and one we think that we need to do more of during Le Poteau’s summer season.
The weekly market in Eauze is still busy and there have been lots of Christmas markets. While many rural areas of France are finding that villages are loosing shops and amenities, our local village, Castelnau D’Auzan, appears to be bucking this trend. Despite being small, it is hanging onto it’s traditional boulangerie and businesses which had closed are now re-opening.
We have a superb little épicerie which is open all hours – even on Sundays. The restaurant does great morning coffee and astonishing €12.00 lunches Mon – Fri (not great for vegetarians we’re afraid). The cafe does lunches, evening meals (lovely pizzas) and serves as a friendly little spot for a drink. After Christmas, new classes are starting up in the Foyer Municipale, including Yoga and Fitness. There are regular basketball and rugby matches. They are also completely resurfacing the lower square in the village, which has lovely views over the fishing lake and Le Poteau’s woodland.
And so as we come to the end of our first full year at Le Poteau, how do we feel? Honestly! We feel incredibly fortunate to have found such a special part of this beautiful country. The Gers is a region that really gets under your skin; partly because it is so beautiful, partly because people make you feel so welcome and partly because it just does. Other immigrants to the area that we know agree. When you discover it, you fall in love with it. A friend recently asked if we’re here for the long term. Too right!
Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year from
Alasdair & Fiona
Joel, Noelle & Logie.