CAMPSITE OPENS ON 28TH APRIL!
We’re racing towards our second camping season at Domaine Le Poteau, with only 2 weeks to go until the campsite opens on 28th April. It has been a diverse couple of months to say the least. Just when we think that our learning curve is slowing, it suddenly shoots upwards again. Effectively this means that we start something, stop something, start it again, stop again, look at it from different angles and then finally come up with a final solution. So far, we’ve successfully applied this approach to floors, roofs, walls and roads; so quite a diverse mix. The weather is now glorious and everything is beginning to have a growth spurt. The site is looking greener every day.
And so to the rocks – not the shiny, expensive kind for Fiona’s finger, unfortunately. It has not been a particularly warm or dry spring until now when suddenly the sun is shining again and everything seems just that little bit easier. We’d hoped to let the ground dry a bit before improving the car parking at our gites. The weather refused to co-operate so we reluctantly went ahead and ordered 15 tonnes of hard-core (basically smashed up rocks) to resurface. Unfortunately, the lorry refused to co-operate either and it wasn’t able to dump where we wanted it. This meant that we had a huge pile of hard-core in the middle of the access road to the gites, with guests arriving three days later. It’s astonishing what can be achieved with 2 wheelbarrows, 2 shovels and 2 novice labourers. Supervised by Logie (well he lay around in the sun) we managed to shift and level all 15 tonnes and fix the damage to the road caused by dumping it in the first place.
It is fair to say that life in the beautiful Gers has many, many benefits but being straightforward is not one of them. Rock/stone related adventures seem to be dominating our lives at present. A few days after the hardcore incident, the gravel for our drive arrived. Much more straightforward – or so we thought. As the lorry reversed down our slightly winding, dry and flat road through the campsite, it opened its tail-gate and drove slowly back, releasing the gravel as it went. So far so good. It was lovely to watch, a bit like very crunchy snow, but unfortunately, the very nice driver drove a bit too slowly and all the gravel ran out about half way. So, back to the wheelbarrows and shovels. After two loads we stopped and re-thought and after a bit of improvisation rigged up a platform for the tractor which we could load up and transport significantly more easily. It took a bit of time but the road does look lovely covered in the sparkly white chips that help to keep a natural feel to the site.
The work on our new toilets and showers has got off to a good start. We’re really grateful to our brother-in-law, John, who came out and worked for 8 days solid on the planning and building of the interior layout. The new block will be located where Le Poteau’s old wine press used to be. Previous owners would bring the grapes here from the vineyard which overlooks the gites and campsite to produce the grape juice for wine and Armagnac. We’ll have the work finished for the 2019 season and will add 2 new showers and toilets to the site,
The fascinating history of this old part of Le Poteau prompted us to chat to Joop and Marijke (the previous owners) and Jean-Jaques the current vigneron (his uncle and aunt owned the vineyard and Le Poteau before Joop and Marijke). Jean-Jaques was able to tell us a lot about what was where and how they harvested and pressed the grapes. Joop and Marijke came up trumps with a fabulous album of their first vendage. The pictures are fascinating and it is lovely to see Jean-Jaques’ uncle in the middle of it all advising and supporting them.
We’ve finished re-roofing the old barns for this year – although there are some tricky bits left to do next year. We’re now busy re-laying the old tiles over the corrugated panels. It’s looking good and has been worth the effort as there were quite a few rotten beams (many were well over 100 years old and were made of unformed bits of oak tree). It’s funny how on the first day we thought it was all so daunting, high and frankly – well Fiona did – terrifying. Now, while we’re still mindful of safety, it has just become a part of our routine.
Although our gites are available all year, this is our busy time and we’re delighted with how they are beginning to fill up for the spring/summer season. We continue to make improvements. Living in Etoile for a few weeks was really helpful and prompted changes. We’ve refreshed the decor in the toilet and wash area, added more rugs, cushions and mirrors and put in new hooks that hold things properly. That may sound a bit odd but the original hooks were just rubbish. We get a lot of bookings from AirBnB and they are the simplest and best agency to work with. However booking directly with us will always get you the best rate. Our last guests left us some wonderful feedback. A little french homework for you! (Apologies to the purists for the absence of accents – can’t get alternative keyboard option in WordPress – any tips appreciated!) “Merci beaucoup pour votre accuil. Nous avons passe un excellent sejour au calme. Nous avons apprecie la maison. Nous reviendrons l’annee prochaine. A bientot.”
The livestock continues to both thrive and perplex. Logie (our dog) and Noelle (our young donkey)are good as gold and are very easy to look after apart from Logie’s tendency to stand in front of any moving vehicle that we are in or on. Joelle (our adopted donkey) on the otherhand, while a sweetheart is more of a worry. He comes when he is called and adores carrots but still resists a head collar. We have spoken to the vet and a local expert who is going to come and see if she can help. He is clearly a very healthy, happy donkey, but we want to get his hoofs trimmed and have him castrated. Maybe he knows!
We’ve had a couple of spring visits from family and friends and have a few more booked in. It’s always lovely to see everyone and an excuse – well in Fiona’s case – to go off sight seeing. Our friends from the Scottish island of Arran, Nicola and Russell arrived and visited Auch, Fources, Montreal and Eauze and loved them all. They also experienced the 4 seasons in one day kind of weather that ironically is a more common weather pattern on Arran.
Nicola and Russell, not only brought their lovely selves but to our great excitement they also brought a load of amazing tablet. This sugar stuffed treat isn’t well known outside Scotland, but we’re planning on trying to make some for our guests to enjoy with a coffee this year.
We know that we keep saying it but we’ve been so lucky to end up in this beautiful, friendly little corner of France. We’ve met such great people and love the fact that friends and neighbours just pop in every now and then. It has helped us to settle and feel really at home. The owners of the local shop, cafe and restaurant have been great and make you feel part of the community. We do think that anyone visiting will get a taste of that and will hopefully feel a little sense of belonging too.
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