Published: August 18th 2012August 18th 2012
We cannot help feeling we are being spoilt at the Chateau. We seemed to quickly fall into routines and Paul and Bénédicte have made us feel most welcome. Much the same as last week the lower level of the Chateau became a meeting point for many and the euro kitty just rolled over. It’s a simple process, which in all honesty probably rivals the Greek banking system in that we put a large amount of euros into a plastic bag and if it’s your turn to shop you have the bag. It worked last week and so far so good this week. In Burgs we did it slightly differently in that you paid for things and then produced the receipts – it worked by NLS keeping tabs and letting you know if you were ‘up or down’. By the end of the week we had all spent pretty much the same and everyone left happy. But this way works too and I must admit I cannot fault those who have headed out to buy the food for lunch. Paul seems to be up at about 0630 walking the dogs through the forest wearing his Hugh Hefner dressing gown, and as such
likes to head off early to the butchers and markets. His best lunch so far has been a kilo of filleted sardines (take note Daniel, I said filleted) and two kilos of mussels. I think sardines are fantastic and so much nicer fresh than out of the tin – I remember having them at the aptly named ‘Skinny Sardine’ at Oneroa and they were delivered to me still in the tin. Chef had carefully pulled back one corner of the container, which must be the type of detail and care that Michelin are looking for. I know they closed soon after.
With the arrival of our three nieces we have quickly slipped into Uncle and Aunt mode and we are being rewarded with many a funny moment. However, there is nothing better than sharing a holiday with brother-in-law Dave in a relaxed mood with few cares in the world; this week has been no exception. If the girls win the prize for exploring all corners of the grounds, sandpit, and being tutored in some advanced (and somewhat early) D of E “loo training” by Auntie Narelle, then Dave wins the prize for most entertaining guest in Paul’s
new shed. With his stories, anecdotes, and somewhat different views on politics and life in general he regaled many a chateau guest into the dark of night. His ability to shuffle glasses, chairs, and conversations is a joy to behold and the pace that this occurs correlates exactly to the intake of red wine. He was so well received by Paul that if he had stayed an extra week I foresaw a buzzing neon light on the shed saying: DAVID SPENCER LIVE – One week only. His material may not always get past the UN Charter for respectable dinner parties but for laughs this week we just needed to throw to him and we were off – his late night ramblings about the intricacies of India will go down in Vary folk law. Don’t even get me started on his views of Sydney suburbs. With all of us living so far away from each other over the years I have never spent a great deal of time with “Boy” but the more I know him the more I love him: he’s as funny as f…
In regards the shed it continues to grow. After we had got
over the anguish and embarrassment of cutting down a 100 year old Oak (looked like a nice straight Chestnut to me) we used the extra strong wood for the railing around the terrace. It looks brilliant and even a confirmed greenie would agree that we made the right choice; just let’s not tell Bénédicte’s father yet. ‘Papi’ may be the most debonair gentleman wandering around the chateau but I would rather not be the one to tell him that a ‘slash and burn’ mentality is rife in the forest. This week the shed was decked out with new furniture and a new ceiling – both achievements require explaining. Paul was desperate for a new fridge, a new marble topped side board and, what Narelle describes as a ‘dumb waiter’. The ‘dumb waiter’ was easy as Paul bought one flat packed and he then watched Bénédicte assemble it in record time. The fridge was easy, as I found one on the top floor of the chateau. The marble topped side board was easy, as I found one on the top floor of the chateau. I have saved him hundreds of euros. I also managed to be out during the furniture move,
which left poor Bénédicte and Sam carrying the sideboards down the main chateau staircase. However, I was there during the purchase of the shed ceiling panels. If two bigger ‘numb nuts’ have ever gone out to buy sheets of ply I would love to meet them. Paul and I went to the wood shop near Angers, which is a good twenty five minute drive. We bought the wood panel and when we got back to the car I asked Paul how we would be transporting it – basically on the roof of the car “but I haven’t brought much rope”, he replied. ‘Oh, that’s great’, I said. So our 2400 x 1200 board was affixed to the top of the Mercedes Estate with not much more than two long pieces of string and two large hands hanging out the windows. If two people in a British car have made more of a mockery of road rules in France it would like to meet them too. At one stage the board was about 200mm off the top of the car and the people behind felt it safer to overtake on blind bends than wait for the board to come flying through
their windscreen and decapitate them. After much tooting and sign language (wanker is becoming such a universal word) from friendly Frenchmen, we pulled off (no pun intended) and followed the slow route back to Vary. This was where we reached our lowest (or maybe highest?) point of stupidity; Paul’s hand was cramping up so he asked me to use my free right hand to drive the car while he switched hands. No biggie on a quiet country lane we thought and it was progressing well until through our tears of laughter we realised that a car was following us – the look of terror and surprise on the face of the driver as he overtook us will live with me forever. We arrived back overdue and in shreds of laughter to face the veritable question; did you get any bread? Anyway, the shed now looks ready for the season and we feel in some small way we have assisted in the running of Vary – both Paul and Bénédicte have asked for ‘constructive advice’ and we hope that we have done that, and perhaps one day in the future we will return to help manage the place. We love the
chateau, we love them as hosts and (more importantly) friends, and we could not recommend it enough. Their dining in nights just get better and better and after attending four at Vary we feel we got to meet everyone on the site, all without being too in their faces. The key point must still be that everyone is on holiday. Dave knew most of them well too and I only had to apologise on his behalf a few times; just kidding, it was five times.
Our two trips out with Dave, Peta and the girls were to Saumur and Angers. The Angers trip was most probably the best as we actually spent the whole time sightseeing or wandering. The city is also twinned with Wigan in the UK and signs announce the fact as you drive into the city. What made us laugh was the response from the family from Wigan who were staying at the Chateau – they were still roaring with laughter after going to Angers for the day. They wanted to know if anyone from Angers had been to Wigan as surely no one would have signed off on the twin city thing if
they had – pies and league are Wigan’s exports. We really enjoyed Martin and Katherine’s company, and their entertaining family. George played guitar, Annie sang and Connie did the hula-hoop like it was attached to her; great people, great fun. The tourism office in Angers runs a 45 minute train ride around the city. I use the train term fairly loosely as there are no tracks and it is actually a small tractor with about eight carriage behind it, but you do get to follow the streets of the city and cross the river. There is a narrator telling you what you are passing at all points and you do get a great feel for the city – basically the girls loved it. I was impressed but more with the hill start it began with. “Chocks away” is an understatement. There was great revving of the engine, the ticket seller risked life and limb and got behind the tyre, and with one quick pull of some 4x2 blocks we were off. I can only imagine that the Monday morning staff meetings do not cover ‘starts’ - just experiencing the starts is well worth the eight euros. Our trip to Saumur
was marginally less fun but very important. I think I overlooked the fact in the last entry to mention that David and Peta had a suitcase stolen on the TGV from Paris. Sadly it was their brand new suitcase bought to carry the souvenirs from Disneyland Paris. Anyway, Bénédicte had spent much time ringing the TGV stations up and down the route to Tours all to no avail – basically the suitcase was gone. What we did need for insurance purposes was a Police Report, and what could be easier to get in France. The tourism office sent us to the Municipale Gendarme, they then instructed us to go to the Nationale Gendarme, which was only round the corner. So Dave and I set off to walk the 25 minutes round the corner leaving the girls holed up in a bar (go figure) and the result was that we got the piece of paper that the insurance company required; although what that will facilitate is anyone’s guess. Dave’s insurance company is already saying that if he was not holding the 5 suitcases in his lap or on his head at the time the gypsy stole the bag then they may
not have to pay out. Great! Thankfully, we did get to do something pretty special near Saumur. We took the girls to Gratien and Meyer for a wine tasting – or more specific a local fizz tasting. They have cleverly realised that parents bring children so why not let the children taste some of their wares – sans alcohol of course. Scarlett was all over this, Piper slightly cautious, and Lily old enough to think that something was up and to question whether Auntie Narelle was about to indoctrinate her in another of life’s great flaws – she had already had the weeing in the woods and much to Dave’s chagrin the bad influence of overhearing NLS telling someone to stick something, somewhere tiny and dark. That aside it is one of the fantastic spots and the view back over the region is stunning – we were just lucky that we were there on such a clear and hot day.
The whole reason for this week was to enjoy time with Dave, Peta and the girls. This has been a rare occurrence over the past few years due to us being in Auckland and them in Dubai.
To aid easier future holidays we are moving to Melbourne, and D & P will be a few hours north of Brisbane in Hervey Bay – yep, that should make it real easy. We cannot wait to head up the coast to see them though. We did enjoy Dave’s cooking – much to the Brits amusement I sparked up the BBQ at 4pm one afternoon so he could do a Middle Eastern slow roast lamb (stunning) and he would have cooked one of his unrivalled curries if Paul had not been doing a Balti for the dining in evenings. It was just a fantastic week full of swimming, eating, wine tasting, games, chess lessons, tree climbing and dog chasing; all very relaxed and mostly impromptu. It has been a treat for us to spend last week with Alex and Adam and then in the next week Lily, Piper and Scarlett; we will treasure the memories. Both weeks seemed to go all too fast when we found ourselves on the all too familiar steps of the Chateau having our farewell photos. In an ironic twist they were taken by Sam Clewlow, who is now 20, but in what feels like short
years ago, was part of farewell photos on the same steps with us as a seven year old. Isn’t life grand?
The final hurdle to the farewell was getting all luggage (sans silver suitcase) and little people to the TGV station in Tours, which we did with little drama. Well, little drama if you don’t count the fact that David mistook the time of arrival in Paris as the departure time for Tours. Basically we arrived at Tours in the belief that we had two hours to spare rather than the actual 30 minutes – thank goodness Bénédicte had not been able to extend the rental car timings. As David said to me with his customary casualness “it’s all good Matt”. And with that they were off into their 1st
Class TGV carriage. A great week was at an end and with much waving from the girls the train slipped away – off to Charles de Gaulle Airport to get their flight to Dubai. By the time we got back to Vary for a swim they were already at the check-in and by the time we awoke the next morning they were in the UAE. It’s a
small world after all…
David, Peta, Lily, Piper and Scarlett - thanks for a great holiday! See you in Oz.
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