La Chatte Gitane (or The Gypsy Cat) was the name we chose for our cottage in France at the time. We chose it while on the road, moving house the first time round, from Ireland to France with 2 dogs and 7 cats in the car.
This blog began its insignificant life as a recipe book for friends and family who would ask me repeatedly for a recipe of this, that and the other.
Since then it has taken many different directions, like we did and like gypsies tend to do. Sometimes making a U-turn and revisiting familiar roads and taking a break when necessary.
You'll find recipes here, but also musings about the places we've called home, the gardens that we've established, not always successfully, the homes we've improved and the environments we've lived in. Currently, after yet another stint in Ireland, we're back in France @ Le Mas d'Ayen

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

One month in.

We are settling in. In the area. Which we know and are familiar with. The landscape, the seascape, the village, the people, our friends....

The house will take more persuasion to become 'ours' entirely. The setting is better than we could have hoped for. A stream or brook on the land for me - there are, as a matter of fact, several, a seaview for Bert - which we have. We are, as a matter of fact, right beside the water and our land has extensive water frontage. Okay, it is not a vast and wide seascape, like most people would envisage a seascape to be, but a sea inlet, with tidal water and everything. We also have 360° mountain views.

The little stream, cascading from the rocks into a pool

Now ! All of that is worth having to live in a house that is not perfect - yet.

The first week felt as if we were holidaying in a self-catering cottage. Good quality and trendy (it has to be said) furniture that came with the house, lacked personality and character, and, it wasn't ours. Bare walls, a minimum of kitchenware... I did however bring some throws and cushions by car, also a couple of garden ornaments - concrete cats - to put by the door, determined to put my stamp on it straight away.  A few essential kitchen utensils and ingredients so I could rustle up a meal. A friend of ours, Charley, gave us some violas and pansies, so my mum and I went to Kenmare to buy some window boxes and other planters. Bought more violas and potting compost and set to work imediately.
Note to self : that front door definitely needs another colour.

The dogs and cats felt at home amazingly quickly. After a week, we decided to install a cat flap, which is being used frequently - unless we are there, then the cats DEMAND that we open the door for them - "rolleyes". Our Fergus went missing for 10 days, and I was heartbroken. I know my Fergus ! He doesn't leave the house for more than an hour and he is a bit of a scaredy cat, so he wouldn't go off, galivanting the countryside in an entirely new land! My guess is that he accidently got locked in somewhere and bided his time to escape. I was so relieved when one morning he was home ! I gave him lots of cuddles, which is all fine and dandy, but it was food he wanted, more than cuddles. In the meantime he has recovered from whatever ordeal he's been through and has also found his place in the new home and surroundings.
 Gabrielle, sitting pretty
Fergus, finally relaxing

Our first container arrived approximately one week after we did. That's when it all started. The furniture that came with the house was moved into the house in South Square (that's another story) and our own stuff came in - in dribs and drabs. And it still is. Every time I feel I have accomplished something and our home looks half decent, another couple of boxes are being dumped into the hallway. Everything then needs to be reorganised again and again. We have too much stuff !

 Container arriving
Getting into the spirit of Ireland

Or the house is too small...

We firmly believe that is indeed the case. Our plans for extending the house have already been sent in to the county council. We also got them back again ! Declared INVALID ! Why ? Well there needs to be put up an application near the roadside, which is what we did. Only the guidelines concerning this are so fluid and very open to interpretation, we did it wrongly. Just how wrong we don't know, as they didn't say. But we put it a bit different, closer to the road, a bit closer to groundlevel, more, or less, level, looking at it from a few meters distance, closing one eye and tweeking here and there... you get the picture. Oh, maybe I should take a picture for future reference. Anyway, we sent in the application again, plus another €1000, thank you very much. Fingers crossed for a speedy planning permission without too many hitches, but we won't hold our breath. I will keep you up to date.

Here are a couple of photos before and after.
 Entrance before
Entrance after

 Sitting room before
Sitting room after
 Sitting room before
Sitting room after - note : carpet gone and wooden floor laid
Those windows HAVE TO GO and be replaced with white frames without the 'trelis' in between the double glazing !
 The kitchen before. A trendy show home kitchen without space for what's important : food preparation
Kitchen after. Eclectic (to say the least) and chaotic, but with extra storage, which is always a bonus.

I have rejoined the choir, but at this stage I feel I'm still whispering the songs instead of singing them. That will be sorted as soon as I'm feeling comfy again with the songs. And I'll be belting them out for anyone who wants to hear and for anyone who doesn't.

With a little a lot of persuasion from friends I have also joined excercise classes on Wednesday mornings. Jeezes! My muscles don't hurt, as they have all but disappeared over the years. But my joints - ouch ! I will persevere.

Next instalment on this blog will be about 'the other' project.

Thanks for visiting
Patricia xxx...x

Sunday, May 12, 2013

It's been 4 weeks tomorrow

since we left Belgium.

We've had some pretty hectic days before we left. Last minute packing, container arriving, loading and container leaving again, before we could set to the road, direction Ireland.

I have difficulty writing about those last days, as I really don't want to think about it much, plus the fact that I was so exhausted that most of it happened with a foggy brain (mine).

Anyway, the cats went to my cousin, Nancy's cattery on the Friday till Monday, when we picked them up and began our journey.
The container got delivered Thursday afternoon.  Great start ! He got stuck on the small road  near our house and had to be pulled free by a neighbouring farmer and his tractor.
That settled, the driver decided not to attempt to offload the container at our house (not possible, he said), but dropped it off at the neighbours, who were kind enough to accommodate. But it meant that all our belongings had to be transported 150 meters or so.  It was an arduous task, but with the help of some friends and family, we did it !

Or so you would think !
If only Bert had notified me beforehand that our belongings wouldn't fit into a 20 ft container, but in fact that we'd needed two three of them ! I would certainly have organized it differently (that's what I'd like to believe, anyway)
Just how many times have I said : "Bert, that will never  fit into the container, will it ?", Only to get as reply : "Of course it will ! "
Never in a month of Sundays.  
Thus we set to the road with more than half of our belongings still left behind. Lucky that the house sale hadn't competed yet or we would have been snookered.
Bert then arranged another container for 2 weeks later to get the rest of our stuff. He would be in Belgium then to sign the contract for the sale of the house.
The new owners were kind enough to let us have a day extra to empty and clean up the house. Which Bert did, by the skin of his teeth AND renting extra storage from Shurgard self storage
I really don't want to think about it for the time being, so I am going to leave it at that !
Monday morning at 7am the first container left and not long after we did too. Two cars. Bert driving one with our dogs, Millie and Sam, while I took behind the wheel of the other car with my mother and 5 cats. Calais, here we come !
A few hickups with the trafic in Belgium later, we arrived at the channel tunnel in Calais safely.  There we had to have the pets' passports and micro chips checked, which went very well.
Once in the UK, the journey from Folkestone to Pembroke was extremely smooth sailing, unlike the ferry crossing from Pembroke to Rosslare.
The Irish Sea is rough at the best of times, but this was something else entirely. Thank goodness all three of us were tired at the verge of exhaustion and that we had a cabin booked or we would have settled into the lifeboats for the night - just in case.
Never knew ships could make circular motions like that. A few times I was woken up because I felt being lifted off the cabin bunk and dropped right back onto it. All three of us between wakefulness and fitful sleep, too worried and tired to speak. The ferry toddled into Rosslare harbour an hour later than foreseen on Tuesday morning around 7.30 am.
Thank you, Ireland, for welcoming us back with a clear blue sky and the sun out, even if it was still somewhat blustery.
A gentle 5 hour drive later we arrived at the house, where we unloaded the pets and flopped out on the furniture that was left by the previous owners !
I would go through it all again for a this. ^
Thanks for popping in.
Patricia xxx...x

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