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The much anticipated visit from our South African friends living in Scotland, Bernie and Estrelita, finally dawned. We picked them up in Niort and headed back to La Maison in the gathering dusk, very ready for Sandi's fine pot of minestrone soup and baguettes that were waiting for us. Plans for the weekend included meals with as much regional cuisine as possible, and taking in some local sights and activities. The weather was not kind to us, but we managed to duck into a cafe for a meal or a drink when the rain came down.

On the Saturday we headed off again to the street market at Fontenay-le-Comte. IMG_1052.jpgIMG_1051.jpg
We bought a Tarteau fromage, a local speciality, just because it looked intriguing. It tasted like a very bland, light, baked cheesecake, and is apparently best eaten with preserves.
After browsing the market we walked the Route de la Republique looking for hats for Bernie and Estrelita, because they fancied Sandi's chic little Parisian cap, eventually retreating from the rain for a coffee.
We then found a cosy restaurant near the market where we had a good 2-course lunch.
We peeped into the church on the town square.

We had heard that there was to be a Christmas market at Vouvant on the Sunday, which we visited, but unfortunately it was underwhelming.
What proved more interesting was a cafe offering vin chaud. We then came home and made more vin chaud and all got cooking in the kitchen.
Sandi has always liked violets and found violet syrup in the supermarket, which is divine when added to champagne!
Here is the mistletoe we picked on the way home, which looks good with the holly.
Sandi was fascinated with the raindrops on the window.
We had raclette for supper and Bernie enjoyed it so much she licked her plate clean!
On their last day we took them to see the local nursery which seems to specialise in topiary,
and old olive trees.
Having eaten like gourmands all weekend, it was sad to see it come to an end, but the memories linger on.

In our last week at la Maison it rained almost constantly. David got very frustrated trying to ascertain where the water was leaking into the van. After sealing the whole windscreen area, it still leaked! [hoping that when Bob returns he will have a brilliant solution] The other nagging problem is the big speakers which keep wrenching free of their moorings every time we go over a bump. Sandi has come up with the idea of creating a sling for them to rest on which we think is going to work!

Sandi produced a series of profound quotations for David to ponder while he sprinkled the porcelain.
Max and Claudette keeping warm near the woodstove.
Claudette became more and more sociable and ended up sleeping on our bed most of the night [and day too!]
Minnie discovered that the best way to warm one's belly is right on the radiator.

After raking up 15 large bags of leaves from the quadrangle, sweeping the house and mopping the kitchen floor and chopping loads of firewood, we were ready for the owners return on Sunday evening. We liked Bob and Bear [Francesca] immediately and bonded with them at once. They have spent the past three months motoring up and down the Florida coastline in their boat, which they are hoping to sell. They surprised us with a monster hamper of English Christmas goodies, including mince pies and mini Christmas puds, as a “Thank you” present, as well as two gorgeous porcelain kitty mugs [from the cats!]
Bob, Bear and the Tinsel Strangle

Bob, Bear and the Tinsel Strangle

The next day Bob tackled the tricky van jobs with David, and together they managed to sort out the gas flow to the heater. It turns out the tap was hidden and in the “off” position, but this was only discovered after all the gas lines had been disconnected and blown out with compressed air! Then the window leak was sorted [we hope] and the recalcitrant speakers finally bracketed into position securely.

We were taken out to dinner at Mervent as well as to a Chinese restaurant the next day in Roche-sur-Yon where we met some good friends of theirs.
What's good about Christmas when you can't eat these?

What's good about Christmas when you can't eat these?

We were offered a 7-day sit in Rome [2 dogs, 3 cats] from 30 Dec to 6 Jan, but it didn’t work out for us, so we declined after 3 days of frantic Googling. Parking the van securely was the obstacle [Rome being notorious for crime, congestion and parking problems], as the only place we could find was a campsite, outside the city, at great expense – €300 for the week – and we’d not even be there to use the facilities. And that’s even before the cost of public transport to get around, food, etc. We’ll get to Rome at some other stage, and accept that this was not meant to be for now.

Finally there was time for a quick kiss under the mistletoe, before we bade our sad farewells.
Leaving La Maison was an emotional experience for us, as we had just made some new friends, and of course, missing the kitties is the biggest lump-in-the-throat thing imaginable. So strange not being be-catted, especially at night, for the first time in 7 weeks. We feel very blessed to have had this experience.
IMG_1166.jpgMax saying goodbye

Max saying goodbye

One final golden sunrise before we bid la Maison Neuve "adieu".

Posted by davidsandi 09:03 Archived in France

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