Yesterday morning a friend phoned.

“What are you doing this afternoon? How about coming to see Veronique’s new house?”

Of course, I jumped at the chance. Bear was likely to spend his time snoozing and CC and Jay would be around to look after Whale so I said


Elisabeth picked me up just after lunch and we set off. On the way she explained that Veronique and her husband had bought an enormous country mansion as a ‘bed and breakfast’ business.

It was sold as a ‘going concern’ with bookings until October. The problem was that the outgoing owners had left the place in a filthy state and the new management were supposed to be ready to welcome guests the day after they moved in.

“We can’t cancel” said Veronique’s husband.

“We have no choice” said Veronique.

So Elisabeth spent some time over there and they set to work scraping off grime and taking down cobwebs so that the place was fit to receive guests.

It is a top class establishment with rooms let at 110 euros a night but they had to get in plumbers to finish off the toilets, replace the terrible curtains and sort out the decor in general.

One big disadvantage is that visiors have to enter through the kitchen and also share their sitting room so the family can’t feel at home.

There is one dingy room with an appalling brown ‘en suite’ on the ground floor for Veronique and her husband (although he works in Paris for most of the week). The boys have a makeshift dormitory in an attic and their daughter sleeps on a mattress on the floor in the office.

They have plans for renovating the ‘dependences’ (outbuildings) to provide five new guestrooms and a sitting room with a different entrance so that the family can claim their own bedrooms and have some privacy. They are also gong to convert a barn into separate accommodation for their elder daughter.

The work is expected to take about two years in all.

The advantages are many. The setting is idyllic. The grounds are bordered by a stream which also flows under the sitting room (as it used to be a mill) and soundproof doors open to reveal the rushing water while you can watch it without the noise from inside through very thick glass.

In the outbuildings there is a ‘nightclub’ – two rather dark rooms with tables, chairs, a bar and a sound system – another bar which they intend to transform into a further guestroom and  a large room for functions which opens onto a decking terrace and the swimming pool.

In fact, the week after they took over there was a party for sixty people, with external caterer of course. However, Veronique’s plans include building a ‘proper’ kitchen next to the function room. Not that she wants to take on the cooking herself!

She is worn out already and feels that she is constantly in demand. One of the washing machines had broken down and the ironing was piling up but she shut the door on it and, after welcoming a new family, she found the time to sit down at the table under a tree and have some coffee, cake and a chat.

Despite being only an hour away from us, the climate was noticeably milder and she said they had been having meals outside ever since they moved. The children were still playing in the pool at six o’clock and didn’t come out freezing!

If I were twenty years younger (and rich enough to finance the renovations) I’d welcome the challenge, but I can’t say I envy her all the work involved in running a house like that. Not without quite a lot of help anyway.

We left a little after seven and drove to Reims station to meet Elisabeth’s elder son. It was beginning to get dark as we approached  Charleville but we were able to make the slight detour necessary to view Woinic the boar.

It is a monstrosity! When you think it took 20 years to make and cost 600,000 euros, it’s not surprising that some people are rather cross. There are those who approve wholeheartedly but Elisabeth and I are not among them.

As we went through the town we passed a new eating place “La Pataterie”.

“How are you for time?” asked Elisabeth. “Would you like to try it?”

It was getting on for half past nine but what the heck. I said yes and phoned home to let them know I’d be late.

We had to go and pick up her younger son from home and then drive back again. It was very full and we had to wait for a table but the service was quick and the food was good. The boys had jacket potatoes with chicken curry and salad, Elisabeth had jacket potato with smoked salmon and I opted for a salad Nicoise which turned out to be HUGE.

She brought me home near 11 o’clock and I expected Bear to be snoring but he was still up and watching television.

I told him briefly about the day.

“Huh. I’m glad I didn’t come. i wouldn’t have liked that.”

I was inclined to agree.

8 Responses to “Escape!”

  1. Keith Says:

    “Huh. I’m glad I didn’t come. i wouldn’t have liked that”. There’s just no pleasing some people is there?

    I would have loved to go there. If I was younger I would offer my services to help with the renovations in exchange for a small holiday.
    Sadly I’m to old and infirm now to go crawling around and climbing ladders etc.

    Wow, that was quick! Presumably there are no problems posting comments now!
    I bet you’d have loved to look round their mansion. It was like a ‘rustic chateau’. I wish I’d taken a camera but Bear has confiscated the one I used (well it is his but he bought himself a new one and I kind of borrowed it until he decided he preferred the ‘old one’.) Also, since I’m now using his cast off printer i can’t get photos to work at all. I put the smart card in and it tells me there isn’t one.

  2. bretonne Says:

    Forget it! I have 2 friends here who have 2 gites, one sleeps 8 and the other 12. Last year, most visitors had booked for 2 weeks but even so it was hard work, with a girl who helped clean the houses and her husband who did the gardens. This year, it’s been all on-week stays and my friends are k*******d, the wife is nearly 62, and the husband a few years’ younger but with occupational aches and pains that aren’t improved by 5 hours’ mowing lawns. Plus, they have missed all the fun this summer – pardons with repas, concerts etc – because their weekends have been taken up with chnageovers, not to mention drying washing in this years’ “summer”. What did they come here FOR?
    I am so glad I didn’t fall into the trap – occasional visits from family and friends are quite enough, I have a LIFE here, however much of a struggle it is financially, and the challenge of thwarting the million bestioles that want to eat what I’ve grown is a full-time occupation!

    Besides, you’ve got quite enough with your own household!

    You didn’t think I was planning to go in for B&B now did you? No way! I can’t understand why V’s husband insists that she does it. They are extremely wealthy and could afford to retire and live very comfortably.
    I’m expecting three friends tomorrow who are staying till Thursday. That’s the nearest I’m getting to running a B & B, although they all muck in and help out and I don’t think paying guests do that!

  3. BearNaked Says:

    I’m afraid that both Ted E and myself enjoy our privacy too much that we wouldn’t be able to share our home with strangers.
    And it does seem like there is an awful lot of work involved.

    But you did have a marvelous day out by yourself without Bear.
    Bravo for you.

    Bear((( )))

    It was a great day out and a chance to have a really good girly chat with my friend – even though she insisted on speaking French as I needed to practise. (Her English is excellent).

  4. Pat Says:

    S–t my comment disappeared and it was a long one so will just say I’m glad you had a good day out . You deserve a bit of fun.

    What a shame. Your comment wasn’t sent for moderation and I didn’t find it in spam either (but there was one from LOM!). The comments must be playing tricks again.

  5. BearNaked Says:

    Come over to my blog on Monday because I have something special for you. I also have a linky to your blog on there.

    Bear((( )))

    Only just found your beautiful bear bouquet. Thanks again!

  6. Little old me Says:

    sounds lovely

  7. Susie Vereker Says:

    What an interesting post. I don’t envy Veronique, though.

  8. guyana gyal Says:

    I was thinking of all the hard work when I had another thought…when you really, really like what you’re doing, the hard work is…well…hard work, yes, but fun…challenging…and you can’t imagine wanting to do anything else.

    For example, musicians rehearse day and night…we don’t know the half of it, all the sacrifices, doing without lunches sometimes, without sleep…but they LOVE it.

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