Swap shop

While perusing the shops in Valbonne, we spotted the perfect armoire for the bathroom.

Some might call it a kitchen cabinet but with three drawers and cupboards and antique brass details, it was, instead, the perfect piece for the bathroom.

Imagine two gleaming white sinks and chrome taps on top, a large antique mirror and a claw foot bathtub. A hexagonal terracotta tiled floor and everything lovely and clean and shiny. The bathroom (formerly known as prison cell number two) is close to being finished.

After some tough negotiating Letad got the price down to something reasonable and the shop owner kindly agreed to deliver and carry (fool) the item up three flights of stairs. Little did he know what he was promising!

Huffing, puffing, a potential heart attack and a fair amount of swearing (and I was only carrying the drawers) the armoire finally made it to the bathroom. Hurray!

On the way down we did a little bargaining while monsieur le proprieteur was still out of breath. We offered a mirror and two picture frames in return for six coffee cups and a glass bottle with a bird stopper. The shop owner definitely got the better deal and I jokingly said we’d come and buy everything back once he’d made it look stylish.

We all shook hands. Deal done. A little glass bottle with a oiseau now sits on the table and there are two less pictures on death row.

Everyone’s happy.

Back to the Chateau

Thursday morning and off we went back to Christian Dior’s chateau, La Colle Noire, our wedding venue.

We saw it last in November and loved it despite the austerity of winter. Imagine our joy when we went back and saw it in the glory of Spring! Flowers in bloom, trees in leaf and carp spawning in the reflecting pool. Oh, and a few mosquitoes, guests be warned!

It was perfect but then, even better, we discovered a swimming pool and a tennis court we didn’t know about. And there even maybe a table tennis tournament.

Perfect!

We went to the local Boulangerie, indulged in a most delicious pastry and made sure we could get breakfast and then we went to the lake to check out potential picnic spots.

Things are looking good for a fabulous wedding weekend!

Picnic sur la plage

After brocanting and doing a drive-by of la Maison Pierre, we set off to our favourite beach on the Riviera, Cap d’Ail.

It hasn’t been typical Riviera weather as it seems everywhere is having a late spring but as we parked the car and set off down the steps, the sun broke through and blue skies finally appeared.

We were taking the afternoon off from house and wedding planning and as we sat in the sun eating our picnic lunch, we had to agree, things couldn’t be better.

There’s something I love about a picnic. Perhaps it’s carefully packing a bag with all our favourite French foods or perhaps it’s sitting in the sun gazing at the clear, calm Mediterranean sea from underneath a hat.

Either way, it was a glorious afternoon and we returned to the little house refreshed and ready to continue the house and wedding planning. Tomorrow we’re off to Christian Dior’s chateau, our wedding venue.

Impromptu Brocanting

Wednesday morning and there was a surprise brocante in the village. It was a French holiday (apparently there are a lot of them) and so it was a spontaneous moment of impromptu brocanting.

Wandering around we spotted a collection of pink and gold porcelain. A very pretty, decorative milk jug, sugar bowl and either a tea or coffee pot. It was filthy but as Letad rubbed it with his thumb, the potential was revealed.

After a quick negotiation, the price was agreed. Dix euros, ten euros. Bargain.

Back to the little house where the tea set was carefully washed and dried while we waited for eggs to hard boil. The tea set was immaculate, the gold gleamed against the delicate pink background and not a single chip.

Brocante success!

And with hard boiled eggs ready, it was time for my favourite thing, a picnic on the beach.

La Maison Pierre

Tuesday afternoon and we went back to see the stone house with the view of the mountain, or what I’m now calling, La Maison Pierre, the word for stone being pierre.

On second viewing, the house revealed its charm. A rustic stone house set in a tranquil setting, the sound of birdsong filling the air and a rather large frog having a swim in the pool.

We wandered around the garden. From mature olive trees, a large pool, terraced gardens and outdoor seating areas, it was everything we were looking for.

Inside, the house is built on three levels. Two large bedrooms in the eaves, a bathroom, entrance hall and salon on the first floor and kitchen, living and dining room on the ground floor with French doors out to the pool. There’s also an extension on the ground floor which could possibly make a third bedroom and ensuite bathroom for people who don’t like stairs.

Of course that all sounds fabulous. The reality is that the house needs work, a lot of it.

From cutting windows through thick, stone walls, to adding an ensuite bathroom upstairs. From replacing the family bathroom and existing kitchen to laying new floors. It’s a project indeed but the potential is there and the price is good.

We went back on Wednesday and did a drive-by seeing it for the first time in the sun.

This time we noticed horses in the meadow behind the house and strangely, through the trees to the nearby eccentric billionaire’s estate, llamas.

We were heading off for a picnic and so decided to time our drive to Nice in order to get our bearings.

Taking the slower, scenic route, we wound our way down through a stunning canyon eventually crossing a river before arriving within half an hour at Nice airport. Not bad at all. Country living with easy access to civilization. That works for me.

And so we’ve decided to have a chat with someone about a mortgage and see if there’s a chance we could make an offer on La Maison Pierre.

One never knows…

Wedding Planning Day One

It was a busy day and we hit the ground running. We had appointments with three caterers to sort out the furniture, food and table settings for the wedding.

With a cornucopia of local produce we’ve decided to be true to Provence and keep things simple, rustic and truly delicious.

Flavours of fig, caramelised onion, goat cheese, olives, tomatoes, mozzarella and pesto. A poached salmon, haricot vert, salads of artichoke and red pepper, courgette flowers in tempura. Our mouths were watering as we pictured our delicious Proven├žal banquet under a balmy July sky.

With the caterers seen (and a decision to be made by the end of the week) we set off to have a quick look at three houses. Well, one never knows.

With my slightly annoying habit of naming things, let’s just say The Cat’s House and The Swiss Family Cottage weren’t quite what we were looking for and so tomorrow, between wedding planning and house renovations, we’re going back for a second look at the rustic stone house we saw over Easter. I haven’t come up with a derogatory name for it so it must have potential!

And then it’s on to wedding decorations…

Midget Chairs

Sunday morning and we were off brocanting bright and early.

Starting in Antibes where we’d had great success before with gilt mirrors and glass balls, we resisted a few temptations which weren’t quite right and before long, headed back to Valbonne.

There was a furniture brocante going on and the village was filled with antiques.

I have embraced the French style and after decades of mid century modern furniture, am now intrigued by Louis Quinze. Carved facades, curved legs, decorative and elegant.

Wandering around we spotted a pair of bedside tables perfect for the little bedroom in the eaves which is rapidly becoming my favourite room in the house.

And then, we stumbled across a pair of lovely armchairs perfect for the salon.

I have dragged a pair of vintage armchairs around the world and have been teased for years about the impracticality of my chairs for midgets.

And so the collection continues as two lovely vintage armchairs are now sitting in the salon in the little house above the Boulangerie. They are absolutely perfect, very comfortable and the ideal size for very small people.

Chairs for French midgets.
Job done.