The Wedding Planner

So far today I have taken down the £25 Morrisons Christmas tree and by some miracle, squashed it back into the original box. I’ve done two loads of washing, paperwork, sorted out the crap in the bathroom drawer, organized the crap under the bed to make room for more crap and thrown out lots of crap as I’m never as minimal as I think I am.

Speaking of crap, apparently my belongings are due to arrive in the next few weeks and I’m wondering where on earth I’m going to put two outdoor sofas. In hindsight…

Anyway, I’ve also written several TO DO lists. One for work (work a lot, go to New York), one for personal (pay tax, do yoga) and now… one for wedding!

I’ve written my guest list for the wedding and have just created a spreadsheet for the next six months including a schedule of the weekend in question. It could be seen as going overboard but I suspect with the amount of things we have going on for the next six months, it’s going to be necessary. 

The exciting news is that we’ve almost booked a date. That is, we’ve made a reservation and will need to pay a deposit. Once that’s done, we’re in business.

Suddenly this morning, I realized that if I want to order the ludicrously expensive Italian dress I saw last year, I will have to order it next weekend as they require six months to make it. What if I get fat in the next six months? Is there a refund for fatness?

The dilemma!

Gone brocanting

Sunday morning and the monthly brocante market was on in Valbonne. We strolled around pausing to look at gilt mirrors, candlesticks and more. Letad found an ornate brass candlestick for an alcove and I resisted the Planet of the Apes coat, a strange fur and leather hybrid.

After brocanting we drove to Mougins, an incredibly picturesque village perched on top of a hill with incredible views of the surrounding snow capped mountains. After a sweet hot chocolate we set off back to Valbonne to see if my theory about the oven was right (I haven’t been proven wrong yet) and then all too soon, it was time to head back to the airport as weekends are far too short.

This week promises to be interesting as I start my new job on Thursday and I suspect it might be a shock to the system…

To Sea & Earth

It had been a full day and the fun continued as we had dinner reservations at a special restaurant, Lou Cignales. 
www.loucigalon.fr


We started with an amuse bouche, an olive tapenade and a second amuse bouche of warm couscous. Delicious. 

I had ordered the earth menu, an incredible petit gateau de champignons in a light citrus infused broth with white beans. It was earthy, warming and hearty. The mushroom mousse melted on the tongue and with a hint of orange, the flavour combination was perfect. 

Letad had started with the sea menu, a woody smoked salmon with fennel. Light and delicious but we agreed the mushroom dish was the winner. 

Moving on we both went with earth as we ordered duck with vegetables and a rich, sticky sauce. The duck was perfectly cooked and slivers of caramelised ginger surprised and complemented the palate. 

We moved on to a cheese plate, a small crisp salad combined with a Roquefort mousse. Light, salty, unusual.

We thought we were finished but an amuse bouche après arrived. A miniature tarte tartin. It was the perfect end to the earthy winter menu.

And just when we thought that was it, a plate of petit fours arrived. A sticky French nougat was the end of the meal and we sighed, replete.

From snow…

Saturday morning and with blue skies and winter sunshine, we decided to drive up into the mountains to see the first snow. 

Gourdon… Bennett

We passed Gourdon, a medieval village clinging to a sheer rock face, we passed by an ancient abbey and finally reached the snowline where snow-covered fir trees crowded together on the mountainsides making it hard to tell where the snow ended and the trees began.

Scenic waterfall
Reaching Greolieres Les Nieges we sat outside in the sun shielding our eyes from the glare and enjoyed the perfect hot chocolate. Not too sweet, it was the ideal drink to enjoy the winter scene before us while we sat and chatted comfortably. 

In the snow
Heading back to the coast we swapped fir trees for palm trees as we arrived in Nice for a late lunch and a little Christmas reconnaissance. 
Festivities… Nice
Not much Christmas shopping was accomplished although I did manage to buy another pair of wool tights, an essential item of clothing at the moment.

Wired

Friday morning and after a busy week it was time to head back to France for the weekend.


It was a glorious day in London but arriving in Nice, it was cold, wet and grey. The only thing to do was head home and open a bottle of champagne to finally celebrate my job offer.

Letad had planned a delicious meal but the oven was proving temperamental. Every few minutes, the entire house fused and we were plunged into darkness. Challenging for cooking it must be said.

My theory is that the oven hasn’t been wired properly, the electricians claim the oven is broken and yet when we had plugged the oven into an extension cord and were doing kitchen gymnastics during the Great Halloween Meltdown, all was well. I’m convinced I’m right!

All things considered, Letad was very patient, dinner was delicious and we enjoyed a quiet night in.

The Kitchen Saga…

After four weeks, three trips to IKEA, extra parts, missing parts, no water, moving the sink, the sink leaking, the imitation Breville challenge, a leaking roof, two trips to Italy, a tour of a chateau and of course, five job interviews, the kitchen was finally finished and so, as it turned out, was our patience.

Coming downstairs


However, it was worth it as the finished kitchen was beautiful. It suited the house perfectly, reflecting the character and charm of a house several hundred years old yet adding modern conveniences. 

Work in progress


We were so pleased we’d installed wooden work surfaces rather than the pristine white Carrera marble. It was so pretty and smooth but wouldn’t have lasted a day without staining as a result of enthusiastic cooking. We loved the open pantry shelves painted a soft grey after endless discussions about colour choices.

Open pantry

Stacked
Of course it wasn’t all us as we owe a massive thank you to the family architect who designed the plan and payment in installations of whisky is underway.

Before 
It’s a long way from where we started, the tiles of death, dubious brown marble worktops and an extremely dangerous gas cooktop which came close to winning one night in the battle of ignition. My hair almost lost.
Before
After, now with a dishwasher

 After many discussions we went with an induction hob despite my initial challenges in London turning off the child proof lock. Letad was reluctant but has since become happily converted. 

Even with induction

The end was timed perfectly to coincide with my departure as it was time to return to London and so as I left the house, all the power went out as the oven hadn’t been wired in properly and had to be redone. 


A fitting end to the kitchen saga!

Wedding Planning… phase one

Having found a man I love, a ring I love and a dress I love, the next obvious step was to find the perfect location for our wedding. 

I had fallen in love with the Hostellerie d’Abbeye de la Celle in Provence when Letad and I stayed there in July. It was the perfect setting and I was convinced nothing would match it. www.allaboutgem.com/postcards from France

This morning however, for possibly the first time in my life, I was proven wrong.

Letad had taken on the venue research and found a place which sounded interesting. The Chateau de la Colle Noire wasn’t far from Valbonne and ticked all the boxes for the one-stop venue we had in mind. 

Entrance to the chateau
Perfection

 A traditional French setting, a reflecting pool with a fountain, a chapel nestling in the woods, an ivy-covered stone chateau with terraces and enough space to sleep thirty people for a weekend. It was perfect from the outside and we both fell in love immediately.

Reflecting pool with carp


As our tour continued we appreciated the charm and character of the chateau and even what I now refer to as the “youth hostel” section of the chateau which means shared bathrooms and single beds for some, has French character but obviously will only appeal to certain people.

The chapel


If we decided to book it, some lucky guest will sleep in Christian Dior’s bedroom as he owned the chateau from 1952 to 1957. There’s a fabulous sense of the 1970s in some of the bathrooms and behind many a door lurks a bidet so no excuses!

On the way back we stopped for a coffee in Grasse, the home of perfume, where the fabulous November sky and view of the Mediterranean was absolutely incredible.

The view from Grasse

Not bad for November