Folklore festivities: celebrating Les Ostensions

In May, Rochechouart underwent a major transformation in celebration of Les Ostensions: streets were adorned with red and white bunting, creating the feeling that the entire town had been enclosed in a huge circus tent. Shop fronts and street entrances were draped with fresh greenery and decorated with red and white flowers.

The 2016 Ostensions (14-15 May) were the 72nd edition and are an important part of Limousin folklore; they have been on UNESCO’s World Heritage list since 2013. They originated back in 994 AD after a major epidemic swept through the region. Religious leaders gathered in prayer and miraculously the dying ceased. A major procession saw relics carried through the streets and this historic tradition continues today – although these days it only takes place once every seven years.

Local English-language publication, Etcetera, provides a nice write up on the history of this tradition. Click here to read the full article in the May 2016 issue. SCH


Hosting a workshop for local cancer charity: CSF H-V

Throughout the year, a committed group of ‘active listeners’ in our department (Haute-Vienne) provide English-language support – by telephone – to those living with or affected by cancer. The association, Cancer Support France (CSF H-V), is staffed by volunteers and part of a national network in France.

I was recently approached to host a day-long Colour Me Beautiful workshop for 12 volunteers and active members. The purpose was for participants to have a bit of fun as well as gain key insights into wearing good colours – not to mention understand the emotional benefits for patients undergoing cancer treatment. The day was run by Colour Me Beautiful Image Consultant Anne Slater who is based near Bergerac – I served lunch and refreshments!

This is a fantastically well-run association supporting many English speakers affected by cancer in the Haute-Vienne, Correze, Creuse and Indre. For more information on CSF support, membership and local events visit: SCH

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Strictly research: a day out in Brantome

One of my all-time favourite places – Brantome – is under an hour from Le Manoir Saint Gervais. The locals call it the Venice of the Périgord.

It is a great place to visit with friends and family; the town boasts an abbey, caves and picturesque river walks (the town is encircled by water). Why not have lunch while watching tourists navigate the small rapids near the mill in their bright yellow kayaks (first-timers never quite make it down in one go)?! There is also a regular boat trip in the summer months with a French guide.

The shopping isn’t extensive but there are a few choice shops perfect for small gifts (cards, ceramics, vintage signs, soaps, hats, gourmet food, wine, etc.). The tourist office is central and well-stocked with leaflets and posters.

For lunch in August I tried and liked pop-up restaurant: La Guinguette. It can be seen from the cave/abbey side of the river but is accessed from a back street. And don’t forget ice-cream… there is quite a choice. SC

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A day out in Bordeaux

Bordeaux has been on my list of places to visit for a while now and when I finally got there it didn’t dissapoint. It is everything you imagine a ‘French’ city to be: stunning architecture, cafe culture, chic locals, and fabulous local food. If you like shopping there is a good mix of local, boutique, high street and designer.

From Le Manoir Saint Gervais I headed to Angouleme and took the train to ‘Bordeaux St Jean’ rather than drive the whole way. The thing I like about train travel is you can relax and have that extra glass of rosé at lunchtime! There’s also less stress on the parking front.

On arrival I picked up a one day tram pass for €4.30 and headed straight for Quinconces (on the ‘C’ line) where the newly-renovated Tourism Office offers various pamflets, advice and local tours. Being in the middle of Bordeaux wine county there are a number of half/full day tours to local vineyards too… but not for me this time.

I spent the day exploring the pedestrianised streets, having a very nice lunch right in the heart of things and generally taking in the atmosphere. If my sources are right, Bordeaux is soon to be the capital of our region (when the total number of regions in France is reduced from 22 to around 14 in 2016). It is definitely a great day out and I’m already looking forward to my next visit. SCH


Tree pollarding

It’s the last big job of the season before it’s too cold to get outside. The avenue of beech trees along the railings at the back of the house is getting out of control and there are three large maples near to the front gate which would benefit from a good chop too.

The idea is to take the upper branches back to the main knuckle to promote a dense head of foliage and branches. Pollarding seems quite drastic and certainly makes the garden look bare but is something quite typical in French gardens, and in public spaces, as it can help trees live longer and keep them at a manageable height. The other benefit is the wood that can be taken and stored/seasoned for firewood.

Here are some before photographs. I will post pictures of the trees once they have been done. SCH

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Winter preparations

It’s that time of year when everything starts to feel a little sad. The leaves have mostly fallen from the trees and the front of the house looking a little bare after some over-enthusiastic pruning (climbing roses). On the upside its time to plant a variety of spring bulbs in the roundabout, under the trees and in the two containers either side of the side steps – providing hope that spring won’t be too far away!


Two other great things about this time of year are roaring fires and Christmas preparations. It’s time to collect pine cones, logs and foliage, dig out that ribbon collection and seek inspiration for  making this season’s decorations. SCH


The autumn sweep

Autumn is here. The 23rd of September marked the first official day in the northern hemisphere and we have been very lucky so far with a string of warm sunny days. However, the nights are certainly drawing in and we’ve already lit two fires in the log burner this month – a reminder that it’s time to call in the local chimney sweep.

In France your buildings insurance company requires proof each year that you’ve swept your chimneys – just in case yours are unlucky enough to catch fire. So this morning Monsieur Sweep arrived at exactly 9.30am, as promised, with his son (or grandson) in tow – both suitably dressed in overalls. I was expecting a bit of singing or whistling and a whirl of activity but the whole procedure was over very quickly. No drama. No mess.

So that’s it for another year… time now to cosy up with a cup of hot chocolate in front of the fire in the sitting room. SCH