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


How to make extra-long curtains from two standard pairs

One of the biggest decoration challenges at Le Manoir Saint Gervais has been finding curtains to fit the enormous windows… there are ten of them! The drop (from pole to approx. 5cm from the floor) is 310cm. It would have been possible to buy made-to-measure curtains, however, with ten windows it starts to get a little pricy and I really wanted to make my own!

I looked in local shops and online for fabric but couldn’t see anything that would work. I then found some ready-made vintage floral curtains and thought I would have a go at deconstructing a couple of pairs to recreate the length I needed.

It was a bit of an experiment: I used one long pair and added a second, shorter pair of the same width. Despite a faint seam across the lower half of the curtains (which is difficult to see because I was able to pattern match) I am very pleased with the overall result:


If you would like to do the same, follow the 10 steps below. It took me less than a day to plan, unpick, pin, sew, finish and iron one pair of lined curtains:

You will need:

– 1 pair of the longest curtains you can find (e.g. standard drop of 228cm).

– 1 pair of shorter curtains (e.g. drop of 137cm).

 NB: both pairs should be the same width (e.g. mine were 117cm wide).


Step 1: Work out your measurements: these were mine:

– Total drop needed for both curtain panels: 313cm (310cm plus 3cm for French seam allowance in shorter curtain)

– Longer curtain panels: 228cm (228cm)

– Shorter curtain panels: 85cm (82cm plus 3cm French seam allowance)

Step 2: Shorter curtain panels: keeping the bottom hems of the lining and fabric together, measure up to 85cm and cut off the top part containing the heading tape (cut through both the lining and fabric – you may want to pin it together first to stop it slipping). Note: the hemmed end of the lining will be a little shorter than the fabric.

Step 3: Shorter curtain panels: using a quick unpicker, remove the lining from the fabric; lay aside both pieces.

Step 4: Longer curtain panels: using a quick unpicker, and starting from the hemmed bottom, remove the lining from the fabric for approx. 20cm. Note: you could remove the lining all the way up to the heading tape but I found this was unnecessary.

Step 5: Longer curtain panels (front fabric): using a quick unpicker, unpick the hem and unfold. Now cut along the fold line that formed the original bottom edge of the curtain. Note: your curtain panel should remain the same length, e.g. 228cm long, and will contain the heading tape. The reason for unpicking and cutting away the original hem is to reduce possible bulk when attaching the bottom curtain panel.

Step 6: Using the French seam method (front fabric): place the wrong side of the fabric together and sew 1.5cm from the raw edges. Trim to 0.5cm and finger press/iron the seam.

Step 7: Still working with the same piece of fabric: turn the fabric over so that the right sides of the fabric are now facing each other. Next sew 1.5cm from the edges. You should have a neat seam at the front and a tube at the back of the curtain, which conceals any frayed edges.

Step 8: Now working with the lining: repeat steps 5-7.

Step 9: Side seams: turn the curtain (lining and fabric) inside out and pin both side edges together. Sew along the line of the original seam (approx. 0.5cm from outer edge).

Step 10: Finishing: turn the fabric right side out and finish off each bottom corner (hand stitch or machine stitch on the diagonal). Iron curtains and hang.

This method is much faster than making curtains from scratch (i.e the heading tape is already in place) and can be very economical if you are able to buy ready-made curtains in the sales. For example, the average cost of fabric by the meter is £20 and I would have needed six and a half meters at least, per window (not including the lining or heading tape). By contrast, the total cost of these curtains was just under £45; a saving of £85 per window. SCH

A day wandering around Limoges

The temperature gauge dropped to 14 degrees today so my South African guests and I jumped in the car laden with jumpers and gilets to do a little more exploring in the name of research.

A trip to the Limousin region wouldn’t be complete without a trip to its administrative capital, Limoges. This large town is very much a modern working one but also has some impressive medieval-style architecture, quiet pockets of calm and some great shopping.

From Le Manor Saint Gervais it takes around 45 minutes by car and there are lots of underground parking options. Don’t forget to visit the old Butchers’ Quarter (Quartier de la Bucherie) with its tiny chapel (Chapelle Saint Aurelien), the undercover fruit/cheese/veg/meat market near Place de La Motte, the gothic cathedral (Cathedrale St-Etienne), the town hall (Hotel de Ville) and also the impressive train station. SCH

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Garments and gifts: little girl’s shirred summer dress

This is a really easy and gorgeous summer dress that is available as a free pattern from

Note: the instructions didn’t come with any measurements but by reading the comments section of the website you will be directed to the sizing guide below:

Girls twirl dress measurements birth to 4 yrs Girls twirl dress 5 to 10 yrs IMG_5158 IMG_5159

I chose a fresh pink polka dot print for my eight year old niece. I took her measurements beforehand and cut out the fabric according to the online instructions and the sizing guide.

The dress is made up of six oblong fabric pieces: two straps; top and bottom front panels; top and bottom back panels. The two top pieces require shirring which is relatively straight forward so long as you wind the shirring elastic nice and tight around the bobbin (but not too tight!).The dress is secured at the back through a ribbon loop and a tied bow.

If you would like to make the dress yourself in a fun and inspiring workshop we will be covering it in our Garments and Gifts workshops at Le Manoir Saint Gervais. SCH.

Here is the finished garment – it took around a day to complete. SCH.

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Elderflower cordial – it must be summer!

During the May half term, with the help of some little hands, it was time to make elderflower cordial. The recipe was from a 2010 article by Tom Parker Bowles.

We picked 30 elderflower heads and placed them in a clean bucket with almost a kilo of granulated sugar, boiling water, six lemons and a packet of citric acid. Over the next 24 hours, every time the children passed the bucket they would stir it. Once the sugar had dissolved we strained it through fresh muslin into sterilised Kilner glass bottles with flip top lids. With the addition of citric acid these should now last for a year.

For a tasty, refreshing drink I recommend mixing the cordial with ice cold sparkling water. It’s simply summer in a bottle. SCH.


Time to explore: La Rochefoucauld

Less than 30 minutes along the D10 is the pretty town of La Rochefoucauld. It is home to a fabulous chateau, some lovely restaurants and a selection of small shops (pharmacy, bakery, butchers, gift shops, antiques shop, etc.). As part of our research for guests, we took an official tour of the chateau and then wandered around the many family rooms, the original kitchens and the underground grotto at a more leisurely pace. Photos of the current family were casually placed on tables and made the place come alive; cleverly connecting the ancient past to the present time.

Grassy lawns surround the chateau and make an ideal spot for a picnic. Since this was our first time in La Rochefoucauld we chose to have lunch at an open air restaurant at the base of the chateau called Chez Steph. It specialises in Limousin beef; the steak did not disappoint. All in all, a lovely day out and one I would definitely recommend as part of a stay at Le Manoir Saint Gervais. SCH

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