Our days are now very nicely full. Our gite is fully booked until the beginning of September with our two latest bookings (now that quarantining is no longer required if fully vaccinated) coming from England. Our first seven guests have been and gone, with each one giving us a glowing 5-star review! Changeovers and laundry duties are now a constant. Our Etsy business also continues at a steady pace. The hunt for new stock takes us out once or twice a week, visiting vide greniers, brocantes, markets, charity shops and reclamation yards. Our stock is rarely less than 50 years old and is often dirty, broken, in need of a good polish, or all three, so cleaning and preparing for sale is often as time consuming as it is rewarding. Our friends and neighbours are always a pleasure to spend time with, but our most constant, daily activity is spent with our wee bundle of joy, Pepper.
One of the most important criteria we had when looking for our new home here was being able to go for walks from our front door. To have amenities, but just as importantly trails, fields, lakes and a fragrant countryside very close to home. Less than a minute from our door and we are amongst nature. With summer now very much with us and with temperatures into the 30s, our lunchtime walks have now become morning affairs, and shady routes being a priority. Our walks usually take us south out past the nearby Lake Boischenu or west past the chateau before meandering off in a selection of increasingly familiar routes through Rochechouart’s nearby tiny villages and blink-and-you’ll-miss-them hamlets. We name our walks. They sound like Olympic diving manoeuvres. An Extended Chabaudie, a Classic Meterorite or a Clockwise Chickengate (that one is a long story involving an unfortunate incident with Pepper and a lucky to escape fowl). One daily post-breakfast question is “which way today?” We both know what a Reverse Lauriere entails, the downside of an otherwise beautiful walk being a slog up a much too steep road to the chateau when nearly home.
Views on the way out on a Forward Pierre Blanche…
Our current preferred routes are a Forward or Backward Pierre Blanche, and its views, fields, crops and animal attractions are becoming close friends. Puddles (drink stops for Pepper) have recently been very familiar, as have vegetable plots, crop rotation and nuances to our walks that are all part of the pleasure. We guess whether ‘Monsieur Cheval’ will be in or out of his stable and whether he’ll look up as we greet him with a friendly “bonjour”. Will the width of the wee stream on a Reverse Lauriere be jumpable or will we need to use the stepping-stones and will the lovely donkeys ever re-appear. Will the llamas be there, can we tip-toe past the mad dogs on the way back from a Classic Meteorite before they let rip with their incessant howling, and will the big friendly fluff come out from the lovely cottage in Pierre Blanche to give Pepper lots of sniffs and licks. Roland always gets a friendly “hello”, and one of our favourite moments is glimpsing at our house from distances where it’s barely visible, peeking through trees to spot it, then walking a further five metres to see the chateau looming over it, magnificently. There are favourite pee stop places and an ever-changing selection of sucky sweets to consider. As always, it’s the little things.
Pepper always knows the way, and too has her little routines. She definitely has her favourite puddles, wee corners for sniffs and the places on each of the walks where she knows its time for her lead. She doesn’t bat an eyelid at llamas, would like to be friends with sheep and is a little wary of cows, and as we near home on the way back past the lake she always steps gently into the same shallow part spot for a quick refreshing slurp. That’s unless it’s been raining heavily and the lake is swollen or flooded, which it very regularly has been. We constantly marvel at the work of the ‘Cantonniers’ who maintain and cut back the growth on the paths and lanes we tread. We see vibrant, healthy and productive tractors, glowing in the fields admiring their work, and then in the next field we meet their elderly retired relatives who look forlorn, reminiscing and rusting, seemingly forgotten and unappreciated.
But, amongst yet very much above all the above relative triviality is the sheer beauty that surrounds us on our two-hour saunters. Witnessing nature’s way is one of life’s greatest pleasures and our daily walks are never less than time perfectly spent. We came to France to live an outdoor life and there is no better outdoors than amongst the trees. Heather, having enjoyed a rural childhood often teaches me some countryside lessons (in return, I carry the sweets), but her knowledge only comes a close second to Albert Einstein, who once wrote “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”. A genius quote.