Our First Week of Housesitting

9 Apr

The serious side of housesitting started in earnest in Monday morning.  Number one task was to attack the pampas in the garden on the side of the pool and beat it back to an ornamental stature. Luckily it was not too hot, probably about 20degC.  We spent the whole day on it and still had some of the mess left to clean up on Tuesday.

After the pampas clean up I had a go at mowing some of the grounds in the afternoon.  There are two ride-on mowers which will be ideal once we get into the swing of things – Leanne & I can both mow and get it knocked out in half a day I expect.  For the first time though I thought I would just give the one acre or so near the house and the front gate a trim up.  I got it done but I looked like I had been in a dust storm.  The grounds are dry and the mower kicks up a fine dust everywhere.

On Wednesday it rained so we went off in search of a car to buy.  We first went to Vidauban which only had a couple of yards and nothing of interest so we continued to Draguignan where there were lots more car yards but nothing that fitted our specification.  I had been looking at the online car sales and it appeared that there were plenty of matches listed albeit in Marseille or Nice usually.  So we were a little despondent by the end of that sortee.  Also, given our rate of progress, we needed to extend the rental car for another week.  Fortunately, the girl in the office spoke good English so I was able to negotiate a very good rate for the two weeks – €323 total.

OnThursday it was fine again so we got back to work.  Leanne needed to do the housework in the main house and I started on more pruning this time of Oleanders near the pool.  I didn’t last long though because the rain returned and I got drenched and had to give up for the day.

All the while James and Lavinia had been keeping an eye out for suitable cars for us.  After being out on Friday morning James told us he had spotted a couple of likely candidates on the roadside in Draguignan so we set off with hime to take a look.  On the way, in Lorgue, we saw a Fiat Cinquecento S 1996 on the roadside with only 64,000km on it and priced at only €1,100.  Tempting but very small.  James phoned the seller and we arranged to meet him later.

In Draguignan we met the seller of the two Reault Clio cars that James had spotted for us.  One was petrol and a but rough inside but the other was diesel, 5-speed manual, 2006 model, white, aircon, cruise control, 143,000km, new ‘Controlle Technique’ (WOF) good for two years, new emission certificate – good for one year.  But the tricky thing was it was only a two-door/two-seat configuration.  It was a station wagon and had no back seats.  But it looked exactly the same as the normal four-door/four-seat wagon from the outside.  I took it for a quick drive up the road and liked it.

We were not so sure about only having two seats but we figured that it would be ideal 98% of the time.  If we need a four-seater for short periods we will have to hire one.  Besides, there were two other potential buyers loitering nearby so if we were not decisive we were going to lose the opportunity.  So we chipped the price down from €3,200 to €3,000 and it was a deal.

But of course nothing is a deal in France until the paperwork is done!  So we followed the seller back to his home base and spent 45 minutes doing paperwork.  The plan was to pick it up next Friday, 13th April!

On the way home through Lorgue James took us to Swiss Insurance and we got quotes for 3rd party only (the legal minimum), comprehensive cover and an option in between.  So it looks like the total car cost should be €3,800 with registration (carte gris) and comprehensive insurance.

With the task of finding a car dealt with we set to work again in the gardens on Saturday morning.  There is more to do at this time of year with the Spring growth and the damage done by the snow in February, a very unusual occurrence we are led to believe.

The afternoon was fine although quite windy so we set off exploring and ended up in Tourtour.  They have an annual ‘Egg Festival’ on the Sunday and Monday of Easter so we got to see the village being decked out in preparation but before the crowds arrived.  People were still hanging decorations in the trees and around the streets while we were there.  The village is on a hilltop with commanding views but also exposed to the wind.  We had been quite warm at home and had come out lightly clad so ended up rather chilled!  Still, I got some interesting (to me!) photos and it will be a lovely place to return to in the summer.  I don’t where it was all coming from but everywhere you walked you could hear running water.  It was in channels.  There must be a huge spring up there somewhere.

Flags up for the festival

The entrance to the cemetery behind the church - I just liked it

These guys are from New York. They saw a picture of Tourtour on Flickr and decided to come and have a look. Check out the camera he is carrying

Decorations hanging from the trees

I guess it will end up filled with Easter eggs

Not a whole lot of space

Poster for the festival

This channel was running beside the street then turned across a vacant lot before emerging again lower down the village

On Easter Sunday we thought we would go to the supermarket but of course it was closed but we did find a smaller one open.  After that we headed out exploring again but this time aiming for Entrecasteaux, about 35 minutes away, the other side of Le Thoronet from here.

We got stopped by Police at the intersection just before Le Thoronet.  They were breath testing everyone.  It was 2.30pm but I guess the penal rates were very good being Easter Sunday!  Of course I scored 0.00.  So onwards…

Entrecasteaux is a pretty village with some quite narrow streets.  The entrance to it was controlled like a long one-way bridge – traffic lights each end.  Camper vans could only just get through. To quote http://www.francethisway.com/places/entrecasteaux.php ‘the gardens in front of the castle were laid out by le Notre, the designer who planned the gardens at Versailles. Here they are rather smaller in scale, but the formal gardens with their geometric clipped hedges are a nice backdrop for the castle.’


Gardens and castle

Street scene

On the way home we swung by Cotignac for a quick look.  More on this one later because we will be going back when we have more time to climb the steps right up the imposing cliffs over the town.

Cliffs at Cotignac

Main street in Cotignac

On the way back the Le Thoronet we passed by another Police setup – this time with a radar gun.  Fortunately I was well under the local 50kph limit at the time.


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