Apologies that it has been three weeks since posting a blog – it seems like so long ago! At least there is lots to cover as it has been a reasonably productive period at least the last 2 weeks have. The first week less so as I was struck by a pretty nasty bug that knocked me out for a while. I don’t think it was THE bug as my symptoms weren’t those generally expected and, thankfully, I managed to shake it off in a few days.
Most thankfully I was able to shake it off to join some friends in visiting a local brewery at the end of the week. We had heard of a craft brewery in the village of La Feuillée about 15 minutes from us but had never visited. Recently we got to taste some of their brew – and see the impressive containers you can buy to take some home – so we had to visit.
Having got back to fighting strength I have managed to complete a couple of tasks that had been outstanding for a few weeks including finishing the staining of Grange and my man shed. They look great and should now be protected for a few years (when I’ll have to do it all again!)
I also managed to progress the hedge cutting but still not quite finish as my hedge cutters chose not to pack up but to cut out frequently when I tried to use them. Of course, when I took them to our new repair shop they chose to work exactly as they should and show no sign of a problem – grrr. Thankfully, I managed to cut the vast majority of the hedges – some manually – and the little remaining could even wait until next year …
In the last blog I wrote we had just changed a tap in a gîte having had to clear the drains and said things came in threes. The third, not the same gîte thankfully but plumbing related, was a problem with the boot room pipework. Not yet resolved but will at least be something I will be able to do myself and not get the professionals in this time.
Having taken my hedge cutters to the repair shop I was able to see if a chainsaw I had dropped off before was able to have been repaired. It hadn’t so I was given the bits in a box! This meant that in my efforts to clear the garage and tidy by clearing a couple of piles of wood last week, I had to do the cutting manually and have invested in another chainsaw.
The other major task we have started, having taken the opportunity of a change in the weather at the end of last week, was the autumn lawn scarifying. The back lawn, the largest, we scarified in the spring but just before it got very dry for a long time and it never recovered properly. Seeing that we are due a damp couple of weeks, we have scarified it again and we have bought some new grass seed to lay with a more durable type of grass that should perform better in drought.
In the short term it has made the lawn look even sparser – but you can see the nicely cut hedges in the background of one and the very large pile of (bramble covered) wood I need to clear in another! For another few weeks!
We have at least managed to maintain one ‘habit’ that we started a few weeks ago on David’s birthday – a day out exploring our lovely region. We have always said that we need to take the opportunity to take time and explore around us as, if you love the outdoors, there is so much to offer. In David’s birthday week we, accidentally, went on a long, but beautiful, walk in the Monts D’Arrée and for the last 2 Sundays we have chosen another area to walk.
Last week, we revisited a part of the coast we had actually walked first a few years ago. From previous blogs you will know that we love the Sunday market in Daoulas although, in this odd year, we hadn’t visited at all in 2020. So, as we had no guests we went back and continued onto the peninsular of Logonna-Daoulas for a coastal walk.
The weather was amazing – blue sky, very hot and zero wind – which made the beautifully clear sea seem more Caribbean than Breton. The coastline there has some fabulous shingle beaches and hidden coves which provide some great private bathing as well as some dramatic scenery.
The dogs love swimming in the sea but, again, haven’t been able to at all this year, so made the most of it. Having got them salty we thought it best to detour to the Lac du Drennec on the way home so they can swim in fresh water and clean off. Of course, being at the lake we thought it rude not to pop to Au Lac and have a quick half. In Mercedes’ always generous manner, the first half led to another and another and … well, as you saw, no blog last Sunday!
Today, as the weather was very different from last Sunday, low cloud which gave poor visibility, we chose a woodland walk rather than anything we would do for the views. We returned to the Fôret du Cranou which, while we had visited for the first time earlier this year, we explored a different part of and loved it. It reminded us that we are so fortunate to live somewhere where we can choose such different walks depending on mood (and weather) from fantastic coastal cliff walks; open moor and heathland; woodland and forest walks or canal or lake side strolls all within easy reach.
We’ll have to choose something else for next Sunday and, assuming we don’t get diverted to Au Lac, I will get back into the habit of writing a weekly blog!
Well we’ve made it. We are both a bit shattered but at 10 am today our first guests arrived in the newly finished, revamped, redecorated and refurbished Priory. And, while I may be a little biased, it looks amazing.
In my last blog, I said that I wasn’t panicking about getting things complete on time, and I never (quite) got to that point. It certainly was nowhere near as fine a run thing as it was when we were preparing Granary in our first year and not as many stitches were required. However, as then, we did have some very long days that more resembled our working life back in London – albeit the work was more fun. Also, as then, we did have some assistance on the last day from 2 friends, Pierre-Jean and Cyril, who were instrumental in getting things over the line without us having to put in an all-nighter.
The last 2 weeks have actually not been totally focussed on Priory. As my last blog mentioned our first guests of this COVID year arrived in Granary last Saturday which meant that we had to take some time to prepare that. Because we had been using it as storage for all the Priory furnishings we had to empty it, give it a pre-season deep, deep clean, and do a number of smaller maintenance tasks that had been building up.
These tasks were all fairly minor individually (reattaching some tiles; replacing the wood above the new front door; giving the new front door 2 more coats of gloss; reattaching some hanging basket brackets that had blown off in the wind; plumbing in a new cooker we had bought in the spring ….) but collectively added up to a day’s work and meant that Granary looked amazing when our guests arrived.
There was a moment of greater panic when we were preparing Granary than we ever had in Priory as on the Wednesday during, but not while actively, deep cleaning, the electricity supply tripped and could not be remade. David managed to identify the circuit which was causing the problem so restore power but without most of the sockets and so without all the niceties of TV, fridge, kettle …
Thankfully Pascal, our super-electrician, came to the rescue at 0830 Thursday morning and had resolved the problem by lunchtime.
Granary prepped, back into Priory and its own issues, inevitably plumbing based. My Facebook message last Sunday mentioned one that had manifested itself that day caused by the fact that water cannot drain uphill! Thankfully I was able to resolve that relatively easily. Monday’s problem initially caused more concern and was to do with the new en-suite shower – again!
The shower has proven more than problematic and our new plumber, Terry, had visited at least 4 times to try and make watertight. Two weeks ago we thought he’d managed and it remained dry for about a week before it started seeping again. Fearing the worst that we would again have to strip off tiles and cut through to the pipework we were starting to cut things really tight. Thankfully, Terry identified what we believe (hope to goodness!) was the cause without striping tiles off and resolved. It has remained dry so far – but then it did before!
As of 8 am this morning the gîte is finished and looks fabulous.
I have made you wait long enough – now the pictures and the ‘big reveal’. These are some ‘quick and dirty’ images that probably won’t be used for marketing but I thought you’d like to see them before we update our website. As such, they really don’t do the finished project justice. To compare with the ‘before’ just see the relevant pages on the website.
Again, as a partial narrator, we think everything has made a huge difference and it is difficult to identify individual things that we like the most. However, if I were to choose the new king bedroom with its en-suite shower room is fantastic and much roomier than we’d expected.
The new heating system is far more efficient and will ensure that the gîte is cosy all through the year and the fire can be used for atmosphere rather than the principal, inefficient, source of heat.
The kitchen is fabulous with lots more storage and we have splashed out on a fantastic range cooker and, if you have seen in the pictures, a holiday home for dogs joining us. We particularly like the new back door that our carpenter friend has made (the same carpenter who made Granary’s lovely new front door) with some lovely detailing. With the much larger window it provides more light and makes the garden and terrace more inviting.
More light was what we had been trying to achieve in the lounge which, due to the age of the building, doesn’t have any windows. Now, it is more like Blackpool illuminations! We love the new rustic chandelier and the spots we have added into the niches in the dining area.
And finally, possibly the largest visual change is the mezzanine. Removing the old lambris from behind the bed and adding lights and character has made a huge difference – and means it is no longer a squeeze to walk along the end of the bed.
It looks great now and will look magical when decorated for Christmas – which is good as this week we have received reservations for both Priory and Granary for Christmas this year so someone will really enjoy it.
It has been a long 6 months plus to get here and, as is always asked on Grand Design type programmes, while due to confinement it is well over time (over 6 months rather than the 3 hoped) it is roughly on budget. Of course we have had some help and we must thank a number of people.
Pascal, the sparky who rewired and installed the heating system; Terry for stepping in and picking up the plumbing with all the problems he had to deal with; John for his fabulous door and new storage space under the stairs; and Pierre-Jean and Cyril for their assistance on a couple of occasions
Looking back when we completed phase 1 of our refurbishments in 2015 when we were fully booked for the first time ever, we had a truly international clientele. Then there was an Irish family in Priory, Spanish in Granary, English in Hayloft and French in Stable. Tonight, the first night full in COVID 2020, we have Irish again in Priory, Belgian in Granary, Swiss / German in Hayloft and French in Stable.
We are having a couple of restful days, not completely off as David is in the gym next week, before picking up all of our other tasks possibly starting with hedge cutting and sorting out own house which has been somewhat neglected and now resembles Granary when it was being used as storage. The next major project is finally completing Grange but before we do that I need a few déchetterie runs to dispose of the packaging and waste of everything we have put in Priory. Where has my lovely empty concreted garage bay gone?!
I’d have an early night but they do insist on showing the Grand Prix highlights so late – and there’s breakfast for Stable early tomorrow so no lie in …
I want to dedicate this blog to David’s Grandma who sadly passed away early this morning. David was very close to his Grandma. Regrettably she was never able to come out and see our new venture and we only managed to see her once a year but she will be sorely missed.
In last week’s blog I said that I would ration the pictures of Priory so as not to spoil the surprise when everything is finished. I therefore won’t include any pictures this week so I will keep things short.
In last week’s blog I also made the bold (foolish?) statement that, with the valiant efforts of our new plumber, we had a watertight system. This turned out not to be quite the case. The shower in the new en-suite bathroom has proven to be very problematic and, despite thinking we’d got things cracked, there is evidence of a small leak somewhere which is proving very frustrating. The leak is not sufficient to actually see water but it is preventing the tiling from drying and we need to be confident we have got it right.
Our plumber is coming to see us again tomorrow and, worse case, we will have to strip off some of the tiles and get back to the source of the leak. IF we can get it resolved in the week we have a chance of finishing before our first guests are due with us in 3 weeks! I’m not panicking (yet).
I’m not panicking either despite not making as much progress in Priory as I’d hoped. What I had expected to take me 4 days has taken me all week to complete. This has been principally completing the boxing in of all the new pipework and cabling required in the building. It is at least done now which means that all of the dirty, construction work is complete leaving the major task of clearing out everything no longer required, all the offcuts of plasterboard, plywood and other material leaving lots of final filling, sanding, cleaning and painting. Things will be tight but manageable – if we can get the shower leak fixed rapidly.
Encouragingly, we have welcomed our first guests of 2020 – COVID has made that even later than during our first year of 2015 – and we welcome others next week in Hayloft. While David has worked hard to get Hayloft looking amazing internally, I need to do a bit of work externally tomorrow. Having cleared the boundary next to Hayloft at the start of confinement in March, we had left some of the cut wood on the terrace which itself has started to revert to nature! A day’s work tomorrow and Hayloft will be back to its fabulous self if not better than before with a lighter, brighter terrace.
Then Priory from Tuesday …