My goodness…I can’t believe I’m writing this post already. It seems like yesterday that I was posting November’s news & here we are again. Another month …& indeed another year gone. I realise too that last time, I forgot to wish you all Happy Christmas…so I’ll do that now in retrospect! I hope you all had a good time over Christmas…we did!
We are now back home after a somewhat epic Christmas trip to the UK during which we saw(& stayed with)lots of good friends & family & had a great time. But more of that later…
December got off to a good start with a trip to Strasbourg with our friends Linda & Mike. I have wanted to go there for the famous Christmas market ever since our daughter spent a year in Strasbourg, as part of her degree course & told us how wonderful the market was. Her memories seem to include lots of gluwein drinking mind you! After a bit of a struggle to find some affordable accommodation,we eventually stayed in a nice hotel which was close to the tram line so getting into & out of the town was very easy. There was a noticeable security presence but it wasn’t overwhelming by any means & apart from the fact that the place was absolutely heaving with people, we found it very easy to do all the things we wanted to do. I loved the market, all the wonderful Christmas lights, the fantastic trees & all the decorations on the houses & shops. It was truly magical & the atmosphere was great, with everyone there to have a good time. It was a bit difficult to find places to eat, or have a coffee, as it was so busy, but that is all part & parcel of the occasion really & it didn’t spoil the trip at all for us. The stuff on the actual market was a bit expensive but it didn’t stop us looking & buying bits & pieces…which is all I wanted to do anyway. I have visited Strasbourg before & I found the place as lovely as I remembered it…if a lot colder! It was really cold all weekend but we were well wrapped up & the hotel was cosy. It was a lovely weekend…& bonus…we didn’t have to drive as Mike & Linda did that, which we appreciated very much.
When we got back home, Geoff was very busy trying to get all his lessons finished & contracts completed before we left for our UK Christmas trip. He was also very pleased to have been asked to prepare for more contracts early next year. This is the first time that he hasn’t had to wait until March or April to do this & will mean that the first months of 2017 will be a little less stressful for us as we wont have to worry about whether either of us has any work (or money) to come. Good news indeed! To round off his teaching year we went out to lunch with Susan, the lady who works for him. We went to a newly refurbished brasserie in Issoire (Le Francais) which we have been keen to try & had a delicious meal there. It will be going on our recommendation list for guests I was also invited to join Geoff’s Cafe Anglais conversation group for an end of year meal which was good fun. It was nice for me to be able to put “faces to names” at last. They are a nice set of people & they obviously enjoy the chat & fun of this group very much, which is great for Geoff.
As you can no doubt tell, the B&B has been dead as a dodo this month again. However as we still have Romain & Armandine in the gite, we still have a bit of money trickling in, thank goodness. They have found a house now, so I expect that they will be moving in early next year. They have asked to stay until the end of January but I suspect that will be the last month. It has worked out very well for us though, mainly due to them being a lovely young couple & they have really been no bother at all. I will miss them when they go…& so will Xena!
Having to leave here early this year, for our Christmas trip to the UK, meant I had to be very organised & really ready for Christmas 10 days early. It was a little stressful, but I managed it & on the 15th we set off with a very loaded car as, as well as taking all the Christmas stuff we had also agreed to take some things from our attic for Hazel’s house. Our house sitters had arrived at last on the 14th – they had had car problems on the way here so all the “showing around” & explaining the quirky things which go with living here in this old house, had to be done quickly & the outside stuff by torch light, which was not ideal. We were a little uneasy having seen how young they were, how little French they spoke & also by the very boisterous puppy they had with them. However, it was too late by then, so we drove off with fingers crossed that all would be well on our return.
We took the overnight ferry from Zeebrugge to Hull (I have rebelled & now refuse to do the horrible drive north from Dover) & all went well with the crossing. We spent a nice day in Beverly the next day, enjoying the pre Christmas bustle & atmosphere of the little town centre & even managed to “gatecrash” a high school carol service in the Minster, which I loved. The evening & night was spent with an ex colleague of mine, from college days, in Marple where we lived before coming to France which brought back many memories.
The next day was the our niece’s wedding & having donned our finery, we spent a very nice day in the company of family, celebrating Kate & Alan’s marriage. We managed to off load some of the contents of the car, when we met up with Hazel & Phil for the church service, so at least we didn’t arrive at the lovely Salmesbury Hall for the reception looking like a furniture removals firm! Our 3rd bed of the trip was in a nice hotel close to Salmesbury.
After visiting our son & his family (grandma & papi cuddles at last) for lunch & the afternoon the next day, we drove to Darlington where we stayed with my good friends Rose & Robin for the night. Again we had great evening catching up with family news, eating & reminiscing…& comfy bed number 4 Comfy bed number 5 was in Whitley Bay, where we stayed with friends, Gill & Charles, who were our neighbours when we first got married. Charles is a very good singer & one of the choirs he is in, was giving a Christmas concert that evening so we had the extra treat of going to see him perform. We especially liked his rendition of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (he didn’t!) & so requested a repeat performance when we got home, complete with jingly antlers & flashing red nose which we just so happened to have in the car! I have it all on video
Bed number 6 was in Yorkshire, near Skipton where we stayed with my cousin Ken & his wife Joy. Another lovely night spent chatting sharing family news…& recalling last years stay, after we had braved all the flood waters & suffered car failure because of them. How quickly time passes!
We then made our way (via a lovely drive through the lake district) to our daughter’s in Carlisle where we stayed for the next 4 nights. We had a great Christmas with Hazel & Phil & they really pulled out all the stops to make sure we had a good time. We both enjoyed being invited to Phil
s Rotary Clubs Christmas meal (good secret Santa gifts too) & Geoff especially enjoyed gong out to help with Santa`s sleigh as it made its way around Carlisle. It brought back happy memories for him of helping with his own Rotary club in days gone by. I got to go shopping with Hazel on Christmas Eve which I enjoyed very much too. The town was not that busy & I do miss some of the Christmasy atmosphere which just doesn’t really exist in shops in France. We had a great Christmas day too, starting with a visit to church (another thing I miss ) & a lovely meal with my brother & Hazel & Phil. If you are reading this H & P …thank you again :)))
On Boxing Day we all went to Matthew
s for lunch & to see what Santa had brought Ethan & Hadley. We had a lovely day, full of cuddles with the baby & playing with Ethan, as he showed us his new toys. A quick meet up with Phils dad afterwards & then we were off to sample yet another bed (our 8th of this trip) in a hotel near Huddersfield – on our way back home now. After a bit of a shopping expedition in Hull the next day to stock up on some British food & drink treats, we went to look at the sea at Withensea (we miss the sea!) before catching our ferry that evening (bed number 9).
Our drive home from Zeebrugge went well & we arrived back in Chabanol, a bit tired & fed up with being in the car, but otherwise good. We had driven 3,500+ kms this trip – a lot even by our standards! The house was still in one piece but was very dirty, & also there was no food ready for us, which was disappointing. The cat refused to speak to us or come in either. We suspect that she ( & the hens) were extremely glad when the house sitters & more importantly the puppy left the next day!
So it is back to normality now. Geoff has already been working – a revision document done. The animals seem very pleased to have us home, the house has been cleaned & looks a lot better now. We are also ready for some B&B guests who stay with us every New Years Eve. 2016 draws to a close then. Its been an odd year really with lots of ups & downs as per usual. Geoff has been busier than usual, work wise, & that has left us a little more secure financially, which is just as well as the B&B & gite side hasn
t been spectacular this year. We have said goodbye to Geoffs mum & hello to our new granddaughter, Hadley. We continue to love living here but are finding our thoughts turning more & more towards retirement, especially as Geoff gets to UK state pension age next year. These are all things to ponder,as we approach 2017, but all that remains now for this post anyway, is to wish you all a Very Happy, Safe & Prosperous New Year from all of us here at Chabanol.
A bientot mes amis