Le Grand Bost       France      2014

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We are staying in the three attached houses at the right top. The first one is the living area and the rest old barns.
Onno owns nearly all the wooded area to the right and a large parcel of meadow. Le Grand Bost is about 80 Km. south of Clairmont Ferrand. No house numbers here. The address is Onno Schimmel.  Le Grand Bost.  63486 Bertignat. France.  Phone: 0033 645478697

We left Townsville the 15th of May. Had a 6Hr. stopover in Cairns where Marijke joined us at the airport where we had a lovely chat to break the boredom of waiting. Next flight with Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong. A very good airline to fly with. Another 6 Hr. wait and off to Paris with Air  France. An older plain and less comfort especially because it was a 12 Hr. flight. Arrived in Paris at 5 AM but it took an hour to get out of the airport. After all of the instructions we got from Onno it was easy to find the train where we go to Clairmont Ferrand.  Another 6 Hr. wait and off to Clairmont Ferrand. Eric and Anneke just arrived there to pick us up. One and a half hour later and we were in Grand Bost. The whole trip took 45 Hrs. Le Grand Bost sounds like a big place but it has a whole seven houses. There is also a Petite Bost and I think there are only three houses involved. The house we are staying in was build in 1854. My brother had done a lot of work already. But the amount of work is still overwhelming. We did work on Saturday but went to a market on Sunday. On Saturday we worked in the garden which is severely overgrown  and cut a path so at  least you could walk around the perimeter of the yard. 

           Marijke and Susan                                         The project                             Cecile  Anneke   Susan

                          Onno  Ab    Eric                                    Paul, Cecile, Valerie, Susan, Mado, Gabi, Onno and Eric

19 May. Monday and the work started in earnest. There was activity in the garden, under the house with concreting and I started on making a build in cupboard. So far I worked in the garden lopping a tree, made a cupboard and started getting rid of piles of rubble. Susan worked in the garden and did a lot of household chores and cooking.
This afternoon we had the neighbors over for afternoon tea. Onno and Cecile have had a lot of support from them and as is the custom here every day bonjour and shake hands and kiss the ladies. Paul is a Dutchman who lives near here and does all the building work.
The weekends are taken up by going to the hardware store on Saturday and sightseeing on Sunday.
The hardware store here is three times the size of Bunnings but everything is in French and this is all Chinese to me.
Sunday 25 May and went for a drive to a mountain nearby 1400M and as soon as we came back from a walk it started to rain and amongst the raindrops was some hail which is normal for this time of the year. 

Back of the house.  Front bit is the stable, next hay storage
and the end living quarters. There is even a dunny attached to the house. Not in use anymore.
     
    The whole Schimmel clan in France. Ad, Lya, Anneke,
     Eric, Onno, Susan, Cecile. 
My sister Lya and husband Ad arrived on Thursday to help celebrate Susan's birthday which also means that the whole Schimmel clan is here. Everybody pitched in with the work that has to be done around the house. I started with some tiling but this stopped after 10 minutes because the new tile cutter burned out. Another 120Km drive to the shop to get it replaced.
   Eric, Onno, Lya and Albert              Susan  Shirley  Anneke  Jean Pierre                Ket  Onno  Hemmo   Marjan
Saturday night and a French friend of Onno invited all of us out to dinner for Susan's birthday. This happened in a B&B down the road with very hospitable English hosts Simon and Shirley.  To our surprise a friend of Onno paid for the whole evening. Jean Pierre also gave Susan a bottle of wine and about a kilo of local cheese which everyone raved about. On Sunday as is becoming the norm we visited another market. This is called empty loft. In other words a big garage sale.
7 June.   During the week a lot of progress has been made with the house. On Saturday Susan had invited Jean Pierre over for dinner in appreciation of last week's outing. Susan excelled again with a haute cuisine meal. While we were inspecting the progress of today's work in the garden a car with Dutch number plates drove in. To our great surprise Ket,  Hemmo and Marjan stepped out of the car. Everybody here apart from us knew that they would be coming. As you can see on the photo another bottle of bubbly to mark the occasion. They even worked like slaves in the house and garden although with plenty of coffee and meal breaks in between. Ket and Hemmo took us to the best restaurant in Ambert as a thank you for the video editing I did for Ket. The meal and atmosphere were just perfect.
On Monday, Ascension Day we visited another market. This time in La Chaise Dieu. A convoy of three cars because Onno and Cecile always take their van in case there is some furniture they can use and as it turned out they bought two side tables. Here they have a famous whisper room in the cathedral. You stand in the corner of the square room and whisper something. Anyone standing in another corner can hear it clearly.

Market in La Chaise Dieu

This week a lot has been accomplished. The first bathroom is nearly finished. The second bathroom is well on the way. With a bit of luck we get the first unit ready in a week time. 
16 June. I did cut a hole through a 70 Cm thick hole for the sewerage pipe. I found out that the house is build out of rocks and clay only. Apparently if you use cement it will break and weaken the construction. On Sunday Onno's ex and partner arrived for a few days and got stuck in the work straight away. Once a week we go to a market but this week to an emmaus or charity shop. There were cupboards here for $100 who would sell for $1000 or more in Australia.  Solid wood with a lot of carvings. Too expensive to send over. The weather has changed for the worst. Cool nights and even hail one afternoon. But last week it was 35 degrees. 
24th June. Time flies when you are having fun. The work is progressing well and we are about to move in to the newly renovated unit which gives us space to renovate our current bedroom. It is getting a lot quieter because all the family has departed and are on the way back to Holland. Eric has transformed the garden from a wilderness to something that is a pleasure to walk through. From now on till we leave it is just Cecile, Onno, Susan, myself and Paul the handyman doing the work. It is also harder to do some sightseeing as Onno's van only carries three people.

The backyard Eric transformed from a jungle

   Cecile, Anneke, Truus, Henk,Eric,Onno and Susan               Eric,Onno and Susan watching the Dutch soccer team
Onno is a fanatic soccer fan and everyone who came from Holland to visit us brought something orange to support the Dutch soccer team.
30 June. We just moved our bedroom to the newly renovated one and are busy finishing the whole floor.
Three rooms two bathrooms and one toilet. The weather which is always a popular subject here has deteriorated but not to the point that it is unbearable even at night. Although we just had some hail and thunderstorms can appear out of nowhere.
                Hail                Onno watching Holland winning the soccer game               JP  Susan and Cecile
3 July. A heat wave 30º and just the day we picked to go to Clermont Ferrand. Jean Pierre offered to show us around. First to the hardware store to look at some kitchens and after that to the center of town. JP had not driven in a big city for a long time and even despite the Tomtom we made some detours. The center has a massive square with a lot of old and imposing buildings around it. "I still prefer the little towns where there are thousands of, like Olliergues we passed through today. " First stop the Australian pub which does not serve Australian food but at least they had Fosters beer. We had lunch near the cathedral. This restaurant serves traditional workers food. Time flies when you are walking through an old interesting place. Next day jumper day, thunder and rain.

Olliergues

  "Our"  restaurant in Clermont Ferrant.                                       Le Grand Bost consists of seven houses close together. The one on the left is  Onno's The one in the middle is owned by French people who want to turn it in to a vacation retreat.  The ones on the right are natives who lived here since Jesus Christ. There is another house behind them which is owned by Belgium's who have it as a holiday home. 
We had four days of rain which we not have had so far. We even had the pot belly heater going. The building progress is going well. Today they hired a floor sander and the pine floors which have not have had any attention look fabulous after the sander has  been over it. I think I have achieved our objectives and we finished the first floor.
This also means that our privileged bedroom with private shower is gone for the next four days and sleep in the attic. 
Final job sanding the pine floor. Anneke and Martien's 50 year anniversary party.          Strange custom in Kampen
Back in Holland after a three year absence. The reason we travel back via Holland is because Anneke and Martien put their 50th wedding anniversary forward so we could attend. The flight from Clermont Ferrand to Amsterdam and the train to Helmond went without a hitch. There just happened to be a heat wave during the time in Bakel. Around 30 degrees Celsius. We had a great time there. No more sanding, painting or cold weather. We got an email from Onno that when they started downstairs they found that all the floor beams which were close to soil were all rotted away. This will be filled with soil and concrete. It was great to catch up with people we had not seen in a while during the celebrations. As is customary for occasions like this there were some performances and we were involved with a silent  cooking demonstration. Martien has been a professional cook. Two days later a reunion was organized by Carolien  Smulders in the  Botanische tuinen in Utrecht. Luckily the temperature eased a little bit and we caught up with a few more family members. It was all over in a few hours and this time we got a lift to Zalk with Ket and Hemmo where we will stay till we leave for Paris. So far we have been to Wassenaar and "tante" Threes where we met up with Pim van Rooden and Helen Black. Next day we visited Eric and Anneke in Groningen. On Wednesday Hemmo had to do a voluntary work on a small pedestrian ferry and we took the pushbikes to Hattem. It was a glorious day and we were certainly not the only ones enjoying a bike ride. On Thursday to Kampen. Another beaut city beside the river IJsel. This time a bun and smoked eel for lunch.  Ket is a guide at the local museum and gave us the grand tour. Last day in Holland and Ket and Hemmo went with us on the train to Amsterdam where we walked through the city for a couple of hours. Last chance for a kroket and herring. The train to Paris took 3.5 hours and at the station was Isabelle waiting where we can stay in her place with the chance that she comes to Australia one day. Isabelle had everything organized perfectly with a diagram on how to get to her place and even a bus ticket. The apartment is at the fourth floor and no lift. It is very compact but perfect for what we want. We found a little restaurant and after a difficult time explaining what we wanted we found out the waitress spoke perfect English. 
    Last chance for a "kroket"       45KM car. Can be driven without a licence  We were not the only ones in the Louvre
Day one and we concentrated on the Louvre district. It is school holidays and the weather was perfect this meant every tourist in the world was in Paris. The queues are hundred metres long. But we did see the Mona Lisa and mainly very religious paintings. So far only a glimpse of the Eiffel tower and Notre Dame. Next day we did go to those attractions. Again lining up for along time. Last time we visited the Notre Dame (a long time ago) we could just walk inside and there were very few people. Now it is a constant stream of tourists. A lot of Americans. We took it a lot slower this time. The first day you tend to want to see everything in one day. It is marvelous to walk along the Seine and soak up the atmosphere. We also took a boat trip. It was about 3 PM when I decided that we might as well wait for the end of the Tour de France. I had heard they would be arriving around 4.30PM. About 5PM all the cars with advertisements passed by and at 6.30PM the peleton zoomed past. It took about 30 seconds and it was all over. It was a very hot day and for a good vantage point I stood in the sun for a long time. Susan sat on the pavement reading a book. At least I can say that I saw the end of the Tour de France. The metro works fantastic. We still have trouble finding a station but when you there you never have to wait for more than two minutes for a train.
        Notre Dame                              Eiffel Tower                                                  Moulin Rouge
Monday and the weather is slowly changing. Today is Eiffel Tower and Champs Elisee on the program. Again endless streams of tourists but we do finally get to the top and a grand view of Paris. After that we walk to the Arc de Triopmp. Susan did like the street with all the expensive and well known brands like Versachi. We had to be home because we had invited our host lady to go out to dinner. We suspect that she will never visit Australia but off course she is welcome any time to stay in our place. On Tuesday Susan did not feel well and I went out by myself. Two very religious places were on the agenda. The Sacre Coeur and the Moulin Rouge district. Still a lot of tourists but no waiting. Montmartre lived up to it's reputation with a lot of artists trying to sell there wares. I did not buy any but the style of painting is one I like. The weather is slowly deteriorating and I had a few spits. I got home early and a we had another downpour. Susan is feeling better but we still had an appointment with the doctor who confirmed that she has a bladder infection.
            Grave Edit Piaf                                         Fillet eels in Japan                                       Susan samurai
The Père Lachaise Cemetery was 5 minutes walk from our flat. Here Bizet, Chopin, Bugatti and lots more. At each entrance is a map where the most famous ones are buried. It was a very hot day and I went back for a second walk around. That night our last meal in a restaurant. The host had arranged a taxi for us and he came perfect on time. Charles de Gaulle airport was very busy. We had to queue up for well over an hour just to check in. Narita airport was not that busy although we had to wait a while for the courtesy bus to the hotel. And because we were too early we had to wait 3 hours before we could book in. Next day we did a tour through Narita as Tokyo was too far away to have a look around. Just four guests and the guide. At least we got a small taste of Japan. Again we had to wait a long time in Narita for the plane to Cairns. In Cairns another 8 hour wait before we finally arrived home.
All in all a very worthwhile experience.  What will 2015 bring???