Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Life in the south of France, in tune with the Church bells!

Welcome back everyone! After a little Tuscan dreaming, I think it's time to come back down to earth. Recently I found myself with some time on my hands. The book is finished and while I endeavour to search for a publisher, I had the idea that it would be fun to introduce you to the house at the heart of my memoir, 'The Old Presbytery'. 

We spent three wonderful years here, in the centre of a tiny village in the Charente region of south west France. In my next blogposts, I hope to share with you some of our experiences;  renovating an old French house, discovering this beautiful area of France and discussing the food of the region. Of course our story will be in the book, but what a wonderful opportunity this is, to set the scene for you. I can introduce you to the amazing house which remained at the centre of our French adventure, until family circumstances dictated our return to Ireland. Not before our renovation was complete, however, and the old presbytery was up and running, as a beautiful 'Chambre D'Hote'.

The picture below shows the house shortly after we bought it.  As to how we found it, well, it was a case of love at first sight for me. Not in an estate agents window, but on the Internet hundreds of miles away in Ireland. We did, of course, eventually view the property, but only after exploring many other regions. What we didn't fully appreciate when we moved in, however, was that the position of the house at the heart of the village and next door to the Mayor, was to make our French adventure a complete integration into village life. It meant our lives would be bound up entirely with our French neighbours, often proving both challenging and hilarious, but ultimately never boring!

The Old Presbytery
The house was built in 1852 as the presbytery for the village Church, which stands nearby. Our neighbours had many happy memories of the place.  They enjoyed telling us of times, as children, when they would attend confirmation classes in the front room and of summer Fetes in the grounds, when the whole village gathered to enjoy a family day out. They explained that our old barn in the garden, housed the 'corbillard' or hearse. This was a beautiful old horse drawn affair, brought out when any one in the village passed away.

And so it was that as we renovated this lovely old place, we lived our lives by the bells of the Church. Rising in the morning early, before the mid day heat, to the sound of the 'Angelus' and downing tools at seven in the evening, to enjoy an aperitif at the end of the working day.

Join me next time and I'll share more of this lovely region of France and village life in the Charente. 

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