|2002||reno ’03 & ’04||reno ’05||outdoors ’06||More walls ’07|
We recently took possession of the keys to our little bit of paradise. Trepidation about the place (we’d really only been inside for about 10 minutes when we viewed it) turned to joy as it surpassed all our memories.
Note rather spiffing vine, now in full ‘grape’ which surrounds half the house. Doris tells me its ornamental and you can’t make wine out of it – little does she know that in my youth I was renowned for my carrot wine!
It’s in the Parc National des Cevennes in southern France – west of Avignon. We started cleaning (and repairing) the slate roof, pruning our orchard and weeding around the house. This view is taken from the road above, showing about 2/3 of the main house. It’s got all the necessary modcoms: a roof, electricity and heating 🙂 with 3 bedrooms, a summer kitchen, a huge fireplace and a (very) small “gite” (on the left), set in 3 acres (1.2 hectares) of land. The house is located up on the hillside on the edge of the small hamlet of Sambuget (6 other houses) with fantastic views across the valley of the Gardon to the Montagne de Mortissou.
Approaching the property through the orchard – the house is beyond the trees in the distance. If you make it to here, you’ve found us (see “How to find us” for directions and a photo of the landmark tree stump with the hand-painted Kugahara (named after the Tokyo neighbourhood where we used to live) sign at the turn-off).
The landscape is dominated by hills, mostly covered in chestnut, with the odd clump of pine. As the house is at 500m, so we get a glorious view down the valley.
A view from the side – taken earlier in the year before the vine was in full grape. You can just see the front door. The bulge next to it is a bread oven which is part of a summer kitchen. The summer kitchen has been joined to the main ‘barn’ over the years and now serves as a large cool area used during the summer months.
We purchased the house with all its rustic, typical Cevennol decor – or so they tell us. Note large table where roast boar is served on the long winter evenings. We also proudly boast an enormous fireplace – which initially made us a little nervous about the ability of the central heating to cope in winter! However, view this as an opportunity for visitors to hone their wood chopping skills;-)
Looking down to the terrace. That’s where you find us after a hard day or strimming, weeding and DIY, sipping the local plonk and trying to remember what an 8-lane highway looks like.
In the background is the little gite in which you are welcome to stay, unless you prefer the in-house guestroom. Stay a week, stay a month, as long as you don’t mind volunteering for some painting, wood chopping or grass cutting and can endure peace, quiet, long evenings on the terrace and the huffing and puffing of resident wild boar.
Where on earth . . . ?
The little hamlet of Sambuget lies halfway between Florac and Ales (each about 45 minutes drive away), 20 min. from the next village (no traffic jams, or traffic lights for that matter).
It’s about 1 1/2 hours to Nimes or the Gorge du Tarn, and 2 hours to Montpellier, the sea or Avignon.
2003 – now: renovations, renovations
We first tackled the main room upstairs. Our thought was that this was managable. However we reckoned without the stuff the previous owners had sprayed on the wall – crepi. Almost impossible to paint, it took us several days to cover the walls. We finally resorted to opening cans of paint and throwing the contents at the wall! Although you can’t see we also worked on the roof to stop the leaks and treated the beams. Not sure it has had effect on the resident wood worms.
The main room after repainting – we learnt from our previous experience and hired a spray gun. We also visited Ikea and got ourselves a few items.
Doris has set up office on the mezzanine
Our first success with the bread machine. And in case you are wondering: it’s a 20-minute drive to the nearest boulangerie and I’m not doing that in the morning!
There is a small pool/pond that is fed from a natural spring somewhere on the hillside. We drained it, re-laid the flagstones around the side and cleaned it out.
Eh voila – actually looks quite reasonable doesn’t it? Not exactly Olympic size, but in the heat of the summer it offers a welcome break.
Summer comes early in the Cevennes – not bad for March 6th, eh? The temperature climbed past 20oC and we figured it was time to give the pool a try.
Joy! A little cold, but this is what owning a house in the south of france is all about.
The normal residents of the pool look on with some degree of coolness – a couple of the local salamander who were ejected along with a half meter layer of decaying leaves when we cleaned the pool out.
Adding an ensuite bathroom to the main bedroom
After a summer with quite a few guests, we figured that sharing one bathroom was becoming a bit tedious – so we decided to add an ensuite bathroom to the main bedroom. It used to have a sunken bath and sink, so the plumbing was there but we wanted a shower and toilet.
First we ripped out the old sunken bath which was sunk through the floor and into the cellar. We then laid a new floor and tidied up the walls.
Then we installed a large shower, the toilet and a free standing sink unit – laid a laminate floor and repainted all.
Finally we built Japanese style ‘shoji’ screens to separate off the bathroom area. We found some brilliant ‘fibre paper’ which has an excellent textured effect for the actual screen. Rodger then spent about a week trying to get the doors to open and close smoothly. Since the house was built ‘by hand’ 2-300 years ago, nothing is straight – so building square doors and the expecting them to fit isn’t a smart move!
Walls, terraces and outdoors
2006 we decided to dedicate to the outdoors. We have about 3 acres of land – all set on the hillside. The whole place is built on these massive stone terraces and requires lots of effort just to keep the undergrowth at bay. We had several terraces that were so overgrown that you couldn’t actually access them.
In addition, the years of neglect have taken their toll on the terrace stone walls – all dry stone walling – and in many places starting to fall down. This is a typical example, one of the stairs from one terrace to another which had stated to fall in.
No bad eh – only took Rodger about 2 days 🙂 It’s definitely an art and one that a PhD in computer science is about as useful for as a …..
Once started, you just have to go on ……
This piece of wall took him about a week!
Doris spent time tidying up the orchard. Since the trees have been neglected over the last few years there was serious pruning to do. After that, she replanted some of the older trees that were dying or dead.