Sunday, 31 May 2015

Barcelona, briefly.

From Parc Guell, overlooking the city
Our 3 nights in Barcelona were lovely. The weather was perfect, the hotel ( whilst accommodating us in some very small, but high ceilinged rooms) was perfectly located, and we managed a great combination of exploring and mooching from coffee stop to ice cream stop to wine ( and some excellent gin) and food stops. 

It began with the TGV  from Narbonne, meaning we had no worry about car parking or driving around Barcelona. The top speed it reached, just before Figueras was 301 kms an hour. The rest of the journey was a little more leisurely, but the whole journey took just 2 hours.  So, we arrived in the city, relaxed and ready for adventure.

Mark and Steve, walking faster than Jane and I, on la rambla.

Over the next few days we strolled along the ramblas, we walked on the beach, we paddled in the sea ( well, some of us did ), we marvelled at the Gothic area, revisited past haunts ( the marina for Jane and Steve, where they kept a boat, a few years ago, and various spots we remembered taking Jess when she was 6 months old ), and of course, took in plenty of Gaudi.

Cannot believe I went on this 23 years ago. I was much braver then.

Rather than waxing lyrically about all we saw, I have selected  a few photos to try to sum it all up.

Me, not doing heights very well, on the rooftops of Gaudi's "La Pedrera"

Remembering Jess in a push chair, in this square.

Parc Guell

Parc Guell

The Sagrada Familia..... had to hold my tongue when I overheard a mother telling her children that the cranes were cleaning it, so it all looked as clean as the white return it to how it looked when it was built in 1830..... aggghhhh ! The teacher in me wanted to put them right......but in true Frozen style I "...let it go "

Casa Batllo

Finally, just to prove, we did sit down from time to time:

Those gins were very large, and very good.

Friday, 22 May 2015

With knobs on

We have been back in Caunes for just over a week. I am still contemplating how I want my blog to develop, without just repeating the annual pattern of what happens in our lives, shared between Yorkshire and the Minervois. 

However, I haven't got very far with my contemplation . I have been too busy.

When we first saw our house in Caunes, back in May 2011, our agent, Paoula, warned us we would hate the decor inside, and she was showing us the house because she thought we needed a good view.....and there is no doubt that we have a wonderful view over Caunes and onwards to the mountains.

We actually liked the decor, with a few minor exceptions.... the pink bathroom had to go !

I distinctly recall Paoula warning us about the kitchen.....awful dark wood, nasty tiles and....the "urine coloured sink".....those were her exact words. I thought at the time it was a strange approach for someone trying to sell us the house.

Anyway...we loved the house, and really were not offended by the urine coloured sink. 

For 3 years I have enjoyed my French kitchen, but gradually, some of its charm began to wear thin. Last summer I decided to steam clean the work surfaces.....which were made of small tiles.....with grouting between them. For 3 years I had cleaned the tiles meticulously, or so I thought. The steam cleaning process showed up an incredible amount of grime. I wondered how we had all not died of poisoning when I thought of all the food that had been prepared on those surfaces.

So, that was it. While we were back in Yorkshire this winter, we had a new granite work surface installed, the grotty wall tiles replaced, and, while we were at it, we had a new sink put in, replacing Paoula's unrine coloured one. 

We talked about getting a whole new kitchen put in, but basically, I liked the layout, and the units were decent quality, and solid wood, albeit a bit dark and dated. So, the plan was that we would paint all the cupboards.......which we have now done.

Using the amazing Annie Sloan paint was great. No preparation required, just slap it on, it's dry within an hour, get a second coat on, and then apply the wax to give it a sheen and to make it more durable as it was in a kitchen. The kitchen is quite large, and has a dozen double cupboards, and a large dresser, so it was quite a big task to take on.

 I managed all the painting myself, over 2 days, but needed Mark's help with the waxing. That was exhausting !

It was a moment of great satisfaction, when we finally screwed in the final new door knob.

I am delighted with the finished kitchen and really would recommend Annie Sloan paint. It goes a long way. I bought 5 litres for the kitchen, and have only used 2, so now, anything that is standing still is likely to be Annie Sloaned.