April 30, 2006

Maison du Cerisier, or House of the Cherry Tree.

(for some really strange reason, if you see a link when the mouse hovers over the text, it takes you to another view of the Patio House... go figure!)

Built in the early 1800's, the house wears it's age well, especially since it's been renovated with all the modern conveniences... well, most of them. Situated on a steep incline, it presents totally different personalities from the two levels... one being large and commanding, the other, meek and cottage-like.

The three of us, Annette, Raya and myself, found it cozy and comfortable... well, once a few fringed warnings were hung at low doorways, especially for moi. I quickly developed a habitual 'bob' as I ducked through all upstairs doors, though only one was actually out to get me. The low stair passage could and did eventually remind everyone that they'd best pay attention.

With the kitchen and dining room on the ground floor, and our actual living space upstairs along with the bed and bath rooms, we set up a coffee corner in the living room for ease of perking that first cup and brought our most casual meals upstairs. It was amazingly easy and comfortable... and the company was always enjoyable. We never knew who might be joining us since for most of the month, the weather was too cool to use the patio as a gathering place and we had plenty of comfy furniture to share.

My bedroom window faced the white blooming cherry trees and marked the passage of the month of April as the tiny white blossoms swelled in size, leafed out and sprouted little green cherries. What a sight it will be when they ripen! One would actually be able to reach out the second story window and pick a few... well, very carefully, but possible. Maybe it's just as well that I won't be there for that temptation.

Some hearty soups and stews were made and shared. Raya won honors as best cook and the house often smelled of something good happening in the kitchen downstairs. But just as often we ate on the fly, making do with sausages, fruit, cheese, bread and wine... and I lost five lbs! We didn't miss a microwave at all and decided that one can cook almost as quick and efficiently on gas. There was usually some nearby village with a market day that offered tempting food choices... and little 'tabac' stores with cheese tarts, fruits and assorted neat breads... we never went hungry! Wine was cheap, delicious and available anywhere at anytime. One could drink way more of the local vin rouge than used to at home and not have a headache or hangover... but then my tests didn't go past 10pm so may not be conclusive.

The huge downstairs dining room easily contained a massive fireplace touted as the best in all the houses. Ummm... there's a trick to it that had to be learned after two very smoky attempts at making it function. Fortunately, the night of our first group gathering, (which grew into a double farewell party and a full house,) able hands knew what to do and it did, indeed, prove to be a hearty hearth with a roaring, smokeless fire. Note the funky basement window, a little daylight, lots of original stone, a lightbulb and a dead plant that began growing mulberry type leaves as the weather warmed.

With just a little attention, the yard with the cherry trees could easily become a real showplace, a stone patio, huge moss covered concrete table, pond, ivy climbing ancient stone walls... all the ambiance is there, but the weather was just a little too cool to actually use it much. Except for a few ants which were soon controlled, we noticed few bugs or critters inside or out.

After a couple of weeks, we all seemed to feel we worked at our art better in this house than in the studio for some reason... perhaps the convenience of having our materials handy, or the ambiance of the house in general, maybe both. But we all agreed that it was a very comfortable and likeable home for our month in France.

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