Welcome to the neighborhood.

Recently a blog buddy did a post showing the result of a photo challenge, a dozen photos of his neighborhood. A dozen photos of a place you know maybe too well, and make it interesting to most anybody. I wondered whether I could do that. So, in no particular order, here are a dozen things that you can find within a five-minute walk of my for sale/for rent/ whatever, just take it off my hands for a bit or forever, please, house. I like this neighborhood. I hope you will, too.

Above is the local chateau. Vendee was flattened and plundered during the Terror. When the Republic couldn’t completely destroy it, they derided it as Hicksville. I imagine places like this, and there are quite a few, all built after the Revolution, as a great « up yours » to the Parisians.

This is the restaurant next to the chateau. Yes, that’s a Michelin sticker on the door. People eat well in Vendee. It has become a favorite destination for young chefs opening their first place. The ingredients are terrific. Especially in summer and especially near the coast there is plenty of business to support them.

Did I say « coast? » Saint Cyr is in coastal Vendee but I have to admit, this is kind of stretching it. The beach — you have your choice of sandy destinations — is about half an hour down this road.

Our WWI monument. Everybody has one. Saint Cyr is a tiny village in an agricultural area. Losing this many people must have been devastating. From the parking lot just behind this you can begin any of several well-marked hiking and biking trails.

Our public crucifix. Every village has one of those, too. I think it must have been a fad at some point. It’s not my thing but I am glad to see that it is well maintained.

The side door to the village church. This church is almost never used. I think the mairie must maintain it. They do a lovely job.

The municipal tennis court at the end of my street. It’s not bad and it gets quite a bit of use, especially in summer.

Your basic allee of linden trees. Blessedly there are no rumblings about ripping them out to widen the road or anything. And when the wind comes up, it is very nice to have the shelter they provide.

A cautionary tale. These stone walls offer great protection only if they are maintained. Let the water seep between the stones, then freeze, seep, freeze, seep, freeze, eventually the wall falls apart. Over at my « keeper » house I just dropped a staggering sum to replace the tiles along the top of the wall.

The reason is simple. I want my wall to stay like this one. This particular wall is just across from the house in Saint Cyr. It offers all the quiet and privacy I could want. The house itself opens to the countryside.

There is a bit of trouble in Paradise. This is my pond. It is part of the municipal drainage system. During the last year or so Vendee, which is basically drained-and-filled marshland, has been suffering a drought. There has been so little runoff that this two-meter-deep pond, in which Jacques nearly drowned on his very first day with me — he mistook duckweed for grass and jumped in after a frog — is now his happy hunting ground. I don’t know what he is going after here. After chasing a cat out of the bushes, he was definitely feeling his oats. Whatever it was, was lucky to get away.

I don’t know how these guys are going to make it. Their best hope is that those clouds in the sky will send a little rainfall their way.

And that’s it. That’s 12 random photos of Saint-Cyr-en-Talmondais, a lovely though fairly typical village in the coastal Vendee.

33 thoughts on “Welcome to the neighborhood.

  1. This is a brilliant idea and one that many would probably enjoy replicating. If you fancied setting it as a challenge to others, you might find more traffic back to this post which might …. net a buyer/renter for your house because it is a lovely place 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oops, didn’t finish. Anyway, anything worth doing just might be worth doing to death. And I do need, for blog purposes at least, to get back to the basic theme of my life here. Vendee is more or less hiding in plain sight. Maybe it’s time for a little exposure.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Much of France suffers the same fate but I do think that you have something you want to market and I do think that Vendee is a beautiful area that could do with exposure. I’m a fine one to talk … since moving to Massachusetts and then back to Grenoble and knowing that neither are forever I’m all over the place … BUT a hook for a blog is a good thing … your Reno was it, perhaps it’s time to turn your self into le vrai Vendee Office du tourisme? Xxxxx


        1. Vendee tourist sites abound. Here is just one: http://www.vendee-guide.co.uk/. It’s a good place to relax, no question. I am taking an interest in the intersection between tourist attractions and the kinds of attractions that improve the quality of life for residents. Fortunately it appears that the planners are, too, with the many bike paths that are separate from the roads for cars. I should make more of that sort of thing in the blog, I guess. It depends on how wonky my audience wants to get.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I meant being an unofficial voice … for example Susan at Our French Oasis has it down to a fine art with the constant impression that Charente Maritime has the monopoly on paradise. She even calls it the South of France. My blog is just random mess and musings but if you have a serious objective it can be a powerful tool. French tourist boards are excellent and the French are also very good at creating excellent facilities for recreation.


          2. I think of your blog as exceptionally well-considered, not random at all. I subscribe to Susan’s blog but I don’t think she subscribes to mine, so I’ll be a little more, um, direct with you than I might otherwise be. I respect what she does. I like the photos. But really, she raises five children and there are no problems related to that? A mommy blog is not what we are here for, of course, but no problems with the schools, with bored kids in the countryside? She has a huge garden. Total respect for the way she maintains it. If she gets bored, she can come to my house to garden; now there’s a project! But those stunning roses never get to big? She never has a persistent pest? Nothing? You get my point. Life is not perfect. I’ll lay itout thre, good and bad. I will never do the « every day is a sunny day » kind of blog that Susan does. Once we gt past that little rant, you have a good point. The house is done. While I save up for barns, landscaping, etc., I do have time to look around. It’s an enjoyable exercise.It absolutely makes sense to do more of it. Thanks for the suggestion.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Our mutual friend at Cote et Campagne knows well my feelings about Susan … I call her ‘rose-tinted glasses’ I could be more brutal and say that I can smell bullshit from several miles 😉 Of course it is what we Brits call ‘bollocks’ and my heckles have been provoked several times, not least when she and the Swiss Family Robinson visited Auvergne for a weekend and she proceeded to set herself up as it’s expert tour guide. Then I DID get feisty and afterwards, after a large glass of something medicinal I was furious with self for letting my guard down. As Gill knows, I enjoy leaving seemingly lovely remarks but that if examined reveal are subtly barbed underbelly 😆. Anyway, I know how you feel … I can’t do that thing – it’s downright crass in my book but something rather more realistic but lovely, particularly with your background as an architect as a hook, might work in some way.

            Most of all I want to thank you for your opening remark. I take that as very high praise from one who I know has lived a life, a real life and been around blocks that most would not want to consider, and one who I think of as highly intelligent. Boom.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. That is totally awesome!

    On Wed, Nov 1, 2017 at 11:04 AM, French Country wrote:

    > Bizzy posted: ” Recently a blog buddy did a post showing the result of a > photo challenge, a dozen photos of his neighborhood. A dozen photos of a > place you know maybe too well, and make it interesting to most anybody. I > wondered whether I could do that. So, in no parti” >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a charming tour of your town, showing both the ultra-French commonalities and the very-Vendee particularities. I love that big stone wall!!! Hoping for the best for the frogs. We also had many frogs in the nearby river, shrieking all night at many decibels. But they vanished several years ago, either to drought or pollution. Who knows? All I know is it’s silent without them.


    1. I lost the reply. Second time! Anyway, thank you. That stone wall is just across from the house. We get total privacy and a great view. I think it will rain tonight. So, little froggies, one day at a time…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I do have a »buy my house » page. The photos are dreadful but I want to do a couple of things, paint, etc., before I update it. I kind of gave up on selling the house. There is so little interest from Brits that my English agent closed up shop. And has my very competent French agent shown it? Maybe once. Anyway, the photo challenge was on the area, not the house. When I do update the house photos I’ll probably do a whole blog entry about it. That should be in a couple of weeks.


    1. Up in the top right corner is a little « menu » symbol. Try that. I wish I were tech-savvy enough to replace it with something less subtle.


      1. Found the menu, I can manage that, but only three options showing on my phone and none seem to contain house details.
        Subtle? Ha! If you want to sell get it out there any which way or it won’t!
        That kind of place is popular down here with native French, surprised it’s not so up your way.
        I could still happily flog off the apartment to prevent a repeat of the issues we’ve had this season and last but thats just me being reactive and taking all this hassle personally .

        I am going to offer links purely for blogs buddies offering a louer and a vendre on my blog so I’ll look out for your post on the house.


        1. Yikes. You’re right. « Buy My House! » (how is that for direct?) is not there. When I changed the format, it must have gone into hiding. I must admit, it was a pretty dreadful page. I don’t blame it at all. Time for a redo. I’ll paint and all, and take some new photos. As for the lack of love being shown by potential buyers, I have some theories, best shared over one’s tipple of choice and a lovely meal. It’s a good house, no question, but not perfect and not always what folks are looking for. And now, with that empty pond that can’t be filled or converted to a swimming pool (the frogs would be lovingly transported to the pond on the neighbor’s property, of course), honestly, I don’t I’d buy it either. Anyway, even cosmetic work is work. I’d better get going on it!


          1. Yes, I should do that. JY not only has no opinion, I suspect that he’s hoping it won’t sell. He loves the house. I think he likes the idea of having a spare place to stash visiting children and grandchildren. I have been told that there is simply no market for houses in that price range, that folks either want a chateau or something super-cheap. That’s as good an explanation as any, as is the one that French people are super-cheap and super-picky. I just have to figure it’s mine, all mine, and move forward.


  4. That was a super idea and your photographs give a context to the posts about your house there.

    Those crosses were often put up as part of a mission to the area – there seem to have been a spate of these in the nineteenth century and again in the inter war period. From what gathered from elderly neighbours the preacher – usually a friar – would give sermons in the local churches, very hellfire and damnnation, with a special sermon reserved for men which drew a big attendance as it dealt with the perils of sex.

    I see you have similar views to my own on the French Oasis. Her photography is abslutely super, but the message is not for me. Life without salt is too cloying and I don’t like the contrast of the oh so sweet message and the litle hooks to attract readers.

    Good luck with preparing to sell the house…I shall be facing a similar problem in that Leo wants to sell the house in Spain. I hought of saying ‘over my dead body’ but that might be too tempting…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I think I’m hooked on the multiple photo idea. I can think of several ways to spin that — and probably will.

      I thought that was the story on the crosses. Some of them are dated and the mission is named. They are found in so many places that I figured there had to be multiple missions. I guess if you’re avoiding the perils of sex, you have to do something…

      I’\d like to go for an apero with the French Oasis and try to get her to spill. She has great taste and the money to indulge it. The many kids, the stunning garden — I swear she must have gardeners — the pets, the hubby. There are a lot of stories she is not telling. I bet many of them are quite interesting. I bet I’d really like her. On the blog she could steer clear of the rants that I am prone to, any sort of TMI, etc., and still go at least a layer deeper. All I can guess is that that’s not where the money is. There is another woman up in Normandy who does a similar, even more sugary blog. She runs tours, has a book out, all kinds of stuff. Maybe that’s where French Oasis wants to go. If so, I wish her well. For me, though, I wish there were a little more there, there. I can only imagine what she thinks of my blog, if she even reads it.

      Helen, my house has been on the market for two years now. I painted it all white and cleared out a lot of furniture, to depersonalize it so people could imagine themselves in the space. Hahaha. Didn’t work. Now I’m repersonalizing it, in hopes that it will make the renters happy. Worst case, it’s a fun project. But two years and British buyers gone, gone, gone, all except the bottom-feeders. My advice? Make Leo happy. Put it up for sale but price it fairly. He’ll get his way and chances are excellent that you’ll own the house for years to come.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Great advice! How to make two people happy!

        I think the Oasis is copying the sugar cube in Normandy, so, being cynical, I expect the monetarisation to start when enough long term readers are hooked.
        I noted her appearance on comments on a number of French based blogs, but little seems to have come from that bit of schmoozing.
        I note a certain ruthlessness. A fellow blogger made a comment, perfectly politely, which probed a little deeper into
        the suagr bowl and was blown off immediately with a ‘have a good weekend’.
        No, I don’t think I would care to make her acquaintance….I don’t care for the mercenary.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hmm. Well, I think if she is serious about monetizing her blog, she’s going to have to take it up a notch. Her photos are of real France but her writing is Aspirational France, where everybody gets along, no one has weight or health issues, everybody’s grandfather was in the Resistance…
          The competition in Normandy has a professional stylist. She doesn’t even try for real France. I stopped following it but all I remember were table settings and florist’s arrangements. Miss Normandy is close enough to Paris to make it easy for visitors to fly in for the tours, plus, living in Neuilly-sur-Mer as she does, she can just interview her neighbors and get most of what she needs for another Aspirational France-type book.
          French Oasis lives in the Charente, a terrific part of France, but not one that Americans already know; I can’t speak for the British. And let’s face it, Pierre Loti doesn’t have the name recognition of Dior, Monet, Saint Laurent, etc. Just doesn’t. Which vacation spot are your neighbors more likely to have heard of, Deauville or the Ile de Re? You get my point. If she’s going to make any money from this, she’s going to have to rework her premise and find her inner stylist or hire one.
          Who knows, Helen? Maybe the blog is a sort of placeholder project, where she practices until the kids are grown. Then she’ll go for it. Hard to say. Not my issue.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Nor mine….but that blog irritates me. Not just the false picture of life in France, but the little touches of ‘look, envy me’.
            I agree that she can’t do a Normandy…but the niche for ‘living the dream’ in rural France is still strong…and the Ile de Re is a real hot spot.
            I have a feeling it will be the coffee table book to start….


          2. You are so mean! Seriously, you’re my role model. I aspire to your level of thin skinned irritability. I just can’t maintain it the way you can, try as I might. And as MM will attest, I give it my all.
            Anybody who wants to live the dream is welcome to review my tax returns. Aspirational France is all chateaux and luxury labels, Hermès on the humans and horses both. In real France they do their best to tax that kind of wealth into oblivion. They tax early and they tax often. I lived in California, a high-tax state. It was nothing, compared to France. In California I was middle class. Here I’m considered rich and I am under suspicion every day. Every day some tax office or other is picking my pocket. I’m talking to a French tax attorney on Monday and I think he’s going to be my new best friend.
            Anyway, yes, she’ll have to move her blogging base to the Ile de Re. It’s a hotspot for the French and maybe for the British, not in the States. There folks are interested only once I describe it as the Martha’s Vineyard of France. She could do the whole thing based on the Ile de Re: tours, coffee table books, the whole bit.
            I think I live as close to the Ile de Re as she does. I feel a « dozen photo challenge » or several, one for each town on the island, washing right over me. They’ll have sales going now, too. French Oasis is on her own. I may have some shopping to do.


          3. Tax! Tell me!
            When some prat wants to know the value of my wine cellar I see red, white and pink not to speak of purple…luckily, thanks to art dealers figuring in government circles, works of art were excluded from their enquiries.
            I had a good relationship with out local tax office…they knew and I knew that I could read the tax codes and items annexed so, given the general idea of the state having its hand in my pocket ,life was not too onerous.
            Mark you, had I invested in racehorses I would have had a tax bonus…

            ‘Thin skinned irritability’…yes, that about sums it up…but it does help to be a Scot. Not only are we a prideful and obdurate race, but we are nature’s own champions when it comes to disapproval.
            Probably down to the Presbyterian heritage and a diet of oats.

            I might have more patience with the Oasis’ maunderings did I not know that her husband has been appealing for money on a GoFundMe basis to assist the child who plays tennis to continue to compete, saying that a grant had been refused on the grounds of Brexit.


            Middle class with sharp elbows and a slick line in exploitation.

            I liked the Ile de Re…we had a friend who used to collect the wild oysters there…he had a hut inherited from his grandfather which adjoined the deliberately simple but highly expensive holiday houses of the French Left.
            He used to leave rotting oysters on Jospin’s doorstep.

            Liked by 2 people

          4. You do get the dirt. We’ll call you the I.F. Stone of Costa Rica.

            I had heard of GoFundMe but just visited the pages for the first time. Somebody got 20K to put up billboards regarding a sports franchise. There is a campaign to cover a whistleblower’s defense fund, should someone turn up indefensible dirt on Donald Trump. There were a few aspiring tennis players but none in France. Too bad: I wanted to read that one.

            Well, anyone can ask, though not everyone reaches their goal. I agree, it’s a little ballsy to cite Brexit, when it is more likely that the French tennis federation simply reserves its grants for French citizens. That’s fair enough.

            But what I really want to know is where actual, lifelong French people get the money to drive Mercs and buy those Ile de Re houses and apartments at Paris-plus prices? Are they insanely leveraged? Have they figured out how to outwit France’s numerous and insanely intrusive tax collectors? When I see the tax attorney on Monday the question underlying all other questions will be « How do I game this system? »

            Liked by 1 person

  5. I seriously doubt you’ll find any buyers here in Rancho Cucamonga but I certainly enjoyed your collection of village photos. Oh, you earlier asked how I found you on the Web. Well, it was through a comment you made on Ms. Helen Devries estimable blog. I enjoyed your phrasing and the avatar of a cute, small, white dog didn’t hurt, either!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Come back any time. I’m over Rancho Cucamonga; I spent the first 40 years of my life near there and that’s enough, thanks. But you actually have me thinking it’s time I visited my friends in Honolulu. I had no idea what I was missing.


  6. I enjoy reading your blog, your beautiful house renovation and about your varied travels. I always thought that you were based nearer to Fontenay but I recognised the giant blue water tower (with white seagulls). Guess if that’s your neighbourhood then I’m a part-time neighbour living in Curzon! Best wishes to you in your search for happiness.


    1. Seriously, you’re in Curzon? Maybe you know my friends Jacqueline and Gil, who run a chambres d’hotes in Curzon. See whether you can add your name to the guest list one evening when Gil is cooking. He’s excellent!

      My house in Saint Cyr is one that I rent out. Big mistake, long story, which I’ll happily tell you some time; you’re practically a neighbor, after all. The house where I live is indeed closer to Fontenay. I have been quite lucky, actually. When Robert died my life in California exploded, imploded, I don’t know, but I had to leave. In the nearly five years since I have been able to build a new life which pleases me very much. As I say, I have been quite lucky.


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