Use it or lose it – Best restaurant between Perpignan and Lapradelle-Puilarens

restaurant l'egrappoirYou may recall that we visited Restaurant l’Egrappoir last year on our run down from the Aude valleys to the Mediterranean coast where the apartment is located .

We met the new owner, Muriel, who hails from the Alsace, and were confident that she and her husband Laurent would soon have a fabulously successful eaterie perfectly placed on the D117  for tourists and locals alike.IMG_20160409_124030

This time I had the hake in a shallot sauce.

I have eaten A LOT of seafood in a lot of countries but this was up there in the top three.  Our desserts were amazing too.

This place is great, the food is sublime, Muriel and the staff are perfect hosts; so why aren’t they pulling in the punters as they should? Check it out!

Then, in Tesco’s UK, we found a wine from this little town, Cases-de-Pène, or Cases de Pena in Catalan. Look up the wines of the Languedoc Roussillon, particularly those of the Agly

The local vineyards here have kept their old Carignan and Grenache grapes and you can tell. Best wine under a tenner I have tasted this year.










And , before you fellow wicked wine drinkers suggest that I was prostrate upon the rug when I took the photo above.. I was not.

And the Restaurant l’Egrappoir? Use it or lose it…


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The Thursday Three – hand knitted throw, Edwardian picture, vintage fabric

Marcus Stone PaintingI know, I know, my Thursday Three posts have taken a serious back seat recently.

Too many things going on, only one me.

This picture came to me free. I was looking at a couple of pieces of furniture in a large charity shop in Birmingham and asked about this. It was splattered with emulsion paint and the original plaster frame was literally disintegrating.  They gave it to me.

I cleaned off the paint, stabilising what was left of the frame with soft furniture wax.

I wanted one more picture over the bed in the terrace room. This is a rather lovely print of a painting by Marcus Stone; who started off observing his father Frank Stone, was illustrating for Trollope and Dickens as a teenager, and who stayed faithful to his classical training and  disciplines to the disdain of those who championed the looser Pre-Raphaelites.

I love the landscape, the fabrics, and of course the bench!! The wistful and nostalgic air and the very soft colours are perfect for it’s intended spot.

The frame looks great now and I shan’t be restoring it any further; old, damaged, a bit rough but characterful………………That’s me!

LLaura Ashley vintage stripe90510hand knitted throw






Above-Vintage (1985) Laura Ashley ticking stripe fabric & large hand knitted throw

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Ideas- range cookers, ironware, copper pendants- and the big kitchen dilemna

IMG_20160417_133254So, we went to the Homebuilding & Renovation show at NEC Birmingham last weekend.

I had to be dragged along, as last year’s event had been a big disappointment to us, with few of the small, artisan  exhibitors whose unique and bespoke pieces I always prefer. This year was better and we actually picked up some options on three pieces we need for the village house.

We’ll start with range cookers, Trev’s obsession right now. Not likely to find an artisan model in our budget, but we have very restricted criteria which narrows the choices right down.

Firstly, the space  by the chimney in the kitchen will not accommodate anything larger than 90cm and I am NOT, repeat NOT, doing any more demolition!!!

Also, our kitchen is on the first floor next to the living room. This is not unusual in French properties, but it raises the question of load and weight that you just don’t get with ground floor installations. This eliminates Trevor’s favoured heavy Aga, Everhot, Esse range cookers .

It’s a good floor, but it’s still plank and joists.

Trev, the serious chef would also consider one of these big, stainless steel jobs with an obvious commercial kitchen influence, such as Viking






However, we are not feeding the 5,000 ( been there, done that, got the tee-shirt) and we keep coming back to the French flavour Elise- top left and above right-

Back to the artisan stuff- we met Anand Parmar at his AMAZING stand with his beautiful hand made copper pendant lamps showcased. He mixes new and reclaimed materials stylishly, a real artist. His website is still being built, but I was very impressed, nice guy too.

My favourite is the copper coolie shade in the middle of photos with it’s vintage/antique brass top. Prices around £150-£200, which is crazy low for these one-off pieces designed your own spec. I want two pendants, one over the sink and one over the main worktop







We also looked at options for wrought iron hand rails on both sets of stairs. Why aren’t you buying from a local French Ferronier? you ask.Because  so far, what I want is too expensive sourced locally. I do try to buy French where I can but this is a budget driven project

Two exhibitors below- and—the-forge.html

curtain poles banner


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Episode 139- The perfect off-white, and it only took eight years to find it

kaolin off-white paintIt took  a long time. OK, I was distracted by other renovation and restoration debates, decisions and doubts, but I ran out of prevarication time and when we marched down to the shops, this new option was on offer, details below .

We like 3V3 paints; we painted some of our shutters at the village house in their exterior wood paint, then they discontinued the shade then I didn’t care because I had changed my mind anyway (sometimes even my well informed and artistically inspired colour choices are WRONG).

This shade really does look like china clay.

So, this multi-support paint is very opaque, goes on a treat (says Trev the Super Hero) and can look everything from almost white, through very palest taupe, to a pink toned stone-grey in different lights; which I like  very much.

It is also rated A+ for VOC emissions in France, if that kind of stuff is important to you.

I wanted matte, because it feels more authentic. Trev wanted slight silk sheen. He won in here. He was right. There, I have admitted it.

We are now left with the following angst-inducing decision:-

Do we paint the asyettobefitted skirting boards with this paint or the floor lasure finish?

The asyetunfittedmerelybalancedprecariously trim at the top of the panelling will be painted in the kaolin paint .IMG_20160409_092504

The ceiling was painted with the kaolin, but was very lightly overlaid with a watered down white broken effect sponged on by moi at 6 am in the morning because I could not sleep knowing that kaolin alone was not right for this surface………….

I know, you don’t have to say it

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Episode 138- I like whitewashed floors but they have to WORK- so- a practical and tough floor finish for you

Pin-maritime GasconyWe started with this Gascony Pin-maritime from France’s oldest managed forest. This is a clean, hard pine, with less knots than many, and those knots found have a low resin content, so bleed is less of an issue.

Trev says the odd faulty piece is inevitable, like any pre-packed wood, but the quality is very good at this price point of 12 euros a square metre from


Trev’s chosen laying pattern is visible –right– and this has worked excellently

Masonry Drills in France

It wasn’t acceptable to me just to put a clear finish on. Every opportunity to bring light into the house is grasped with both hands. I like the general look of whitewashed/ white painted/bleached plank floors but some of the techniques I have seen used to achieve these  seem inherently impractical for one of the hardest working floors in the house, i.e. kitchen -diner.

So I thought of using lasure. This is not varnish, it is a resin/oil based wood stain that is used a lot for external wood in southern France where the intense summer heat destroys paint and varnish which sit on the surface rather than penetrating. It doesn’t flake and does not require total sanding back to recoat in later years.

Most importantly, it lets the wood breathe, but is waterproof. We used it on the newer external shutters and seven years later it still looks great. If it can survive outside, it can survive us and shouldn’t discolour by the windows where the sun is on it.

The odd small chip or irregularity have been left, I like a bit of character and don’t want something that looks like laminate!

The first coat just soaked right in, then a second coat, a light sand and a third coat were applied over three days using a 7 cm good synthetic brush . Let it cure between . Despite not being a varnish, it is a tough clean finish with a light sheen- I am very impressed

It looks beautiful.

IMG_20160409_092006lasure for white floors


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Episode 137 – Moody hues

Moody French walls- undercoatSo, Trev’s light finished floor , off white ceiling, and pale putty panelling have changed the way the light moves around this long room dramatically.

The kitchen cabinetry , corner cupboard, chairs and bench will all be enrobed in off white/pale putty too, and the old dining chairs re-upholstered in natural linen so-  I can put into practice my theory that  the two narrow end walls and a section of the side walls can be painted in a moody hue to balance this out and improve the visual impact of the odd elongated proportions in the kitchen/diner.

Above left- is the base coat of matte Gris Marmotte #3 emulsion. The long wall is the spine wall of the house, stone with layers of very old lime plaster (as is the window wall) and the remnants of wallpaper that just won’t budge- I think they are glued on by a secret super glue of some sort. This is a broken finish, so there is no need to get every scrap of old paper off; I am working with and celebrating the texture and character of these old walls

All the loose stuff is taken off and wall is wiped  clean (just damp cloth) before painting.

The second stage is -Right-Moody French walls second stage74238 to paint a liquid wall wax “cire” mix ( in this case dark blue with a teaspoon of leaf green per saucer) onto areas showing as darker bits using a loose circular movement, pressing in along the diagonal in both directions; with a chiselled bristle brush.

Finally, once almost dry, polish off with old cotton rags in a circular movement.- below

IMG_20160409_091759    Very French, very appropriate

wall French waxes

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Le Weekend en Argeles


Well we could have done a spot more work at the village house. But the Pyrenees and the 7km beach were calling siren-style. So we went down to the apartment at Argeles-sur-Mer (Pyrenees-Orientales, Sud de France)

Sometimes one forgets why a particular place appeals enough to spend property money there. I haven’t been for seven months, but I am right back in love with this little place of ours again.

Argeles is crazy in the summer, like any other Med resort, but out of season it is wonderfully quiet and just as beautiful.

I’m glad we came. The sky is blue, the sea a jewel-like mix of ultramarine, peacock and jade; the sand a sable slither, the rocks grey.
It was so easy to choose a colour palette here.

The mountains tumble down majestically as they always do.
And do I detect a hint of a smile on poorwornoutTrevor’s face?


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