Sexy Exy

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, Pierre and I nickname EVERYTHING–people, animals, places, things, plants etc., so of course, we had to name our new excavator. Sexy Exy–embarrassing, but true, and we started using this moniker before it was even delivered. LOL!

Pierre was at the house in January and February with the sole purpose of cutting down the trees that were choking out the house. The trees were so crowded and overgrown, that someone passing the property, wouldn’t even know that the house was there without previous knowledge of its existence. The trees all had one thing in common–they were huge! When you live in the ‘Land of the Wind,’ large trees (with dead limbs) crowding out a house, are not a good combination.

Big trees leave behind large root systems, hence the need for Sexy Exy. He was set to arrive at the beginning of August, and Pierre was on the look out every day, because we weren’t given an exact delivery date.

He’s here! He’s here!
Brand new and never been used…
What a tough guy!

Pierre knows how much I love words, and one day a few months ago when we were talking about the excavator, he mused, “I wonder if the word excavate is Latin or Greek?” I was on it, in a flash–

excavate (v.)

“to hollow out, make hollow by digging or scooping, or by removing extraneous matter,” 1590s, from Latin excavatus, past participle of excavare “to hollow out,” from ex “out” (see ex-) + cavare “to hollow, hollow out,” from cavus “cave” (from PIE root *keue- “to swell,” also “vault, hole”). Related: Excavated; excavating. (Source:

Sexy Exy is Latin! Yes, that makes me happy, very happy! LOL!

Honey? Yes, it’s our New Adventure!

While we were gone, our friend Philip checked on our property and pruned many of our fruit trees for us. During that time, he talked to his friends, Judy and Adrian (who happen to be beekeepers) about our orchard. When they heard about the low fruit yield on a few of the trees, they suggested that we should put a hive on the property. They felt that bees kept near the orchard would help with pollination, and of course, the added bonus would be honey.

Judy and Adrian offered to install and take care of the hive(s), as we would be providing the land. To us this seemed like a win-win proposition. However, we needed to let them know that there was an old rotting hive that they probably didn’t notice, tucked under some overgrown trees on the side of the property. We could see that bees still came in and out of the old hive, but we had no idea what non-care for many years had done to it. We could see (from a distance) that it was in pretty bad shape, even to our untrained eyes.

Beekeeping is one of the things that I have secretly been”geeked up” about for a long time, but Pierre had always said, “If you want to keep a hive, go for it, but I’m not interested in doing any of the upkeep.” Fair enough, but I travel for work, so beekeeping didn’t seem to be in the cards for me….until now!

Judy grabbing some dry grass for the smoker…
Checking things out near the hive…
The lid is off, and now a little smoke to settle the bees down…
Honey comb from the hive…

Judy and Adrian came over to check out the existing hive, and we suspected, it was in very bad shape. It’s rotting and falling apart, and ants have moved in, which is a definite no-no! The original plan was for Judy and Adrian to establish a new hive/colony on the property, but now they plan to move the existing hive, which apparently is even better.

A new hive (bee box) will be brought over, and the bees will be transferred into it. The old box will be removed and probably destroyed. If it’s not destroyed or moved, it will confuse the bees. The bees in the new hive will be temporarily be removed from the property as well. The hive can’t be moved to a different location on the property initially, because the bees will fly to the old site, and not be able to find the new site. Taking them off the property will allow them to “forget” the old location. In simple terms, this will allow them to “reset” their internal “GPS” devices.

This is the honey that was extracted from the honeycomb in the picture above.

I learn best by doing, in other words, getting in and doing it myself, but that isn’t an option right now. Instead, I’ve been watching beekeeping videos in the meantime. I’ve watched lots and lots of videos, and I’m amazed at how much information is available, if you just take the time to look for it.

I’m not able to become a beekeeper yet, but that idea is certainly rising higher and higher on my bucket list! For right now, I’m happy to be a part of this new adventure (from afar!), and I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can from Judy and Adrian.

Road Trip!

After spending several weeks in France in our new home, it was time to leave and head back up to Germany. My mother-in-law lives in Kassel, Germany, which door-to-door is about 1,450 kms from our place. We decided to throw a few detours in by doing a bit of sightseeing and visiting friends along the way.

This is a very “rough” depiction of our trip! Put it this way—it isn’t exact, but close enough for you to get an idea of our trip.

Our first stretch break was in Saint-Pierre-La-Mer, so I could see the coast. Pierre had been here before, and he wanted to show me this stretch of beach. I think it had more to do with the town being named after him, but I got to see and smell the Mediterranean Sea!

France is a pretty country to drive through, and after a few hours we drove over the Viaduc de Millau. After crossing the bridge, we stopped at the visitor center to look at the side view, and to learn a little bit more about it. Construction began in 2001 and it was opened to traffic in 2004. It’s the tallest bridge in the world, with it’s highest point towering 1,125 ft. above the ground. It’s considered by many to be one of the greatest engineering achievements of all time.

The Viaduc de Millau has an impressive profile!

Pierre knows that I have a “thing” for Gustave Eiffel, the engineer and designer of the world-famous Eiffel Tower and the inner framework of the Statue of Liberty, so he wanted to show me the Garabit Viaduct. This wrought iron railway arch bridge was also designed and constructed by Gustave. It was completed in 1884 and for many years, it was the tallest bridge in the world. Gustave was a busy, busy guy during this time—the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889 in time for the World Fair in Paris.

If you want to read a good book about Gustave Eiffel & the Eiffel Tower click here…Eiffel’s Tower.

The Garabit Viaduct

On a whim, we decided to stop at the Puy de Dôme, because among other things, it’s a famous flying location and Pierre wanted to see it. We enjoyed watching the paragliders, but it was too late in the day to take the train to the top of the lava dome. We visited the Visitor Center and found out that the train runs year-round, so maybe next time we can go to the top.

The Puy de Dôme is part of a chain of 80 dormant volcanos known as the Chaîne des Puys. The entire region, stretching over a 45 kms, is a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. France is home to 45 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

We stayed on the outskirts of Dijon after our first day of traveling, and no, we didn’t buy any mustard, but we thought about it! In the morning, we traveled about an hour off-route, so I could see the town where Chocolat, one of my favorites movies was filmed.

The movie starring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche was filmed in the village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain in the Burgundy region of France. For those of you who saw the movie, I’m sure that you would immediately recognize the shop where Binoche‘s character, Vianne, sold chocolate to the villagers. Over the years, I’ve probably watched the movie 5 or 6 times. It’s dark, sensuous, and delicious, just like the chocolates in her shop!

The store front is empty now, and just like in the movie, it’s located across the courtyard from the church. I was hoping to peek inside the church, because several scenes from the movie were filmed there, but there was a funeral being held. Bummer—maybe next time!

It was a beautiful town and well worth the drive, because the scenery on the way there was magnificent as well.

The village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain in the distance.
The now-empty chocolate store front from the movie

My New Obsession—


I’ve heard of them. I’ve seen them, but I’ve never tasted one! Oh my…they’re so good! Fortunately, I discovered them toward the end of our stay. The first time I bought two and the second time I bought six! I can’t even imagine how many I’ll buy the next time.

You might be thinking—a macaroon? No! Read this little article, What are French Macarons? to learn the difference

The second time I bought 6—

“Roughing It” in France

Since the house is in such rough shape, we feel like we’re camping in it, rather than really living in it. We cleaned out two of the rooms and are using them as our bedrooms. We bought air mattresses, which are surprisingly comfortable, and Pierre also bought German blankets & pillows which are super soft and cozy.

The good news is that we have hot & cold running water and a functioning shower, toilet, and kitchen sink. These fixtures certainly won’t be featured in a Home & Garden Magazine highlighting their style and good taste, but at least we have them. We have two burners on the stove that work, so we can heat up a can of soup and the French version of ravioli. We also bought a little grill for the back yard, and Pierre has turned out to be quite the ‘Weenie Man.’ All-in-all, we’ve made it work!

The Grillmeister!
Does it get any better than this?

We’ve started to meet people in the area and they’ve graciously invited us over to their homes for dinner. The first couple, named Wolfgang and Iris, are German and they’ve lived in the area for 18 years. They moved here to open a bed and breakfast, and they bought an old farm house. They can host up to 17 guests at one time! Pierre met them when he stayed with them in the spring when came over to meet with the lawyer (called a notary, in France), and to see our house and property for the first time. Wolfgang and Iris are fantastic hosts, and we’re looking forward to getting to know them better in the future.

Wolfgang and Iris had invited several other people to the dinner, and one of the guys asked us what brought us to France, and he also wanted to know about our house. We told him that France had essentially ‘found us’ and then we told him about how we were camping in the house.

He laughed and said, “First it’s camping…then in will turn into glamping, and before you know it, you’ll be living in France full time and hosting your own dinner parties!”

That sounds good to me!

A before dinner drink–
We’re having fun!
We couldn’t resist…we brought this bottle of Pierre over.
Dinner was served in this lovely outdoor room in the backyard. Iris is an amazing cook and Wolfgang does equally as well on the grill.
Will the ‘REAL’ Grillmeister please stand up!
The cheese course…

Later in the week, we were invited to Ian and Sue’s house for dinner. They are British and have lived in France for slightly over a year, after living and working in the Middle East for fifteen years. They also run a Bed & Breakfast, and Pierre stayed with them in the spring as well. They invited another couple (a Brit & an American) over that night. We talked about the joys and pitfalls of living in France as newbies. They also told us about a group they belong to (I don’t remember the name of it), that’s like The Welcome Wagon. The group is great for meeting new people, learning French, learning about French customs, etc.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures, but we had a great evening. Lots of laughing, talking, and drinking! We also brought Ian & Sue a bottle of Pierre—we just couldn’t resist the humor of it!

If any of you want to visit us in France and we’re still in the ‘camping phase,’ we know two great places where you can stay!

A Nightmare in the Middle of a Daydream!

Have you ever felt like your life was something straight out of a movie? That’s how Pierre and I have been feeling for the last couple of months. In March, we received notification that Pierre had inherited a house and property in southern France. To put it mildly…we were stunned! The property is located about an hour-and-a-half southeast of Toulouse, and about 1 1/2 miles away from a small village with less than one-hundred inhabitants.

The property is heavily wooded and is completely surrounded by farmland, giving the property a spectacular 360 degree view. I think the best way to describe the surrounding area is—-breathtaking!

The house, well, that’s another story. It’s in really (read that as REALLY) bad shape. Pierre estimates that it hasn’t been properly maintained for at least 10-15 years. It has structural problems and it was filthy and filled with junk. To horribly misquote Taylor Swift, “The house is a nightmare in the middle of a daydream.”

Initially, we kept the news to ourselves because the house needed to be transferred to Pierre’s name. However, the biggest reason that we kept quiet was because we were in shock, as you might imagine. We had already planned a big trip to Europe in August and September, so we decided to massively change our agenda to include southern France. Our temporary plan was to spend time at the house, so we could clean it and decide what to do. Our options, as we saw it, included keeping the house and renovating it, or selling it.

Pierre went over before I did, and he ended up spending four weeks there, and I was at the house for two weeks. We worked really hard to clean the house out, and basically disinfect it. Pierre also began to cut the trees down that were choking out the house. The trees were so numerous, that when driving down the road, you couldn’t even see that there was a house on the property. I love trees, but southern France is extremely windy and the tress were really big and old, so some of them had to be removed.

As we worked, and talked, and thought, and debated….a funny thing happened…we fell head-over-heels in love with the house and the surrounding countryside. We have decided to keep and renovate our little maison. Life is so interesting and it’s filled with so many unexpected twists turns. We’re excited!

Check out the views from our property—

Looking west…
Looking north…
Looking southeast (ish)—check out the Pyrenees in the distance!
Looking south—The trees in the foreground are the back edge of the property.
Looking northeast(ish)—-Don’t you LOVE this view? Can you see the heart?
The front of the house (after some trees were taken down).
The back of the house (after some trees were taken down).
Emptying the attic…

“I think I can reach it!”