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Monday 13 December 2010


Permis Cotier

Since moving here to La Rochelle I had thought many times of taking my Motor boat licence as unlike in the U.K, in France it is compulsory to do a practical course and take a theory exam at the ministry of transport. Of course their was many reasons to put it off, it was expensive to take, I was too busy and the language barrier, my French is not that good and I had read on the internet not to even attempt it unless you were fluent. Anyway after the La Rochelle boat show in September my brother in law and I decided to take the plunge and go for it, I translated and studied the book and the internet, until I had a good grasp of French naval terms and the type of questions that would be asked in the exam.

I found it very interesting as you started learning the meaning of the buoys and recognising them day and night, you have to be able to recognise different boats and their signals and lights, shipping horns, fixed land lights, learn the rules and regulations and hierarchy of manoeuvring at sea, you learn to navigate from a marine map, work with the tides and the weather, rules for the protection of the coastal environment, rules for fishing, communication, Safety and security is paramount.

Once you recognise the different meanings of everything it all becomes common sense but I still can not believe that in the U.K. there is no test? The rules at sea are international all over the world and I noticed some parts of the course are in English, which helped.

I gave myself a couple of months to translate the course in my spare time and study it, we booked in with an English speaking instructor and last week started the course, once we finally arrived at the class 2 hours late! It decided to snow the night before and temperatures plummeted to -5, I have never seen snow like it here before and of course because it is not usual there is no gritting lorries so the roads were treacherous, cars were strewn around the road, in the ditches and the rush hour into La Rochelle became a complete standstill. Not a very good start.

The instructor had never taught non French speaking clients before so being out of season he taught just myself and my brother in-law, It was new to him as well as to us, but he was patient and every thing started to make sense (in French) he of course took longer with us than normal we had 2 days of learning for the test, this was on the Thursday and Friday, we then spent the weekend revising and on the Monday morning arrived at the driving and boat test centre in La Rochelle, It was like waiting inside the dentist waiting room to have a tooth pulled, It brought back all the memories of 35 years ago when I did my car test, the allotted time came and went then half an hour later we filed in handing over documents and passports. Of course the adjudicating officer called for us to put our hands up, as there had never been any Non French speakers do this test at this test centre in his knowledge, very embarrassing

When it started I was quite surprised to find it easy as you had a lot more time to read the question than I thought, this had been my main worry, time spent reading and under standing the question before answering, the actual answering is very easy as its multiple choice you only have to be careful as sometimes there are 2 answers. It then finished and we filed to the back of the room for our results, ‘we had both passed’ the adjudicating officer was nearly as pleased as us, another of the students who had passed shook my brother in laws hand in congratulations as he had struggled with the language more than I, It was a great feeling of relief so we met up with our wife’s in La Rochelle for a celebratory meal on the harbour front before we left them to go out in a boat all afternoon and into the night with the instructor to practise the theory, It was throwing it down with rain but great fun bobbing about in the Atlantic.

All in all a great experience and now looking forward to getting a boat in the future and exploring the coast around here, seeing it from a different perspective.

If any body is interested in taking this course and test, if there is enough persons to make up a class size big enough depending on the season, who are prepared to spend a little extra time practising written French Language then contact me and I will try and organise it.

Friday 3 December 2010

Festive photo

We would like to wish all our past & future guests a very 'Happy Christmas' and an even Happier New Year 2011. This photo was taken on 2nd December, we never usually get any snow!!

Thursday 14 October 2010

VELUX 5 OCEANS boat race

La Rochelle hosts the velux 5 oceans boat race. In this photo is the mayor of La Rochelle (center with glasses) and behind is the president of the race Sir Robin Knox- Johnston and on the right of him are the 6 competitors. The race kicks off on 17th October 2010 from La Rochelle to Cape Town, from Cape Town to Wellington, from Wellington to Salvador then upto Charleston & across the Atlantic back to La Rochelle. The 6 skippers are all single handed, they'll sail 55 000 kms in 9 months.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Day of strikes in France

Yesterday was a national day of strikes, thousands took to the streets of the small town of Rochefort, Charente Maritime. Le president monsieur Sarkozy is raising the retirement age from 60 to 62yrs.

Monday 4 October 2010

Grape picking

Sunday us & all the villagers with children were invited by the Mairie to pick the vines of the commune. After picking the grapes they were crushed (not using feet!) by a machine placed on the back of the trailer by the children, strained & then bottled. While the kids were busy the adults were given a 'gouter' (snack) of pàté on bread & of course a drink of wine.

Sunday 5 September 2010

Customer comment for the Farmhouse

29th August - 5th September

A lovely relaxing holiday. Fantastic weather & beautiful surroundings. The children loved the pool & playing with Louis in the garden. The house is beautiful, far superior to any we've stayed in in France before!
Andrea, Danny, Tabitha & Lucas

We liked the swimming pool and the wendy house and the trampoline. We liked the bedroom and looking through the door so we could see mum & dad's bedroom. A lovely holiday home and we all enjoyed it!
Tabitha & Lucas

Saturday 4 September 2010

Customer comments

28th August-4th September

We have had a lovely week staying in Le Pressoir. The highlight was certainly Chatelaillon Plage- a beautiful public beach. We rented bikes and rode across to Ile de Re- definitely worth a day trip or even half a day. Saintes was very nice aswell. If you are interested there is a very well done paleo-site in Sainte-Cesaire (Neanderthal history).
Our daughter (3) enjoyed the wendy house and trampoline very much.
Nigel & Suzanne have been wonderful and very welcoming! Thank you very much, it has been a pleasure.
The Simons family
Calgary, Canada


28th August - 4th September 2010

Dear Suzanne and Nigel,
Thankyou very much for this beautiful accomodation. It is a very lovely and relaxing place.
We explored the whole area, which is very interesting.
Best wishes and all the best for the future,
Kirsten, Michael and Corrina
From Wunburg (Germany)

Saturday 28 August 2010

Customer comment for the Pressoir

14th August-28th August

We have enjoyed our stay in "Le Pressoir". Thank you to Nigel and Suzanne for their hospitality (and also their assistance when we needed a visit to the Doctor in le Thou).
We have visited most of the usual places - Ile de Ré, Rochefort, La Rochelle, Royan, La Palmyre to nae a few.
We enjoyed two good meals out in Surgères in "Le Grand Café", which was also good because it's only a short drive away. "La Roma" pizzeria in Surgères also looked good but it was full on Friday night so we were unable to go.
We visited the zoo at la Palmyre which was excellent but very busy in August.
The aquarium in La Rochelle was also extremely busy but worth a visit in low season.
Megan's highlights were definitely the pool and the wendy house!
Many thanks & best wishes

The Varley family

Customer comment for the Pigeonnier

221st-28th August 2010

We all enjoyed our week in your beautifully appointed Pigeonnier apartment which we found suited us perfectly and was very well thought out. Our daughter Rachel particularly enjoyed having her own mezzanine bedroom.
The play area and pool are also ideal for families and Rachel made some good friends while she was here.
We have visited France many times and this is our third trip to the Charente Maritime. Whilst we know the Royan to la Palmyre area very well we enjoyed being a little further north for this week which gave us the opportunity to visit new areas. We particularly enjoyed our trip to the Ile de Ré which was definitely worth the cost of the toll bridge.
Thanks for lovely week.

Karen, Peter & Rachel
Northamptonshire, England.

Friday 27 August 2010

Gateau salés, smoked salmon & olive

This recipe of Gateau salé is ideal eaten with an Aperatif or sliced as a starter with a sauce.

Ingredients: 200g of flour, 3 eggs, 1dl of milk, 1dl of oil, 1 sachet of yeast (10g), 200g of smoked saumon, 100g of green olives, 20g of butter for greasing the mould, salt and pepper. Grated cheese (optional)

Cut the salmon and olives in cubes, flour them.
Reheat the oven th. 6 (180°). Butter the mould.
Sift the flour & yeast into a mixing bowl and add the beaten eggs with salt and pepper. Add oil and the milk.
Pour the preparation into the mould (add grated cheese if using) and cook for around 45 minutes. Check the loaf is cooked inside and leave to rest for 5 minutes before taking out of the mould, slice when cooled.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Customer comment for the "Pigeonnier"

17th August 2010

We are delighted to have discovered your "grand design" here at Monlieu. Thankyou very much for your welcome and hospitality. We have enjoyed exploring the area from the beaches to the countryside and returning of an evening to our wee corner of France at the Pigeonnier.
We'll be back!
Bonne continuation!
Gail, Alan, Lucy
Perthshire, Scotland

Saturday 14 August 2010

Customer comment for the "Pressoir"

31st July - 14th August

This is our second stay in Le Pressoir and it's been equally as wonnderful as this time last year. Staying this time for two weeks has allowed us to thoroughly relax yet still enjoy this beautiful region of France. Highlights: Ile de Re, Venise Verte, Saintes, the beach of Chatelaillon and of course the lovely town of la Rochelle. Nigel and Suzanne have been fabulous hosts once again and Hannah would like to thank Ellie for bike rides, bat & ball and the wii!
Hope to be back soon.

Simon, Karen & Hannah

Saturday 7 August 2010

Customer comment

31st July - 7th August

Thank you Nigel and Suzanne for the most wonderful week in your farmhouse. We've loved the comfort and space of the house and gardens together with it's fantastic location!
Fouras plage with it's "infinity" sea pool was a big favourite but we also loved Marennes plage.
Tha market at Rochefort was great and as ever, we loved wandering the streets of la Rochelle.
The children have had a splendid week and really enjoyed making new friends and playing in the garden. We will definitely be back!
Cass, Paul, Phoebe and freya x
Tunbridge Wells

Customer comment

7th August 2010

I enjoyed playing with louis on the trampoline and we play popcorn is the best.
Elliott xxx

This was our first visit to France and we chose such a beautiful place. It's so peaceful and quiet. We have had some great days out visiting islands, beaches and forts. Le Pigeonier was very comfortable for the 4 of us. The pool was great ut Elliot enjoyed playing with Louis on the trampoline the most. It's a great place for adults and kids. It would be great to come bac in a couple of years to see you again. You've all made us most welcome.
Thanks for a fantastic week
Stuart, Katarina, Elliott and Vanda

Saturday 31 July 2010

Review for the Farmhouse

Merci à vous pour ce magnifique séjour. Continuez à tenir ce lieu magique en parfait état, c'est incroyable! Merci aussi à Louis pour son amabilité avec Andréa. Bon courage à vous tous... et merci beaucoup.
Best Regards

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Shade for the pool area

This year we have been updating our pool area, earlier we added the margelles (edging tiles) around the pool, outdoor shower and we also put a large sun shade at one end of the pool, so you can get some shade from the hot summer sun.

Sunday 25 July 2010

Bastille Day Celebrations in Landrais

Bastille Day on the 14th July is celebrated all over France usually with festivals & fireworks. In our little village of Landrais in the afternoon they have games for the children. In the evening the mairie organises a 4 course meal this usually consists of roasting a suckling pig or a choice of Charentaise escargot (snails) or sardines with a good local band playing. Then when it is dark the children are given lanterns & everybody goes through the village to the field where there is a firework display followed by a disco outside the mairie, all with a fantastic atmosphere.

Monday 19 July 2010

Surf school on Ile d'oleron

Today we learnt to surf on the island of Oléron at the Grand village plage. We arrived at 9.30am & the lesson was for 2hrs for 26euros each & the monitors are bilingual.

Saturday 17 July 2010

Customer comment

3rd - 17th July

We have had a lovely holiday in the farmhouse and feel to have been here forever! We feel to have experienced a real honour of french life especially Bastille day celebrated in Landrais and an evening meal in Surgeres evening market.
1) Grown-ups
-Ile de Re cycling day trip
-Saint Jean d'Angely market and wandering
-Saintes ampitheatre and arch and trip on the Charente
-Bastille day in Landrais
-La Rochelle night life especially street performersa
2) Kids
-French TV
-Guinea pig!
Best wishes to Suzanne & Nigel

The Murrays

Customer comment

July 3rd - 17th

Lovely stay here. It's clear that so much effort has gone into these gites to make everyone's stay as comfortable as possible. Love the area and will certainly return.

Best wishes

The Tiernan family

Sunday 11 July 2010

Going for a dip

It's 34° in the shade by the pool and the temperature in the pool reads 26° perfect for cooling off on these hot summer days.

Saturday 3 July 2010

Customer comment for the Farmhouse

3rd June 2010

Like previous guests we have had a wonderful stay at the farmhouse. Such a beautiful house and so well styled! Thankyou Nigel and Suzanne for your hospitality and helpful suggestions. Could we add Brouage to the list of "must do's". Stunning little visit to make. It has been wonderful to explore the area and to come back to the welcome pool each day.

From Derek, Dee, Elysabeth and Ali.
Cambridge UK & Hong Kong!

Friday 25 June 2010

Customer comment for the "Pressoir"

June 11th to June 25th

We have had a super holiday. It is beautiful and restful here. Nigel and Suzanne are extremely helpful and pleasant. There is lots to do and see. We liked the beaches at Fouras and the visit Ile d'Aix is worth it. Make a day of it . We had only 3 hours. The Hotel Napoleon there was excellent. The restaurant at Landrais is an experience and not to be missed. We visited some fêtes in the villages which were good fun too. All in all one to remember.

Judi & Dick - Brecon, Wales

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Corderie Royale in Rochefort, Charente Maritime

Rochefort was built in the 17th century, Louis XIV wanted somewhere to build his war ships so he ordered his then prime minister Colbert to construct a town from where to build his ships. The Corderie Royale (Royal Ropeworks) is seventeenth century classical architecture and is 374m long. It was used to make the longest ropes for the great warships. Also you'll find here the Royal Naval shipyard, with 11 construction yards & 4 dry docks.

Saturday 5 June 2010

Customer comment

5th June 2010

We have had a lovely week's holiday despite the " variable" weather. Nigel and Suzanne have done a great job here, and we love the fresh but vintage feel of the place. The aquarium is very good for rainy days and the cafe there had great food. We also went to "Palmilud" swimming pool with slides etc in Perigny on another rainy day, and we've enjoyed when the sun finally came out as we were running out of rainy day activities! Fouras was a lovely little town. Le "commerce" was a bright, friendly restaurant with great food. The "Plage du Sud" has shady areas if the sun is too strong. We also loved Ile d'Oleron and enjoyed strolling around the "Couleurs Cabanes" where local artists and jewellery makers sell their work. All together, a great holiday and our children loved it too (especially the wendy house and strangely having a shoe rack in their wardrobe... )
Thank you!

Claire, Stef, Anni (3) & Remy (1)

Customer comment

5th June 2010

Thanks for a great base to our holiday. The weather finally came up trumps mid-week! We have done loads and eaten great food as usual especially in the restaurant in the village which was an experience and a 1/2 !
Thank you very much.

Julie, Andy & Louise
Malvern, Worcestershire

Saturday 29 May 2010


29 may 2010

We have had a wonderful 2 weeks in the Pigeonnier. Thank you very much for making us feel so welcome. You have a beautiful home in a beautiful location!
Highlights of our stay have been Ile de Ré and Seb loved the aquarium at la Rochelle - ideal for a rainy day!
We wish you all the best.

Richard & Nikki & Seb


May 22nd - 29th 2010

Writing this just before we set off back to the airport.
What can we say about the Charente Maritime that hasn't already been said!
Suzanne & Nigel are very welcoming and our little gite became a wonderful home from home.
We had some lovely days out - would recommend a trip to the zoo in la Palmyre for those with small children or indeed anyone who has a small person hidden within them!
Île de ré is just beautiful - although avoid stopping for lunch in Sainte-Marie as there is nothing there except a wonderful coast line.
If it's the beach with good restaurants then Chatelaillon- Plage is the place for you.
Until next time,
Au revoir from the Bells.

Jason, Caroline & Charlotte

Saturday 22 May 2010

Images of the Pressoir

Customer comment for the Pressoir

14th May to 21st May 2010

The ideal place for peace, quiet & relaxation. Gite is in a nice spot away from the hustle & bustle. Supermarkets everywhere and quite easy to find. We would recommend this place to family & friends. La Rochelle port harbour is a lovely place to visit & to eat, well worth a visit. Well we have enjoyed our stay.
Many thanks to Suzanne & Nigel, it was a pleasure.
Gary & Karen

Saturday 1 May 2010

Review for the "Pigeonnier"

01/05/ 2010

What a wonderful place to stay. We enjoyed every moment of our time in your charming little cottage. As builders we can appreciate all the time and effort it took to rebuild this place from the rubble. And as gîte owners, we can see the effort you went to in order to make your cottage so delightful. We had everything we needed at our fingertips.
But most of all, we loved spending time with you and your family. Hope you can visit us in Africa someday and that you enjoy our condo.
With all best wishes.

Kay & Terry

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Reviews for the Pigeonnier

le 27 mars 2010

Nous avons passé un excellent séjour dans votre gite. Votre gite est charmant et nous vous remercions pour votre accueil chaleureux.
Arrivés sous le soleil, nous repartons sous la pluie vers la Belgique (mais ce ou & l'habitude!)
Merci pour tout et à une prochaine fois peut-être.

Benedicte et Jean-Francois


7th April 2010

We have had a lovely few nights in the Pigeonnier. It is so beautifully furnished and a lovely place to stay. The surrounding area is lovely & we would recommend 'Andres' in La Rochelle for sea food.
Thank you for making us so very welcome - we shall certainly be back!

Georgie & Dan

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Twin bedroom in the Pressoir

This is our new twin bedroom for the Pressoir, now the Pressoir is 2 bedroomed one double & one twin & sleeps upto 4 people comfortably.

Sunday 28 March 2010

Local images near La Rochelle

Fort Boyard is clearly visible just off the coast at Fouras and Ile d'oleron.

Sunday 7 March 2010

Customer comment for the Pigeonnier

7th March 2010
Thank you Nigel & Suzanne!
We've had a very relaxing week in this part of France. Lovely weather despite "Le Tempete" last weekend!
We loved the islands Oléron and Ré and enjoyed exploring the little villages nearby.
Comfortable, clean accomodation.
Pete & Sue