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Happy New Year 2014 & Five Resolutions

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This year we ARE sitting in front of a roaring fire in the renovated upstairs fireplace, unlike last year when we decided not to herald in the New Year until the renovation was finished. We finally lit our first fire on February 28 only to the discover it smoked. The problem was eventually solved in March when the roofer  opened up the top of the chimney. By then it seemed a little late to welcome in the New Year.

Celebrating New Year in front of the renovated fireplace
Celebrating New Year in front of the renovated fireplace on 31st December 2013

Having just reread my resolutions, plans and expectations for 2012, I see that I have failed miserably with the first, which was NO MORE RENOVATION until we move here permantly. Yes, well, I haven’t mentioned it because it isn’t finished (ha! ha!) but Jean Michel is making an upstairs kitchen because once we got the fire going in October, we decided it would be cool – or should I say warm – to have breakfast and apéritifs dinatoires in the upstairs living room.

The S-bend in the Wachau in Austria
The S-bend in the Wachau in Austria

I’ve done better with the second resolution to travel more in Europe. We loved Barcelona and our cycling trip along the Danube in the summer which included Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and Switzerland, was undoubtedly my best holiday ever. We also unexpectedly went to Sofia and Plovdiv (which reminds me I still have a post to write …).

My third resolution was to go back to fitter occupations and lose the 3 or 4 kilos I’d gained. No problem about that one – our 1,100 kilometers of cycling along the Danube plus all the other shorter cycling holidays have certainly made me fitter. Discovering the 5:2 fast diet is now a way of life. I lost the extra kilos and am now able to enjoy foods I thought I had banished forever.

An Aussie in France on Berges de Seine which opened in summer 2013
An Aussie in France on Berges de Seine which opened in summer 2013

I’m not sure about my fourth resolution of getting out and about in Paris more. I certainly did during the summer months particularly on the banks of the Seine, but as the days get shorter, so does my resolve. I do have the excuse of being in Blois a lot during the winter!

The last resolution was to make the most of my iPhone camera particularly at night. I did learn to do fashion shoots when Black Cat was setting up her sewing blog and I created a second photo blog, Blois Daily Photo, in July but I haven’t made any progress with night photography so I can put that back on the list!

Lilac time at Closerie Falaiseau
Lilac time at Closerie Falaiseau

My first resolution for 2014 is to have a maximum number of holiday bookings for Closerie Falaiseau between 1st April and 30th September. We rented for a total of 19 weeks in 2013 so are not far off our goal. All our guests were lovely and gave us wonderful reviews. One extremely nice American couple came back again and have already booked for 2014.

The second resolution is a bit tougher. I’d like to diversify into some sort of tourist-related activity in Blois but it still needs a lot of defining and requires more energy than I seem to have at the moment. Maybe along the lines of the THATlou treasure hunt, walking tours, visits to châteaux, mushroom picking, organisation of short stays in the Loire Valley …

Château de Chenonceau from the cycle path
Château de Chenonceau from the cycle path

Another long cycling holiday is my third resolution so we’ve started looking at the map. Perhaps in the northern part of Germany along the Rhine. In the meantime, we have organised a home exchange in Venice at the end of April!

My fourth resolution is to discover the secret of getting enough sleep. Maybe if I set it as a goal, I might actually be able to do something about it! Who knows?

My favourite view of Blois with the traditional gabarre boats in the foreground
My favourite view of Blois with the traditional gabarre boats in the foreground

And the 5th is improving my night photography skills.

How about you? What are your new year’s resolutions for 2014?

As one of my friends so cleverly put it: may 2014 bring what 2013 forgot!

Happy New Year! Bonne Année!

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These are the first snowdrops in the private woods behind the house we are buying in Blois, La Closerie Falaiseau. The photo was sent to us by the current owners. That, of course, is our big adventure for 2012. On 17th March, the house will be ours. We’re planning to spend Easter there with the family.

As we watched the Eiffel Tower shimmer and shake from our window in Paris at midnight and drank our champagne, we imagined ourselves at the same time the next year in the Closerie next to a roaring fire, snug inside our four-hundred-year-old walls!

The incredible Plitvice Falls

This has been an eventful year: a week in Seville in February and a week in Orthez in the Pyrenees in April, taking up again with my very first friend in France, Elizabeth. Relationnel went surf fishing for 10 days in May in Normandy, where I joined him both weekends to cycle. We then spent five days cycling in the Loire Valley in June. In the summer, we took four weeks off and drove to Eastern Europe, visiting (and cycling) in no less than nine countries (France, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia Herzogovina, Slovenia, Austria, Liechtenstein, Germany and Switzerland), speaking four languages (French, Italian, Croatian and German), dealing in three currencies (euros, Liechtenstein marks and Swiss marks) and clocking up more than 5,000 kilometers. Highlights included the incredible Plitvice lakes and falls.

Relationnel then spent a week trekking in the Alps in September before we both went to eastern Champagne to cycle around the largest man-made lake in Europe and visit the eleven half-timbered churches in the region. In October, Relationnel turned sixty and Leonardo decided to pull up his roots and go to Australia to live and work, helping me to set up the blog before he left.

Relationnel and I then went went to the Loire Valley for a few days to start looking for a place to live when Relationnel retires in June 2014.  We fell hopelessly in love with the very first house we visited, built in 1584. Who could resist? Since then, we seem to be caught up in a whirlwind. 

Today, as we ate our oysters on Sunday, we talked about everything we need to do. It’s a little overwhelming to say the least. We want to divide La Closerie in two and rent out (or exchange) the ground floor. Once he retires, Relationnel is going to completely renovate the “Little House” next door which is part of the sale so that we can use it as a short-term holiday rental and invite friends to visit. This means furnishing La Closerie (dépôt-vente, here I come!), setting up a website and organising rental.

This year, we’ll also be going to Australia in September/October where I’ll be organising a big family reunion on my father’s side in Armidale (there are 39 cousins in my generation and 54 in the next generation!), the first in 50 years, and spending two weeks in Tasmania (on a home exchange!) plus a couple of weekends in Sydney and Brisbane. We hope to organise other home exchanges in Europe during the year.

I’m also giving up my university teaching in June after 16 years.  I’ve loved teaching and gained many friends among my graduates over the years, but I feel it’s time to move on to other things.

And, of course, I’ll be continuing my blog. Thank you to all my faithful readers for your encouragement.  Bonne lecture, as they say in French, for the year to come!

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