Tag Archives: Normandy

The unveiling…

And here we are 4 months after starting our project it’s FINISHED!!!

Back at the end of June Mike decided I should start marketing without any photos with availability from 1st August…not shying from a challenge I went for it using our other properties as a touch stone and a follow up telephone call to reassure folk we were not talking nonsense! Our 1st guests arrived on the 2nd for 1 week…apart from sewing curtains until 11.30 pm the night before we were pretty well on track.

Our date to be able to say finished for fixtures and fittings was agreed as 30th July for us to stay and try the house out…thus the reason for late night curtain making – street light actually attached to our house between the bedroom windows…we never noticed it until we went to bed (the bed a super kingsize & possibly the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept on),turned out the light and then asked Mike to turn his light out as it was light enough still to read…a dash up to Cherbourg the next morning to buy blackout material…but for one reason or another I bought 5 meters forgetting there were 2 windows – I needed 10 meters – so a 2nd trip was needed!!!!!!

So here we go – I’ll try to line up the before’s & afters!! The main bedroom started as 2 rooms.

St Marie du Mont 15 (1 of 1)

St Marie du Mont 14 (1 of 1)

main double bedroom

main double bedroom half way

bedroom armoire

bedroom space

armoire bedroom

The bedroom at the back was in a dreadful state, broken windows, holes in ceiling and water penetration destroying all the plaster


St Marie du Mont 12 (1 of 1)


The bathroom was a kitchen…holes in ceiling.

St Marie du Mont 13 (1 of 1)

shower 1

shower2double sink


Kitchen – oh dear, basically falling down! New roof, walls etc.

St Marie du Mont 17 (1 of 1)



St Marie du Mont 11 (1 of 1)


lounge 3lounge 2

St Marie du Mont 16 (1 of 1)


St Marie du Mont 18 (1 of 1)


unveiling BoB House  More pictures here

I’ve embroidered all the towels, put in as many little thoughtful things folk would enjoy – I just hope everyone that comes to stay with us enjoys the house as much as we really did renovating it!


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We’ve reached the end of the beginning!

So here we are 3 weeks on…plaster board almost finished upstairs, the electrician is really going great guns with 1st fix electrics and plumbing…we’ve even bought loos now.

I’m being dragged out of bed at 6 am to get to Brico Depot in Cherbourg for doors opening at 7 am with the words ringing in my ears if you want to have a say in how it looks you’ll be in the Landrover ready to go at 6.30 am!

So now the pressure is on me to find the look! It is quite hard as I can’t really see how the light is going to be, especially in the dining room…once the new roof on the kitchen is unveiled I think I’ll be able to judge.

I’ve chosen parquet floatant for bathroom floor and an ultra modern double sink unit with lots of cupboards and draws for the upstairs bathroom…we’ll be building a big shower enclosure in here as well.

The garden has been transformed – over 10 huge sacks of ivy ripped off the walls, poor Mike had 3 trips to the dump with just rubbish from the garden! Hopefully I’ll be able to start planting up in a few weeks once the roofers are finished and there isn’t the danger of building materials, I’m thinking a rose garden with lavender in the 1st flowerbed with a lawn and lots of lovely climbers to enhance the beautiful stone walls.

Our days are like a military exercise …Mike is the go for and the labourer, can’t believe how many times a day he goes to the dump/builders yard or Brico Depot in Cherbourg! Me, I’m in charge of catering as well as everything down here at home, the washing and ironing, day to day running of the other rentals…quite often I’m seen in the boulangerie picking up bread in my pinny en route with piping hot food in the boot of my car at 12.30 (on the dot – I dare you be late for 4 hungry men ).

We’re very glad when it is Friday evening, Mike headed to bed around 8.30 pm and had a very long rest yesterday which enabled me to finally get caught up with all the laundry…today I’m really tired, so I’m having an easy day with tomorrow a changeover, new arrivals and more washing and ironing! Tuesday it big shop for the weeks’ catering & then Wednesday it’s getting the cottage in Ste Mere Eglise I manage ready and opened up for the start of the season.

As I say, sometimes it’s too busy! But wouldn’t have it any other way!


main double bedroom

main double bedroom

bedrrom 1

bedrrom 1

stone detail in bedroom 1

stone detail in bedroom 1

rear kitchen roof being replaced

rear kitchen roof being replaced

the asbestos roof is off!

the asbestos roof is off!


the garden is cleared

the garden is cleared

town house phase two  5 (1 of 1)

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hey ho, hey ho…it’s off to work we go!

at least a food deep of shells lurking under this roof!

at least a food deep of shells lurking under this roof!

1st April is normally known for All Fools Day or Jour du Poisson here in France…for us it’s Day 1 !!

We signed for the house yesterday afternoon so it is ours now, which is a bit of a relief as we’ve had our roofer mending the leaks and replacing rotten timber all last week…so we now have a leak free roof! But shock horror he told us last night that when he investigated under the asbestos roof he’s found at least a foot deep layer of shells…it must have been some form of insulation, we’re all at a bit of a loss over this – it’s going to be a right mess getting it all down!

When we bought Utah Beach it was a former fisherman’s base, he’d backed in 2 refrigerated lorries and built a garage around them, the floor was sand with thousands of empty bottles laid on their sides…to keep rats away from his fish – we’ve managed to get one of the lorries out by knocking down a wall and rejigging the whole layout…but the other one is there to this day, we keep tins of paint in it!

We seem destined to buy places with a bizarre twist…shells & bottles, wonder what-else we will find…I know Mike would love to find something that sort of declared Rommell took tea in the house…he was here in Sainte Marie du Mont checking the defences so it is possible he came to what now is our house, as it used to be a shop selling vegetables, cream, milk etc. The owner had a big farm in the village so this was the outlet…all way before food miles – how things have changed!

A decision has been made though regarding to layout, we have decided to take the bedroom at the front of the house back to it’s original size, it’s been sub divided with a wooden & hessian back wall, we’ve bought it as 4 bedrooms & bathroom downstairs,  but we will end up with a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom upstairs, vacation rental, very much aiming at couples or 2 couples travelling together, or even a small family. The bedroom at the front will be a really great size with 2 windows overlooking the church and a fireplace…Mike want to put a 4 poster in it…we’re thinking on it!

There are plenty, plenty rentals in the area geared up for family groups, we see this house as a grown up’s destination, we want to try to make it just that bit more special, we’re not a Chateau, nor a 5 star place with folk fussing round you and we certainly don’t want to be a soulless rental that feels cold… somewhere that is a real pleasure to stay in with extra touches & good furnishings…my next problem is how to get this across in my marketing!


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We’ve had a brain storm! Another vacation rental coming on line…

Mike, did you notice that stone cottage opposite the church in Sainte Marie du Mont for sale?   I heard myself ask a couple of weeks ago

…funnily enough I did he replied, do you think we should look at it?

I’ll phone Stefan The Notary, I  said…so I did and 2 weeks later we’re ready to complete the purchase!


56 Place de l’Eglise 50480 Sainte Marie du Mont


Now the bad news…no one has done any work inside since 1944!! The floor is a beautiful example of the floors laid just after the war in haste to get everyone back into the land of the living as it were! I don’t think it’s been decorated since then!! Holes in the roof and around the chimneys…well take a look and then tell us we’re mad!! We may give it a shot to be ready for the 6th June week – we’ll see, but certainly it will be ready for July this year – I think it will make a great vacation rental…you can’t beat the location and next door are fresh oysters straight from Utah Beach the other neighbours are 2 restaurants, a butchers across the road, 2 boulangeries and a mini supermarket, 2 museums, hairdresser, post office and 3 miles from Utah Beach!

We’re the one with the red sign in the windowImage

The view from the master bedroomImage



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going green – we went green yesterday!

First of all please be aware we are not Eco warriors here! Our new ‘greeness’ has come about in 2 ways – a ring at the door bell and a blocked drain!
Door bell rang one day – a man (Emmanuel) with a van stood in our gate way trying to flog me brushes and products for cleaning… all in very rapid French and also seemingly expensive – I tried to dismiss him, but his persuasive powers won! I made the fatal error of looking and sniffing – before I knew what was happening I was a regular on his round and started to buy more and more of his products, it became a standing joke in our household how much would Emmanuel extract out of me this time! But more importantly I fell in love with the products and they actually are more economical as you use less.
I was sort of aware the products he was selling me were green, more they were compatible with the ‘fosse’, we do not have the luxury of main drains, nursing a fosse d’eaux with the amount of guests we have is actually quite stressful, so products kind to the fosse are incredibly important here in rural France.
This year alone we have had 2 blocked drains, a failed fosse, so the whole garden had to dug up and new tank put in for the cottage plus the main fosse for the main house has continually emitted out dreadful smells on a regular boring frequency!
Then the big decision came about with a 2nd blockage in the drains… water everywhere in the courtyard every time someone had a shower, smells wafting up from the tank – it was horrible and all these smells floating up into one of our rentals.
We called out the local enterprise that deals with all the horrible things, the big lorry arrives with pressure hoses etc. but after half an hour he couldn’t find the block. Our courtyard was due to be dug up to find it – now this prospect of the whole courtyard dug up was totally horrifying as it isn’t exactly small!
Fortunately Andre, (our man who is literally renovating our house),  found the block at the end of the pipe, the unblocking procedure could commence! This is what turned us totally green … the block was probably a meter in length the whole of the 10 cm pipe. The only way to get it out was the literally pick it out with a crow bar. The smell unbelievable and was just black tar like substance with calcium deposits. The really frightening part of this was, this was the pipe out from my washing machines, the black tar stuff was the deposits gathering over the years from the ‘normal’ washing powder… I was vaguely aware petrol is used in washing powders and cleaning products but never again will I use ‘high street’ brands if this is the residue they leave…
Emmanuel called in again yesterday, this time I really paid proper attention to his products and took the decision  to turn away completely from supermarket and well known brands…we now we are completely eco products, no chemicals at all – from our loo rolls, kitchen paper, shampoo, soap (the rose is gorgeous) washing up and washing powder/liquids, polish, floor cleaner, hand cream (best I’ve ever used)… even the deodorants (no aluminum) and the bleach is also friendly for the fosse.
All of this delivered to my front door, in fact I’m even helped to put it away!  The company that makes it is German EMAS (verified products) http://www.hakawerk.com – all containers are recycled and they pick up empty ones, not tested on animals, no chemicals or petrol traces plus the actual products are great!
One step further we are thinking of taking, (we already leave the washing up liquid and cleaning products in the rentals for our guests), to also supply shampoo & soaps in the rentals requesting that our guests use them instead of their normal brands whilst here.

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international art model!

One of our roosters is an international art model… how cool is that! I didn’t know anything at all about it until this email arrived


I thought you might be interested in knowing that at least one of your roosters is now an international art model. We liked how colorful they were, so took some photographs. An artist friend of Jessi’s, Ray-Mel Cornelius, specializes in, among other things, roosters. Here’s a link to some of his rooster paintings.


and a couple more


Knowing that Ray-Mel likes to paint roosters we sent him some photos of yours. Here’s the result. This one Ray-Mel named Eli.

There may be more in the future. If he does another, we’ll let you know.

Thanks again for the wonderful stay.

Jim and Jessi

Then when I opened up Face book I find some photos of Jenny Cote – her book is published that Clarie our lamb has a starring role in… all of a sudden I am surrounded with internationally recognized creatures!!

The Llamas have settled in so well and with the 2 sheep make a wonderful foursome… they are always together, every morning down at the gate of the paddock patiently waiting for us to open our bedroom curtains, it’s rather endearing and reassuring that they are there every morning.

Our season is starting to draw to a close, to be honest will be glad when we’ve closed up for a while and get some down time… this time of year starts to be hard as we are tired now, when something goes wrong it’s almost through gritted teeth that we attend to the problem – stupid things like a leaking shower head and a DVD player not working.. why couldn’t they hold out just for another 3 weeks or so?! Irrational I know, but after 6 months with 1 more month to go we’re ready to close the curtains at night, the nights are drawing in very quickly now – (locking everybody up at night now is not far off 7.30 p.m. only seems 5 minutes ago it was almost 11 p.m.) –  light the fire and watch lots and lots of TV, my hands are itching to get my knitting out too… so this next few weeks we’re going to push ourselves to get all the yucky jobs out the way like the accounts and office all straightened out, to then feel relaxed and enjoy our tower project.

Yes, the tower… looks like we have permission, we’re just waiting for the actual letter to arrive – we’ve been told verbally and the Mayor has given us some stone for it , but until the certificate is here we don’t start the foundations… however the stone mason is here today with his son dressing stone in readiness… it really is a big thrill to be building such a statement!

I feel that this winter is going to be another hard one – the hedgerows are weighed down with berries and fruit – our pear trees are full of fruit too – if the snow comes again at least the barn has been rebuilt and all the other roofs on the animal shelters are reinforced too,

so for me another adventure of big time snow would be quite the thing, (still a child at heart you see!)


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6th June d- day celebrations in Normandy

I know it is the 13th June but we have only just started to recover… so goodness knows how the stars are – the veterans! I have heard all the serving parachutists and Army boys were complaining of being tired too!

What a week we’ve had!

Muir, Harry & Harry2

Harry Kulkowitz came and stayed with us in our home for the 7th year… he landed on Utah Beach 6th June 1944 and went right through to the Battle of the Bulge, lied about his age and joined up with a whole host of other New York Jews who all joined up enmasse. Harry was a radio interceptor, trained in England and came across the channel by boat.

We were asked by our Mayor when we first bought our house in this village if we would take a veteran in as English speakers so obviously we were delighted – Harry was billeted with us and as we tease him we can’t get rid of him! I think over the 7 visits we’ve had all 3 grand children, his sister, his 2 daughters and each time his son Mark who owns and runs the Mad Batter & Carroll Villa in Cape May NJ. see this link http://www.philly.com/philly/green/96201444.html

He came this year with his son Mark and his youngest daughter Tessa.

Harry is rather frail now – he’s having memory problems but quite frankly when he is stimulated he is a lot better, but there were a couple of occasions when he was completely exhausted so we had to help him stand on parade and one time in a wheelchair… but take into account jet lag as well he did remarkably well!

For this post I’m mainly going to add photos so you can all see for yourselves the respect and the love that is shown to the veterans. This year we had 600 paratroopers come down over Ste Mere Eglise – French, German, US, British, Belgium and Canadian. 10 planes. The men all here for a week to see for themselves the 6th June celebrations… it was just wonderful to sit on a table with Americans and Germans side by side bantering and showing huge respect to the old boys.

Our weeks was as follows:

Harry arrived 3rd June – slept 15 hours and then on the 4th June it all kicked off…

4 p.m. ceremony in Carentan to be awarded the Order of the Senate – effectively as he is already a knight of France holding The Legion d’Honneur this senate is equivalent to being made a Lord!

6 p.m. Houesville for ceremony to mark the passing of Reg Alexander a Screaming Eagle that came to Houesville for over 25 years died in January. followed by Vin du honneur in the Salle du Fete

8 p.m. Banquet with 2 star general and 200 or so serving soldiers – we left around 1 a.m.

5th June the 600 parachutists, big event in La Fiere followed by a birthday celebration here for a little boy born on 6th June (cake & champagne) followed by another banquet this time in Ste Mere Eglise – 600+ people to include soldiers and local people – huge firework display at the end – got home around 1 a.m. again.

6th June we tried to keep it calm – so it was just a visit to Utah Beach and the museum there – dinner at The Mayors house, 5 course meal – home for around 2 a.m.

7th June Went to Grandcamp Maisy for lunch and met the 2 star General in the same restaurant then on to Coleville sur Mer where Harry was invited to fold the flag at taps. Got home for 7 p.m. and straight out to dinner with a local French Army Officer – another 2 a.m.

8th June party for Harry at our house 35 for 4 course dinner – very late night – 2 a.m. with Harry, Mark & Tessa due to leave at 6 a.m. – luckily Mike woke up!! They got off OK we’re left with a mountain of washing up!

We also had a British Veteran staying at our Utah Beach house – he was a Scots Guard and came through Normandy in a Churchill Tank… delightful chap and with his son researched one of the battles he was in – traced a house that he almost demolished, returned to the spot and apologized to the owners… still the same family to this day!

We met another British Veteran – another Harry – Royal Navy his job during the invasion was dropping off the lads as close to the land as could get… he was escorted by 3 ex Royal Marines that all served together one of whom was the first 4 British Legion chaps to pay respects to the fallen coming through Wootton Bassett from Afghanistan. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/5771032/Wootton-Bassett-A-very-British-way-of-mourning.html

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photographs © Mike Forster

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