Saturday, May 5, 2012

France and England on $98 a Day - Why We Rent

Kitchen window overlooking garden.
Our Dinan stone house, built in 1900, with its foot-thick walls and curving wooden staircase, was difficult to leave. From the street it looked as though it were a typical rowhouse, but, once inside, the house welcomed with spacious rooms, generous windows and glass doors that led to the garden.

The kitchen didn't have granite countertops or stainless steel appliances, the floor was linoleum, and the walls were papered with tiny blue figures stenciled on a white background. In short, the kitchen had none of the features Home and Garden television viewers want. But sitting at the table for six and looking out the glass door or the window near the sink into the garden beyond where iris, lily of the valley, azaleas, and gladiolas bloomed, David and I thought this kitchen one of the most beautiful we'd ever seen.

We lingered over breakfast even though we had much to do. We carried our suitcases down the stairs with one of us on each end to make them manageable. (I promised myself yet again that some day I'll learn to pack light.) Then we tidied up as best we could. Cleaning is not usually required in a gite, but Armelle and her husband had treated us so kindly we wanted to make sure the place looked as good when we left as it had when we arrived.

As we worked, we admired Armelle's paintings yet again. She has decorated the house with her colorful watercolor scenes, and David and I hoped to buy one at the market as we left town. Of course, getting to the market was dubious as it required navigating Dinan's serpentine streets, but I was determined to try.

We placed the box of macarons (Colorful cookies with a light filling. I could easily become addicted.) in the center of the kitchen table with a postcard scene of San Diego and a note thanking our hosts for their many kindnesses.

Then David and I packed a picnic lunch of croissants filled with ham and Gouda cheese, wrestled the suitcases out to the car and into the trunk, and waited for Armelle's husband. Armelle speaks English, but Monsieur Cailly knows not a single word. Still, his smile when we handed him the cookies and postcard made words unnecessary.

I showed him that the dishwasher had been emptied, the refrigerator cleared, indicated with a sweeping hand that the entire house was clean and tried to tell him, yet again, how grateful David and I were for all the help they'd given us. In my enthusiasm to tell him how much we appreciated the maison, I'm afraid I mangled my French and told him I loved him! Monsieur nodded and raised an index finger, pointing heavenward.

Suddenly he ran upstairs. David whispered that he probably wanted to make sure the bedrooms and bath had been left in order. But when Monsieur came down, he spread a series of Armelle's matted watercolor prints all over the dining room table and motioned for us to take two. David chose a scene of St. Malo while I took a depiction of one of Dinan's streets. I never wanted to forget this place.

When David went out to place the paintings securely and safely in the car, Monsieur went into the garden and made a little bouquet of lily of the valley flowers which he handed to me with a flourish.
I carried the bouquet to our new gite.

I kissed this man on both cheeks and David shook his hand. I looked all around the kitchen, hoping to find some excuse to linger a few more minutes, but David and I had cleaned too well. There was nothing left to do.

Finally, we made ourselves walk out the door.

Practicalities -
We are the first Americans to stay at this gite but doubt we'll be the last. There are three bedrooms on the third floor, two on the second (along with a generously sized modern bathroom), and the ground floor has a spacious kitchen and dining room along with a relatively small, but comfortable, living room. Glass doors in the kitchen and dining room lead to the garden which has a building at one end housing a ping pong table. There's also a little room outside housing a toilet.

The house is easy to drive to, relatively speaking, and all shops and the medieval part of town are within walking distance.

We paid 390€ for five nights. Here's the link to the description.

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