January 16, 2021

Les Terres Cuites d’Aizenay

Here’s the reason why I treked all the way ‘up north’ yesterday. I took the picture this morning while the hand-made ‘terres cuites’ that were specially made for me were still nestling in the boot of my car.

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And this was after I’d removed them and placed them on the floor of my ‘atelier’ until I can get around to laying them in front of my new sliding patio door, hopefully when it gets a bit warmer down here.

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Not many of them and hardly worth driving all that distance for, you might say, and that’d be true to a certain extent. They came to just under a couple of hundred euros in total but the main problem was that due to the high chance of their being damaged in transit, the factory refused to ship them except on a small pallet. And that would have cost about half again, or maybe a bit more.

However, my Ford C-Max is pretty economical (around 5.5 litres/100 km on a drive like that) so it was more than worth making the trip, plus it also gave me a chance to get out and see again a bit of an attractive part of France (Charente Maritime, Charente, Deux Sèvres, Vendée) on what turned out to be a chilly but mostly bright, sunny day. It would never have paid to do the trip in my Kia, though, as that would have burnt almost twice the amount of fuel as the C-Max, which used just over a single tank there and back.

The reason that I need these specific tiles is that I want to match a design that I originally created for the platform that I built on which my woodburner now to stands. Here’s a shot of what I’m talking about.

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It won’t be as easy as it sounds because my main floor tiles are nominally 30 cm square and the new ‘terres-cuites’ are 16 cm square. This means that all of them will have to be cut down on all four sides so two with a joint will be the same width as a floor tile. It won’t be too bad though as I still have the electric tile cutter in my workshop that I acquired when I did the original job.

I also bought some spare patterned tiles as some will have to be cut up to make the fleur-de-lys ‘cabouchons’ that make the design so attractive (in my opinion 🙂 ) and interesting. That will also not be too difficult using the tile cutter but I know that I’ll have to take great care, as I did before. Now I just need to get going as soon as possible!

January 15, 2021

Another road trip

I drove up to the Vendée in the Pays de la Loire in north-west France today to go to Les Terres Cuites d’Aizenay and pick up the tiles that they had specially made for me. The whole trip was 850 kms there and back and having left at 8.00 am, I got back this evening at 7.30 pm. But every minute was worth it because this factory has everything that I like about ‘la France ancienne’.

The last time I was there was almost exactly 8 years ago to the day but the proprietor greeted me and said that he remembered it well, just as I did. He took the trouble on that occasion to show me around the factory, which didn’t take that long because it’s still a small, family owned and run business just as it was when his great-great-great (I think that’s the right number of ‘greats’) started it way back in 1868 I think it was.

And although some ‘modern’ parts have been added (if you can call them that) the heart of the factory remains the kilns which remain unchanged and are still in use today just as they were then, fired up by lengths of scrap wood that is stacked in huge piles that are replaced as the wood is burnt. And everything is still done by hand just as it always has been. It’s the only way that the product finish and quality can be maintained and it’s why the factory’s products are still in great demand for the renovation and refurfishment of ancient buildings in many parts of France.

More of why I went to the factory tomorrow, but here’s a shot of its outside, taken from Google Steet View and edited by me to improve it’s quality. The factory itself had changed not at all since I was last there but my GPS had some minor problems getting there because there has been a great deal of road building in the area and the industrial area in which the factory is situated is also being quite drastically expanded.

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Here’s a shot of the factory’s ‘showroom’ which also hadn’t changed since my previous visit. I wish that I’d had the time to take a shot of it myself because this one is taken from the company’s web site and is of very poor quality.

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Here’s a shot of the open-sided outdoor store where my tiles were stacked on a small pallet waiting for me and from where I loaded them into the boot of my car.

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And to finish off, here’s a shot also from their web site showing one of the kilns being stoked up with scrap wood.

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Because of Covid, I made a couple of baguette cheese sandwiches last night to take with me together with a flask of tea this morning. That way I only had to stop twice for refreshments and once at a Casino supermarket for fuel. This is the first long road trip that I’ve made since the start of the Covid crisis and from what I could see, it was business as usual everywhere except in the roadside cafés and restaurants that I passed. And traffic seemed to me to be more or less completely back to pre-Covid levels.

All of the factories and businesses on the myriad of industrial estates that I passed appeared to be in full swing and on the face of it, I would say that although there may be a shortage of Covid vaccine in France, its economy looks as though it’s much closer to being back firing on all cylinders than that of the UK. Journalists and commentators in the UK keep crowing that the UK will be first out of the starting blocks in terms of economic recovery but I think that unless people start getting back to work in the UK, any advantage from early vaccinations will be lost. And big time.

January 4, 2021

Fantastic news!

What a day this has been. Earlier on this afternoon I received a call from the person from whom I’m buying my land asking if I’ll be free to go the Notaire’s office on wednesday to sign the ‘Compromis de Vente’, after which there will only be formalities to complete to make the land mine. Of course, I said that I would be and it’s great to know that things are moving on in that department.

Then shortly afterwards came the cherry on top of the cake. I received a call from the lovely young couple who have been along to see my house and have already in just a few days had it inspected by a building expert, to say that they want to buy it. I’m so pleased for them as much as for myself because as we got to know each other I knew that they would be the perfect new owners.

What a start to the year this has been. So much has happened in not much more than a week and it’s amazing that I’ll soon be all set to embark on yet another new episode of my life here in France. It’s so exciting and I can hardly wait 🙂