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Hello.

I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind www.thetimeofourlives.net - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Oh..for the love of Paris...


24 hours in Paris.

I had one day...and (nearly) all of one night before my Eurostar home.

There was time, in theory, to cram in some culture, see the sights, neck a cocktail and catch a can-can; an intoxicating city sharpener after a lazy few days in the Normandy countryside.

But a snooze on the train had been irresistible after my early start, so with tourist map still unfolded, I emerged like a sleepy mole at Montparnasse into blindingly bright spring sunshine; still not sure how to pace this trip.

My guidebook had scores of ideas on how to get a taste of the city--from bitesize to the whole damn baguette. With time ticking away; I considered a quick, double shot espresso, a quick sprint to the starting blocks, and following a suggested route.

And then I took a deep breath--of second hand smoke, mainly, but at that moment, it didn't matter. Looking around, you remember. Paris isn't an `all you can scoff` buffet, with the next sitting waiting in the wings. It might be busy and bustling; pacy and passionate. But it's a city to savour. Slowly.

So....I strolled across the station square for a lazy cafe au lait ; catching conversations, watching people watching me, watching them. Guide book packed away, I headed back across the square into the Tour Montparnesse for a better way of deciding what to see; where to go: its 56th floor viewing platform. A perfect panorama of Paris; which almost moved me to tears. Breathtaking; and on this gloriously sunny day, quite beautiful.

After a easy Line 12 ride to my hotel at Saint- Georges to leave my bag, I drank in the view from my window. Balconies, shutters, taxis, mothers taking chirruping children to the little park in the square across the way. I ambled up the Rue des Martyrs to find lunch and watch the world go by. Well..I tried.....through a little twirl of smoke from the man at the table next to mine. Somehow... it still didn't matter; didn't bother me; I was too busy watching a pair of local estate agents squeeze their Smartcars in to the tiniest space,together, at rightangles to the kerb.

Soon, because I'd caught a glimpse of its most famous church, I was heading up the hill to Montmartre  and the funicular car to the stunning Sacre Coeur, and yet another heartstopping view of the city below. I jumped on the Disney-esque little Montmartrain for its six euro tour; its toytown appearance strangely out of place as it bumbled past the Moulin Rouge and the sex shops.

More coffee stops followed as the afternoon turned into early evening. I watched lovers at neighbouring tables still languishing over their late lunches and each other...then, map still abandoned, dawdled through the cobbled streets and their little independent, boho shops, chatting with the owners; picking up treasures to take home, listening to live music on the corner of a square and wondering just how soon it might be decent to return.

Around 11, I was packed, showered, mellow and tired after my day of map-free meandering, and set my alarm in good time for my 5 am taxi.

Around 12.....the shrieking of the hotel's fire alarm; and the shrieking of an American woman, banging at my door for a coat before we dashed down the stairs. "It`s not so much the cold, " she said, as I handed her the duvet runner from my room. "It's the fact that I wear THIS in bed on a trip to Paris with my husband. If this is a fire and it makes it to CNN, all America's gonna know I sleep in "Hello Kitty"...`"

Luckily, there was no emergency; just someone having a sneaky cigarette in their hotel bedroom. Some smoke; no ire. It meant I got to stand out on a Paris street for a while, in trench coat, boots and...not much else, really, not *that* far from the Pigalle ; tweeting furiously to look busy, and trying not to shiver too much, or laugh too much at the cutely attired American lady. (Who says romance is dead?)

Soon after dawn; it was all aboard the Eurostar. We were four strangers round one table on the train...a couple of businessmen, and opposite me, a portly Frenchman with a newspaper, and a battered London A-Z, priced 3/6. I`m kind of hoping he didn't bother with his map, either.....


















Monday, 19 October 2015

Your own French hideaway---for under £60,000!




Hello--just to let you know our little French cottage is now on the market. Walks, wine, Paris by 9, and nestling in one of the prettiest corners of Normandy, close to the stunning Roche D`Oetre. Could be sold fully furnished and fitted ! If you`d like to find out more, or book a viewing, let me know, and please spread the word. Don`t forget that between stays, it`s also been rented out successfully--something you might want to consider. Just to give you a taste, here`s my blog offering you a little guided tour. Thanks for reading!




Fancy a last minute break to France--but don`t have time for a full week? Want somewhere that`s perfect for two-- comfy, tasteful, peaceful...and right in the heart of the Normandy countryside? Somewhere you can find gorgeous walks that start at the front door--but still within a short drive of ferries, shops, bars, markets, days out and the train to Paris?

Maybe you`re finding that holiday websites and property owners are scoffing at your idea to chuck everything into the car and head for the channel for a spontaneous few days away...especially with midweek start dates...with no notice at all.

Don`t worry. Here`s your hideaway. Almost everything you`ll need is here, waiting for you, so you can literally contact me....throw some clothes in a bag...and leave. That`s what I love to do, and if you`ve got a couple of days or more free and fancy staying here, get in touch. I only release selected weeks for rental on lettings sites to keep plenty more free for me....and friends and family.

Oh...and I`ll offer you Twitter mates` rates, and a discount code to use on Brittany Ferries.

So...come in....grab a glass of vino and a look around?

It`s a small, detached Normandy stone cottage, called Les Deux Sabots.
Probably something to do with the footwear the farm workers wore, way back when.There`s even a tiny pair of clogs nailed to the front door, as a reminder.
Vino veranda looking down on garden
Opens out into large double!
Wooden steps lead up to the main front door and to the tiny vino veranda where you can sit out and have a bottle or two, or a cup of coffee and a quiet read, and another set of steps, in stone,lead back down from this level into the garden.



Step inside the front door and you`re on the middle level of this three storey cottage. It`s a beamed and full height sitting room, with a large, open log fire and a basket of logs ready to use if it`s chilly, (plus two highly effective radiators--full central heating throughout.... ) a couple of comfy sofas,in cream/neutral shades, loads of cushions and throws, and a dining table overlooking gardens and apple orchards beyond.

One of the sofas opens out into a good size double bed, and you can curtain off this area if separate sleeping accommodation`s needed on this floor. There`s a television with both French and English satellite channels, maps, books, CDs and tourist guides.
Breakfast in bed...? Or at this end of your bedroom

There are open, twisting wooden steps up from the sitting room to a large, light, airy bedroom, with the same neutral shades and a few splashes of blue. 

At one end there`s the double bed, wardrobe and chest of drawers, and at the other end, a Velux window overlooking those garden and apple orchard views, plus a little sofa and a wicker chest , perfect for you to put your feet up and read, or rest your morning breakfast tray. 



Breakfast table in the kitchen
There`s another set of open, twisting wooden steps down from the sitting room into the beamed kitchen.  It`s a bit lower in height than the other two floors, but has everything you need...cooker and microwave, coffee maker, breakfast table and chairs, fridge and separate freezer, washing machine, tumble dryer, coat hooks and utility store, also the loo/shower room, and a lower door out into a tiny gravelled area and the lane beyond that. The cottage is cosy for couples, and a secret, spacious escape for solos but has had one or two adults plus a couple of kids too. Bear in mind that the steps make it unsuitable for toddlers or if you`re frail though--and the `feel` of the place is pretty open plan.
From the veranda down into a private, sunny garden




The garden, which is at the side of the cottage, is very private, with a parking spot and double gates opening onto the lane, and a little garden store under the stone steps with a barbecue and chairs and a parasol or two. On the other side of the cottage is a stone garage and log store. It`s on a quiet little lane with just five houses,one of them owned by the lovely Jacques and Annick, who keep an assortment of chickens, ducks and geese, and seem to be almost self sufficient in fruit and veg, like so many other families in rural French communities.


The lane leads straight into a network of footpaths and ramblers` routes--all just metres from the front door. Walkers, cyclists and horseriders amble past from time to time--some asking if they can rent the place, which is nice!

Breel`s bloomin` lovely--this was a cycling festival



The paths take you to some beautiful, breathtaking scenery with stunning views, woodland routes and the occasional beautiful house along the way, some of them thatched. Just up the road is the famous Suisse Normande beauty spot, the Roche D`Oetre--you can stand on the cliff top and gasp at the sheer drop below and hear the rushing waters of the River Rouvre. Then scoff an ice cream at the restaurant/coffee shop adjoining the tourist centre there.



The cottage is in the pretty village of Breel. It boasts a collection of stone houses and cottages, the Mairie`s (mayor`s) office with the French flag flying proudly outside, and the most beautiful 16th century Church--the perfect place to visit and cool down on a hot summer`s day. Your fresh croissants and crusty baguettes (and a pastry or two for later...) are just a few minutes` drive away in the village of Segrie Fontaine, where there`s also a butcher`s shop, a little convenience store (avec vino, naturellement....) a hardware shop, a village school and church, and more lovely views.

I-spy a bar...in historic Falaise 


There are other little villages close by, offering a pizzeria and a couple of bars, and a beautiful cider farm run by a young family. You can buy apple and pear cider here--it`s great to support them and brilliant to bring home a bottle or even a box or two for your friends. When you need supermarkets , the bigger towns of Flers and Falaise are only 15-20 minutes drive away.





Falaise is particularly rich in Normandy history--its castle with strong William the Conqueror connections is well worth a visit. The railway station  at Flers takes you off to the coast in one direction (an easy beach day out at Granville) or straight into Paris if you head east. There`s a train around 7am from Flers which gets you to the capital around 9--plenty of time for a warm croissant, strong coffee and an entire day out in this fabulous city. Oh and the parking`s free all day at Flers as well.
Fromage at one of the great shops in nearby Flers

Both of those towns, and plenty of others,such as Conde Sur Noireau, have vibrant,bustling markets which are perfect for fresh fish, meat, fruit, veg, spices, pastries, cakes and most things you`ll need to rustle up a French feast. Delicious.

Frites with your mussels? Honfleur is a beautiful day out 


 The cottage is also well placed for visits to the cities of Caen and Rouen, Monet`s Giverny, (art fan? Check out Normandy`s Impressionists festival this summer!).... the Normandy landing beaches, dotted with stark, chilling reminders of conflict,the classy, chic coastal towns of  Honfleur (above), Deauville and Trouville, and further south, the chateau studded Loire Valley.


If it`s spring and summer, check out a vide grenier or two, the French equivalent of a car boot sale (a different kind of clutter...really good fun to browse and haggle...). Most have coffee and hot, barbecue style food stalls with tables for a lunchtime re-fuel. Occasionally there`ll be a band playing too, and even a little impromptu dancing...!

Pastries on board your Brittany Ferry (discounts available!)
Breel`s within an hour of the ferry port at Caen-Ouistreham, with an excellent Brittany Ferries service to Portsmouth (ask me for a discount code if you`re thinking of staying here, so you can get a quote online), or you might prefer to book the shorter, cheaper crossing from Dover to Calais and drive down to Normandy. You can choose dates and length of stay.....from a night or two, to a leisurely few weeks--and there`ll be a couple of bottles of wine waiting for you on the kitchen table.You won`t find the cottage on loads of holiday websites because just enough bookings to cover some bills and my vino/ fromage habit will do nicely, thankyou.

If you`re not there,I almost certainly will be: out in the garden reading a book, walking the local footpaths, catching some rays in the garden or getting a shot of city culture in Paris. Book a break? Bet you`ll  love it as much as I do. 


Want to find out more? www.romanticnormandycottage.co.uk

@normandycottage on Twitter
@janemcintyre12   on Twitter
writerjane17@hotmail.com

Or call me: 07791 669889