Our first resident correspondents a.k.a. Helen (Hes, Toby, sister) and Sampson Phillips

9 Mar

Toby has formally taken up residence at Le Barry! Since early Febuary we have our first resident and her cat Sampson inhabiting a small piece of paradise-in-the-making in Mas Cabardes.

Le Barry lounge March 2014

They arrived under a fold of darkeness after an epic drive from the north of England, managing to avoid the English floods but not the French snow. Toby and Sampson are now settled in at Le Barry, just about managing to stay warm with the help of SYLVIA  (the temperamental woodstove).


Sampson has met the local cats and seems to be holding his own. Thankfully he hasn’t yet been face to face with wild boars in the garden (remember last year!). Toby has fashioned a homely corner for her studies and despite the ever falling trees is making the not so arduous journey up to Carol and Jeannot’s for dinner… lunch… breakfast… aperetifs…NOW and THEN!


She’s even made (invisible) friends with the locals to practice her conversational French skills in the home. We love this.



And after…


Not sure why he is bringing diet coke to dinner???

and in breaking news…Jeanot gives Helen her fisrt tractor lesson which will come in handy for future fallen trees and any number of other encounters in the forest! We love this too. Go Toby Go!!!!!


A bientot. M and J and our correspondent in residence H  xxx


To bath or not to bathe, that is the question…

2 Feb

This has been the burning question for the last four years, drawing every member of the family into hot debate (read water). As you know the top floor of Le Barry used to house a modest (very) bathroom. That is…up until last week when we finally pulled down the bathroom walls (most of them) to  reveal the true romantic leanings of the room.


Now here’s the thing. Justy (being English and all) harbours a burning desire to have a bath in the bedroom. Because of the way the room is situated, the bath would need to be an open-plan feature. There will be a toilet and basin up here too and they would have some kind of wall separating them from view! So imagine if you will, your lover snoozing in the bed, you snoozing in the bath, eyes right and looking straight onto a romantic green forested valley through the open window. Nice non?


Is that just a little bit ‘ouvert’ for your liking? Margaret wants a bath, deep down she knows it…but is a little skeptical of the popularity of such a plan. Can anyone help Justy out here? I WANT THAT BATH.

oh, and it probably means a bit less wardrobe space (like maybe none at all)…and a reinforced floor (but you don’t need to worry about that).

Imagine  a roll top bath just where the dog is mooching in this image…

Image 1

See the light streaming in now! The wall on the right of the yellow window will also come down so you will feel the full throw of the room.

Please send us your thoughts about the bath we beg of you. It’s gridlock here. The really important thing is this: This is the only place we can put a bath, so it’s here in the open or not at all and you’ll have to use the shower on the ground floor…

And to finish this week… some rhubarb from the garden our dear friends.

Image 3

next week, Justy’s sister Helen (a.k.a.Toby) is taking up residence at Le Barry for a few months. She’ll be cracking the whip, feeding the chickens (when they arrive) and eating and sleeping and studying (some of the time). She is very very funny and because of this we are giving her special dispensation to author posts on our splendid blog. Watch this space…

Au Revoir nos amis, xx J and M

Welcome to our Terry(ace)!

26 Jan

Dear friends, this is a block-buster of a story!

This is the terrace on the middle floor of the house. It’s usually full of flowers and bags of rubble heading to the tip (aka. filling for Carol and Jeanot’s road). The terrace also provides the roof of the bathroom on the ground floor below, and until this week was also providing rain water for the bathroom floor! Too many leaky holes to repair so drastic measures were taken. Hence the block-bustering image below!

Jeanot destroying the old terrace

Jeanot with very long legs in the bathroom below!

More than 100 barrow loads of concrete rubble later…and Carol will never need the gym ever again…But just admire the results for a moment. As the new concrete beams and blocks are fitted neatly into the terrace, it’s strong enough to handle a few extra croissants and water tight for the next 400 years.

New terrace floor nearly complete

And then just like a beautiful grey cake, she is iced to perfection. Check out that smooth skim work everyone. Ready to welcome you.

da da!

But what’s that beautiful surprise embedded in the wall you ask?

Jeanot laying the tile

Jeanot keeping her level

This tile was brought all the way from Launceston, Tasmania. Made by Margaret’s father Terry in the 1950’s and until now lived in her mother, Nan’s garden for over 50 years. Terry was a great francophile and artist and as Nan left the family home we made a promise to relocate Terry’s duck tile to our french home. As ever Jeanot skillfully handles the work with the utmost care.

Happy worker (and watcher)

Worker and courier admire the artwork.

Terry's beautiful hand-made tile finally  comes to France

And here’s a close up.

Nan and Terry's duck

And the biggest surprise of all was Nan’s visit to Le Barry last year (more of these adventures coming soon). She is delighted to see Terry’s soul in France again. As are we.

ciao friends, with love, Margaret, Justy, Carol, Jeanot, Nan (and Terry).

Next week…Nan living it up at Ben and Lorena’s wedding!

Archway to…

18 Jan

The bathroom! Yes, unbelievable news. We’re back on in 2014! A mere three years since our first post, we bring you spectacular news from Mas Cabardes. 2013 was a big year on the project (although we didn’t manage to say a word about it…we were so busy…being busy…) but this year things are really going to change around here. Whilst the weather in Wagga Wagga has us housebound in another heatwave, Carol and Jeanot have been hard at work at Le Barry shifting barrow loads of rubble, building, demolishing, building, demolishing, shifting barrow loads of rubble…you get the idea. So as we sit back and put our feet up for another hot night in the southern hemisphere, we can delight in reporting this breaking news to you our beloved friends…

The room formerly known as the ‘oil room’ (by way of it’s being full of oil soaked soil) is soon to be known as the bathroom! Yes, Carol and Jeanot have heaved out the oil, the soil and half the rocks that were holding the walls upright in order to carve a space to freshen up, shower down and do your business. It even has a fancy archway (nearly). See below:

archway 2


Can you see the look on his face. Determination. Concentration. Perfection.

new wall-inside

But there’s more. You want light you say, well let the soft warm sunshine fill your ablutions with joy. He’s even made a window to bring the outside in.


‘But it’s heritage’ you say. Yes my word it is. As Jeanot cleverly fills the old doorway with a new old wall. Who would ever know what lies behind???


Spectacular we hear you cry. Yes it is. It’s a window!


A glorious, huge new window! with…a handsomely crafted ledge. Where did that come from? Only Jeanot knows!

Until next week (we promise) bon voy-arch nous amis. xxx M and J

“You live in a charming village…where the inhabitants respect their surroundings perfectly”

31 Aug Justy dans la voiture

This is what a passer-by said to us last night in perfect French, (then perfect English), as we sat on our porch preparing the evening meal entirely from our potager garden (bar the essential ingredient of Thai Curry paste). This was such an enchanting comment we decided to head our long overdue blog post with it. We are happily ensconced in Le Barry in Mas Cabardes, and have been delighting in a Summer adventure complete with a heatwave comparable to Wagga Wagga weather, two dramatic storms (l’orages), wild  boar visiting our garden for a midnight feast of figs and meeting our delightful neighbours and residents of the Montagne Noire. Progress on the restoration is proceeding apace, with us celebrating the flow of hot water from our solar panels, and the laying of under floor heating on the lower floor. Justy as you can see here broke the ice by turning on the l’eau chaud for the first time in years.

Justy turning on the heat

Carol, Jeanot and Justy have been furiously barrowing cement as the bathroom takes shape and we plot the position of the appliances. Tiles are poised ready to be laid and the hardware catalogues are being scrutinised….decisions, decisions….

Jeanot, master builder extraordinaire at work

Justy plotting the kitchen layout

As well as the building activity, the other favourite pastime has been harvesting the booty from the garden to share with all and sundry. The following sequence of pictures tells the story of last night’s meal which attracted such a flattering compliment from the French passer-by. Recipe: French inspired Vegetable curry. Ingredients: Swiss chard, basil, potatoes, tomatoes (4 varieties), courgettes, aubergines, mint, French beans, carrots, green pepper and the odd dab of Thai Curry paste and of course some vin blanc.

Garden booty

Le chef

Cooking on our camp stove


Other news, Justy’s birthday was cause for party decorations and a decadent cake made by Carol. As Justy has reached such an age, she has been driving around the countryside as if on a Rolls Royce rally, doing a very good imitation of Toad of Toad Hall. So will finish this post with some pictures of inhabitants and their repectful respective perfect surroundings, and sign off for now from Summer in the Montagne Noire,

M and J


Carol and Justy (with chocolate lipstick)

Justy’s birthday bonanza!

Justy dans la voiture

Justy (a.k.a. Toady) dans la voiture


Picnic at La Pradelle

‘Our Village’ Mas Cabardes with Summer potagers

Our heavenly stairway

31 Mar

Hola / Bonjour / G’day,

This week’s news is all about the ups and downs at Le Barry. Whilst the floods were drowning Wagga Wagga and the biggest earthquake in twenty-five years was shaking the artist residencies of Mexico City, things were going up and down, up and down, up and down in France.

Now happily reunited,  we are keen to share the latest happenings at Le Barry.

Big news: After four centuries, Le Barry now has the affordance of a stunning cedar staircase. Hewn from local timber and shaped by a local craftsman, our very own master builder Jeanot has locked this work of art into place. It took several days to assemble the stairs into the tight spot, but  Carol and Jeanot have now successfully (and beautifully) linked the lower two floors of the house. Sunlight now graces every corner of the kitchen. This, alongside Carol’s incredible work on re-pointing the kitchen walls has really lightened the room and pretty much, well, transformed it into a not quite finished kitchen/ diner!

As you can see the staircase arrived in pieces.

Staircase leaving Le Campmas.

Ready to assemble in the kitchen at Le Barry

It’s a tight space to fit a set of stairs but Jeanot worked out that we could drop the stairs just between the two kitchen doors.

Fitting the staircase, Le Barry

Starting from the bottom, Le Barry

Nearly There, Le Barry

Nearly There, Le Barry

Cuppa anyone?


This staircase will revolutionise life at Le Barry. For one thing you will no longer have to face the elements in your undies when you are trying to either 1) get breakfast in bed for your lover, 2) refresh your Pastis, 3) take a shower. Now you can elegantly descend the stairs with champagne flutes in hand and your modesty intact, and all without getting your feet wet.

To close this post, we’ve mentioned the ups, there were also a couple of downs this week.

A minor incident with a chainsaw, thigh and falling tree. Followed by a near anaphalactic bee sting. The workforce was halved for a day, as Jeanot regained his composure at Le Campmas. No workers comp here.

Until next week. Onwards and upwards!

M and J x

You are invited…

12 Feb

Dear friends, we are out exploring the rest of the world in Mexico City, and researching the hospitality industry first hand! We are staying at The Red Tree house in Colonia Condesa and it’s fabulous. Super hosts, fabulous courtyard, lush breakfasts, Egyptian cotton sheets and wine by the fire in the evenings…oh we have so much to learn!

Yesterday we went to the Plaza del Santo Domingo in the Centro and had these invitation cards printed on an old-fashioned letterpress machine within the hour. Aren’t they just adorable? Consider yourself invited to Le Barry in the years to come.

News from the house. It’s well below zero. Frozen fingers but not pipes. We have approval for the solar panels. Carol is working on the kitchen wall, and Jean’s hand-made staircase is nearly ready to be installed. Another tequila Margarita???

J and M x

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