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Page history last edited by Tom van Bodegraven 14 years, 11 months ago

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A "Coup de Coeur" in South West France !


I have always appreciated France and "la vie Francaise". Indeed the purchase by my wife Jenny of a set of petanque boules, during one of many visits to France during the 1980’s whilst I was working and studying in England, lead me to import the game into New Zealand in the early 90’s.




The love affair continued as I travelled to France as a member of the NZ Petanque team and later whilst serving on the committee of the FIPJP (Fédération Internationale de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal). It was perhaps inevitable that my family and I should end up living in France.


In 2001 we rented a "maison de campagne", an old stone farm house in the commune of Castillon Massas in the Gers, SW France. Daughters Carla and Leisha joined 14 French children for lessons in the single roomed village school. The day started at 0845 and finished at 1630 – a long stretch, but the girls soon got to enjoy it as they had all of Wednesday off as well as the weekend.


We enjoyed exploring the myriad of beautiful little villages scattered throughout the wooded rolling countryside of the Gers as well as taking the opportunity, afforded by school holidays, to venture further afield within France and also check out parts of Spain and Italy. Gradually a dream grew to find a house of our own. We must have seen 30 – 40 within a radius of 25 km of our rented property. Two took our eye – one turned out to have been sold already whilst the owner of the other raised his price by 1,000,000 francs (this was pre- Euro days) after receiving a written offer at his original asking price! He was obviously still deeply attached to the old family home. C’est la vie!


Some years later, out of the blue, I received an email from friends in Saint Lary a hill-top hamlet, 3km from our old village ……… For Sale, Maison de Gardes – the old stone guard house of a fortified hamlet, dating back to 1188 and partly restored. Stone walls 2 metres thick, stone staircase and fireplace and of all things an arrow slit in the kitchen! Were we interested? Bien sur! We took the plunge!


In 2004, my daughter Carla and I, armed with a huge list from Jenny and Leisha, returned to France and set about furnishing the "Maison de Gardes" from scratch. A whole day spent buying necessities at IKEA outside of Toulouse meant a van had to be hired that evening, loaded, driven 100km to St Lary and returned the same evening to IKEA. Carla and I drove back to our new house feeling we had truly earned our meal when we finally had it much later that evening.


Since then we have made a number of trips to the Maison de Gardes. The "St Laryoises" have become good friends. In September we all enjoyed a hamlet lunch. This started at midday – we finished eating drinking and playing petanque as darkness fell. The "Coup de Coeur" has become a comfortable home away from home! *


Images on this page:


1) Coat of Arms of Gers.

2) The covering of the "place" consisting of stones embedded in concrete proved a testing terrain.

3) Neighbour Jean Claude's prized 1938 Citroen.

4) The hamlet lunch - barely started !





This article by Cam Calder (from Boules to You) first appeared in the PNZ magazine spring 2007 issue. It was reproduced here on 30/12/2007. The images in the original article differ slightly from the images on this Wiki page. -Tom.



* Footnote: When not required by the family the “stone bach” is available for rental. For further details please contact Cam Calder Email: camcalder@paradise.net.nz Phone: 09 445 4328.


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