When Grandad and Gran came to stay…
My Dad loves jazz. But not in a ‘smokey, dingy basement bar with people in roll necks listening to students with a double bass’ jazz. What my Dad likes is big band stuff or ragtime or the kind of jazz that you’d imagine you’d hear on a New Orleans’ paddle steamer. And luckily for him (and it turns out for us as we’ve been every year since we bought our house in France) one of the world’s best jazz festivals takes place 15 minutes drive from La Maison Blanche.
The Marciac Jazz festival runs for a week (or it might be two don’t quote me) during the month of August in a sleepy, quaint French village. Only its not sleepy at all for those weeks – it comes alive like the Enchanted Wood at night. Some of the world’s best jazz musicians descend and although jazz is not really my thing and I’ve never really heard of any of them (I think Jamie thingy who is married to Sophie Dahl may have been there one year but I couldn’t swear on it) the atmosphere is amazing as our sleepy little Marciac is filled with music, wine and even stalls selling touristy tat.
Ice cream is crucial when jazz listening!
Each of the restaurants in the village expand into tents in the market square and there is an ice cream seller with around 100 different flavours. And each year we book a table at Le Monde A L’Envers a great restaurant on the square and we eat fine food, drink fine wine and listen to the jazz bands playing in the square. And when the kids were smaller they would dance but are now far too cool for such things. But as it turned out they could hand that mantle over to someone else this year. As the square got dark and the jazz got louder everywhere around us people started to dance. And when we lost Mum and Dad for a little while we wondered what on earth could have become of them but it turned out they had found a corner of the square where a band were playing and people were dancing so they’d joined in. A proper dance that only parents seem to know how to do.
And my Dad declared it was his best night out for years.
You can rent our lovely house if you are thinking of visiting the Marciac Jazz Festival click here for details.
Peter looks v pleased to have some help!
And I got to do this!!!!
Our first guests – sort of. My parents. Strangers to roughing it, they arrived fully warned as to just how basic our french home still was. I’m not entirely sure they believed us though (my mum had optimistically packed white linen trousers!) but they were kind enough to make the right kind of comments about potential, one day, blah, so much space, blah… In the end, despite the completion of the bathroom we decided it might be best to house them in a nearby B&B so they could retire at the end of the day to a bedroom with en suite and fluffy towels. They stayed with a fabulous Danish woman in a lovely village nearby called Marciac. I wished i ws staying there too for the breakfast buffet alone! Plus, Marciac is a picture postcard french village based around a square that looks how you imagine a French rural village to look. Think ‘Chocolat’ or those ‘Petit Filou’ ads and you get an idea. As a result, it is swarming with English people. On one of our first visits there i spied an entire english family of curly blonde haired children of varying ages, all in matching breton tops plus a dad in white linen shirt and straw trilby – pete had to restrain me from chasing them down and introducing myself. ‘But they would love me. We could be friends, i wailed.’ They probably live in one of those chateaus i online stalk! So, thats Marciac. There is even a french restaurant run by an english chef called Le Monde A L’envers – an amazing place but only open about twice a week.
Le Monde A L’envers (the world upside down)
Marciac is also home to posh shops that sell shabby chic french home accessories and stripey tablecloths! (Bought largely by english people) Its also home to our favourite restaurant (frquented almost entirely by french people just to prove am not one of those ex pats who track down jars of marmite and mother’s pride) Its called La Peniche and was once a boat but is now a restaurant on the lake complete with resident parrot. They serve a a four course meal with wine for around €15 and the kids get duck and chips./p>
La Peniche – floating food
So, each day, during the parental visit – Mum and Dad would drive over and my dad would help Peter to get rid of the climbing vines that were blocking out all our light. Dad then took up the task of white glossing all windows – to put into context, we’ve now had the house for three years and still have about 80% of them still to do as it takes forever! But we were very grateful for his input. My mum kept an eye on the kids so I even managed to steal some time to read books and bake. And the kids played in a wheelbarrow. It was boiling hot and we could eat outside. And we could begin to see the future. a big table in the sun, laden with cheese, bread and tomatoes so big and juicy they look and taste more like nectarines. The boys in stripey tees and Pete in a linen shirt. What more could you possibly want from a holiday?