All good things come to an end, they say – including our holiday. The journey back through the wormhole was not not quite as pleasant in reverse. But we have some lovely memories to help us get through the next few weeks and months. For our last weekend in Avoise we decided we had definitely had enough of packing. Everything was done apart from those things we would need for camping out in the house for a day when we came back in October; a mattress on the floor in the bedroom, the coffee maker and two each of plates, glasses, mugs and cutlery for breakfast on the day of our move.
With the following Monday being Assumption Day, a public holiday in France, there was again a whole host of events on over the weekend. Following the success of their Fêtes Médiévales two years ago, the villagers of Parcé sur Sarthe had decided to do the same thing again this year. Having missed it in 2014 we were determined to go this year and on Saturday morning we cycled over to partake of the revelry. There was a fabulous atmosphere in the little place with everyone dressed up in medieval costume, a medieval market, dancing and music, jousting and falconry displays and a generally happy, family feel.
Even the bag searches and bands of heavily armed gendarmes with automatic weapon clutched across their chests, patrolling the village couldn’t put a dampener on the festive feeling, but it certainly brings home how unsafe the French feel in the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks.
On Sunday the weather was again unbelievably lovely (I’ve been so disillusioned with summers in France and England in recent years that I dread peeking out through the curtains in the morning) We decided to take a picnic and explore the area surrounding our new mill. We spent a few hours strolling around local villages and ended up at the Chateau de Thévalles, which has a lovely restored watermill, just a few kilometres up river from our mill. In the spirit of research we did the guided tour.
Céline, the young student who was earning some extra money during the summer holidays by taking tourists around the mill was lovely and very informative. When I explained why I was asking so many questions she seemed genuinely interested and chatted away asking about how we had found our mill and what were our plans for renovation. Did we have millstones? Was the mechanism still there? Were we going to restore the wheel to working order? Le Moulin de Thévalles, like ours, has been rebuilt several times and the latest building dates back to the 1800’s. It was fascinating to see how over the years the power of the river had been used to grind grain for flour and animal feed, pump water up to the chateau on the hill to water the gardens, power everything from sewing machines to farm machinery and more recently, in the 1900’s, to generate electricity for the chateau.
The latter was particularly interesting to Colin who was taking numerous photos on his phone of linkages and generators. Our vendor maintains that he has been using the water wheel to generate the electricity to run the central heating. Unfortunately, the ‘turbine ‘ is no longer working – in my more sceptical moods, I don’t believe it ever did. But it would be incredible if we could find a way to make it work!