We went out to dinner last night with a friend and her dog, Amy. Amy has a broken paw, were it not for the cast you wouldn’t notice. She jumps, runs and has a fantastic attitude. I wasn’t in the mood to iron, so I wore crumpled white linen and medium blue trousers. It’s wonderful to get to this point in life when one can say/think I don’t look good, and that’s okay. I spent my teens and most of my 20′s crippled by self-image issues. Hating the way I looked. Spending an inordinate amount of time trying to make myself look better. That seems to be over, for the most part.
I’ve been helping put together a website in French for Casa Alba. That’s the gorgeous house (mansion, really) that I’m going to help show on French channel 5 in July (we’re filming next Thursday). I still don’t know what I’m going to wear. We’re halfway there, but I’ve still got tons to translate. I’ve loaned my website (for my house), www.sotogrande.us, as the web space since it’s an easy address for people to remember. Particularly because the houses are in Sotogrande. If you have any suggestions of what other information should be on the website, feel free to share. I haven’t finished uploading the pictures… so no need to suggest more pictures. Mike did a cute little sketch of the façade for it.
There’s a new commercial on British TV with a fantastic song that I’d never heard before: How Glad I Am by Nancy Wilson. It should really be one of our Gay Anthems. Have a listen:
The television adventure returns for round two. After being granted a reprieve I wanted to be helpful (that’s sort of a chronic disease for me), so I thought I’d offer up my friend’s house to be on the show. It’s a multi (many-many-multi) million euro home and she’s exceptionally charming and talented, so really, she’s the one who should’ve been on television in the first place. The producers saw the pictures and loved it. My friend said yes to them. Suddenly I get a call today and I’m getting roped in to be on the program with her showing the house because I speak better French… And for some absurd reason I said yes.
So in the event you pick up French Channel 5, you may have the misfortune to see me, and even worse, hear me, in July. Before then, have a glimpse at her rather glorious home, and in the event you want to be my neighbour, and one-up me by living in a house that’s double the size of mine, and have a heated indoor pool (apart from the outdoor one), and have between 10 and 20 million euro to spend on a house (I’m not giving the exact price because it seems crass), drop me a line and I’ll help you arrange it
We’re cleaning the house because someone is coming to see it tomorrow. The garden looks great (Mike’s work, mostly), but everything inside is a horrible mess. I wasn’t expecting people to be visiting while the economic crisis is still so unresolved, so I’ve let things go- a bit. Our current favourite house in France looks like this:
Might I be there in a few months? It’s much more to the South than I was planning, but it seems Mike doesn’t really want to face very cold winters. The house hasn’t been touched since around 1940, which is amazing. It has every possible period feature someone like me could hope for. Great bit of land, walking distance to the shops, and of course, an amazing restoration project for ME. Fingers crossed!
As those of you who follow this blog know, late last year we decided to put the house up as a location for photo shoots, movies etc. A financial consulting firm with offices here in Sotogrande and Seville was our first client… the ad came out this month in a society magazine (which is amusing). You can see it below. I covered their name and text as I don’t know that they’d want to be associated with me personally Anyway, I think it looks nice. It’s funny seeing the house this way, attached to other people’s names. It’s like it’s grown up and is making its own way in the world.
It’s fantastically sunny today. Feels like Spring is finally here. The palms that are substituting the pampas grass arrived!!! They’ll be planted on Monday. A crane needs to come to do it. I’m excited! The trees I planted on the North side of the house are starting to flower. We generally ignore that side entirely because the land is a different level to the South garden, which is big enough already- but I’ve decided to clean it up. Maybe some haphazard landscaping with succulents etc… We’re cleaning up the terraces, 14 days of sun are coming
The sky is grey. We finished re-painting the pergola and braiding the stephanotis onto it. My landscaping project down by the stream is starting to have a bit of an effect. It still looks wild, just a bit more organized wild
I should start moving down the hill now to do the rest. I’ll get to it, eventually…
There’s a new gay couple here in Sotogrande. They own a parrot that is now missing. I have nothing to do with the disappearance of said parrot in case you’re wondering. I’d heard rumours about them. Apparently, when news spread they’re gay they got a number of invitations, including one from someone with whom I no longer socialize. Also apparently, she was horrified. “They didn’t notice my dress was Chanel. They didn’t mention anything in my art collection. Their clothes were awful. They’re nothing like Edouard!!! They’re probably not even really gay.”
I’m not going to lie. I love the idea that they didn’t fit into the local gay stereotype- which is me.
Today Vickie Lester said my grey hair suited me- which is lovely, since she’s right and it fixes things since yesterday someone actually touched my hair and said: “Your hair is SOOOOOOOOOO GREY”. I was slightly annoyed, so I said “But my house is worth about three times what your house is worth”. It came out automatically, like when you put a coin in a slot machine. She got the grand prize.
I worked in the garden today despite the bursts of rain. The anemones de Caen are coming out in force. I’m pleased. The other day I was gardening wearing old boots, old jeans and an old tight t-shirt. As I approached the house with my dirty hands, Mike stared and said “wow, you look just as good as you did when we met all those years ago”(somewhere between 10 and 13 years, details don’t matter)- very clever, he knew that if he said I looked better he would have faced an inquisition as to ‘why better?’,'what was worse about me then?’.
We decided to get rid of the pampas grass in the front half-courtyard. We’re going to substitute them with two 4 metre tall palm trees. Like a mini palmeraie. Now with new gays around I have to make sure they have no chance whatsoever of encroaching on my territory. Say goodbye to the pampas grass:
I’m trying to come up with a plan for the gardens. Since we’re on the edge of a forest, surrounded by hundred year old trees we never felt the need to have anything but lawn and a couple of details here or there- but I think we can do better. Create something very special and interesting. The obvious choice, since we have a Moresque style house would be to go down the Majorelle/Saint Laurent path. But our place isn’t Majorelle blue and I’m too freakishly controlling to be surrounded by that laid back style. Plus, I bought those white chairs for the pergola and I have to find a way to make them fit in.
So, I’ve decided to take the white thing further. I’ve bought a ton of huge white planters which I’ll dot around the landscape. They’ll be filled with Iris Reticulata and Peacock Orchids (acidanthera bicolor). I think it’ll give the place a slightly more contemporary feel without being annoyingly minimalistic. That plant on the pergola will hopefully, one day, eventually, cover the whole thing. Its flowers are white with a burgundy centre- same colours as the acidanthera, but a very different shape. I don’t want to ruin the ‘clean’ view we get from the terraces- hopefully this will add some interest without looking fiddly.
The ‘holiday season’ is catching up with me. I feel like I’ve been drinking non-stop since Christmas- perhaps, because I’ve been drinking non-stop since Christmas. It’s just been one thing after another. A dinner here, a lunch there. People visiting from Germany, then England, now France- and it’s really quite impossible to do all of that ‘properly’ without alcohol. Next week I should do a couple of alcohol free days. Or, at least alcohol-light days. No hang-overs, though. I think my body gave up on hang-overs and just decided it wasn’t worth fighting me on this one because I’ll win in the end anyway.
Cousin is out doing horsey things. Mike has a friend that has a country property and twenty horses, so he organized some riding. Last night he told me that the chateau of Champs-sur-Marne is going to be re-opened this year. You may have seen it in a movie called Dangerous Liaisons. They’re going to do an exhibition which will highlight the families of the owners of the place through time. That includes our family who owned it for much of the 19th century. The descendants of previous owners are invited, and as much as I hate travelling, I’m tempted to go. Apparently the gardens are quite impressive.
Cousins arrived last night. We ate, we drank- ’til late. I got a stunning pair of 19th century plates with our family crest on them. I also got a hardback copy of Les Ligneaux. Our mutual cousin, the baroness’, fictionalized account of the family’s last summer at Migneaux before the death of her grand-mother (my great-great grandmother). The house once belonged to Marie Louise O’Murphy (mistress of Louis XV)- it was later bought by our family. Now it’s been turned into apartments. I’m going to hang the plates in the dining room.
We went to lunch up in the hills today at Venta Garcia. It’s in the Michelin guide, although with no stars attached to it. I thought the food was lovely in a simple, country, sort of way. It reminded me that Mike’s old house (the one pre-me which is also up there) has gone on the market. It used to look like this when he sold it:
It wasn’t my style, but I’ll admit it was pure charm. Full of colour and personality. The new owners seem to have beaten the life out of it. As I looked through the pictures I noticed there wasn’t a single antique or a piece of art that says something. Perhaps that’s why this time around Sotheby’s isn’t handling the sale. According to the video, the new owners want 2.1M. for it. Personally, I think that’s too much- although it is a lot of land and the views are quite spectacular. I have the impression Mike much prefers the place we’ve created together, and there’s really no comparison on the pre-me art collection to the post me art collection if I may say so myself
Sometimes I find it funny/shocking that he had a life that didn’t include me. Before me. It seems absurd or ridiculous; Or absurd and ridiculous.
I worked a lot today (post-lunch) and questioned myself on whether I should or shouldn’t correct a client on her spelling and pronunciation of Lutyens. I decided not to mention it and just keep writing the correct form in the hope she’ll notice (even though it annoys me tremendously). I sold a rather nice set of French silver yesterday, which is great because I’ve just bought a collection of over 100 pieces of French silver. Does that make me sound like Judas’ richer nephew? I was given a bloc of foie-gras last week. I know it’s bad and cruel and all that- but it’s so delicious. I’ve been eating it privately, with tomato marmalade. I know that doesn’t quite fit in with my goal of becoming more vegetarian- unless we start calling foie gras a vegetable- which seems like an interesting option to me.
I almost never work with new items. I have tremendous difficulty understanding the logic of people who purchase new things. Period furniture has a reasonably stable market value. Good quality new furniture is expensive and re-sale values are erratic at best. In any event there we are. I’ve done it. It’s a very architecturally modern house and the designer wants me to add some gravitas. She says that when I place something it looks like it has always been there. That’s not so hard with antiques. We’ll see how it goes with new furniture. The living room is in shades of blue. I have an amazing (huge) late 19th century Japanese embroidery that would certainly add some flair to the room. I’m going to show it to her tomorrow to see what she thinks. Three of our rugs may also be going to this same project, which is great. My hope is that apart from our reserve/investments we always begin the year with enough money in our current account to pay all the bills for that year. We’re not quite there yet, but depending on how this project goes, we might get there just in time
Meanwhile, we’re re-doing the largest of our guest rooms. The most frequent guest of that room has sent over a stunning Italian four poster bed because that’s what she prefers to sleep in. As these things go, when you add a very good piece of furniture, other things can look shabby- so I spent the morning moving things around and decided to sand and paint the Georgian chest of drawers (late 19th century, not actually Georgian). Pictures of the finished project shall follow- eventually…
Side Note: There’s never been a day when we were building or reforming when one of us wasn’t on site.
It’s going to rain heavily starting tonight at eight. I absolutely love rain. Always have since childhood. It gives me a (probably artificial) sense of isolation. Although, people rarely come to the door to annoy me when it’s raining, so there’s some method to my madness. That probably played a role in choosing rainy central France as my next and final home. One of the houses we like has just lowered its price. It’s no beauty and it’s by no means at the top of the list, but it does have certain advantages. It’s on the edge of town and has a huge, dog-friendly garden that’s not fiddly, so it doesn’t need a team of gardeners for upkeep. On the other hand the place needs some serious help to bolster its aesthetic appeal. I showed it to someone a few days ago and got a blank look response: “Really? You’re leaving this house to live in that?”. I guess not everyone has imagination. It needs a gravel driveway, a marble fountain, a porte-cochère, better colours and more thoughtful landscaping; But once all of that is done it could look quite nice. It’s an 18th century affair, built for a notary. The garages should be moved elsewhere so the space can become a study, but the living room itself is a very good 50m2. It also has independent guest accommodation which is essential to us. The biggest advantage is obviously the price. You couldn’t get a 2 bedroom apartment (with no view) here for what they’re asking for that whole house there.
Rudy was neutered this morning and is now resting in a duvet nest we made for him. On the way back from the operation he was trembling and cold. The vet said it’s because of the anaesthetic. He wouldn’t settle for anything but sitting on my lap. When we arrived back Morgan had redecorated. A bunch of cushions (and he) were on the dining table.
“Maison Mantin was commissioned by Louis Mantin, a wealthy man from Moulins, who wanted to showcase his art and antiques collection. It was designed by a noted local architect, René-Justin Moreau (April 28, 1858 – September 18, 1924), in collaboration with his father, Jean-Bélizaire Moreau (1828–1899), also an architect, and built in 1893.
Mantin bequeathed the mansion to the town of Moulins in his will, written before his death in 1905. The will stated that the house be kept intact, so as to show to visitors in 100 years “a specimen of a bourgeois home of the nineteenth century”.
Consequently, the house was kept shuttered for over a century, with all its original contents, and fell into disrepair. After extensive restoration, it was opened as a museum, and a showcase for the eclectic taste of its former owner.”
The architecture is deliciously hideous. The interiors, however, house a superb collection. All four parts of the documentary are available here. It’s in German (spoken slowly and clearly), but just seeing the images is worthwhile. They show some interesting befores and afters and the house through time. Spain also has a strain of delicious monstrosities. They come in the form of Casas de Indianos. ‘Indianos’ were Spaniards who emigrated to Latin America and then returned to Spain after becoming wealthy.
A while back I saw one such monstrosity that I fell in love with. It’s known as the Palace of O Corgo (aka Pazo de Adai). It was built by General Tella during the dictatorship in a mishmash of absurd styles and happened to be owned by a fellow art/antiques dealer who also used the house as a showroom. It’s still on the market and for a very reasonable price considering the size and materials. Nothing but the best for the general. Granite pillars, parquet de Versailles, carved wood decoration on the ceilings… Unfortunately (as I constantly whine about), Mike insists that even the house we’re in now is too big for us, so not much of a chance of getting him to agree to one of these. Plus, he hates the architecture.
The weather forecast says it’s going to rain heavily on Friday. Meanwhile the sky is blue and the temperature is 20º C.
In the hopes that my new internet friend/almost neighbour, RoughSeasIntheMed, doesn’t follow through with her threat of posing as a buyer to come see the house… here are more pictures. The first picture is from google maps. We’re the big arrow and the little arrow is Villa Trianon, which used to be our guest house until we started transforming it into a full blown house which we sold in April to a nice couple from Gib. The house has been three different colours. Now it’s a very light cream (as in picture 2). It’s hard to photograph and my new camera doesn’t have a wide angle lens, but the penultimate picture shows most of the building.
We’ve been approached by a production company because a film director wants to use Villa l’Africaine as a movie location. It’s great money considering we don’t have to do anything. The production company says they could bring us a lot of clients for photo shoots too… I think it would feel strange having people walking through my house; But, I suppose it’s a smart move to consider that as a business possibility.
I didn’t mention it because I was annoyed, but we received an offer last week, it was laughable. They wanted the house, the land and what is basically my life, and they asked for a discount of 933,000 euros. My life is not for sale at a discount. It’s not a discount, bargain basement life. I’ve spent over a decade perfecting this thing. I was very polite and didn’t say anything rude to the buyers about their offer. It wasn’t easy. It must be Mike’s influence. I have however spent much time considering what I would have said to them had I blown a fuse.
I’ve had fracking walls built with special recesses and lights for art. NO DISCOUNT.
I’m writing from Windows SAFE MODE. In case you’ve been wondering where I was or if I decided to abandon you for better things… I have not. Mike downloaded something three days ago and the computer has gone haywire. So here I am in safe mode, still running programs that were named by people who evidently love sci-fi. Everything is a killer or a defender or some such.
On Tuesday we went to an Argentine Grill that first opened in the 70′s. The decor is quite brown. The chairs are frightfully upright and uncomfortable, but the meat is excellent. They have an excellent chimichurri sauce.
Chimichurri goes very well on any grilled meat. I’ve played with the recipe and came up with this:
½ cup olive oil
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp ground paprika
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp paprika
¼ tsp of salt
¼ tsp pepper
Mix well and let sit for at least a day. Then you can keep it for a few weeks in the refrigerator.
I dug through my closet to find something to wear that would annoy the local bourgeoisie.
I came up with more 90′s Versace.
Very sparkly Jeans Couture. When light hits them, I turn into a disco ball.
Ever since the police (outrageously) accused me of driving whilst intoxicated last year, everyone is afraid of getting caught and sentenced to community service at the Red Cross- so we reserve our heavy drinking for when we’re within the safety of the Sotogrande gates. We left the restaurant and went to Karen’s house. She has a gorgeous antique door from a Finca.
Angie has a gorgeous Patek Calatrava and some respectably sized diamonds
I made fun of Angie’s rear-end
So she tried to set fire to the house
But it was a lovely evening anyway!
Useless fact of the day: All of my veins are visible to the naked eye.