At a bare minimum, we needed a convertible couch, a table and chairs, a bed and a mattress. Ok, mostly available to order online, and we were able to try out the couch in real life at a Paris store. What else? Bedding, towels, plates and glasses, silverware, and basic cooking pots and pans.
You try to imagine living in the as yet empty rooms, remembering what you have used most in vacation rentals and what you cannot live without. That leads to looking for a coffee maker, a toaster, and a hair dryer. The list gets longer. Can't forget the corkscrew! What about a vacuum cleaner and smoke alarms?
Finding that it was nearly impossible to narrow the deliveries to just a couple of dates certain in Lonlay, it was determined that Pipkin and I would go for a long stay at the end of February, beginning of March, and do our best to meet scattered deliveries from our multiple providers. Joseph had to stay in Paris for some appointments and to supervise some work in the U.S.
Before we left, Joseph went with me to the Paris Ikea one day, where I took photos of all the items we liked and thought we might order, along with their quirky Ikea names.
Only in Paris would this be the view from the window of your local Ikea store!
On several bitter cold mornings, I had to get up while it was still dark to walk Pipkin and have some coffee, sometimes running into the bakery for a croissant, then we would dash up to camp out at our house from 8:00 to 12:00, not knowing if someone would arrive with a mattress or a toaster!
I had only one old chair to sit in, and a limited number of treats and toys to distract Pipkin, who took umbrage at having to wait hours for someone to bark at.
Small to medium-sized packages were often delivered via "Chronopost," which actually is just a service of the regular post office. Efficient and friendly, our postman was probably relieved when the stream of small appliances he had to deliver to me came to an end.
Larger items and specialty orders were delivered by a hodge-podge of companies. Most were very professional, sending updates on their locations and expected time of delivery, but one company was so clueless and impossible to contact that I was forced to cancel the order altogether.
Some orders arrived days in advance, sending me scurrying back to the house when I thought I had time for a walk. Our main room was soon awash in cardboard cartons to be cut down and flattened to go to recycling.
I thought they would have to take the boxes through the upstairs' windows somehow, but the two of them took the headboard out of its box, and managed to wend it up the stairs without a scratch to their fresh paint job. Later on, one of them assembled the bed for us, along with a table for our living room. We will open the compressed mattress on our next visit when we will bring a mattress cover to put on it.
Not being remotely domestic, I was quite pleased with myself for thinking to order some extendable metal shelves that have temporarily solved the problem by freeing up a whole shelf. The instructions for installation that came with them were not at all necessary, but amusing.
Below are some still photos and a short video from our walks, all within about half an hour from the village center. With the trees still bare, I could more readily see the courses of multiple streams and springs that all seemed to run into Lonlay - aka "the long valley." Sources of water that have been crucial since ancient times for humans, their crops and their animals.
I started to notice some white painted circles along the roads, and was curious as to their purpose. On closer inspection, they appeared to be representative of a large drop of water, and I soon realized that they appeared to denote where a smaller spring or stream was running underneath the road to join a larger stream or river. Clever!
Why had this plaque come off the wall of the buildings at Place Jules Levée at some point? Was it through neglect, as with the derelict buildings that the mayor was now seeking to restore, or was it vandalism? I could not know, but I could now search for the man with his full name. I was able to find out that he was deported in 1944 to Buchenwald and died at age 29 on April 21, 1945 (just a few days before his April 25th birthday) after the liberation of the camp in 1945. Terribly sad. I am assuming he was politically active and likely a member of the Resistance. Perhaps I can find out more at a later time.
And now we have another war in Europe. Putin invaded Ukraine the day after I arrived in Lonlay l'Abbaye. I did not have a wifi connection, but was able to keep up with some print media like the New York Times and Washington Post on my phone, and also knew of some of the early atrocities from talking with Joseph, who was keeping up with BFM TV and CNN.
A bit surreal to be in this bucolic little village while hell was opening up daily under the Ukrainian people. Not so long ago, in the last century, Lonlay l'Abbaye knew its own version of hell. American soldiers and French citizens here spilled their blood to render it free.
One early morning around 5:30, I awakened to my alarm and saw an email come in from a dear friend in Los Angeles, distraught about Putin's war. I had no great consolation to offer her, but it was oddly comforting to be able to connect and share our mutual distress across so many time zones.
I was happy to be able to use my phone to contact the lovely woman who comes to clean our place and check on it once a month. Thanks to her, the place was spotless when I arrived, though I had to leave it a bit of a mess with all the packing materials. Not only did she come for a nice visit, but she also brought one of her artworks to show me - a sweet painting of a little dog, and a gift of a half dozen wonderful fresh eggs from her own chickens. The eggs were very large with rich orange yolks, and a real treat.
I cleaned out the cobwebs from our upstairs armoire (once I had a vacuum cleaner), and sorted through some of our daughter's school memorabilia in the attic, amidst deliveries and our walks around the countryside.
Our convertible couch arrived fully assembled, as did a heavy wooden chest that we will use (with cushions) as a window seat in the living room.
Joseph helped me select a cement color for our entryway, which our builder put in before we returned to Lonlay l'Abbaye at the end of March with our visiting daughter. He also saw to a whole set of other details, including mounting our curtain rods and filling in a gap in the stairs.
While at the Relais, we ran into our builder and his lovely wife, and it was fortunate that we did, as we had left our Lonlay house keys in Paris!
Before we left Lonlay on the day of Andelys' visit, we stopped for a quick glass of wine at the boulangerie/bar at the foot of the hill. I was surprised and touched to be given a bouquet of tulips by one of the owners! She remembered that we had brought her some tea from Paris on our last visit, and was so thoughtful and kind to give up her flowers to me instantly on a whim. How can you not love a place with people like this?