Friday, March 17, 2023

Château de Javarzay, opening this weekend

French Village Diaries Top Five Tips for visiting Chateau de Javarzay Chef-Boutonne
Château de Javarzay, Chef-Boutonne

The Château de Javarzay, Chef-Boutonne 

My Five Top Tips for making the most out of your visit


This weekend I am delighted to once again be part of the team opening the doors to welcome visitors to the Château de Javarzay. Situated in Chef-Boutonne, in the southern tip of the Deux-Sèvres department, this fairy tale château with its towers and turrets really is worth a visit if you live nearby. 


There have been a few changes to the opening times this year, and our out of season hours (March, April, May and October) will be 14h to 17h30 on Saturday afternoons and 10h to 12h30 and 14h to 17h30 on Sundays, plus afternoons during the school holidays in April and October. From the beginning of June until end of September we will be open daily, 10h to 13h and 13h45 to 18h, except Tuesdays.


My first Top Tip for enjoying your visit is to ensure you give yourself at least an hour, as there really is a lot to see.


The Château de Javarzay is one of the first Renaissance châteaux in the Poitou region and now houses a fully interactive and multimedia museum. What remains of the building today is a tiny part of what it once was, but even with only two of its original twelve towers, there is a lot to see and to keep the visitor entertained.

French Village Diaries Top Five Tips for visiting Chateau de Javarzay Chef-Boutonne
The stonework of the Château de Javarzay


The museum is split into three parts, and I just love that the start of your voyage through time is a slow and steady climb up a spiral staircase, housed in a conical-roofed turret, complete with tiny leaded glass windows with views over the lake and the grounds. 


French Village Diaries Top Five Tips for visiting Chateau de Javarzay Chef-Boutonne
Ancient roof timbers at the Château de Javarzay

In the part of the museum featuring the history of the château, you can see the timbers and stonework up close and learn all about this beautiful building dating from 1513. One of my favourite things to do is to walk the circular path on the outside of the round tower, that gives you an almost 360º view of the park. As you would expect for a five-hundred-year-old residence, a number of families have called it home over the years and it is reputed to have had a Royal overnight guest too. If you happen to visit when I’m working, I’d be happy to let you know about some of the other residents who I’m sure are ‘in residence’ now. 


The recent renovation project was about so much more than just the necessary building works needed to ensure the château is preserved for the next generation. The museum has been completely re-imagined and is now a multimedia, interactive, bilingual experience that received rave reviews from visitors from all over the world last year. My Top Tip number two is to sit and listen to the rich tones of the voice of the château as he tells his story.

French Village Diaries Top Five Tips for visiting Chateau de Javarzay Chef-Boutonne
Coiffes (headdresses) of the 19th Century


The top two tower rooms, complete with cathedral like roof beams, house the part of the museum that is all about the life of women in rural 19th century France. Why did women wear bonnets? When did they swap the bonnet for the more decorative headdress or coiffe? What was the daily life of the seamstresses who travelled from village to village to make and clean these works of art? With turret towers, fairy tale windows and lots of lacework, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair” always comes to my mind when I am up there. 


French Village Diaries Top Five Tips for visiting Chateau de Javarzay Chef-Boutonne
Try our fun Photo Booth the Coiffomaton

My Top Tip number three is don’t miss our fun photobooth where you can have your picture taken wearing the coiffe of your choice.


French Village Diaries Top Five Tips for visiting Chateau de Javarzay Chef-Boutonne
The museum dedicated to Jean-François Cail

The third part to the museum is dedicated to the French industrial revolution and one major player, Monsieur Jean-François Cail, who was born in Chef-Boutonne in 1804. Despite his humble beginnings, Jean-François Cail went on to achieve great things and the short film about his extraordinary life is worth watching. Most people leave with a sense of disbelief that someone who had such an impact, worldwide, isn’t as well-known today as his compatriots like Gustave Eiffel or Isambard Kingdom Brunel. As well as working in the sugar refining industry, Jean-François Cail was also involved in the French manufacture of the British designed Crampton steam engine. 

French Village Diaries Top Five Tips for visiting Chateau de Javarzay Chef-Boutonne
Crampton steam engine


My Top Tip number four is that no steam train fan will want to miss our fabulously detailed, scale model Crampton engine on display.


The château itself is set in a large park with a fishing lake, lots of picnic tables, a children’s play area and a riverside walk along the Boutonne. My Top Tip number five is don’t forget your picnic. After lunch, why not follow the 8km walk around Chef-Boutonne that starts at the château and takes in a number of lavoirs, one of which is at the source of the Boutonne river, and another has a little surprise waiting for you through a window.  

French Village Diaries Top Five Tips for visiting Chateau de Javarzay Chef-Boutonne
Tèrra Aventura


The Nouvelle Aquitaine has a fabulous Geocaching App, Tèrra Aventura and the château is one of the sites that has a treasure stash just waiting for you to find. It is also situated on the V93 cycle route that cuts across the south of the Deux-Sèvres department from the Charente to Niort and any cyclists can be assured of a warm welcome.


I know for many of you, a visit here will only be a virtual one through my shared photos and words, but for those of you who do live in Nouvelle Aquitaine, I hope this has whetted your appetite for a visit to Chef-Boutonne and if so, I look forward to seeing you at the Château de Javarzay very soon.


Château de Javarzay, 11 Avenue des Fils Fouquaud, Chef-Boutonne 79110


French Village Diaries Top Five Tips for visiting Chateau de Javarzay Chef-Boutonne
The souvenir shop at the Château de Javarzay



Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Book review of Shooters by Julia Boggio

French Village Diaries book review Shooters by Julia Boggio
Shooters by Julia Boggio

Shooters by Julia Boggio


“The photography conference simmered with talent: those who had it, those who wanted it, and those who would always suck no matter how hard they tried. Stella Price wondered where she fell on that scale.”


Stella is determined to become a successful wedding photographer, even if it means learning from Connor Knight, a wedding shooter with sexy rock star status and an ego to match.


Burned by an affair that ended her last career, Stella should know better than to get entangled with Connor during a residential course in a romantic French chateau. But while his arrogance turns her off, his talent turns her on.


Their clashes lead to a whirlwind of passion, but Stella struggles to frame a future with a man who’s come to distrust “happily ever afters” and hides a softer side behind his image. Can Stella learn from her past mistakes and teach Connor about real love before he disappears from the picture?

French Village Diaries book review Shooters by Julia Boggio
Shooters by Julia Boggio


My Review


This book was a great fun read with lots of laughter and the added bonus of a French château as a backdrop for a lot of the action. 


Stella was vulnerable. Healing from a painful relationship situation, and not sure where her future lay, she threw herself into the competitive world of wedding photography, much to the displeasure of her parents. Her vulnerability just made me love her and the new adventures she found herself in even more. This book is packed with lots of hilarious, albeit embarrassing moments for poor Stella, coupled with great characters who sparked my interest, worked well together, and added entertainment to the story.


Connor was talented. He knew how to shine and how to get the best out of those around him, coming across at first, as too good to be true. Meeting Stella shifted something in him and while the chemistry between them sizzled, their very different personalities needed more than heat to make things work. Happiness and success are often linked and watching things play out between them, as they worked out what they wanted and needed, was pure entertainment. I still smile when I think back to some of their antics and can only imagine the situations the author has experienced in her real-life as a wedding photographer.


This is a book that will lift your spirits and give you the perfect escape from the dreariness we are all feeling as winter seems to drag on.


Purchase Links  

UK - Kindle 

US - Kindle 


Price Drop - For one day only on 14th March, Shooters will be 99p. 

French Village Diaries book review Shooters by Julia Boggio
Julia Boggio


Author Bio 


Originally from New Jersey, Julia Boggio moved to London in her early twenties. She worked as an advertising copywriter until discovering her love of photography on a 6-month trip around South America. She started a wedding photography business which received some great PR when her own Dirty Dancing-themed wedding dance went viral on YouTube. She appeared on Richard & Judy and The Oprah Winfrey Show, where she danced with Patrick Swayze. In 2009 she opened a luxury portrait studio and has photographed everyone from the Queen to Queen, the band. After 15 years as a photographer, she returned to her first love: writing. Julia Boggio books focus on strong female characters with real, complicated lives, delivered with humour and feel-good factor. 


You can sign up for her newsletter at


Social Media Links


Listen to Julia’s book podcast, TWO LIT CHICKS, here

Twitter @juliaboggio  /  @twolitchicks

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Website Julia Boggio  /  Two Lit Chicks

French Village Diaries book review Shooters by Julia Boggio
Shooters by Julia Boggio

Monday, March 13, 2023

Lent declutter challenge, the halfway point

French Village Diaries Lent declutter challenge, day 20, the halfway point
Lent declutter challenge, days 1 - 4

Lent declutter challenge

Today marks the halfway point in the forty days of Lent and going by the comments I received following my Lent declutter challenge post, I seem to have touched a chord with many of you. My main reason for sharing the challenge on the blog was to give myself some accountability by getting it out there. The fact so many of you have told me you have now been encouraged to have a clear out too, has been a bonus. You have no idea how happy you have made me, so thank you, and keep going.


We are doing our best to donate or recycle as much as possible, rather than just throw things in landfill and one email I received asked about charity shops in France and where to find them. I guess we are lucky here with a Secours Catholique in Chef-Boutonne, plus ARK and HOPE both within a half an hour drive away. We have put aside bags of clothing to donate to the Secours Catholique boutique as I know that local families in dire need can go to the Mairie and be given vouchers to spend in the shop. 

French Village Diaries Lent declutter challenge, day 20, the halfway point ARK 79
Donations made by ARK 79


ARK and HOPE both take and sell books, furniture, bric-a-brac and clothing, with all funds raised going to help animal charities both locally and abroad and I have bags of bits waiting to go to them, plus some old towels and bedding that will go directly to the animal shelter near Angouleme. 


French Village Diaries Lent declutter challenge, day 20, the halfway point Le Relais
Le Relais textile bank in the village

We have also been making good use of the clothes and textile bank in the village run by Le Relais, because we can fill a bag, strap it onto the bike and drop it off without having to use the car – another environmental tick. The email I received, encouraged me to look Le Relais up online, to find out who they are and what will happen to the bagged-up donations we have posted into the container. 


French Village Diaries Lent declutter challenge, day 20, the halfway point Le Relais
Le Relais infographic

Le Relais are linked to the Emmaus network and have around 22,000 textile banks all over France, allowing them to collect almost 90,000 tonnes a year of items that might have ended up in landfill. They state that on average each person gets rid of 12kg of textiles, every year, and I feel I may have exceeded this figure somewhat in the last twenty days, but it has been a good few years since some areas were sorted and cleared out.


In the last thirty years, Le Relais have created a job a week, mostly in their sorting centres, generally employing people who have struggled to find jobs elsewhere, and almost all the textiles go on to have a new purpose:


55% are exported to Africa 

26% (cottons and wools) become thermal and acoustic insulation

10% become cleaning rags 

6% are sold in their boutiques in France

3% are incinerated in biomass furnaces


French Village Diaries Lent declutter challenge, day 20, the halfway point
Lent declutter challenge, days 5 - 8

We have filled our local bin with clothes, towels, bedding, shoes and handbags, so this clear out really has been a win-win situation for so many people and associations all over the world - and we are pretty confident it will only be Adrian’s undies that end up in the 3% heading to the biomass furnace. 

French Village Diaries Lent declutter challenge, day 20, the halfway point
Lent declutter challenge, days 9 - 12

All our other items have been carefully sorted at our local déchetterie, so all old batteries, electronic items, cardboard boxes, ink cartridges etc have all ended up where they can be recycled. All the paperwork I’ve shredded has gone in our compost heap and all magazines and other paper have been taken to our village recycling point.  

French Village Diaries Lent declutter challenge, day 20, the halfway point
Lent declutter challenge, days 13 - 16

This week it will be the kitchen that comes under scrutiny, including the storage boxes under the stairs that at the moment cause Adrian to mutter and curse every time he is looking for something. I might only be halfway through the challenge, but I already feel like a winner. I’m more in control of the house and its contents than I’ve ever been, and the added bonus has been we are now using and enjoying some really pretty cups and glasses that have sat in cupboards for decades. In fact, the cups were weddings gifts, so it’s quite appropriate they are finally being used as we approach our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.


French Village Diaries Lent declutter challenge, day 20, the halfway point
Lent declutter, days 17 - 20


Sunday, March 5, 2023

My declutter challenge this Lent

French Village Diaries declutter challenge Lent N@PH79
A family meal out at N@APH79

Manic March

February left us with a shiver as the March winds arrived early. The last few mornings of the month were 0ºc with an icy easterly wind giving a real feel of -10ºc. It was the sort of weather that encouraged comfort eating and we don’t need much encouraging to stray from the healthy track. While chunky vegetable soups and lentil with sweet potato bakes ticked the box for healthy and comforting, we also indulged in one of our favourite cheesy mountain dishes, tartiflette. Even served with a side salad this oven baked potato and melted reblochon cheese dish can’t really be classed as healthy. When Ed and Pearl visit, a meal at the village restaurant is a must, the raclette cheese featuring on the pizzas and in the burgers.

French Village Diaries declutter challenge Lent bugnes Mardi Gras
Bugnes for Mardi Gras


As February drew to a close, Lent arrived, and here in France, it brought with it more tasty temptations. I know, traditionally, Lent is a time to do without, but it seems no one has told our local boulangerie that. In our area of France, Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, is celebrated with bugnes, a light doughnut-type delicacy. The weekend before Lent, we treated ourselves to a bugne each when they were tantalisingly left on display at the till at the boulangerie. A week later when we cycled in for coffee and croissants at the market, despite Lent having started, the tempting bugnes were still there and so we treated ourselves once more. Would you believe it, but yesterday, for the third Saturday in a row, the same thing happened? In our defence, the March wind has made cycling quite hard work, and we’ve also taken on another challenge this Lent that has certainly been hard work, both physically and mentally.

French Village Diaries declutter challenge Lent
My Lent declutter challenge, day 4


40 mins a day, for 40 days

Lent is a time to give something up and I have struck gold on an idea to tackle the clutter in a mega Spring clean this Lent. The plan is simple, spend 40 minutes a day, for the 40 days of Lent, and fill one bag of something every day, to be sold, recycled, or donated. By focussing on one cupboard, or set of drawers, or cluttered corner at a time, and setting a time limit, I won’t get too overwhelmed by the task in hand, something I know I’ve had a problem with in the past. I can’t be the only one who has emptied an entire wardrobe onto the bed and then run out of time and energy deciding what stays and what goes, resulting in more piles on the floor than there were before I started, and a job that never seems to get finished.

French Village Diaries declutter challenge Lent
My Lent declutter challenge, day 8


We are now on day twelve and so far, so good. I’ve sorted through and reorganised all my clothes, shoes, cycling gear and handbags, plus the large wicker storage baskets on top of the wardrobes. I am ashamed to admit that these contained more scarves, gloves and shoes than I even remember owning. As each day’s bag has been filled, the contents have been sorted, and I’ve cycled 27km just going back and forth to the recycling point at the end of the village, occasionally adding in a loop around the allotments.


I’m not sure who has been more traumatised by this unusual behaviour, Adrian or the dog. While he has embraced my madness and matched it, clearing a carload of old and obsolete electronics from the dumping ground we once called a dining room, he’s also rolled his eyes more than once at some of my mad ideas. Poor Mini, however is finding it all quite upsetting. Gone is the calm of inactivity she has grown accustomed to, and while she watches suspiciously as we sort through piles and shelves, the minute we start loading the car, or moving bags and boxes out, she is at our heals. “Are you going somewhere? You won’t move house and leave me, will you?”. Poor Mini.


French Village Diaries declutter challenge Lent
Finding a treasure of memories from 2010

Some of our finds have included love letters from over 25yrs ago, an empty pink champagne bottle that neither of us can remember the occasion for which we drank the contents, and a folder full of holiday receipts, maps and the itinerary from our 2010 road trip for Adrian's 40th birthday. 

French Village Diaries declutter challenge Lent
French Entrée Magazine article Mar/Apr 2012

I also found lots of magazine articles going back over ten years where the blog and our life in France were featured (including one about the 2010 road trip). Adrian managed to fill an entire bag with socks he never wears. 

French Village Diaries declutter challenge Lent
A curious find in our curiosity's cabinet

Then there was the dead lizard in our curiosity’s cabinet, and while no one can claim that isn’t a curious thing to have, I’m not sure it’s something we need to hang on to.


Whilst I would love a place for everything and everything tidied away in its place, this exercise has made me realise that the things I put away in cupboards, storage boxes, drawers etc, I don’t use. I’ve always been a fan of the “Less is More” mantra and now I know that the less things I own, the better I function. 


As week three of Lent begins, it’s time to tackle the bookshelves, then the towels and bedding in the laundry room. Wish me luck and if you don’t hear from me, send help, I’m probably trapped under a heap of duvets, lost in a book. 

I’d love to know what is the weirdest thing you have found when having a clearout?