We had just crossed France, and stopped by a country inn to check for rooms. Nothing available, but I have this friend a ways down the road…
These word the first words in the spell invoking an adventure. Some of the roads narrowed to country lanes so narrow that two Smart cars could not pass each other. When he added, “it’s in Moulis…” we were assured. Not only did we know the area somewhat, but it was in the direction we were traveling.
It turns out that the Chambre d’Hotes – Bed & Breakfast – was a converted mill right of the main road into Moulis, if “main” means anything here. Moulis is a small wine region in the Bordeaux appellation, next to Pauillac.
The building had recently been renovated and the rooms had been transformed into modern, spacious accommodations. They still had the typical complicated European shower that unless deftly manipulated could surprise with sudden jets of water, ejected with enough force to cross the room and hit the far wall about 10 meters away. Yeah, that’s far.
Enough about the lodgings. This being a landscape design blog, we’ll ignore the quality of the jam and the pétrissage du pain.
Remember that this is France, where things like lawn and bamboo grow on natural rainfall, without supplemental water. The bamboo in this case is next to a stream where it can soak its roots, sucking up as much water as it wants. So this would not exactly be a water conserving garden back in California – nor in Southern, Mediterranean France.
The paving is simply stone tiles, probably not meant for installation without a concrete base, since they’re cracking. It looks like someone just scraped away some lawn and placed them on the ground, although there could be a compacted sand base. To this, they added a metal table and chairs. Put out some place mats, cups, saucers, silverware and jam and done.
A shallow creek runs between the patio area and the road, a thicket of whatever grew there combined with a bit more bamboo. The building itself provides shade in the morning; a nearby tree takes over in the afternoon. There is no overhead structure, nothing beyond a few minimal elements like a potted plant at one corner of the patio – yet the space works well and feels comfortable.
I’d probably do things differently under the background trees. I’d add native shrubs, do a bit more in the habitat department, transition the lawn to meadow for both lower maintenance and habitat – but that’s all just planting. The hardscape does what it needs to, simply, directly and without pretense.