La Piscine may well be the death of me. As the title says, all I really wanted was a plunge pool. I am not a swimmer and have never really been comfortable in the water – my husband, on the other hand is a fish. I can’t even go into the shower without a cloth to keep my face dry, so you see my dilemma.
Construction on the house began in January of 2017 and the pool was scheduled for the late spring…then the summer…then October we were first on the schedule. October came and went so I just threw up my hands and said, well, as long as it’s in for the summer of 2018, what does it matter? Problems stemmed from the inability to locate a mason with room in his schedule to getting permit approvals from the maire. In the meanwhile, all landscaping around this side of the property has come to a screeching halt. Had I my choice, I would have waited, but if you want to rent a house in the south of France in the summer, you need a pool.
So on April 13th, 2018, the mason finally showed up to mark out the pool location and where he’d be digging. We discussed some heights and landscaping particulars and the reality of the size and scope of this pool has hit. Looking at the orange lines sprayed on my lawn, I am struck with the fact this pool does not seem to be politely nestling into the landscape, but is dominating it in a big way. Hedges that have been in place almost as long as this house has been here are needing to be decimated and a brand new hedge of bay laurel we had planted last spring for visual privacy that still hasn’t quite fully recovered needs to be removed to allow the back-filling after the excavation of one side of the pool. I was NOT expecting that. The pool contractor has now contacted the landscape contractor – but not only is the entire length of hedge in jeopardy, and we’re talking 12 meters of hedge, but it will also be sitting about 40 centimeters below the pool terrace. For you Americans, that’s roughly 16 inches. Also not ideal. We may be faced with removing our bay laurel hedge we had planted at considerable expense removed and may lose it in the process. Fortunately, I have the weekend to think it over and discuss it with my husband, who is in the United States. On Monday, myself, the pool contractor and the mason will have a meeting to decide what can be done, but I know one thing for certain – the pool we planned is just too big.
April 16th – the long awaited digging begins! The size was adjusted and we altered the design to only have terrace on three sides of the pool to allow our beloved Bay Laurel to remain untouched. I was so excited I phoned my husband in the United States via video chat to share in the moment. With the foundation excavation just over half done, so was the workday with the promise of returning at 8 AM to resume.
April 17th – It is now just past 10 and no mason….the sounds I’ve been hearing all morning are the neighbors rototilling for their spring garden. Finally, he returns a little after 2 PM and all digging resumes! I realize I will need to get used to these late arrivals – when they arrive since I am clearly not their only job. I will say that once the digging has commenced, the pool roars ahead at full speed –
The basic design is this –
The original plan was for a 5×11 meter pool with a 2.5 meter terrace on the long side and 1.5 meter terraces on the other three sides. The pool will have a 1.5 meter section at 45 cm deep, known as a ‘beach’ with the remainder of the pool at just under 2 meters. This allows people to swim laps as well as stand upright and play games. The final size ended up being slightly smaller with the width dropping to 4.5 meters and the length dropping to 10. The beach reduced to 1 meter and the terrace on the left was eliminated with the terrace on the right expanding to 3 meters. As you can see, the size and scale are still quite large!
And for my part – I made certain the afternoon snack known as ‘gouter’ was provided at 4 every day the crew was here. It probably didn’t get the pool done any sooner, but hopefully it made the experience a tiny bit more pleasurable for the workers!
Below shows the foundation going in –
Blocks are delivered and waiting to begin construction of the walls and beach –
Below are some details of the steps and engineering of the rebar – If I haven’t said this enough, the level of craftsmanship here is to be admired.
As the walls near their height completion, the filtration system is installed and the interior faces are parged and readied for liners. There will be a layer of padding, then the vinyl liner over that.
The terraces could now begin. Because of the particular method this mason uses with continuous metal rebar, they were able to prepare and pour the terraces immediately. The ground is leveled and compacted, then a layer of sandy material is laid. Holes are bored and filled with concrete pilings – over that is a fabric membrane, then metal grid, edging, and the concrete is finally poured. I have fabulous video of this process, but they do not seem to want to load on this site.
Alas, by mid-May it was time for my departure for the United States. I would not see the completion – in fact, the house was scheduled for our first renter July 4th and they would be the very first to enjoy the fruit of our labors. If you’ve not been in this area in May, it is bursting with life, grape clusters are setting, the hillsides are rich with the tapestry of the wines of the region, my roses were in full bloom – as were many other species, and even my few little grape vines, although no longer fruit bearing, looked full of possibility. I was disappointed to not see the pool completed much less have the opportunity to dip into it, but I was full with anticipation of my return and ready to head back to the States.
I returned mid-September to finally get to see the finished pool and begin accessorizing a bit with planters, cushions and additional landscaping. It was also discovered there were three missing roof tiles, so the timing couldn’t have been better to get that resolved before winter and its eventual rainy season. Fortunately, the summer had been somewhat dry – bad for the grass and plantings, but very good for someone with a hole in their roof! It was also an opportunity to harvest my first little crop of lavender which I did with relish.
The final product was more than I could have hoped for – I spent nearly every afternoon soaking up the afternoon sun, swimming in the pool, marveling at the delicate spicy scent of the bay laurel along the length of the pool, and simply bathing in the tranquil and restorative setting we had created – whether reading a book or sipping a glass of wine, it became my treasured time of each day.
And remember that padding I mentioned? The bottom of the pool is soft to the foot – really lovely.
While the development of the landscaping will be ongoing for some time, one of the things I wanted were three cypress type plantings along this wall to help frame the focal seating area at the end of the pool. The roses along this wall are very, very old and many doing poorly, so the best solution will be to remove the ailing and replant. The large blue jardinières will hold palms when spring breaks this year and they become available. Right now we’re trying to find those that will weather well in a container.
And, of course, given this is LaRoseraie, we will continue to replant roses wherever we can!