MOVING TO FRANCE
Like many others, we had thought about moving to France for quite a while. When finally the moment came to put action to our words, it was scary. But also very exciting. Was it the perfect time to pack up and leave life as we knew it behind? When is it ever?
Having dreams is blissful. Dreams are easy, glossy fairy tales in which everything is picture perfect. You can revel in your dreams for as long as you want, but at some point you may want to make the dream come true and that’s when reality kicks in. It’s when you discover how feasible or how foolish your dream was.
For us, moving to France just happened.
We wanted this change. We needed a challenge, an adventure, a new experience. We wanted to have a simpler life and a more sustainable existence. We wanted a place where children and grandchildren could escape to from their busy lives. Sure, there were plenty of worries and question marks and quite a few obstacles to overcome, but we were up for it.
We made three one-week-long journeys to France looking for a place to buy. We nearly bought a gorgeous property discovered during our first reconnaissance trip, the most beautiful place. Our offer was accepted and we spent two months and a considerable amount of money on surveys and visits with the children. But at the time of signing the 'compromis de vente' the owners, a French family in dispute, played us out and the sale fell through. It was utterly upsetting and really dented our confidence. But within a month we returned to France to continue our search. Had we left it any later, we may never have moved at all.
All in all we must have viewed more than 30 properties, from the Bourgogne through the Auvergne to the Poitou Charentes. Those weeks of touring around, not knowing what ramshackle, dilapidated, splendid french mansion we would next view, were great. We loved driving through the stunning countryside, having our bread, cheese and wine lunches on the go, listening to stories of all the different hosts we stayed with at night and, most of all, meandering through huge old stone buildings with their ancient floors and fireplaces, their musty smells, discarded furniture and neglected overgrown fields and gardens. There were grand farm houses, small chateaux, manoirs and water mills, with incredible stories connected to each one of them. It was such good fun, the more because we were only halfway up the reality ladder - for at the end of the trip, we could come back to our family and to everything we knew. We were merely looking around, we could still turn back and dream this dream for a bit longer.
But during our third visit, just before finally returning to the UK, we found this picture of a house. And when the big gates opened and we walked into the courtyard, we immediately connected with it. It was perfect - friendly and welcoming, not too big but with plenty of space and scope for our future plans. We made our offer and just a few weeks later contracts were signed. No way back from that point on. We had committed ourselves and life would never be the same again. That was July 2011, see the images below.
And so here we are, in 2021 as I write this.
Town versus tiny village. Easy English banter versus complicated French language. Left versus right on the road. Red-baked brick versus mellow grey stone buildings. Busy street life versus shuttered-up, deserted looking communities. 24-7 Commercial activity versus a sacred two hour midday lunch break. Instant access to every kind of service and supply versus self-dependency and self-reliance. Family life and togetherness versus relative solitude. A HUGE amount of relentless renovation work ahead.
But also space versus crowding. Tranquil green versus concrete jungle. Jubilant bird song, rustling leaves and the sound of flowing water versus car, plane and siren noise pollution. Getting back in touch with nature and finding your own rhythm versus losing yourself in the daily grind of the fast lane. Trillions of stars clearly visible in a pitch dark night sky versus perpetual light pollution. Fresh air. Simple pleasures. A wholesome life.
There are plenty of Moving to France and Life in France stories in bookstores, newspaper and magazine articles or floating around the web. Born from personal circumstances and experiences, each story is different.
In 'Tales from the Divine Valley' we are happy to share some of ours.