Ever since last week when my article was published in French Property News (the June 2019 issue if you’re interested!) documenting our motivations for and the logistics of moving to France on a budget, I have been the fortunate recipient of dozens of emails from people just like me, asking the question:

“Could I do it too? Could I move to France?”.

Of course this is totally subjective and individual to every circumstance, so I’ve been emailing back and forth with some of those who got in touch to talk about the cost of living, what it’s like to work here, what it’s like to set up a business, socialising, shopping, the house buying process – you name it! I appreciate I haven’t been here that long compared to many of those whom I meet, however the process for doing all of these things remains very fresh in my mind and I hope the information I have shared is useful – at least I know it’s up-to-date!

They described me as “young” – success! 🙂
Some familiar looking pictures here, eep!
Upset not to be included in the article, of course

The other pleasure I’ve had this week has been to start noticing the roses that came over with us from Bristol making their way out into the sun. It feels like such a long time since I last saw them in flower, and so very much has taken place since then. They’re a very welcome reminder of the rhythm of the year and how close we are getting to enjoying our first French summer.

Pink is a popular colour with guests, obviously
The climber without anything yet to climb
Brightest of all

In less fun news, after our escapades moving wood, which took over all of my previous post, I, unfortunately, have been the unwilling recipient of aoûtat bites – we must have disturbed some larvae in the woodpile when we picked up the very seasoned wood in our commune – so these tiny red spiders have very rudely been injecting me with their saliva so as to extra-digest my cells and eat me. As I say, rude.

It looks as though I have provided quite the buffet, as the left side of my waist, chest, back of my neck and stomach are pretty much covered in enormously raised red welts which have been almost unbearably itchy over the last week and a half. Last night I had to liberate a bag of frozen green beans from the freezer and use them as a cold compress to relieve the itch, nine whole days in! Anyway, if you’ve ever had this, I sympathise hugely. The only thing I can compare it to is like the intense healing stage of a tattoo – but for the fact that this has been going on for over a week, and I have no promise of a pretty image afterwards. Still, I have seen my skin turn to colours that I never imagined possible, so there’s that. Merci, France.

Bitten to pieces :s

Back to positives though, I’ve also had the pleasure of reading how our story inspired so many of you to put your houses on the market, and some have already sold! I feel like the UK property market has something to thank me for at this point 🙂 But seriously, to all those who made this brave move, I salute you. It’s not easy to take the first steps to turn a dream into a reality, but if I can do it, anyone can. One step at a time.

Standard weekend lunch al fresco
New garden chairs for doing precisely nothing

As I say to all of those who emailed me and anyone who needs advice about their move,

PLEASE DO EMAIL ME

I read and answer all emails and if I think I can give you some useful information or help, I will.

Our latest addition, this was in the garden when we arrived

Happy French househunting!

Laura x

I’m sitting in the garden as I write this post. It’s 22 degrees in April and I’m sipping a rum and coke while listening to birds singing. I’ve just been and collected wood from the woodshed, though it’s unlikely we’ll need a fire tonight. And much like the content of my posts on Instagram earlier this week, I’m feeling really content.

This is why I moved to France.

Ginger asleep in the garden

Okay, I know I joke about bread being the reason – but really what I was searching for on leboncoin for all those months was the prospect of putting down my worries about life, even if just for some of the time.

I’m not retired, I do work. And as much as I love my job it is work, and I try my hardest to do it well. The years of coasting in my IT career are behind me, and as my own boss I work harder for myself than I ever have before.

But that’s okay, because I choose it.

Im sitting here thinking about what it is that France gives me that has made it so easy for me to find contentment after only four months as a French resident. Part of it is no doubt the beautiful countryside and lovely weather, even in spring. But I think actually it’s the more subtle differences that are impactful – like the fact that every person I meet beyond the threshold of my front door says “bonjour” to me. That neighbours have been so welcoming and polite – stopping to speak or doing favours instead of avoiding eye contact on the front drive or worse – and this happened in Bristol SO much – totally ignoring us even when we said hello. I feel valued here. Even by strangers. I don’t think I have felt that before, which is a terribly sad thing to think when I have lived all over the south of the UK in cities, towns and village settings. Maybe I should have been in the north.

Haute Vienne countryside

My friend visiting last week asked “Is it enough?” referring to our very rural, quiet lifestyle. And I can honestly say, yes it is. I get to spend time with the person that I love every day. We get to eat meals together – something I was never able to do with our conflicting work schedules in Bristol – we have every weekend off. We don’t aspire to spending 24/7 with each other, but it’s nice to have the choice. I get to speak French everyday, something which I have longed to do always. I get to drive on quiet roads, listen to my music really loud. I get to host new friends for dinner and drinks, I get to spend time in my garden and eat outdoors almost every day at the moment. I have my work which gives me purpose and I no longer have a life that I need holidays to escape from.

I really love my life now. It’s not perfect, it never will be. But it’s good enough, and I’ll take that.

Me, feeling very content living in France

We’ve now been in France for just over three months.

We are officially exercising our treaty rights (I would argue we have been since day one, but for the benefit of the unconvinced…). I’m working. More than I thought I would be. Much of my work time is the behind the scenes running of the business – the stuff that doesn’t directly earn money. Be that emailing, tracking, invoicing, researching, marketing – oh and performing. It’s a long list, but it’s great and I love it. I’m incredibly lucky to enjoy what I do and it took me a long time to get here with many a crappy job along the way.

A long list of jobs

So when I’m confronted by the list of jobs that need doing on the new house, some small like putting up a hook, right through to deciding whether or not to convert the grenier (attic) into a whole new floor with the same footprint as the house we currently live in, sometimes the list of jobs feels so long it can be paralysing.

Decisiveness has never been something I’ve struggled with (hello kneejerk reaction to Brexit and a new life in France!), and for better or worse, I am capable of decision making even under the greatest pressure. But this is different, this is like having a hundred options in a sea of decisions and knowing that no matter which one you choose, there will always be 99 more waiting for you to attend to them.

I mentioned this feeling on my Instagram feed this week and it got a big response from people who had shared the same experience upon arriving in a newly adopted country with a home in need of work. It was comforting to all be able to share our experiences and acknowledge that all the jobs will all still be there tomorrow (in a good way) and be sure that to take time for ourselves and enjoy the process is absolutely necessary.

So I’ve had a few days of luxuriating in my decision to do less, which has culminated in a VERY full Friday. I’m not sure if there’s a lesson to be learned here, but I’m definitely noticing lots of things about myself in this new life, my avoidance of certain tasks and how far I’ve come from working pretty much non-stop when we lived in Bristol being just two.

So now, time to move onto my third piece of writing for the day, and one which I thankfully have the weekend to attend to. But with a trip to the cinema and dinner at neighbours’ planned for tomorrow evening I had better get a wriggle on.

A bientôt!

Laura

Even stranger to type!

We’re here, nestled in the Limousin countryside (or Haute Vienne as it’s now known) on this grey Christmas Eve watching films in front of the wood burner, both cats installed in their respective beds of choice.

But let’s go back to just over a week ago, to completion of the sale of our UK home. After sleeping on the floor of our bedroom (having put our beds into storage the day before) we rose knowing that this day would be the culmination of well over six months of effort and stress. The final packing of the car had to be done – including getting the cats into their travel crates and fitting in our last few bits.

Reader, it was horrible.

The big new/old car could not contain the massive amount of things we had hoped (the cat crates were huge, but with such a long journey they needed to be). The night before we had played an interesting game of Tetris with our various possessions and managed to get most in, however we were forced to concede that no plants whatsoever would be able to come with us, and bulky things like our duvet, pillows and blankets, the Hoover and a few boxes from the kitchen would have to stay with our lovely and generous neighbours (who’s house we have filled with stuff and we owe them dearly).

Once that had been attended to we were ready to go, at 8am on the dot. My partner drove the first UK leg and we managed to get to Folkestone for our channel crossing early. By noon we were onboard and enjoying the thrill of knowing that we would only be going one way this time.

Personally I’d never been on Le Shuttle before but it was a perfectly easy and quick experience, if at a pricey £154 for two adults, a car and two cats. We were soon out the other side and crucially, in France.

We stopped briefly for a quick espresso, then drove on to continue our journey. Around 10 hours of shared driving later having passed some gorgeous french countryside we were still driving but soon to arrive out our intended location: our rental gite for the next two months while the purchase of our house goes through.

And that’s where you find me now. Sat in front of the fire about to pour myself a Baileys and watching reruns of River Cottage.

Wishing you all a very Joyeux Noël and I shall have more updates in the next few weeks as we get really settled, and crucially complete the purchase on our french house!

Au revoir!

Laura x

* follow me on Instagram *

Well, that’s a strange thing to type.

By this time next week, I do hope that we shall be on our way to Folkstone to make our planned channel tunnel journey to France. Buying a one-way ticket felt like a big moment. It is a big moment. I’ve been talking to people on Instagram this week about the process and it is a weird feeling now that it all seems as though things are starting to come together.

For so long we were wrapped up in getting the house sold, choosing a house in France, sorting pet passports (!!) and the myriad of other tasks which needed to be correctly and meticulously resolved so that we can move. I think the delays to our exchange happening on the house in the UK became the most intense period of this process. As so much investment of time, energy, hope – and not least money – had already been sunk into working towards this outcome.

Now we are almost there, seven days to go. Our LeShuttle ticket is booked. We all have our passports ready (yes, even the cats). We’ve booked our storage and are working on an inventory. Work for me is over, my partner is finishing the last days of his role. It’s so weird. Brilliant, a relief, but also now a bit scary.

The only time I’ve ever had this feeling before has been in the run-up to my first marriage – where six weeks of intense planning resulted in a very stressful lead up to a brilliant party and overall fantastic day. I remember distinctly though that I didn’t really realise that I was getting married until I sat in the car with my dad, on the way to the ceremony. There has been so much to do, manage and set-up that my consciousness hadn’t had the chance to appreciate the gravity of the situation. I feel that now too.

Except for the fact that this time, I don’t feel fear. And I hope that is because this is the right thing to do for us. That we are going to make changes to our lifestyle so that the things that we currently don’t enjoy in the UK can be put down. And replaced by some of the things that we love in France. Also, it really feels like an adventure. And for me, this is probably the biggest, riskiest, most exciting thing that I have ever done.

So please do wish us luck. We haven’t even tried to see all the people that we love in the UK, and with airfare between Bristol and Limoges being as low as £5.99 with Ryanair for a single ticket, I don’t feel a sense of finality. I know that we will be back. Probably not for a few months while we sort things and move into the new place, but my hope is that this new life gives us both more time for us, for spending with the people that we care about, and for doing the things that are really important to us.

I may not blog again before we go, but I am working hard at becoming more active over on Instagram and started with my ramblings on Instagram stories this week. Do check them out if you’re a fan of inane waffle and predominantly unkempt hair… speaking of which, I just bought a beret because I’m a walking chiché and I couldn’t help myself.

So for now, au revoir!

Laura x