It’s hard to believe that we have been living in France for six weeks now. I know that we have been a bit quiet on the blog as we’ve settled in, so it’s time for an update on what we’ve been up to, and how things are going on Our Global Adventure. After all, it’s not every day that you find an Aussie family in France.
Those who have been following Our Global Adventure will know that we came to live here in early September. We’re at a Housesitting opportunity at a Chateau near the city of Chatellerault in Western France. This housesit is probably more like a Wwoofing or Helpx situation, as the owners of the Chateau are still here, working beside us every day.
The work arrangement here is very fair and we are enjoying it very much. There are no start or finish times. Whilst we roughly work 10 – 6 with an hour stop for lunch, this is quite enjoyable, with plenty of time to stop and chat with our French hosts or another Australian couple that are staying here in the Gate House. Our day is also broken up with doing the school drop off and pick-ups, our grocery shopping, baking, washing and other family duties like homework with the kids. If it’s cold and raining outside, we may have a slower start to the day, if I want to spend the afternoon baking a cake, then I do. There are no hard and fast rules about how many hours we do each day.
For the past six weeks we have been involved in a variety of jobs. Simon has enjoyed getting back into some metal work repairing and replacing the gates on the six wells around the property. He has also cut grass, levelled ground and planted more lawn seed. Right now he is enjoying sitting on a small earth mover digging trenches to replace pipes. I have rubbed back and painted a section of fence, done weeding in the vegetable patch and garden, picked all the apples from the orchard, and collected the walnuts to be stored for the Autumn.
We’ve also spent our days visiting a local produce market with an amazing selection of local specialties. The monthly market at Lencloitre sells everything from fruit and vegetables to baked goods, cheese, chickens and ducks, and Simon’s favourite the cured sausages called saucisson. Of course, this is France so a visit to the Boulangerie (bakery) or Patisserie is also a treat. We are lucky enough to have a car to use, shared with the other housesitters staying at the chateau. As autumn has settled in we have also been blessed with Chestnuts falling from trees, (Oscar’s new favourite) and a warm fire to roast them over.
Whilst we are not getting out to explore as much as we did in Ireland, no one seems to mind this slower paced rural lifestyle, (it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s all work and no play!). We have had a few day trips out to nearby towns of Chinon, Saumur and Poitier and also a recent weekend in Paris. Simon and Lucy returned to Dublin for a couple of days as well, for a concert that Lucy had received tickets for as a birthday present.
So what have the children been up to whilst mum and dad are busy maintaining the grounds of a Chateau in the French countryside? You may recall, that the children who have been homeschooled for the past 18 months were enrolled in the local school to attend with the French children here at the property. Whilst all of us entered into this with some trepidation, I am pleased to say that despite speaking barely a word of French when they began, both children are enjoying the experience and learning more French every day. Lucy settled quite quickly. Within a couple of days she was lucky enough to have a couple of girls who spoke a little English take her under their wing. English is the second language of the school (there is also Spanish, German and Latin offered) and there are a couple of kind English Teachers who have also helped Lucy out when language barriers arose. Oscar took a few weeks to settle in. His teacher speaks less English, and there are no English speaking children in his class, so he was quite literally thrown in the deep end! In the beginning there were a few tears in the morning when it all became too much because he’d also picked up a cold at school and was feeling low. But with lots of encouragement he has stuck it out, made some friends and now leaves in the morning, and comes home a happy boy. A saving grace has been that children in primary school in France only attend four days a week. Each week Oscar has Wednesday off (even Lucy only does a half day) and this break has helped Oscar who needs the down-time after a couple of days of brain strain at school! Initially we’d asked the children to give school four weeks before making any decisions about staying or giving it up. Now that we’ve reached the six week mark, and half term break, they are both settled in and happy to return for another six weeks until Christmas.
Which brings us to our plans for Christmas and beyond. At the moment we have requested to stay at the Chateau until January. We are all thoroughly enjoying our stay here, and our gorgeous little farm house is the perfect setting for a warm and cosy French Christmas celebration. We are looking forward to experiencing Christmas markets and tasty sweet treats like Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) and Galette des rois (King’s Cake). Our Christmas dinner will be a mixture of Traditional French and English dishes. Can you tell how much we are enjoying French food?!
As for 2016, well, we are thinking of finally making our way toward the United Kingdom. These months in France without an income will make a dent in our savings, so picking up some work in England is on the cards if we hope to continue travelling beyond that. But, as always, our plans are loose, and we are confident that just the right move will present itself. Right now we are busy looking for another housesit (or similar situation to the one that we are in) in England, so that we can ‘test the waters’ before committing to staying long term in a rental property.
All in all, life is good for this Aussie Family in France. All four of us are happy, relaxed and well settled in. Our Global Adventure took a surprise turn bringing us this way, but it has turned out to be a wonderfully fulfilling experience.