It’s funny how things don’t always turn out how you thought they would. Twelve months ago we never would have considered that Our Global Adventure would find us living in the French countryside, but here we are. Originally we thought that we would start our adventure in the United Kingdom, but then Visa issues for Simon had us in Ireland instead. Whilst in Ireland we thought that the next leg of our journey would be to England for sure, (having cleared up visa issues) but then this opportunity to live in France popped up, and well Voilà! Here we are. Bonjour!
A few months ago, another travelling family shared a link to Facebook. It was a post on Trusted Housesitters Website from a French family looking for an English speaking family to come and live and work with them at their property in the Poitou-Charentes region of France. The post specifically requested that there applicants must have a child/children, as the family like their own children to practice their English speaking skills with others regularly. It also stated that applicants should have experience with gardening, maintenance and renovations. The Aussie travelling family that shared the post, said that it wasn’t suitable for them, but wondered if it would be a good opportunity for others.
As I read through the post on Trusted Housesitters, I just knew we should give it a shot. We’d had an amazing experience housesitting in Australia and our children, Lucy and Oscar, are both within 12 months of age of the girl and boy from the French family. Also, Simon and I were both confident that we had skills that could be of use to a family with a large garden and Château to care for. We’d have our own little farmhouse to live in, but still have the opportunity to mix daily with French and English speakers to improve our own French. Sure enough, after making an initial application, we were soon Skyping with our French hosts, and making plans to come at the end of summer.
Our children were even invited to attend school with our host’s children, to help them learn French and give them the opportunity to mix with others. At first we were worried about how two Aussie kids, who had been homeschooled for the past 18 months would take to going back to school, in France! However, two weeks in, I am pleased to report that we are absolutely blown away by our kids. They are really giving it their best shot. Despite not understanding much of what they hear each day they are enjoying going to school and come home full of tales about the new things that they encounter, learn, and the friends that they are making. The school has been very supportive, and accepted our children knowing it will not be for the full school year, and that our aim is for the children to learn French and mix with other kids, not to necessarily progress academically in each of the usual subjects being taught.
The Château that we are living at is called La Barbeliniere. It is within a couple of kilometres of a village called Thuré, and just 15 minutes from the town of Châtellerault, and about 200km from Paris. From medieval times, Châtellerault was known for its cutlery and sword making industry, and in 1816 the town became a centre for arms manufacture for the French government. Later, car manufacturing employed many of the town’s inhabitants.
The Château sits on a hill, overlooking the village of Thuré. It is located in a 5 acre park with a dovecote, a caretaker’s House, gatehouse, coach-house and many wonderful barns and farm buildings. La Barbeliniere itself includes an orangery, a chapel (still both in need of restoration) and many bedrooms for guests. The dining room is the oldest in the Château, dating back to the 15th century. Over the centuries, many other extensions and changes were made, including the current external façade that dates back to the early 19th century.
There are lots of ongoing maintenance and restoration jobs happening at La Barbeliniere. Since arriving a couple of weeks ago, we have been working with the owners, and another Australian couple staying in the gatehouse, on weeding, painting, earth moving, repairing fences and collecting fruit and vegetables from the garden. We have enjoyed working outside in the sunshine, and the work is not overly strenuous or difficult. Everyone works to their own skill level at tasks that they are suited to, for flexible hours throughout the week. Simon has enjoyed driving tractors and earthmoving equipment, and getting back into welding and metal work, whereas I have been rubbing back metal fence posts and giving them a fresh lick of paint and weeding the garden.
So far, we are enjoying it very much here in France. The weather has been glorious, as we caught the last couple of weeks of summer, (although recently rain and a chill in the air tells us that autumn is just around the corner). And of course, the food is living up to our fond memories of travelling in France years ago, the cheese, wine, breads and pastries are all divine! The people we are working with and our hosts are all wonderfully welcoming and friendly and we’re all making a little headway in learning French. We are not sure exactly how long we will stay here (we’ve learnt that the best laid plans often change anyway!) but at the moment have committed to 3-4 months to see how we all settle in and how well we are received… after that, who knows? Maybe we will make it to England next after all, but right now this Aussie family is happy to call France home, at least for a little while 😉