Introduction


November 2013

We have a dream…
January 2014

Bonjour, je m’appelle Lisa. I’m two days shy of my 33rd birthday and I am starting to worry about my future! And it’s not even my future that worries me, but that of my children…and my children’s children. Right now, I want what every parent wants…to create the best life possible for my family. 11 years ago, and without even knowing it at the time, I took the first step to “la belle vie” when I moved to France.

So why France ?

I was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire and was lucky enough to go on family camping holidays as a child on the west coast of France. Ok, so we were staying in a tent, but to me, it was the “good life”, which did not even compare with life back in UK. It was outdoor living at its best, sitting around a large table on a warm, Spring Bank evening, enjoying the sunset and swatting mosquitoes. I can still smell the citronella candles! It brought a whole new social aspect to mealtimes which we just didn’t get back home, and it made me suddenly aware of the importance of family values, which we try to pass on to our children today. We now insist that mealtimes are enjoyed at the table, all together, and we try to eat outside as much as possible, to take in the very essence of French living.

I studied French at Leeds University, which meant I got to spend 7 months in my third year teaching English in France. I was placed at a lycée in Moûtiers, on the doorstep to the 3 valleys in the French alps, and although I didn’t ski at the time, I found that living in a small alpine village definitely had its advantages when trying to grasp the French language. I decided to stay in France as a holiday rep for the summer season, before returning to the UK for my final year of studies. It was during this summer season of 2002 on a large campsite near Antibes, on the French Riviera, that I met my future husband, Pete.

People are always asking me if I am married to a Frenchman, and although it would have been the easiest way of getting on to the ‘French system’, I enjoy telling them I married a man from Manchester, as English as they come, and that we spent a good few years integrating ourselves into French society with many struggles and paperwork along the way. French admin and bureaucracy are undoubtedly the biggest obstacles to deal with when moving to France. In the beginning, we kept asking ourselves, is living in France really worth all the hassle? We spent hours and hours filling out forms, photocopying passports and various other documents and that was just to open a phone line! You just have to learn to accept that this is how it is in France, and once you grasp this mentality, you can take it all in your stride.

Having had absolutely no training in any Hotellerie school, we started off working on a campsite and then went on to work in hotels in Savoie, Haute Savoie and Haute Loire, starting with 2-star and working our way up to 5-star. We now both work in the hotel and tourism industry, on full time contracts for French companies in the resort of Chamonix, in the French alps. We pay French tax and a considerable proportion of our wages go towards social security contributions and the like. We have a 3 year old daughter who goes to nursery and an 18-month old son who goes to creche.

We rent a beautiful 3-bedroom apartment in a large chalet, with a private garden facing the astounding Mont Blanc range. By now you must surely be wondering why on earth, we would want to give all this up and move somewhere else …

Like all other things, it comes down to the money issue. We’re both working long shifts and hardly get to see each other or spend time as a family. So why is this different from any of the other families out there with two working parents ? With the cost of living so expensive in Chamonix, and accommodation rental costs being through the roof (pardon the pun), we just can’t put any money away for our future and it has come to the point where we have had to make the ‘now or never’ decision. We can continue working hard to live this comfortable lifestyle in a truly beautiful area for the next thirty years, but have nothing to show at the end of it… or we can move to an affordable area of France, where we can buy our own property with a bit of land to grow some fruit and veg and a little herb garden, and generally get back to basics.

So, we’ve decided to go with the second option, but when we move, we want to make a life-style change at the same time. We don’t want our children to be caught up in the modern technological age as it is going, we want them to understand and enjoy nature and their environment; to chase chickens around the garden and help their papa dig up potatoes from the allotment, as opposed to whinging that the Ipad is flat or heaven-forbid, broken! It will be our approach to a somewhat substainable life, but in the modern world. We don’t want to be cut off from society, this is not our objective. Ideally we want to live close to a village or town, where we can still both work full time, where the kids can go to school and where the climate will be kind to us, especially in our old age. And so, our adventure begins…

 

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5 thoughts on “Introduction

  1. I can entirely relate to this Lisa. I think there just comes a point where you have to bite the bullet and make a conscious decision about where you want your children to grow up, and it has taken me until now to know what we really want for them. Although growing up in Bradford wasn’t exactly rural living (!) and I don’t remember having easy access to woodlands, beaches, etc, I have now decided that I’d like the girls to have a childhood similar to my husband’s. He grew up in Scotland and his parents regularly took him and his sisters on walks, sailing trips, camping expeditions, and he ended up completing a degree in outdoor education and becoming an outdoor activity instructor. He has spent most of his adult life teaching windsurfing, climbing, skiing and sailing, so it’s natural for him to want to impart his knowledge onto his kids. Outdoor pursuits don’t naturally appeal to me, truth be told, (never was the sporty type!) but I love wildlife, and with more and more technology in our lives I think it is so important to introduce our children to the natural world, not manicured forest parks, but the wild. It would be so easy to stay here in Torquay, and I’m sure you feel the same about Chamonix, but I think making the decision and then making it happen is a hugely positive move for your family. As I said, it can take a while to know what’s right, but once you know then you have to go for it, otherwise you might risk spending many years wondering ‘what if…?’.

  2. Hi Alexis,
    Thanks for the encouragement, it’s definitely not an easy decision to make, especially when you’ve got a family to think of. Here in Chamonix, our jobs provide us with security and it has taken us an awfully long time to get where we are, but when routine sets in, the days roll into weeks and the weeks roll into years, it suddenly dawns on you that it is time to experience something new and leave that comfort zone which you have come to rely on.
    It sounds like you’ve made a similar decision, and although in the beginning it might seem like you’re starting all over again, finding a job, meeting new people and making new friends, it’s the thrill and excitement of breaking away from your old routine that draws you forward in the search of adventure and new experiences. As I get older, the unknown terrifies me, but the thought of completely changing my life around for the better gives me a giddy feeling in my stomach, almost like approaching the top of a roller coaster…you just know it’s worth the climb. Good luck with the move, let me know how you get on! X

  3. actually got to reading your blog Lisa, having been able able to relate to part for your journey with Pete and Madeleine and Alexander.Seen you both struggle along the way with lack of money,and jobs,but you both stuck in there getting better and better, and stronger.We are so proud of you both,following your dream,for a better life,and I know you will achieve your goal,with your beautiful children.Love you all loads and loads.Iam looking forward to t he next chapter.

  4. Hallo Lisa, It is Christmas morning 2015 when I write this, via EmmaSarahTennants beekeepers site then to Eddy Winko’s straw house in Poland I found your site. First I was reading the latest posts because I started at the top. What you write is so buoyant that I got hooked and thought I’d better go to the beginning of this story which is here. I am a bio-dynamic beekeeper in the North East of The Netherlands. I was born in Wallasey, Cheshire in When I was 18 I left England to travel and I ended up in The Netherlands. My blog is at Noordbijbees.com. I agree wholeheartedly with the brave steps you have taken and I wish you today and every other day good luck, love and blessings in all your endeavours. Lindy Lou

    • Hello Lindy Lou, I am so pleased to learn that you are enjoying my blog. What started as a monthly summary, mainly to keep our family and friends up-to-date, has turned into a new hobby, reaching a wider audience and hopefully encouraging others to live their dreams. I have had a read of your blog too and it is extremely interesting. Beekeeping is something we might like to get into in the future, but we are busy concentrating on our house and vegetable garden for the moment. We’ve had to learn to prioritise, keeping our family warm and comfortable has been the most important goal of the year. As for the bees, we are very lucky to have a beautiful old linden tree in our garden (known as a lime tree in Britain), which is buzzing with activity during the flowering season. We understand the fundamental importance of bees to our ecosystem and their humming in the summer months is pure music to our ears! Keep up the good work and I’ll be sure to follow your progress. Best wishes for 2016. Lisa

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