There’s so much to tell, I don’t quite know where to begin, so first of all, I would like to send everyone all the best wishes for 2015. We may not have sent any Christmas cards or presents, but we had the most amazing Christmas dinner and luckily for the kids, Santa was able to deliver all the presents safely to our new house, be it at the end of a hamlet, tucked away in the Aveyron countryside.
For me, leaving Chamonix brought mixed emotions, in fact it proved to be quite difficult to say goodbye to my friends, neighbours and colleagues, who have been a part of my life for the past seven years. For those of you that gave me goodbye gifts, I was touched, and your words of encouragement meant so much to me. There is no doubt that I will see many of you again and I am glad to be able to share some of our adventures with you through this blog. I hope it can inspire people to follow their dreams and prove just how far you can get on a small budget and a big ambition.
The move itself was pretty stressful, but not for me particularly. I stayed in Chamonix with the kids. My only concerns were whether everything would fit in the 20m3 hire van, that it wouldn’t topple over under the weight, and that the roads would be free of snow. As you probably already know, the snow stayed well away from us, as it did from the masses of holiday-makers who had paid full price to spend Christmas week in one of the Alps’ best ski resorts. I must say a huge thank you to our very good friend, David, for the immense driving skills involved in getting our worldly possessions (and Pete) from A to B, on a wet, windy and tiresome journey, only to be met by ankle-deep mud, a non-existent water supply and a relentless clanking of old pipework that for some, would easily serve as a sleep deprivation torture method.
Just so you know, the water meter was installed the day after, the mud has since frozen over and will most likely be gravelled over in the spring to make some sort of drive way, and as for the vibrating heating pipes, we can only assume it is the ghost of the past inhabitant staking his claim on the property. We have tried wedging Duplo bricks down the gap, hanging make-shift weights to increase the tension and even drinking copious amounts of alcohol in a bid to sleep through the noise…but if all else fails, we may just have to give in for once and call the plumber!
So I’ve already covered some of the negatives we’ve experienced since our move. To add to these, on Christmas Eve we spent over five hours travelling around in the car desperately searching for a new oven, just so we could cook anything but boiled veg on Christmas Day. The day also involved hiring a van, so we could travel miles out of our way to purchase a second-hand fridge freezer. For five days, we had managed to get by without one, but there is only so much Pasta Pesto one girl can eat, so it was quite a luxury to go food shopping on the evening of the 24th, and to try to fill our beast of a bargain fridge freezer with tasty treats. Our final purchase arrived two days ago, and has been running continuously ever since…I am so proud of my new washing machine that on a couple of occasions, Pete’s even caught me watching it mid-cyle, mesmerized by its flashing lights, musical notes and extremely quiet purring sound. All I can say is, it beats watching paint dry! Speaking of which, Pete has made enormous progress on the house. He has already painted the lounge, hall way and front bedroom, and put up all the pictures and fittings, to the point that we were able to sit down and enjoy Christmas from the comfort of our very own living room.
Which brings me on to the positive aspects of our move…
The strikingly obvious one is the setting. While snow finally arrived in abundance in the Alps, we have been enjoying crisp, frosty mornings, with cloudless sunny skies and beautiful countryside backdrops. The peace and quiet is such a tonic and any worries we may have seem to disappear when we listen to the birds singing in the garden and take a breath of fresh country air.
We’re enjoying having more space and freedom, room for the kids to run about, more storage for everything from toys, to bedding to garden equipment. We are currently living quite comfortably on the ground floor, but we know we will eventually have nearly double the amount of floor space upstairs and outside on the veranda, which remains to be built by Pete’s careful hands. He has already sourced out a local depot where he can have free (and legal) access to reclaimed materials, such as wood and metals.
To date, we have met only one of our five neighbours, but he has been very helpful and friendly, always there when you need a piece of sandpaper on a Sunday shop closure day for example. We’re not quite accustomed to the 2-hour daily opening times of the village post office yet nor the limited opening hours of local supermarkets and DIY stores, but I am sure we will get used to it.
We were pleasantly surprised to find a genuine wood parquet floor under the living room lino, which should look amazing when sanded down, but the biggest bonus has to be our recently granted access to the well of the adjacent farm house, so we will be able to put in place an irrigation system to water the garden. The prompt installation of our phone line and the existence of high speed Internet on our hamlet after all assures us that we are not cut off entirely from civilisation.
I don’t have any regrets about quitting my job and leaving it all behind, but even that depends on how you look at it. As far as I’m concerned, we’ve not really left anything behind at all, instead we are taking with us such great memories as we continue our journey to a new place, where we will begin this new chapter and have many more adventures to come.