Bonjour from la belle France!
We’ve been here for a week now and are settling in to our new lifestyle. The trip from Alice Springs to Montlucon was long! The last 5 hours was on the road in our new VW Polo (leased for the 5 1/2 months we’ll be here) – an interesting drive down from Paris on the freeway. We got a bit lost leaving Paris as our GPS got completely disorientated in a tunnel and we ended up going back the way we’d come. A U-turn at a busy intersection in Place d’Italie caught the attention of a group of gendarmes who promptly pulled us over. “Oh, australien!’ when they saw David’s driver’s licence. ‘On est perdu, monsieur,’ I explained, ‘We’re lost’ and they were kind enough to point us in the right direction without giving us a fine!
We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at La Villatte du Bas – having made all the arrangements through a website (Housecarers.com), it was anyone’s guess what we would find here. The owners of the property, Tony and Dee, had taken a huge risk as well in accepting our application to cottage sit. So we were excited to find the property does actually exist, the owners are not axe-murderers and are in fact very nice, the cottage is delightful and the local area, lovely. Tony and Dee were pleased as well to find that we are relatively normal!
The cottage has a living/kitchen/dining area of about 3 x 6m, 3 bedrooms, of which the main one is about 3.5 x 5m, and a bathroom. It’s all made of stone and has a high peaked ceiling with exposed beams. Dee mentioned that when they bought the place the cottage ‘was a pig-sty.’ I thought she meant it was a mess but the next day she pointed out that the main bedroom was where the pigs used to live – it was literally a pig-sty! Next to the cottage is the main house where the owners live and there are a couple of enormous barns which used to house cattle. The property is on 4 – 5 acres, some of which is divided into garden beds, some is grassed, some has been left to its own devices. There is a small town 10 minutes in one direction and Montluçon is about 20 minutes in the other. It’s quite big with a good range of shops and there’s a beautiful medieval part. David’s doing well driving a left-hand drive manual car and has so far managed to stay on the correct side of the road!
We’ve spent this week finding our way around, seeing what’s in the area and doing some of the gardening jobs the owners need to have done. In the coming weeks, we’ll go exploring further afield as well. We had a visit at the weekend from Sylvie and her son Leonard – Sylvie is the teacher who organised homestay for my students when we visited their school in March. She came with a gift she’d found in a local gourmet food shop- a small tin of herbs with the name ‘Melange des Aborigenes – Alice Springs’! It’s apparently a mix of the herbs and spices our local Aborigines use!! That gave us a bit of a laugh. She also solved a problem for us – our fridge had suddenly developed a strong smell. I’d thrown out the cabbage and the blue cheese and wrapped the raspberries in gladwrap but the smell persisted. Sylvie took one look and declared ‘It’s the camembert!’ Sure enough, real French camembert when rather ripe can stink out anything!
The owners of the property here, who are British and in their 60s, are quite inquistive about Australia so we’ve had lots of discussions about the differences between France, England and Oz. They’re fascinated by the fact that we have more deadly and dangerous spiders and animals etc than anywhere in the world. We’re a bit nonchalant about all that but we did get a shock here the other night when a small bat flew in the open window and started doing laps of our lounge. After awhile, we turned off the lights, turned on the outside light and luckily the bat headed for the light and was gone.
I plan to add to our blog each week and will include photos of things we’ve come across. The ones below are of the cottage, the amusing herbs and some of the local area. Hope you enjoy reading! We’d love to hear from you via the comment facility so feel free to ask questions, add comments or tell us what you’re up to.
Chris and David