The search begins…

So, we arrived at the gîte late Saturday 14th December 2013. We didn’t have much to unpack since the removal lorry wouldn’t arrive until Monday evening. Our neighbours made us welcome with a much-needed cup of tea and gave us some milk for breakfast… UHT 🙁 but still welcome. Wallace hid and we went to bed (more or less, tbh its all a bit of a blur after so long on the road that day).

The next morning the gîte seemed light and airy. The main living room kitchen had a very high ceiling, and gave a great sense of open space. We hadn’t appreciated, at that point, the two aspects that would come to dominate over the next few weeks… the fact that the only windows were velux skylights and that the only heating was a freestanding calor gas fire. Sunday morning and a trolley dash around Super U grabbing random novel looking things though I did remember the milk. French cows produce UHT milk only – that’s why there are pallets and pallets of UHT milk 6 packs – I did manage to locate the handful of semi-skimmed fresh milk hidden amongst the two thousand varieties of cheese.

Gîte near Cherveux,

Gîte near Cherveux, we were in the bit on the right.

Monday, internet access organising and the house surfing recommences. Cat eventually located behind the kitchen units, he dashed upstairs to stay under the bed for the next few days. That evening the removal lorry arrived with an extra trailer (that wasn’t there when they left us!), so big they can barely get up the road let alone park. Anyway, much manoeuvring and traffic cones later the road is successfully blocked for the night!

Lordy lordy but we had a lot of stuff! – we filled up the barn to the roof then proceeded to fill up the gîte. We arranged the boxes in the main spare room by building corridors so we could find anything via our precisely labelled, numbered and computer catalogued boxes. Later in the packing process though the system got a bit lax…  Hence ‘where’s the kettle?’ meant an hour of humping boxes (and not in a good way).

Two days of settling-in and making appointments and Thursday 17th December arrived for our first viewing and, as it turns out, the house we eventually bought but not without checking another 20 houses to make sure. It was a long drive to Haute Vienne, an area we hadn’t previously considered.

Delia had been emailing me properties – quantity depending upon how bored she was at work – for years. And we had actually looked at 5 or so on a holiday back in June 2013 to the south of where we were currently. So why Haute Vienne? Delia’s sports masseuse’s sister was an estate agent in Northern Limousin and she knew someone who had some good housing prospects for us. So obvious really.

1st view of BeaulieuI distinctly remember walking into the house and delighting in the spacious kitchen and the huge main bedroom… Lovely house, good price but not in an area we really wanted. So the search continued (me little knowing it was already over).



Now… Enjoying the Aussie summer. Lots of rellies – survived a 5 hour trip to Geraldton and getting stuck on a sandbar with Uncle David, as well as Boxing day and winning Boules (they called it bocci) and I kept quiet about how big a French sport it is – winning, less because of my (non)acquired native skill but more because my team-mate Peter practised every free moment the previous year just so he could beat his nephews.  We won despite playing against Christine who cheated by playing with excess support (walking frame, spare leg, and transformer-foot à la mode)

Indian Ocean Drive

Indian Ocean Drive – the road to Geraldton


The Launch

Dark early morning, Saturday, December 14th 2013.

Feeling like burglars, unlocking our own front door, through the empty, furniture-less living room to the kitchen, grab Wallace the cat and stuff him into a travel basket. One whinging cat-in-a-box, squeezed into the back seat of the car between cases and boxes of food and we’re off… goodbye to Lindfield, Sussex and the UK, on the start of our French adventure.

It all started, I guess, for me from an early age, with day trips, duty-free plunder trips, field trips and holidays across the English Channel. For Delia, possibly more whimsical imaginings of French lifestyle and culture. Always to be some time in the future, the decision to actually emigrate… for me, finally triggered by the mortgage, the one and a half hour commute and working for increasingly younger idiots – or not! For Delia, a lesson as to what happens when I am bombarded with emails of French properties-for-sale for 5 years. A dream become a reality, something she hadn’t really expected would actually happen.

So, an early morning drive to the Eurotunnel and its car park watching display boards – the terminal aspires to be an airport but actually it is just a small railway station with pretensions. After an unexciting journey through the tunnel we’re off into the Normandy countryside, mostly indistinguishable from the Kent countryside. Uneventful drive south, apart from arguing with the satnav wanting to send us via Paris. We stop at services for a delicious coffee (its illegal in France to sell bad coffee) and onwards, 700km to Cherveux, nibbling junk food as we go, through the day and into the dark.

Why Cherveux? Our research (internet and road trips) had narrowed down to the Poitou-Charente and Northern Aquitaine – our parameters being sunshine hours and property prices. Wanting to rent whilst house hunting, meant a gîte with broadband for a couple of months. Not too many winter rentals so we found ourselves somewhat north of our preferred area but figured we could get around.

A phone call to the neighbour of the gîte owner (who had left for their winter travels south to Morocco) talked us down from the autoroute, past Leclerc hypermarket (pronounced “leclair” not “leclerk” as we found out later and experienced their wonderful éclairs) and eventually through narrow roads to our spaceship and its windows that looked out only onto sky and stars.

Today – no champagne to celebrate our first year in France. Because we’re in Australia. Aus’ is where, 8 years ago I proposed and (as history shows) was accepted. Just had a family gathering with lots of bubbly and where they were all much kinder to me than 8 years ago, no sarcastic pommie jokes – perhaps they’re waiting for Boxing Day?
"Government Lake" in the interior of Rottnest Island “Government Lake” in the interior of Rottnest Island

mother and baby quokka

mother and baby quokka



Welcome to Pat’s Blog. The ‘spaceship’ (the windowless summer gîte) landed on 31/3/2014 when we moved into our Beaulieu house. This blog is about what led up to that and after. Same place, different times and perspective to Spaceship France. Weekly updates, extra background and goings on. How we got here…

by the way, to comment just click the COMMENTS link below each post heading.