OK, not everyone decides to give up their jobs, sell up in the UK and move to France to set up a bed and breakfast (Chambre D'Hote) but we have decided to. The truth is that the UK was not feeling like the place we knew and loved - politics, the economy, our age and in particular our rubbish pension pots....all added to the growing sense of frustration and doom that had never hit us before. Maybe it was age, maybe Brexit, maybe things really are changing for the worse - probably a mix of all three but we felt at home in Normandy from the minute we visited and decided to buy a Gite to rent out there.
So 18 months later, one redundancy (me) and one resignation (Amanda, my wife) and we were on our way. With our French neighbours help we got Jakey our 8 year old son into the local primary school in Domfront, and with our estate agent Lyn's help we were connected to her bottomless list of tradespeople & in depth knowledge of the French way of life that was truly a "hack" ie a shortcut to success.
So day one on the 28th September 2019 was hectic. Leading up to this, we had pared down the furniture and other belongings, packed them all up & got them ready. Jakey and Amanda had to leave a couple of days before so that he could start school - they start earlier in France than the UK having had a longer summer holiday. Back to moving day, we had gone with a company in Folkstone that transported everything by Luton Van to keep the costs down. We were protecting every penny in order to be able to invest in our B&B!
We were promised 3 vans in succession from 8am in the morning....the first arrived at midday. The second then arrived at 4.30pm and the final one at 8.30pm - it was a true wide awake nightmare!! On top of this I needed to set off for France that night to meet the removal vans at the other end. I finally got on the Le Shuttle at 9.40pm meaning a 4am arrival at our new home. On the way down in the pitch black it looked very different to our normal day time trips. I stopped at a motorway service for a swift respite - it was like a phonebox scene out of a Stephen King movie - down lights and strange music with no privacy - very French but I wasn't in an appreciative frame of mind at that point! My sat nav system then decided it would lose its way - how did that happen?? 40km later (& unrepeatable load swearing on my behalf) in the middle of nowhere, the sat nav refound its way - I never carry maps these days and instantly regretted it!!
Finally, I arrived at La Bouyardiere at 4.15am in a semi dream - staggered in with a few essentials from the car, got myself a large glass of water and crashed out in bed. In the morning I felt like a train had hit me, but the first van arrived to deliver our first load. The Polish driver was very helpful although he spoke no English but we seemed to have an understanding which at least counts for something! Then I called the removal people to find out that the second load would not arrive until Saturday - 2 days after it left the UK.... On top of this I realised that I couldn't find my car keys. I definitely had them on me when I had arrived but hadn't seen them since. I called the Green Flag service having been unable to find the keys - the chap who was not amazingly positive about the whole experience expertly broke into my car with surprisingly little damage, mostly with his backside almost showing itself to any bystanders - not a pretty sight. Still didn't have the keys though...
Decided to start the lawnmower to make sure it still worked following the journey - as I started to cut the grass I noticed something glimmering next to a pile of our Labradoodles' toys. It was the car keys! The retriever in him must have made him collect the keys and drop them with his pile of personal belongings - quite a relief from both the finding point of view not the not having lawn mowered the keys into oblivion!
Our second truck arrived on the Saturday and the drive who had remarkably few teeth and more than a little body odour was helpful but appeared to be on the edge of a heart attack during the whole unloading process. This effectively meant that myself, Amanda and our friend Jo had to move all the large items and boxes between us. This could with the wide front door lock jamming meant filling the outbuildings and cellar with stuff....and there was one more load to come!
I have to say that between our neighbours, Lyn the estate agent and the fantastic local school we were able to get the first few days cracked in terms of success despite the setbacks we encountered along the way - on wards and upwards!