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A family’s experience of moving to France

Girton, Cambridge.  Nice house, good jobs, lovely friends. The most frequent question I’m asked is, ‘Why did you leave the UK?’  The most honest answer is that we left because we could.  I mean, why not? We were happy in Girton, but sometimes it’s a case of wanting to do something different, something a little risky. We wanted to test ourselves in a new and challenging environment.  Give our boys an edge.  Leave pleasant suburbia in favour of the unknown and unexpected. And we wanted more sunshine!

In September 2008 Al (my husband), me and our two boys Harry (12) and Alfie (9) set off in our ageing Rover pulling a loaded trailer bought on eBay, heading for the village of le Gua twenty minutes from the coast in Charente Maritime.

We were making for a gite I’d found on the Internet, where we could bed down and see what living in France was like. The excitement was all pervading that morning, making even the gruelling journey, the awful motorway food and the emergency soggy sandwiches an adventure.

After several hours we were quite tired when we arrived in the village and took the appropriate road out of it, hoping that the gite would not be too far from the shops.  As we surveyed the empty fields, a sign peeked out of the trees and we turned in to O’Malley’s Gites. Al switched off the engine and we took in our new home – a modern, purpose built gite attached to the most beautiful stone house with gardens to die for and a kidney shaped pool.

That’s when we met Monique and Jim for the first time. They came smiling through a side gate, welcomed us and assured us that Keira the German Shepherd and Boo Boo the bouncy Jack Russell would not attack – at least probably not. The boys were sorted!

After a chat and a cup of tea, Jim showed us our accommodation.  Two bedrooms and a kitchen/dining room/lounge complete with wood burning stove.  It was compact, but adequate. What really made the difference were the open views, the donkeys, horses, dogs, cats and of course the hospitality of our landlords.

We unpacked and got the boys to bed before opening an inevitable bottle of wine and cuddling up on the couch, looking out at open countryside, thinking ourselves the luckiest and happiest people in the world.

Of course, reality struck when the boys went to school the very next day, without much of an idea of the language, and Al discovered there was no Internet for his computer – he was still working (remotely) for a UK company. I set to work to have a line installed and came face to face with French bureaucracy. But it was okay. We had a whole range of fabulous and often entertaining experiences ahead of us. Perhaps I might write a book about it!

If you have the urge to seek adventure – just do it, is my advice.

Beverley Spicer is a writer.

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