How two Brits met and changed their lives with a move to France... Chris was a veteran of 30 years in the Metropolitan police, running his own outdoor activity business specializing in mountain biking, walking and climbing, father to three grown-up children and mentor to many more. Charlotte was a classic single “Social Butterfly”, with a ‘Sex and the City’ lifestyle living and working in London, New York and Brighton.
They met through mutual friends on Chris’ 50th birthday and knew immediately it was love. Charlotte says “he proposed on Hove seafront in December 2010 and we had the most wonderful wedding in March 2012 – the ceremony was the most perfect moment of my life”.
Charlotte continues the story: We both had a hankering and had been quietly plotting to live somewhere warmer with a healthier attitude to life. We had different but complementary backgrounds in hospitality, mine corporate and his from his Mountain Adventure UK business, and so the idea to run a chambre d’hôte and cycling business started to germinate. When a large house in a rural area of France metaphorically fell into our laps through a circuitous family connection, it was too good an opportunity to miss. So we took a leap of faith and moved our lives to France in between the wedding and the honeymoon… let’s say it was a tad on the stressful side!
June 2012 saw us arriving in our quintessentially French village of Bussière-Poitevine, in the region of Limousin, to establish Maison Bussière, our chambre d’hôte. We’d heard lurid tales of terminal French bureaucracy, but – once we’d battled floods in the kitchen, me falling down the stairs, Chris impaling himself on the pickaxe and yet more floods in the cellar – we got off comparatively lightly. Within a few months we had all our licenses, websites and social media up and running, and all the scars have healed!
Crucial to our happiness here have been many and varied factors – the villagers have been wonderfully warm, friendly and welcoming. We had seemingly endless weeks of unbroken sunshine last summer and the countryside around us is just so magnificently beautiful. Chris is stoically realistic and keeps us just about afloat whilst I’m absurdly over-enthusiastic and routinely hurl myself into everything with ludicrous gusto.
The village is an absolute delight – a picturesque, authentic, classic French rural village, complete with all the characters you would associate with that. The twice-daily pilgrimage to the boulangerie is a feast for every sense, opening the door is always a special moment and every visitor immediately volunteers to undertake the pilgrimage. Tuesdays are the best day of the week as the village is graced by visits by the affectionately titled Monsieur Legume and Madame Fromage. Their produce is nothing short of spectacularly good, and they give brilliant tips on how to cook each item and they’re incredibly patient with our woeful attempts at French conversation.
The church bells mean nothing. They chime on the hour and again at 5 minutes past, no one has been able to give us a suitable explanation as to why. They go bonkers on Sunday mornings, but few pay any attention as apparently they’ve popped into the Saturday night mass, in order to stay in bed the following morning. It’s a little local quirk, and as the church is 12th century and the building generally revered, no one seems to mind very much that it’s campanologically challenged.
To cycle around here is a joy – wide empty roads with the sun on your back and only sharing the road with three cows and a tractor if it’s rush hour… and naturally with cycling being close to a religion in France, French drivers are deeply respectful of sharing these empty roads. Chris is like a little boy in a sweetie shop cycling the tracks and roads, and running a cycling business; being paid to do what he loves is an added bonus. Even my formerly entrenched stance of ‘you’ll never get me on a bike’ has long been abandoned for leisurely rides through the magnificent countryside – I can be coaxed along for miles on the promise of a lovely picnic with plenty of ripe Camembert on a fresh baguette…
It’s been a leap of faith and required a healthy dollop of patience and humour, but with the help and support of the village, our amazingly patient neighbours and new friends and our families, we’ve carved out a wonderful life here in rural France – and we’re always delighted to share a slice of it!