I love travelling, especially in France and especially housesitting. It’s a real adventure led by happenstance. I apply for house sits and I am thrilled when selected to look after their property. The arrangement is that I don’t charge them for my time as a sitter. In exchange I secure free accommodation and enjoy their neighbourhood.
A trip to Provence landed in my lap a while ago. Though a regular visitor for years now I can honestly say that living as a local meant that I found ways of seeing things that I overlooked as a tourist. You really do see more when you are in one place long enough and you have the privilege of a host who will give you the nod about the best views and local know-how.
Why did the homeowners want a live-in housesitter?
In this area of France robberies occur more often these days. And with two cats to care for the owners decided they would prefer to have someone living in to look after their property and pets rather than ship them off to a cattery and hope burglars wouldn’t notice their empty house.
Most vets say that domesticated animals tend to prefer to stay at home, in the environment they know best. They are less anxious and do better health-wise if their routine is maintained consistently. My hosts found that one of their cats suffered from anxiety, and wanted a sitter to be in their home with the cats while they went on holiday.
Caring for the cats
I was to look after a Siamese cat and her kitten. The cats are characters, and just as some Siamese tend to be a little skittish so the kitten was a little nervous. However, they did like company in the evening and after their meal they would both come to sit near me in the main living room curled up together at their own end of the sofa. It was lovely to have their company.
My cat sitting duties meant paying attention to their twice daily feeding times, making sure they had fresh water every day and were both in the house before dusk. The owner was concerned about cars in the road and potential road accidents. More affectionate than my own cat they were actually a joy to look after!
The owners offered me use of a spare room in their villa and a car while they were away, I paid for my own travel and my food in their absence. In exchange I cared for their cats, kept them fed and watered as part of my daily routine. I also made sure that I was in the property every evening by 5pm, I watered the garden and generally made the property look occupied to keep potential prowlers at bay.
Housesitting gave me an opportunity to absorb the region
Another great advantage of being a housesitter is you have to stay in one place, and because you need to remain local you focus your attention on the details that you might otherwise have missed in a whirlwind tourist hop-scotch around the region. The experience of living like a local first made popular by American authors like Hemmingway coming to Europe in the early twentieth century allowed them to absorb the rhythms and rituals of the land, letting the very scent of each place sink in.
My stay in Provence was a delight from beginning to end. My hosts recommended the best views and sights, which vineyards to visit for good and rosé wine of the region, which markets to prioritise and towns to visit. I would never have known that at the public park in Grasse, they spray jasmine scented water to cool the air otherwise.
I loved the linen they had in the house, the table cloths in the kitchen and dining room, tea towels, bed linen. It was brightly coloured and fresh with the spirit of France without being old fashioned. Their wine was delicious so they shared details of vignoble and the very affordable ‘year’ we had been drinking. That’s what house sitting is all about, getting to know about daily life and how the locals live.
The best deal of all
I love the experience of moving into to someone’s home and enjoying the local footprint for a short period, learning about their village and neighbourhood. It can give you a very fresh perspective on your own life even in a well-documented region like Provence.
House sitting is a fair exchange and a wonderful way to travel!