On the road again... travels with my laptop.
‘On the Road Again’ sang Willie Nelson, and here we are doing exactly that.
Whilst we are not nomadic by any stretch of the imagination, our friends seem to raise an eyebrow and say ‘Again?’ when we mention we are travelling to do a house and pet sit through TrustedHousesitters. I don’t know if their reaction is borne out of our ability to travel outside of the ‘normal’ holiday season. Or because we are self-employed and don’t need to fill in and submit a form to HR six months in advance to be able to take time off? Our flexibility is one of our greatest assets and perhaps a sore point with our friends and family. But… we know how privileged we are.
Every lifestyle choice has its pros and cons (how I love a pros and cons list, well any list really!) Holidaying out of season means lower costs, but it also means not much is open. Restaurants are often found with hand-written notes stating, ‘closed for the week’. The weather can be a bit hit-and-miss, but the further we drive south the greater our luck is in finding that elusive yellow ball of happiness. Have I mentioned that J is solar-powered?
Setting off from the UK we travel via Eurotunnel to France. We are already very lucky as the two days before saw travel chaos when border forces at Folkestone had a security alert and explosives experts were called in after a suspicious vehicle was intercepted by police on Friday, September 8th. A man was detained in connection with the incident. Not only that but there was also an ongoing search for terror suspect Daniel Khalife, who escaped from Wandsworth prison in London on Wednesday 6th. Both of these incidents caused terrible travel delays. By the time we arrived at the terminal on Sunday, the prisoner had been caught, and the traffic tailbacks cleared. It was plain sailing (if you can sail in a car, which is on a train?)
We had allowed enough time to stop off for a night on our way to the south of France and our ultimate house-sitting destination. It was a B&B with a stunning location east of Poitiers, and the rest could not have been more welcome. Why is it there are always a thousand and one things to do before you go on holiday? The owner was finishing cleaning leaves from the patio around the pool dropped from the surrounding trees using an outdoor hoover. Who knew such a thing existed? ‘Oh!’ she cried in dismay, ‘I wanted it to be perfect for your arrival.’ Leaves or no leaves it was picture-perfect. We discovered over breakfast the next morning that the building was a former outpost (not a hunting lodge as my romantic imagination had thought).
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Once she had shown us our room, fantastic tomette tiles, fabulous antiques, cosy lounge room, we installed ourselves on the newly cleaned patio and went about the tough task of doing as little as possible. Rugby is taken very seriously in France and the owner was to see some friends nearby after the match that evening but assured us that she had left our meal ready for us in the dining room. Lighting the candles, she had thoughtfully left for us, we gazed at the feast laid out before us. Simple yet delicious, the meal was elevated by touches such as a silver cloche over the butter, linen napkins and a decorated ceramic jug for the water. We took the last of our wine, sat with our hot feet in the refreshing water of the swimming pool, and star-gazed to the sounds and sights of a barn owl that swooped above our heads. What a wonderful start to our holiday. If you would like to stay there here's the link to the property's website.
On our way to the sit near Cahors, we made a small detour to be able to visit a wonderful couple who we had the privilege of staying with the previous December. Bernard and Noubar run a stunning B&B and will also supply an evening meal if booked ahead. Welcoming and generous hosts if you are anywhere nearby and they have availability you would be foolish not to go there. Hailed in the press as the ‘croissant king’ Noubar’s talents do not end there. The meal we had with them was one of the best dining experiences we have had. I still have the hand-written menu in my office as a reminder. Do yourself a favour, go there, stay awhile, and be rejuvenated. www.maisonnoubar.com
One of our great pleasures is travelling to undiscovered areas. The Lot region in France is one of those places for us. As we approach the house-sit we look around us greedily soaking in the sights. It’s rural but not as flat as areas of the Charente, which we know well. Fields are interspersed with copses of oak, walnut, sweet chestnut and box trees. The buildings have a familiar cream stone in the Périgord style with square turrets, instead of round, topped with dark brown tiled roofs. We spend a relaxing week looking after Mia the cat and exploring the surrounding villages including Montcuq, the market on Sunday is not to be missed. This village is where our homeowners run their successful restaurant, Café de France. It is easy to while away a few hours over a delicious meal under the shade of the magnificent chestnut tree. Walks in this area are abundant and easy to find, they allow you to soak in the restful countryside. This is part of the Camino de Santiago - a network of pilgrims' ways or pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain - and you often see people of all ages burdened with backpacks crisscrossing the signposted gravel routes that intersect with the tarmac roads.
Having a base to call home for a week means I can catch up on some neglected business tasks. As I've mentioned before, being a proofreader means I (hopefully) can work anywhere that has a good internet connection. Most mornings' I dedicated to my freelancing business. Two mornings a week I tried to make sure that I did a workout first! Recently, I have tried to add some weight training or resistance training to my workout. At home, to relax and switch off my mind, I go to a few classes a week. Mostly Zumba and yoga. I feel like they balance each other out well, a sort of Yang and Yin if you will 😏. Since turning 50 *gasp* I have realised I need to do more; after some research, I have added in some weight training. It's a work in progress but I think I can already start to see some benefits. Anyway, back to work... Once I had completed my to-do list, we were free to find somewhere for lunch.
All too soon we must leave Mia and start wending our way homewards. To soften the blow, we have arranged to stay firstly with Paul and Charlotte near Roque Saint-Christophe. We met them four years ago when we were fortunate to look after their flat-coated retrievers, Monty and Rufus through TrustedHousesitters. Since we saw them last, they have created an outstanding holiday home, see their website here. During the holiday season, they vacate their impressive 5 bedroom house and invite guests to live as they do the rest of the year. With a glorious swimming pool, it must be hard for people to get off the sun loungers and experience all that their area has to offer. The awe-inspiring countryside is all around you offering the opportunity to see rock formations that defy the laws of physics and troglodyte sites that defy the imagination. Jason is often called upon to give his expert opinion on gardening matters when we visit friends. This time, he gave a lesson in cloud pruning an olive tree. Another friend of theirs, who happened to be staying with them too, was inspired to create a short YouTube video of J denouncing the need for any health and safety procedures! Link to YouTube video.
After a night of side-splitting laughter over a (new to us) dice game, delicious curry, and just a little alcohol, we had to move on to our next destination with promises not to leave it so long between visits.
Continuing driving up France, we headed to our past.
Julian and Kate are some of our oldest friends - hang on a minute - what I mean is - we’ve known each other a long time! Knowing us since our school days, these are the friends that have all the dirt on you that you try and keep hidden, or at least you try and pretend to have forgotten. Leaving the UK in 2019 they bought a thriving gîte complex perfect for extended families or holidays with a group of friends. Housed in what was once the train station, Old Station Cottages is the perfect base for holidaying in the Dordogne. Between changeovers for their bookings, they welcomed us with open arms, and we were soon reminiscing along with Kate’s parents who were also visiting. Seamlessly integrating us into their family, we were proudly shown new additions. Having adopted a rescue cat and her kitten, Julian and Kate soon realised this abandoned cat was pregnant again! Five adorable kittens arrived not soon after and this buy-one-get-one-free deal was more than they bargained for! However, this is a couple who can rise to any challenge and win.
As we reminisce about the laughter-filled nights spent with old friends and new, we're reminded that the beauty of our lifestyle lies in the connections we make along the way. Our journey is a testament to the friendships that have stood the test of time, and the new bonds forged in unexpected places.
In the end, it's not just about the destinations but the people we meet and the stories we share. Our journey continues, and we look forward to the adventures that await. For us, it's about cherishing the privilege of flexibility and embracing the richness of experiences that life on the road brings.
So, with heavy hearts, it was time to leave again; time to go home to the UK and face our responsibilities; time to plan the next trip?
If you would like to read more about our adventures house-sitting take a look here.
Or, if you would like to talk about how I can help your business or manuscripts through my proofreading services contact me here or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org