There is often a time in life when all things collide to form one BIG moment and I think my “Footpath to France” has hit that moment.
We had to take another trip to Normandy for me to finally meet the owner, see the Chateau and finalise a few things. We were going to go for the day when he emailed to say that we were more than welcome to stay in the other house that he rents out, the five bedroom-ed farmhouse so once again, we packed up the mutts, a suitcase etc and set off. I think this time we knew where we were going and could relax a little and take in the scenery into Haute or High Normandy. It is absolutely stunning. They say Brittany is a little wild with a harsher landscape at times and someone described it a a bit more like Cornwall ( not that I’ve been to Cornwall, the Dear One says that there aren’t as many trees in Cornwall so I can’t really compare) and if I stick to that similarity, then I would have to say that Normandy is a combination of Somerset (full of orchards), the lake District (full of Lakes …obviously) and the Midlands of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. It has a greenness, a serenity and a softness to it that is breathtaking and the country roads are arched in with green and gold trees forming a tunnel of foliage. Little tudo houses nestle in the valleys and as I mentioned before, because Normandy is “cream and cheese county”, lazy cows dot the landscape “en mass”.
The ride was good for the soul. For some reason the whole prospect of moving, as exciting as it all is, seems more of an upheaval that it should be which is all exacerbated by a large dose of homesickness as winter draws in. It’s ridiculous really because we are starting the opportunity of a lifetime. The Chateau and it’s grounds are beautiful…they need a little love and a little TLC but that’s what we’re there for. No sooner had we arrived and met the owner, when we were told the story that seems to have stressed him out totally. The current caretakers seem to have gone a little nutty and are refusing to do some things while, on the other hand, are doing very strange things that were never asked of them. As it stands at the moment, they are refusing to do anything at all. So someone has to take care of the poor holiday makers arriving from America next week. Enter us. To cut a long story short, it involved staying a few days to quickly learn the layout of everything and get keys, come back to Epiniac to get a few things, go back tomorrow to Normandy to stay in the farmhouse until the 21st when the visitors arrive to live in all three areas, Chateau, Farmhouse and Pool house, comeback to Epiniac to pack u the last of our stuff (we now have stuff on three continents!) and go back to stay for good on the 29th. The current caretakers have totally messed up the caretakers cottage so we will stay in the pool house while everything is re-done..and this time we have the owners word. He needs us, he’s never there and it’s in his best interests to make us a happy as possible. Judging by the rest of the grounds, the place is totally loved and cared for.
To put it mildly, I feel like a yo-yo gypsy….. a homesick yo-yo gypsy who is part terrified out of her wits and part REALLY excited! We took a drive 10 minutes north of Chateau du Mont to the coast and the town of Honfleur.
Because this area is near one of France’s busiest ports – Rouen (where Joan of Arc was executed), Le Havre, which sits on the Seine and is only 90 minutes from Paris, it’s towns are almost a Parisian extension – chic, smart and full of fashion conscious people sipping coffee in quaint shops. Honfleur is stunning. A real port town with tons of character – no wonder Monet and his artist cronies painted here so often…and of course, Monet’s Garden at Giverney is only about 40 minutes drive from the Chateau. Just down the road from Honfleur – along the “Flower Coast”, you come to Deauville – another beautiful coastal town which hosts the annual American Film festival. Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, George Clooney (yay) and many others have frequently been seen strutting along the cobbled streets during the three weeks in September when the place basically turns into a small “Hollywood”.
It’s also a horsey lovers area – filled with racecourses, equestrian centers and polo fields. The area along this coast has a vibe I’ve only seen and felt in Paris and it’ll be quite exciting to see it during the Spring and Summer. Because of it all being along the coast, the inhabitants are used to foreigners and all seem pretty welcoming and open minded. There are a lot of English speaking people living in the area as well. One thing I won’t be short of is some smart retail therapy if ever it’s needed!
I’ve attached a few pics of Chateau Du Mont and the Farmhouse which is our home for the moment but can be rented out separately from the Chateau during the Summer. The Chateau seems to have had quite a history, was first build around the 1600’s, was occupied during the war by the Germans (it’s not far from all the D-Day beaches) and in it’s current state has been stayed in by some unusual people – the Aga Khan, The Dalai Lama and the Beckhams…not that they’re unusual but…you know what I mean!
Most of the guests of the Estate come from the USA, UK and surprisingly – Russia. Apart from keeping an eye on the them, welcoming them and answering all of their questions (which means we have to know the answers – eek!) we are basically free to take care of the gardens and make sure everything looks nice and is well maintained. Full-time work hours in France are 35 hours a week and I only have to work 3 hours a day so I’m a happy person. We’re then free to build up a business on the shoulders of the Chateau guests if we want to – cooking for them, offering a picnic in the grounds, taking them to see some sights, the Dear one can take them fly-fishing….and of course we can set aside time during the week and evenings to say we’er not available which is pretty cool.
It’s all a little daunting, but the unknown so often is. I keep asking myself whether I would swap the opportunity to go back and settle in familiar territory…and if I did…would I kick myself later….and I think – if I’m very honest with myself, despite the unexpected ache for home and having a “coffee” with my sister or a friend, the path ahead is something I just HAVE to walk down – and I’ll walk it with the Dear One and the mutts.
I think it’s going to be ok.
You’re all in my thoughts
A la prochiane