It’s exactly twelve months since we arrived in south west France with a car packed full of clothes, personal possessions, important documents, an air bed, duvet and pillows plus three house plants which couldn’t be left in storage with the rest of our worldly goods.
We arrived in Calais on an early morning euro tunnel train and drove south for twelve hours to our temporary home, a beautiful gite near Fumel in the Lot-et-Garonne region which we were renting from a British couple who have since become good friends. The reason for renting was that there had been a delay in completing on our new home and we had given up our London apartment so, for the foreseeable future, we needed somewhere to live until the last minute glitches with our French purchase could be ironed out. Little did we know then that it would take two months to resolve things before we could move into La Banne, our new dream home.
We put those two months to good use, or rather used it as an unexpected extended holiday! We explored the region and got in as many visits to the new home as we could before the previous owners vacated it in late October, leaving La Banne empty until we finally took ownership. One such visit included a lesson on how to close down the heated swimming pool, pretty essential given we had never owned a pool and needed to learn as much as we could before the previous owners departed. That said, when it came to reopening the pool six months later, neither of us could remember much and, daunted by the fact that we might do some serious and costly damage by turning the wrong valve or opening the wrong pipe, we hired someone to bring the pool back to life after its winter hibernation.
Most days we went for walks in beautiful Lot and Dordogne countryside, spent time sitting by the river watching tree filled forests transform into a golden glow of autumnal colours made even more brillant by a backdrop of clear blue skies which stretched for miles, and enjoyed long lunches experiencing rustic local French cuisine. We visited markets; autumn village fairs celebrating local produce ranging from chestnuts to mouth watering chocolate creations of all shapes and sizes; toured around medieval châteaux; attended an exceptionally moving Armistice day service in the village of Villefranche-du-Perigord and generally immersed ourself into the French way of life.
Important ‘research’, we said, but above all a fun packed introduction to the country and region we had chosen to be our new home.