Our First Three Months in France
Somehow it seems that two months have elapsed since my last update on France. We have now been in France for three months! If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you would have seen that our journey has most definitely not been straightforward… but I’m going to try and recap the past two months for you.
The Bristol House
I’m just going to brush over this one quickly because it’s just so frustrating (and upsetting!). We still haven’t exchanged or completed on our Bristol home… The deeds of release have finally been finalised though so it’s no longer holding things up. However it seems our solicitor is one to wait until people get back to her rather than picking up her phone to chase people… Luckily we have a great estate agent who has been working really hard to move things forward. We’re hoping to exchange and complete by the end of the month but as I’ve been saying this for the last six months I’m not really saying this with much conviction. SO frustrating!
The French House
I don’t want to jinx things, especially in light of the above (!) and also because we’re only at the very beginning of the buying process with it…
What I will say is that Barry and I have fallen in love with a gorgeous house in Charente, and have had our offer accepted on it. The house is filled with gorgeous period features, and needs a little work to modernise it, especially the upstairs. The garden is big enough for Barry to let his creative juices go wild, but not so much that we’ll never see him again! There is a big barn, a smaller barn, and a three bedroom house (hellooooo gite!).
I expected nothing of it… but when we arrive I had butterflies walking around the garden, and that was before I even saw the inside of the house!
Desperately trying to play it cool but we can’t wait to be able to move in and get started with the work… and of course share some photos with you! Here is just one photo for now:
It has been quite a rollercoaster with the kids I have to say… Siena has always been very vocal about our decision to move to France, namely in that it wasn’t fair, she didn’t want to move to France, and we shouldnt have been able to drag her to France when she didn’t want to. Yep. So much fun!
I’ve often said Hugo was more chilled and probably didn’t really get a grasp of what was going on. But when we arrived at my parents he was quiet and withdrawn, and often had dark circles under his little eyes. He also started crying easily whenever he was told off, pushed a little or even just when he was being spoken to. And they’ve both been having accidents again when they’ve both been clean for a while now.
But then I guess it’s no surprise… They both absolutely loved their school in Bristol. They knew all the kids as well as every staff member. They were familiar and comfortable with the surroundings. They were both doing really well academically wise and we never had any concerns for them on a social front either.
We then took them out of that safe zone, and they went to a French school where none of us knew anyone. Luckily they both settled in well, and found a few English speaking friends to settle in.
Then three weeks later we decided to go to my parents following the loss of our buyers, to regroup and figure out our next steps. So the kids went to a third (!!) school. This time, a much smaller school, where no one speaks English at all… Siena has a whole different range of homework to get used to, and Hugo has gone back to having imposed daily naps and lots of playing rather than learning to read and write (not necessarily a bad thing though in my opinion).
There have been a few times where I wondered what made us put them through all this! (I’ll be sharing more on this in a post shortly).
I have to say, I have remained incredibly proud and impressed with their strength. Despite them feeling lonely at times, crying for missing their friends and being incredibly tired from having to focus in French for most of the day, they have rarely complained. Admitedly, Siena has had a few outbursts of rage, but once it’s all out and she’s given a chance to blow off some steam and have a cuddle, she’s usually been better.
I was Siena’s age more or less when I moved to France back from Ireland, but I don’t remember any of it. I was hoping it was because it went well and wasn’t traumatic. But seeing Siena and Hugo go through it over the last few months, I have worried over them a little.
But then all of a sudden, things changed.
It happened last weekend when my brother and sister-in-law spent the weekend with us. Hugo went to greet them when they arrived…. and started speaking French! Siena followed suite and they have since both been talking French loads! We’re talking full on sentences! There are a few mistakes, but on the whole I’m gobsmacked! I kept joking that Hugo wasn’t saying anything at all but will one day decide he learnt enought French to just start talking… but that seems to be what happened! Everyone has noticed, even his teacher at school.
They’ve also gone back to their old habits. For Hugo, that’s singing all day long, whether it be on the toilet or while walking around. He’s gone back to his cheeky chappy self and has been sleeping better. Siena has been more chatty and excited about school and talking about she’s been doing. I’ve also made sure we’re having one-on-one time together again, like we did in Bristol, and she’s always noticeably happier afterwards .
So although it was a little rocky at times to start with, I definitely feel as though we’ve turned a corner with the kids over the last three months! Hearing the kids speak French to me because they want to truly makes my heart sing.
Work has been a little rocky for me… I sent out a spontaneous application to a shop I like which has its own florist corner. I got a job there and started pretty much straight away! But after three weeks, I was drained physically and emotionally from it, so I have since resigned. A big part of me feels bad for quitting after so little time. BUT, I have a great support network in my family and they’ve helped me see the other side of my decision. I do feel a lot better since I’m no longer working there, and it has also helped me get my Carte Vitale as well as confirm what I want and don’t want for my next job/ business. So back on working towards being self-employed again, and feeling even more motivated than before to make it work!
Barry has been doing some gardening work too through the Cesu system, and so he has received his temporary number which is the first step towards getting a Carte Vitale. I’ve also designed a website for him which he is enjoying updating, you can have a look at it here: The Contemporary Garden // Le Jardin Contemporain.
Beingable to both work and get our social security numbers sorted out is a huge step in getting settled in France, so that’s amazing in itself!
Our Lifestyle Three Months In
Our lifestyle has so far, been pretty amazing! Admitedly, we are incredibly lucky to be staying with my parents.
If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen just how much I love walking the kids to school through the village. It’s so beautiful! Even though we drive most of the time, when we do walk to school and back it’s really lovely.
Summer has also started now, which brings with all the Summer Fetes and Vogues. Each village in the area take turns to host their own. We went to our first last night, and it didn’t disappoint: DJ playing old French classics and a lot of good ol’ funk music, firework display to classic French songs (Douce France, Claure Francois and Johnny Hallyday all included, of course!) and drinking cheap but good beer in the field. Good times!
Summer also means more markets and more occasions to simply be outdoors. It has been raining a lot (!!) over the last few weeks, but when the sun comes out it’s glorious!
Although we cannot fully adopt a lifestyle we’re after just yet, as a lot of that will be possible once we move into our own home, we are already loving it so far. Can’t wait to get our house and move in, so we can then adopt a dog, a cat and some chickens too to add to our little family 🙂
Over the last three months, we have travelled from one end of France to the other. We’ve discovered Charente, which we’ve fallen in love with and can’t wait to go back to live, but also to explore the surrounding areas. Barry and I have agreed that this is a big part in our decision to move to Charente: it’s unknown territory. We love what we’ve seen so far, and there is also so much to explore around it, from Bordeaux, to the La Rochelle, and so much more!
We also got to discover Metz when visiting my brother and sister in law, and really enjoyed our week there.
And of course we’re back in the Alps, which we know pretty well by now (especially since I grew up here!). But we’re trying to discover it more, going to places and villages we haven’t been to before or taking the kids places I used to go as a kid with my family.
It’s all about exploring the known and the unknown, and going on adventures big and small!
This is a tough one. We all really miss our friends. When the kids have a bad day at school and tell me they miss their friends as they don’t have many friends here, all I can say is that I know it’s hard and we all miss our friends, but in time it will get better and we all make new friends. I do hope once we get to Charente, we can then make more of an effort to socialise, and of course welcome existing friends to come and stay with us.
Despite the convenience of the internet in staying in touch, it’s simply not the same as seeing people face to face. Time would often get the better of me even back in Bristol, making it tricky to see of our friends on a regular basis, but at least seeing each other face to face, even if only once in a while, made it worth it.
Then there’s also the issue about negative thoughts, which I will share on a post shortly. This has had an effect on how I’ve been keeping in touch with friends back in Bristol too. I’ve been working on this though , and writing about it is helping me face that issue and move past it.
We made friends with a few people in Charente, and that made such a big difference to our stay there. We can’t wait to go back and strenghten those friendships.
The Past Three Months: verdict
So our first three months have been a bit of a mixed bag. Everything was going so smoothly when we first arrived, it feels as though when we lost our buyers for our Bristol house, we lost the momentum and found ourself a little lost for a while.
I am so grateful for my parents letting us all stay with them in their home. By being able to work a little, we’ve been able to get our social securities numbers sorted., which is a huge bonus! We’ve also been doing a lot of reflection on the lifestyle and work we want (and can!) do in Charente. So it’s definitely helping us get a little organised in our thoughts and action.
All we need now, is to complete in Bristol so we can then move towards completing on our house in France.
But overall, so much has happened in the last three months, I can’t wait to see where we’ll be in three months time from now!1