After two years of tentative chat and exploration of the possibility of selling up and shipping out, we established 1) that it was possible; and 2) that we were both game. We handed in our notice at the start of May and were the ferry from Rosslare at the end of the month.
Now, a fortnight of al fresco dinners in, we’ve no regrets.
An hour in to a run along the seaside in 30 degrees at 5pm yesterday, we had a pang of longing for a soft Irish day. But apart from that, no regrets.
We arrived in France for good a year, to the day, from our first reconnaissance flight into Nice. When we agreed on the idea of a move, we chose the area around Nice for its climate, accessibility, economy and cycling, then booked three visits to see houses between May and October 2016. We hoped to be able to buy a house big enough to run a chambre d’hôte (guesthouse), with a yoga space where I could teach. Between the two things, we could keep ourselves going while we looked for other sources of income, was the plan. But we weren’t sure if we could afford a house big enough.
In October, we discovered we could. For what we would have spent on a house around Dublin had we not moved, we could buy a five bedroom house in Vence, a lively town a twenty minute drive from the coast and the airport. Oh yes, and it was surrounded by iconic hills climbs. Andy was sold.
There was a lot of work to be done on the house. Of course, that’s why we could afford it. The land couldn’t even rightfully call itself a garden: 900sqm of steep, forested mountainside, with hunks of limestone projecting from it in inconvenient spots. We couldn’t even access 400sqm of it without climbing gear, we’d have to take the seller’s word that it existed. Was there a space for yoga and sun loungers somewhere up there? We still don’t know. But we were prepared to take the chance.
So we bought it. The house in Wicklow sold in five days and we emptied our savings accounts, booked a ferry before the summer prices kicked in and spent a week feverishly packing boxes (always more than you think).
Two weeks ago, we arrived. The ‘99 Honda CRV filled with shovels, yoga mats, bikes, kettle, toaster and other essentials. We hadn’t a clue what was essential to be honest (except for the bikes, obviously). But we took it all on a trip through France. We spent a couple of nights on Ile de Ré to give the bikes a spin (thumbs up – a perfect spot for family cycling) and drove through the vineyards of Médoc, stopping in St Emilion for some exploring and wine tasting (well worth the stop). The Canal du Midi was next (we’ll have to go back to suss that out properly) and Aix-en-Provence (just another big city) was our last stop before Vence.
Ten days here, we’ve managed to open bank accounts. We’ve got local phone numbers. We’ve found and tackled the Col de Vence – a 10km climb to look down on our home town from a height. We’ve got a dump card – yes, you have to register for the dump here – and, due to the frequency of our visits emptying thirty years of hoarded rubbish out of our new house, we feel that we can count the employees there among our closest friends here in town. We’ve got other friends though! There was a fete des voisins last night, where we sat out on the road below our new house at trestle tables, drinking wine and eating rillettes with our new neighbours in the balminess until midnight. I think we’re going to like it here.
But the hard work starts next week!