Moving to France in November 2020

Week One Blog – La Riverie
The voyage and arriving in France on 221120
After a fitful night’s sleep I woke before the alarm and looked at the clock, 4.55am, golly, not a time I normally ever see unless going on holiday. This felt like a holiday in some ways but also reminds me of moving to Northern Ireland when I was 14, and having to say goodbye to many friends.
I remembered my wellies were still by the back door so I pulled on my dressing-gown and headed downstairs. Wellies are going to be an essential item in rural France, Ron and I are moving to a house in Normandy near a town called Hambye, not pronounced Ham Bye but Om-bee. It makes me think of the words I say at the start of yoga, Om shanti, shanti om. Was this an omen that this was going to be a good move?
“Another bag, Kat, how much stuff are you taking?” said Ron as I come down stairs with a further 3 bags. The car is stuffed to the gunnels and the wing mirrors have to be used. We set off to Portsmouth at 5.50. It is still dark and there are 23 other cars, 3 vans and two boats wrapped up like early Xmas presents on huge trailers waiting to board the ferry. The rest of the ferry is taking lorries back to Spain, France and Portugal. Ron and I wait for an hour in the car until we are boarded. We easily find seats. I remember I have forgotten the champagne and note the shop is going to open at 11am. Good, she thinks, “I hope I will be able to buy a bottle to herald our move to France.”
Come 11.30 I go to the shop and see some nice bottles of Cahors red wine, my favourite so I pick these up these and also a bottle of champagne. The shop is only allowed to sell necessities so the make-up, perfume and sunglass aisles are out of bounds. I love that I can buy wine, cigarettes and chocolate, Brittany Ferries is a French company and they have their priorities right!
I had worried that there would be issues at Caen with having to show documents to get to our new home. Not a bit of it, the immigration officer asks to see our passports and then waves us on, “Allez-y”
We have arrived.
I buy some bread on the way to Hambye for supper. I need not have done this. The neighbours have made us dinner.
On arrival at our new home we are greeted by Albert who lives in the next cottage. La Riverie consists of 4 retirement houses, a conversion job by Chris Large, an English entrepreneur, who recognised there was a market for rental homes in rural France. After a successful project near Mortain he is now converting this property into 4 units. Three are completed. We viewed this building site in August and Mr Large promised it would be ready for us by 1st November. The rent is reasonable and having let out a room in England this covers the costs making this an affordable and low risk option.

Later in the first week-
Wandering around this huge supermarket I reflected on the dependence we all have on these stores now. In France butchers and bakers have managed to keep in business and these can be found in most towns even Roncey which has two with probably a population of 500. But green grocers and hardware stores have gone to be replaced by epiceries and small supermarkets selling everything from buttons, dairy products to wicker baskets, tins and of course wine, beer and spirits.
Towns are spaced out about 10 km apart, the distance before cars that people could walk or cycle to get their provisions. Churches loom large in every town but are currently closed due to the Covid19. This morning I ran to the local church, 2.5km away, what a useful distance says the 5km park runner! Nothing was open and I ran home again seeing one walker, one cyclist and 6 cars in the space of 40 minutes. Such a contrast from living in a city. The air feels very clean and there is mistletoe in nearly every tree, a sign that the air is clean.
Dairy farming is the main industry. Our neighbour Patrice is a dairy farmer and complains about having to get up every morning to milk the cows. His aunt used to own the farm where we live. She was a dairy farmer too and some of the buildings have been converted into our living accommodation. I think the last creature that slept in our accommodation was a horse. I hear snoring at night but that is our Ron who is sleeping well. Time for me to go to sleep now.

Katherine Barbour


Have fun Katherine.

Lovely story! Best of luck to you both!