I am often asked that question. Henry and I have spent countless holidays in France over the last 20 years. Like many, we loved the lifestyle, the culture, learning the language, and of course the wine! At some point, there was a subtle shift in thinking, and we began to talk about “living the dream”. It was a topic that often came up, usually after a few glasses of wine. Peter Mayle has a lot to answer for, and I think it was watching the TV version of “A year in Provence” one evening that tipped me over the edge. Henry sort of got swept along in my headlong rush to get to Provence. Some weeks later, we left Dublin for a week’s French language tuition in Aix-en-Provence, a holiday we repeated twice more. That last trip, we stayed for a month in a little apartment and at that point, both of us were agreed – we want to live in France – and left for Dublin on a high, determined to be back. My balloon was burst when I realised the cost of renting/buying property in Provence.
Our next trip was not to Provence, but to the Languedoc in October 2010, where we spent a magical week on a narrow-boat on the Canal due Midi. Slowly but surely, the Languedoc weaved its charm on us, and Provence and the “search for the Holy Mayle” began to fade. We wandered up and down the Canal between Ventenac and the edge of Beziers. Not very adventurous of us, but the strikes all around France at that time meant that some of the locks might not be open. We bumped off the banks a few times, and rear-ended a bridge (don’t ask!), tasted wine in the chateau at Ventenac, walked through Argeliers, and sat up on deck most evenings for aperos, enjoying the peace and the stunning views.
Back in Dublin in November, and back to work. I was now on a short week, due to the economic crisis in Ireland. Four days a week turned into two days, and in January, full redundancy. After many years working as a Legal Executive for a law firm, I was going to join the ranks of the unemployed. Well, that did it! I was not ready to sit around and do nothing. I started researching, looking for somewhere in or near beautiful Carcassonne. At some point in my frantic “Googling”, I came across several websites and forums (should that be fora?) for ex-pats. I joined one, which was to become my “virtual” home from then on, a place where I could go each evening, chat to others who had, or were about to, make that move to France.