We are finally on our last leg of our journey to our new ‘home’!
This is the moment when you start to think whether you chose the right house. Will it be anything like its photos? What happens if you hate it and you have prepaid 6 months rent!
Blind faith is a wonderful thing. It makes you feel alive. It’s edgy, it keeps you brimming with the excitement for the unknown, it is also what we have to believe in. Trust our instincts, go with the flow, believe that everything will be okay.
We also have to find it…
So we land at Nice airport and it is pouring with rain. That’s not so bad, but they did promise over 200 days of sunshine on the Cote D’azur. The mountains are covered in snow and we are super excited by this. They look so beautiful. To look at snow capped mountains right beside the sea is fantastic.
First we get the hire car. Then we need to workout GPS, google maps and anything else I can think of so as to not get lost. Our luggage just fits in the car, and by just, I mean Luc is completely surrounded by suitcases. It’s a mid size car too, purposely chosen to take 6 suitcases of luggage. Good think we didn’t get the Fiat 500! This is like a Lego building, he is the little figurine delicately placed in and around the blocks. Well he sure as hell ain’t going anywhere!
So we head off on our drive which is about 45 minutes. As it gets dark we slowly start to climb the mountain to where we will live. The roads are getting narrower, the sky darker, the air colder, the rain and wind harder. I start to feel nervous. When I say the roads are narrower, we are talking two way roads that are only one lane wide. I am worried about the hire car getting scratched, and wish I had hired something smaller or just got a taxi and hired a car the next day. What was I thinking? I start panicking as we ascend up our road. There are sharp hairpin turns. I continue to panic and think I will have to get another house! I can’t live like this, it was a mistake, why didn’t I ask what the road was like? Then the driveway up to the house is even steeper. And my worst nightmare, the carpark is at the bottom, I will need to carry everything up!! It is cold and wet and I worry that I have just wasted 6 months rent on a house I can’t live in.
Hold that thought.
Angelique and her mum greet me at the top of the drive. Yes, you can drop all your luggage at the top then take your car down. No, it is not usually this cold and windy, it is the worst weather we have had. Please, come in and have a glass of wine. I slowly relax and breathe a little. It is fair to say there will be a few panic attacks along the way on such a great journey. Blind faith, things will be okay, things will get better etc. You have to believe.
We awake the next morning to the most glorious view and sounds of birds chirping in the background. I may not have mentioned that Luc started school the very next morning, just 12 hours after landing. It is a 15 minute drive away on a good day. Due to the storm, the trees had come down and our road was closed off. So we divert another way. We were a full hour late the first day. The views driving there though were nothing short of spectacular, we were breathless. Luc is madly taking photos on my ‘good’ camera as I drive. I almost brake as every car goes past us. I am freaking out a little at how close they drive to us. I have to stop and reverse four times on the first day, just to let someone past. How do people live like this? How are there not more accidents? I need to find the world’s smallest car on the market or we are never going to survive!
It takes about a week to start to relax on the roads, and not give Luc whiplash every time a car gets too close. Whenever there was a bus or a truck, I went into full time panic mode. Poor Luc may have heard a few non French curses in the car. I slowed the car right down to let them past. It was not just me, I watched others do it too. It is like you are all holding your tummy in as you squeeze past. So if one of you is stationary at the right angle, the other can just, and I mean just, shimmy past.
I only have the hire car for two weeks, so the hunt for a car is pressing. I start to realise how bad my French is, how will I get through this process?
Angelique is an angel, by name and by nature. She speaks fluent English, French, German and Spanish. To say that she saves my butt on numerous occasions is an understatement. She steps in for me. After attempting, and failing to communicate on the car I finally decide on, she speaks to the lady for me. For every little detail I must ask, she translates, she also comes out with me to act as my translator at the car yard too.
So I buy the car, I need a bank account and a phone too. All of this takes so much longer that it should to happen. If you have heard stories about how long it takes to get things done in France, they are all right! I am not going to bore you with it, but a couple of snippets.
I have transferred a lot of money from Australia to reduce my transfer fees. I am late to an appointment and need to get money out and I get refused on many occasions. How can this be? I panic my money has been stolen. I go home and transfer another chunk. First thing in the morning I go to see my bank manager to ask what the problem is. He said I took too much out. What do you mean? I have not spent all my money? Oh, no madame, you have not, that is true. But, you can only use a certain amount per week. Que? I explain that I have always had my own income and bank accounts and didn’t need to start now having someone determine how much I could spend. I say, in Australia we have similar for eftpos, but it normally starts at 500 AUD per day, plus a few thousand from a teller machine. He cannot believe this. No,not in France. Here they write cheques and go to the bank when they want large sums. He will give me a special single use card as a back up that gives me whatever cash I like and doesn’t affect my special weekly limits. He also increases my weekly limit to the maximum. They are either not used to or don’t want to change and take advantage of the automatic teller machines. The way banks have become automated in Australia, would take 20 years over here. He assures me my money is always available, I just need to come in when I want extra cash. This lets me down when we go skiing for a week. I buy new skis and get knocked back. I don’t panic this time, just be grateful I have my Australian card as backup. Fraud must be tough here, it is so hard to get your own money out!
There is also the problem of needing a bill in my name with my French address to get my bank account. So, I go to get my French phone account. They need a French bank account to set up my account. You are kidding! So I go back to the bank. I also need these documents for my car insurance too. I am in a loop, that doesn’t seem to have an answer. We agree to make special dispensation with my house contract and my visa. But, I must get all other paperwork to him the minute it comes through. This takes about a week to do. The days roll past. There is always something that holds things up. If you don’t have an Angelique in your life and you want move to France, you are in trouble! She helps me with everything.
Her mother Martine is wonderful as well, another angel!
They have both been so hugely supportive of Luc and I, we are both indebted to them forever. Nothing is too much, they treat us like family. Actually the whole property has an extended family feel to it.
Now, our new home!!
It is like heaven on earth. It is set on 20 acres, with an olive grove, palm trees, cypress trees and the most amazing garden you can imagine. Martine, has a green thumb and lives for her garden. My mum is the same, so I understand her love and addiction. She has the most amazing vegie garden I have seen. The best part, she wants me to help myself to what ever I like. And, its all organic! She has started to grow the seedlings from seed for summer. We have a wonderful array of herbs. They even have bees for honey! Plus the olive grove provides us with the most amazing olive oil I have had. It is fantastic. We have a great compost and Luc loves running out to pick me some herbs for dinner each night. I am really going to have to cook some amazing food for these beautiful people. Cooking is my best skill set to offer. Everyone loves to eat…
We have fantastic views through to the Mediterranean sea and on a super clear day you can see Cyprus. There are stepped gardens and olive groves dotted all over the mountain. We are exactly half way between the city of Grasse and the small town of Cabris. It is the most perfect location. I definitely made the right choice. Everyday I come home I am so grateful we came here. I go to Cannes for my yoga and running on the beach. There I can get my city fix and then retreat to the hills.
Angelique has three wonderful children, but her eldest Ivaan was a major reason for me to take this place. As his siblings are only 5 months and 2 years old, he and Luc play together every day. He is now like my second son. He loves to hang out here, and we love having him stay and eat dinner. Plus, he loves my cooking! This kid is welcome any day of the week! He told me my vegie soup was the best he has even eaten, it made my day. I love it when kids ‘get’ and love good food.
Luc’s first day at school went well. When I first dropped him off, the little munchkin was shaking. I felt terrible to leave him there. Then he went to cry and didn’t want me to go. One of the boys in his class came out and said he will look after him. I rang an hour later and they said he was doing great. The other boy had proudly told the teacher he would look after him the whole day and make sure he was well settled. I was instantly relieved. The thing about a bilingual school, is all the kids are in the same boat. Some know both languages, but most only one, and there are those that don’t speak French or English. So the kids are all on a level playing field. Everyone is different. I am really happy with the school. His teachers are great, and the communication is fantastic. Lots of emails and they constantly take and send photos of the kids activities to the parents, so you know what they are doing.
The French school system does have a few differences though. First, there is a lot of homework. Luc’s school also has Wednesdays off. Most French schools have the same day off or a half day, which is becoming more popular. His school therefore goes through to 5pm every day. Then they have study class from 5-6pm. By the time we get home it is 6.30pm. It is late for him, so I need to be super organised and have dinner on the table the minute we walk in. Then, we need to get his homework done too. The upside is, I am far more involved with where he is at academically than I was in Australia. I am also more involved, due to the homework. I enjoy this aspect very much. I love seeing what he has done that day. There are no computers or ipads at the school either. The French system is very strict and hasn’t evolved like ours, but I am not as concerned as I first was about it. There are pros and cons. I don’t like the homework after a long day as I don’t see how it can be productive. But I do love how they bring all their books home every day and have to write by hand. He has pleaded with me to type up his projects, but I think the art of handwriting will be lost very soon, so this is not a bad thing for him to experience. It is only for one year. They go on a lot of excursions. It’s kind of cool when you are studying different cultures and architecture and they have real examples to visit nearby. The kids just can’t do that back home. Same goes for art too. There are so many museums around here.
Now, the most important part of his day is lunch time!! They have the menu posted every week and he trying new things all the time. Some days it is a hit, others it is apparently disgusting. His words! He has liked things I didn’t think he would, a bean cassoulet and vice versa, the fish meuniere he hated. Obviously having dessert or cheese to finish is a huge bonus. I am relieved dessert is quite often fresh fruit, and just one type. Everything is seasonal which I love. It is the first question I ask at pickup each day. What did you have for lunch? Quickly followed by, did you like it? He reviews it like we are watching Masterchef which I find so entertaining. No wonder the French are good at food! They all sit down together with the teachers which I think is fantastic. They have to watch their manners and not talk too loudly. I am just happy that someone gets to share the parenting of meal times with me. It’s not just me telling him the same things.
So, things are trés bon, as we say in France.
I will get to all the beautiful produce from now on in with the blogs.
Thanks for following a foodie and her son, we love sharing our stories with you!