...when I least expect it?
Before we left London to travel the world, we dreamed about living in the south of France.
Holidays here had spoilt us as we fell in love with the weather, the wine and the way of life. NewMan and I talked about it together and with our friends and family, who all started to plan their weekends staying with us. We researched what area would suit us best, I dusted off my Petit Robert and started searching for French blogs to read. NewMan even got his boat licence so he could captain the boat he's always dreamed of having down here and I let me daydreams get so out of hand that more than once I even imagined us having bilingual children, all running around in the garden of our blue shuttered French gite dressed in navy and white striped T-shirts, with strings of garlic hanging around their necks all clutching baguettes and singing the Marseillaise.
And then Amsterdam happened. What was a passing comment in our hire car as we drove from Sydney to Melbourne back in January this year ( "Wouldn't it be cool to live in Amsterdam?" ), turned into a three month adventure in one of our favourite cities. We became hooked on a cycling way of life. We embraced not being dependent on cars, tubes or buses and we relaxed into Amsterdam so much we were half an inch away from being what every long-term traveller must keep at bay - settled.
But Amsterdam had an end date so naturally our attention turned to the place we always had in mind; La France. During my University years I spent a summer in Montpellier and to this day it's my favourite French city. One of my closest and dearest friends also lives down here (I'm writing this on his kitchen counter, in fact) and so the idea of being near to him and his partner for more than just a long weekend courtesy of Ryanair, filled me with so much excitement.But just as Amsterdam fell neatly in to place four months ago, our French dream has all but crumbled around us like a croissant, flakes of delicious pastry everywhere that we couldn't tidy up or assemble to work for us. There have been many reasons why - I left online research too late, I should have known that this was completely the wrong season to even think about looking or moving here, it has been blistering hot and we've failed to adjust to this making any attempt at productivity feel like your pushing through treacle just to get out the front door - but there have been things out of our control too.
Bizarrely, the French rental market is not geared towards the kind of short term stays that are now a booming business in cities across Europe. The only places we did find to suit our admittedly specific demands were through the friends and family of the people we already knew down here. In fact, my good friend M has literally sweated his chops off trying to help us find a place down here, not to mention bailing me out on innumerable occasions when my French vocabulary fails and I've been so grateful to have him around to reassure me that the French aren't out to get us (Trust me, if you ever live in France for more than a week or so you will experience this - it's devastatingly upsetting but offers true satisfaction when you power through it.) He has been a wonderful friend and he's the reason I'm most upset that our French dream is over... for now.
This is, of course, the short and bitter sweet version of the story but both the long and short of it is that we're now confronted with a new opportunity, a new and unexpected turn in the road. My future French children may have stopped singing, but there's still music to be heard and dreams to be lived somewhere else...
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Frances M. Thompson
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