Rewind! Living the French life a year ago!
How are you? It’s been glorious here in the south east of England today although I’ve been unable to get out except for a quick run to the M&S garage. However, as I mentioned the other day, I’m off to the Isle of Wight this weekend where it should be reasonably sunny which is ideal when dangling from the chairlift over the iconic chalk rocks known as The Needles!
If you’re on Facebook, you may get reminders about what you posted a year ago, 5 years ago, etc. and I’ve been reminded over the past few days that it’s a year ago since I took myself off to France and rented a stunning riverside home in Dinan. I also packed in an incredible 1,800 miles of driving in just 7 days! That week away was one of the best things I’ve ever done. First with one of our children being ill for about 5 years now, it was much needed respite as I’m the main carer. Was I being a bit selfish in going away? Yes, perhaps a little bit but sometimes we have to put our needs first in order to have the energy to look after others. But it was also the week when I took stock of my work-life balance and I decided that, as a business owner, I could work less. And I’m SO pleased to say that a year on, I’ve stuck to that!
I stumbled across the house on a holiday home website and I just knew that this glorious 3 storey house on the riverbank in Dinan with boats sailing past was THE perfect holiday pad. It was rather huge for one person and I felt a little bit lost initially although I actually had clients visit me one day who’d flown up from the south of France. I loved the open plan design and I certainly had my pick of which bedroom I fancied. However, I was scared witless on my first night as the house was slightly isolated and I could hear this relentless knocking very late whilst I watching TV. All kinds of things went through my mind – well, mainly that I was about to become the latest murder statistic and that my body would have to be repatriated to the UK but it turned out the knocking was coming from the American fridge-freezer! Phew! I was going to live!
I was determined to pack so much into my holiday and therefore I had a long list of places to type into my sat nav. In fact on my way to the house on day 1, I stopped off at the Bayeux Commonwealth War cemetery and I was just astounded by what I found. Whilst I’ve seen cemeteries like this on TV, actually standing there, reading the inscriptions on some of the graves, seeing the ages of the fallen soldiers, etc. just made me stop and take it all in. Some were around the ages of our children.
One of my bucket list items was to photograph Mont St Michel. Now, October isn’t usually a sunny month like it is today and my week in France was wet and overcast. It didn’t put a downer on my days out as I’d soon dry out but it did mean that many of photos look pretty gloomy! I LOVED the Harry Potter vibe to the shop and cafe-lined cobbled streets and I could almost imagine Hagrid suddenly appearing! There’s just something so magical about it. Although I took the free shuttle bus from the car park, I decided to finish my visit to the mount by paying 5 Euros and going back to my car by horse-drawn carriage! The other part of this bucket list challenge is to photograph its cousin St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall which is smaller and at times only reachable by boat so fingers crossed I’ll get to it before the end of the year.
I’m not a huge animal lover but I do find them therapeutic so I went to Saint Malo Grand Aquarium. However, as well as the sea animals, there were also submerisble-type vehicles where you had to go down a very tight spiral staircase and into an underwater capsule. For someone who can freak out in certain lifts and strongly dislike closed in places, this was a huge achievement. And when I got out, I saw one of the vehicles on dry land which made me appreciate how brave I’d been! I also went to Zoo de la Bourbansis which was a short drive away from the house and it was great to walk around and see lots of animals.
The Palace of Versailles might have been an 8 hour round trip and it might have involved a nightmarish situation with parking but goodness I’m glad I went there! It is just stunning and every wall and ceiling has something to look at. The Hall of Mirrors is one of its most iconic rooms with 357 mirrors and countless chandeliers. The Royal Chapel is also stunning and being allowed to take photos only from its door meant capturing its beauty unspoilt from lots of tourists.
Dinan itself is gorgeous as it’s full of half-timbered buildings and has a medieval feel to it. My house was in the port but it took moments to drive up the steep hill to the town centre. I actually also went to Dinan when I was 11 years old on a school holiday although my one memory from that is being one a handful of children being brave enough to eat an oyster! Ew! I can recall how it slid down my throat! I couldn’t do that now.
I also went on a couple of boat trips and to an outdoor art installation called The Valley of the Saints where the plan is to erect 100s of huge statues that tower metres over its visitors. I also did lots of shopping and walking through the countryside, in towns and on the beach. With a week to myself, I wondered whether I’d just laze about in the house but clearly the adventurous part of me was desperate to get out there and explore!
Since then, I’ve done a road trip around northern England and have had a few single nights away in places like Portmerion and Wells. I’ve even got tentative plans for a road trip around Europe next year and a few single nights away as I’ve another 7 English counties to visit. You know, what I’ve found is that when life can be very stressful, one night away can do the power of good. I just have to make it happen!
Happy Wednesday everybody xx