Clearly two months is no time at all to discover what makes a town tick, to get to know its character, its people and personality. If we’d arrived here in July, with no covid and Rochechouart thriving in the buzz of summer we’d be seeing the place in full swing, bustling with visitors and locals enjoying everything French life has to offer. But we’re in the middle of winter and a global pandemic. Bars and restaurants are closed, social mixing is relatively non-existent and most strangely here only partners are kissing. Every country is having its life suffocated by covid and France is suffering as much as any. But we have to get through, to do what we can to live life as normally as possible whilst adhering to restrictions and regulations. Little is open but there’s still loads to do.
Our main priority beyond the day-to-day basics is buying another house. We bought this one in Rochechouart with an open mind on whether it would be our permanent home or our income as our gite rental. It’s not the biggest place, measuring an emaciated 123cm at its narrowest point, so more of a corridor than a house. Yes it’s also quite long, has three floors and two outdoor rooms and terraces, but we’re not overflowing with space. The garden isn’t the biggest either, so our original expectation was that this would be our gite rental. But despite spending little time outside to date we’re not feeling cramped. How wide does a house need to be when you have a view from the kitchen that makes you feel like your living in a panoramic dream? So, this place could be impossible to leave but our minds are still open. The property market is still slow for many reasons so house viewings are pretty infrequent, but we mustn’t and won’t be rushed. We’ll know when we find the right place.
An Etsy sneak preview…
Any income until we find our second property will come from our online shop. We’re going to start with Etsy as it suits our business. Etsy shoppers prefer quality, niche, unique products and personal service and that’s what we’ll be offering. We’re currently scouring brocantes, flea markets (Limoges is the header image) and garage sales for French curios and collectables, though like everything covid isn’t making that easy as most outdoor gatherings with large numbers expected are regularly being cancelled. We’ll persevere and are getting to know where to find some gems, but outdoor flea markets are an Aladdin’s cave of treasures, so for reason number 481,910… covid cannot piss off quickly enough. We also came here to submerge ourselves into French culture. We want to learn the language and about local traditions and the town’s history. We want to become part of the community, supporting local businesses and be as socially active as we can. We are already being assisted with this by our new soon to be neighbours who are currently midway through a full renovation next door. They are Carol and Frank and are close to how we’d like to see ourselves ten years from now (except the house renovation bit). Brits who have fully embraced and love French life.
Carol and Frank have been living in France for quite a while, currently into their third decade and fourth President. They certainly know their way around so we are soaking up their knowledge like eager sponges, keen as they are to recount their tales over our weekly dinner dates, reduced now to daytime affairs following the evening curfew. We are lucky to have landed in France next to two such accommodating and friendly folk. A close friendship has already been formed with entrées, main courses, desserts, cheese boards, digestifs, coffees and a healthy selection of wines complimenting the discourse perfectly. All beautifully French, and as much about the way we are eating than the new cuisine we are discovering. The love of food here is renowned but it’s as much the culture we love, typified by the fact that almost every business will close for lunch, and not your rubbish one hour, it’s two or two and a half that are required for dining. Enjoying lunch is more important than taking money, and we love that.
Carol and Frank’s latest kind gesture has been to support us through a recent horrific traffic incident involving a deer. No details are required other than to say we have been left deeply traumatised and will now always be aware of the possibility of deer or other beautiful animals appearing out of nowhere. Seeing such a huge array of wonderful wildlife here is a constant joy and is one of the many things that we will never take for granted. We chose France and this region in particular for everything it has to offer. We are learning French ways; their traditions, nuances and complexities that make the country what it is. Some idiosyncrasies we love, some we don’t, or will at least take some getting used to, but that is all part of the voyage of discovery. Rumours are now currently rumbling about the possibility of a third lockdown. We’ll have to take whatever comes with as much resilience and positivity as we can gather. Life, as always, is what you make it.