Image of house with for sale sign

360 Ongar Road, our home for 22 years

So, we moved out of our family home of 22 years in Essex and moved – after some time – to SW France.

Because our post and telephone situation was uncertain at times, we set up this website so that family and friends could always contact us while we are on our travels.

We’ve been pretty busy since we moved from Brentwood, and we haven’t had time to update this blog, but we do love to hear from all our friends, so feel free to use the contact form and drop us a line!

Posted in Campferrier, In/From France

One Huge Update …

Collioure, just north of the Spanish border on the Mediterranean coast

So, it’s been a looong time since we worked on this ‘blog’ — not sure we can even call it that, given the lack of regular updates, but never mind.

Building Works

After moving in, we had the house roof fixed first, and a major drain installed along the rear wall and down one side of the house. After a brief break, the barn and ‘abri’ roof were next, which made all of our main structures dry at last.

A Family Christmas

Izzy skiing on our nearest ski slopes

Izzy skiing on our nearest ski slopes

We were lucky enough at Christmas (2014) to welcome all of the kids and their respective partners, plus Granny. Everyone managed to get up to the ski slopes a couple of times, although driving back from Font Romeu was a touch hairy – particularly for Heather, who was driving a hire car on the ‘wrong’ side of the very squiggly roads through a blizzard!

The New Year saw building works move to the interior, with Colin and Phil keeping us amused with their amazing singing and humour (!)

Chambres d’Hotes du Lac Perdu

The front door of our B&B, Chambres d'Hotes du Lac Perdu

The front door of our B&B, Chambres d’Hotes du Lac Perdu

After months of work, we were almost ready to open as a chambres d’hotes – the Chambres d’Hotes du Lac Perdu – so we went live on our new website (www.lacperdu.fr) and Facebook page, and signed up with booking.com, not expecting too many guests at first. To our surprise, our first booking arrived the next night, and we’ve had a steady trickle since – even through the autumn and into December. Not bad without much in the way of serious marketing. Through the long, hot (approaching 40 degrees) summer, we’ve been lucky to welcome many visitors – including family and friends as well as paying guests – so our life has been very busy but never boring.

Singing with our local choir, La Chorale de Puivert

Singing with our local choir, La Chorale de Puivert

We are very happy in France, and have made a lot of new friends amongst the locals and other incomers. We have both joined the local choir and enjoy singing at various events through the year. We also go to French conversation classes and drink tea almost every day with a chatty French neighbour, which is great for our language skills!

Collioure, just north of the Spanish border on the Mediterranean coast

Collioure, just north of the Spanish border on the Mediterranean coast

We live an hour and a half from the Med and within an hour of skiing, and are surrounded by glorious scenery, fascinating history and great markets. Cycling east-west along the valley is pretty easy, but turn north or south and you’ll hit serious hills pretty quickly. There are masses of serious hiking and mountain biking trails, and we’re a few miles from the Aude River – good for kayaking, canyoning, white water rafting, etc. — oh, and for gentle picnics too!

Looking across the valley, Campferrier just below

Looking across the valley, Campferrier just below

Some things have been far from easy and we still have one or two ‘issues’ to resolve, but we love where we live and even a trip to the supermarket or dentist takes us through amazing scenery.

Notable Events

And that brings us more or less up to date, apart from some notable events:

  • Alan and Jodie got engaged while on a trip to Japan – Mount Fuji in the background! They’re in the process of buying their currently rented house and they still have mad cats …
  • Paddy and Heather were both promoted during the year – Paddy to Head of Guild (house) at his school and Heather to Team Leader at her civil engineering work. They relax by playing korfball to a good standard and winning meat at pub quizzes.
  • Izzy gained her Masters Degree with Distinction and won a prize from her department as top student. She also started her PhD course in October, researching autism, while Luke is enjoying work as a software developer in London. In his spare time, Luke is a Boys Brigade group leader and a drummer in a pipe & drum band. As well as her research, Iz teaches Irish dance, drums with Luke when she can, and they’ve both started playing korfball too.
  • We were adopted by a scrawny, stray, ginger tomcat last spring, who is now a big, fat, luxurious, un-tomcat who loves the wood-burner and food.
  • Patsy has spent a lot of time and care setting up and running the B&B, and making the house and garden look attractive.
  • Last and definitely least, Bob started piano lessons in April and is having fun making progress thanks to a very patient teacher. Patsy says she doesn’t mind listening to him practicing …
Our adopted ginger tom, Roo

Our adopted ginger tom, Roo

Posted in Campferrier, In/From France

We’re In!

South Park van outside Campferrier house

South Park van outside Campferrier house

Finally, we’re living at Campferrier on a permanent basis. Our furniture arrived from storage on 10 July. It was good to see it coming through the door after so long.

There’s work to do though. We need the main house roof to be fixed, and the rear wall needs attention to rectify some evident damp problems there. We have a builder with a good reputation so we hope that works out OK. Assuming it does, and if we have any money left, the garage and barn roofs also need replacing before we can think about any other renovation.

It will be a long haul.



Posted in Campferrier

And Off to a a New Life

Camp Ferrier house

Camp Ferrier house

So, tomorrow we head for an overnight crossing, Portsmouth to Le Havre, with what’s left of our worldly possessions packed in the car. We arrive in France at 8am local time and drive south-west to an overnight stop on the Atlantic coast near La Rochelle. Then onwards to our new home town – Puivert – hopefully arriving in good order Monday afternoon/evening.

On Tuesday we should pick up our house keys, then it’s two days of sorting out telecomms, cookers, etc., and finalising decisions on where everything is to go when our stored household effects arrive on Thursday. We haven’t seen it for 9 months, so it will be just like meeting old friends!

We’ll get round to sending out change of address notes – by email or post – as soon as we have time, but feel free to use our contact form if you’d like to get in touch before then.

Posted in Granny's House, In/From France, On the Road

Sidmouth Again

May and June were spent back at Granny’s house in Sidmouth, sorting out appointments with doctors, MRI scans, etc.

The good news is that the medics think Bob hasn’t suffered any lasting damage, so more good luck to be grateful for. Patsy now has him building his strength up ready to renovate the new house :)

We heard on 13 June that the final documents had been signed and we were property owners once more, nine months after selling up in Brentwood. What a lot of water has passed under the bridge since 14 October 2013.

Now we’re planning the big move: getting our stuff out of storage, moving it down to the new house, organising utilities (in French) and broadband so that Bob’s work can continue uninterrupted.

We’re nearly there. Nearly residents of SW France. Nearly ready to welcome friends and family to our new home. Just a million boxes to unpack first!

Watch this space for more news.

Posted in Granny's House

Centre Hospitalier Carcassonne …

Well that was unexpected. Sunday night of 30 March wasn’t brilliant – Bob was rushed into hospital at Carcassonne under the blue lights.

Looking back now, over two months later, we realise how lucky we were. The French emergency services were at our apartment door inside five minutes and Bob was in theatre inside an hour or so. Just a week before we would have been at thirty thousand feet on a Ryanair flight …

Ten days in hospital improved Bob’s medical French somewhat, and Patsy learned how to drive up and down the 50 km road from Quillan to the hospital. Good fun, and we both survived the experience.

We have friends and family to thank for making a bad time better. What would we do without them?

Posted in In/From France


R. Salz and our apartment.

The River Salz, with our apartment, ground floor of house with blue shutters.

It turned out that the Couiza apartment, despite being small, was a really nice temporary base. We were lucky enough for it to be sunny and warm most of the time we were there, and our apartment was on the ground floor, with a large terrace overlooking the River Salz (which gets its name by virtue of being salty – mineral salts from the rocks along its course).

First job was to unload our car load of gear, including Bob’s computer equipment – this was very much a working holiday, so everything had to come with us.

We settled in really easily and the locals were very friendly and easy to get along with. Our only problem was the lack of a tin-opener and the fact that all of the local shops were out of stock … Still, who needs tins in the land of olives, cheese, sausage and fresh bread?

With the sun pouring into the apartment through the open doors, we spent breakfast time each day on the terrace overlooking the River. Very nice.

Posted in In/From France

Road Trip Baby


Waiting for border control at the Folkestone Eurotunnel port.

Monday 3 March 2014 saw us driving up towards London to drop some computer equipment off with Izzy, then on to Folkestone for the night before an early Channel Tunnel train to Calais.

An easy crossing had us on the A16 autoroute south to Abbeville, then the A28 to Rouen. We planned to spend a night at Chateauroux and then push on to the SW the following day – 350-odd miles the first day and 330 or so the next.

After a couple of pretty relaxed days floating down the French motorways (thank you, cruise control) we were finally rewarded with a distant view of the Pyrenées at last from somewhere near Belvezes du Razés. The area is also very much vine country (as it the whole of Languedoc-Roussillon!) but the vines were all looking very wintry still – blackened, wizened and as if nothing would ever grow on them again. How wrong could you be – never judge a vineyard from its dormant vines!

The Pyrenées at last!

The Pyrenées at last, behind a vineyard.

We finally arrived at the little town of Couiza, where we had rented an apartment for a couple of weeks until our main rental apartment became available in Quillan – the centre of our house-buying target area.

Posted in On the Road

Oops …

Sorry for the delay – it seems to have been some months since we last updated our blog. All will be revealed in due course!

Posted in Granny's House, Uncategorized

And So To France …

Well, tomorrow (Monday 3 March) we head (slowly) to France for a few weeks, renting so that we can look at potential house purchases.

We’ll pack our bags and then the car, drive to London and meet Izzy for an hour or so to drop off some stuff with her, then head to Folkestone for the night. An early Channel Tunnel crossing on Tuesday morning should see us with a reasonably easy six hours or so drive to Chateauroux – about half-way of our 1100km trip. That should then – according to our Master Plan – leave us with another fairly easy leg to do on Wednesday, so that we can find our apartment, do some shopping and get ourselves set for a relaxing first evening in Quillan.

We’ll both have our mobiles with us, and we’ll be available on Skype, Facebook, etc., as soon as we have computers set up. If you need to get in touch and don’t have our mobile numbers, please use the contact form on this website and we’ll get back to you ASAP.

Posted in Uncategorized

Trip to France

photoWe took the opportunity of taking a short trip to France during December, partly to explore rentals that might be available for a few months while we look for a house to buy, and partly to check out a ski station or two.

Izzy and Luke flew out with us and stayed with Bernadette, a French friend who lives about 90 minutes from our target area. On Saturday lunchtime we drove down to our target area, to the south of Carcassonne, for another look round. As we drove towards Castelnaudary the air was so clear you could see everything within visible distance and we were treated to a stunning distant view of the Pyrenees. As Luke said “Why would anybody want to live here?” :)

After coffee in a mediaeval square in Mirepoix, onward towards Les Monts d’Olmes – the nearest ski station to where we were – but it was too late in the day to drive up the mountain. So, off to Quillan to show Izzy and Luke the town, then back home to Bernadette’s for supper.

Sunday saw us up a little earlier and straight to Les Monts d’Olmes and the ski station. This one is quite small and it’s early season, but that didn’t stop Izzy and Luke enjoying a few hours on the slopes, getting their muscles back in trim. Sadly we had to drop them off at Toulouse Airport for their flight home – work the next day – and then drive  back to Bernadette’s once more.

On Monday we saw a small rental house on the banks of the Aude and walking distance from Quillan. Spent the rest of the day around the town, quizzing estate agents about rentals and saw another possibility. Left Bernadette’s with all our gear on Tuesday morning and yet again headed back to Quillan and yet another rental. Then back to Toulouse for our own flight home that night.

Special thanks to Bernadette for her hospitality, without which our trip would certainly have cost  more and wouldn’t have been anything like so much fun.

Posted in In/From France