This road isn’t straight forward but the people are the best!

by Julie Gibbons on July 29, 2008

Day 15 and getting to house exchange 2 turns out to be a bit more complicated that we had originally planned. After leaving La Tuilerie, we set off for house exchange 4 (yes – that’s right – no 4) for an overnight stay. You see, house exchange 4 is on our way to house exchange 2, and will allow us to break up the journey — and to meet our hosts for no 4.

This is the easiest leg so far – it only takes a couple of hours to reach Annick and Keith in a small village some 50 km or so south of La Rochelle. It seems that one person is nicer than the next on this journey – and Annick and Keith are no exception, as they welcome us to their house and village with great hospitality (and fluent English!). In fact, Keith is Scottish and this immediately creates a bond between us all.

WeeR is only out of the car 5 minutes, and he is in his swim shorts again – delighted to find a hot tub in the garden of our no 4 exchange – this is something we will look forward to in September as the weather cools.

Keith and Annick’s is a most varied and interesting life – and we enjoy tales of their lives spent in exotic destinations like Madagascar and Morocco over an amazing Moroccan feast under vines in the garden, with some local brew called Pineau.

These are people we could listen to and talk with for much longer than an evening, and we are glad to spend the next day with them and to share another fine meal with friends – another Scotsman, would you believe!

But instead of leaving this haven of Scots folk, fine food and tales of far flung place to head north to house exchange 2, we are extended an invitation by our French friends Antony and Adeline to stay with them in Bordeaux for a day or two. This means heading back down the A62 for a couple of hours, but it will be great to see them again — and weeR is keen on their swimming pool — so we decide it is worth while! The sun is fierce now, and the sky is an amazing azure – untroubled by clouds.

More French hospitality and I do worry for my waist line. Adeline informs me that after their recent vacation in Corsica, she is aiming for a ‘green’ week, so I am not to be too scared. There are lots of vegetables – and even the cake is healthy! These are good people, and we enjoy practicing more French – asking “What’s the French for?” every 2 minutes. They decide we know more than we let on, so they will only speak in French from herein. Thankfully, they’re not too strict…and we make it through 2 evenings with lots more English and laughter.

Day 18 and we head off a couple of hours later than planned – in the searing heat – to house exchange 2 in the north of France. Doris (the GPS) has the address in her memory and we follow her every instruction. The journey is probably an hour longer than we had expected, but we arrive at a small house with wooden shutters and greet the lady hanging out the front window with a friendly “Bonjour!”. She must be the friend of the people from house no 2 (whom we know have arrived safely at our place in Scotland).

Thankfully we don’t take the suitcases straight out the car – it becomes apparent we are not expected. Lots of rapid French and we are none the wiser. We thrust the piece of paper on which we have written the address on in front of Madame, and she nods her head and shakes her head! She goes off to find her daughter – she speaks some English and may be able to shed light on the matter.

AnnSophie is home on vacation from Paris(lucky for us) and her English is very good. It appears we have the correct address, but this family is not exchanging houses. I begin to worry that we have been given a false address and the house exchange no 2 has been arranged by some fraudsters. Madame invites us intot her beautiful home and offers drinks and food. We politely accept some water and try not to appear too worried.

We have a phone number to call – the family from exchange 2 had arranged for their friends to hand over their keys. AnnSophie takes the number and speaks rapidly to the friend. It seems there has only been a small misunderstanding, and although the house number, street address and postal code were correct – and the same as the house we had arrived at – we were in the wrong town! We should have been in a small village 7km away… Sandrine – the friend with the key – is to come and rescue us – and we can follow her to the correct destination.

Lots of laughter and kisses and bonne vacances and kisses and good lucks and farewells, and we are on the road again…my faith in people across the globe is renewed, and we marvel at our good luck.

Finally we arrive at our destination. This is a lovely modern house – very similar in fact to our own. WeeR is thrilled to find a television for his computer games, and we are delighted with the office and internet connection, which works immediately.

A whole new region to explore. A whole new kitchen to get familiar with. How will the next two weeks fare? We unpack, eat some pasta and flop into our beds, too tired to think about much at all… Phew – it’s hot in here…

Wish you were here…

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephen July 30, 2008 at 9:10 am

This is making me miss France more and more. Hope your good fortune with the places, people and weather continues unabated.

We had summer in Scotland last week, it was great while it lasted.

Have fun


David July 30, 2008 at 2:39 pm

You must have left Martin and Julie clones behind who are still working somewhere out in the ‘ether’; for there can’t be time to do all you’re doing including your blog as well as work! I’m glad you’re both having such a great time and that Ruaridh is clearly in his element. This the time to do it when you’re still relatively poor enough to enjoy the lifestyle before you become bloated capitalists with so much money pouring in so that even luxury seems boring! Enjoy!!
Summer’s back here today after a day’s break for rain: very hot nad humid once more!


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