Our very lovely house-sit in Cazeneuve finally came to an end, as all things must do. We had a final dinner and beers with our returned hosts, hearing tales of their travels and sharing our experiences of our time in their beautiful home. A final clean up and packing up session after breakfast the next morning and we were off, sad to be leaving our cosy nest but also eager to be back on the road in Benny, our first real trip out in several months.
We headed north, our first stop a call in to meet the host of our next house-sit, beginning in mid-April. After a missed turn and then a rather wild trip through managed forests on single track lanes with tall grass growing up the middle, we finally arrived. We spent an hour with our host Eric, a fellow Brit who has lived near Ribérac for many years but who now splits his time between it and Montenegro. We had a tour and a tea, and got an initial feel for the house, the immediate area and the neighbours. We also met our new masters, two proud cats who we will dote on for our six week stay, if they are predisposed to let us. We are also hopeful of some good, warming spring weather for our long days there, as they would bring our first experience of perfect summer days we hear tales of.
From Eric’s, we continued north and then east at a leisurely pace, stopping to visit Hautefort château and town, along with other places that caught our interest. We had arranged to meet various agents who would show us select properties, arranged over two days of viewings. It was raining for most of the time, but at least we were seeing them at their worst, and not being seduced by glorious sunshine. We ended up viewing five very different properties as we passed through Limousin, giving us a feel for what we can get, or more importantly what we want to get, for our money. Nothing yet pinged our ‘must have’ urges, but some interesting possibilities arose and we came away with a bit more clarity on our expectations and desires. We’ll return to the house-hunting in April with gusto.
With persistent rain and grey skies following us as we made our way north, we had only one dry, clear day on our route home. Happily, this bright but still chilly day coincided with when we were passing through the Loire valley, so with minimal diversion we called in to visit the impressive Château de Chenonceau. After a false start dashed our plans to picnic in the grounds (no food allowed, bags thoroughly checked) we ate outside then made our way under the arched canopy of trees towards the formal gardens. To delay the big reveal, we cut left into a small maze and, after a short loop through pretty woodland, we arrived at the north bank of the river Cher, at the back-left corner of the formal gardens, allowing wonderful views of the tall château as it spanned out across the river on stone arches.
We skirted the edges of the gardens as we approached the château, admiring the setting framed by a deep blue sky streaked with white cotton clouds. Our Wild Swim France book lists a curious swim here, starting from the publicly accessible south bank of the river Cher – the river was flowing wild on our visit, but we may partake on our way back south. We continued our tour inside, visiting most of the bedrooms, state rooms and kitchens on our route. We wandered back into the gardens, passing rows of many heavily pollarded trees coated with thick moss, to visit the 16th century farm buildings. These once housed the extensive staff required to tend the grounds and produce all necessary food for château guests. There were large barns filled with buggies, carriages and old farm implements.
Two days and a very early ferry journey later, we were deposited back in the UK at Newhaven for a busy month of visiting, shopping and servicing. These are always the few hectic, expensive but wonderful weeks that refresh, renew and exhaust us in equal measure, but also allow us to enjoy the simple freedom during the rest of our year. It is also great to catch up with friends and family, with multiple stops this time all over England and Ireland, in between all the pre-organised events – Benny’s service and habitation check, fitting of new tyres, attending birthday parties, visiting dentists & opticians, training runs and much needed shopping trips to replace worn out gear.
We’ve also had to deal with some proper Blighty weather since our return, braving snowy storms and wild rainy weather when out on walks and runs. It’s been a good reminder of the weather we are hoping to avoid in future years with our proposed move to France.