It was pure chance that led us to this place, both geographic and internal. Pure unadulterated chance, and a healthy portion of what can only be described as incredibly good luck. France had been on our horizon for over six months, an ever expanding focal point whose direction we soon realised was the only one we wanted to head in. And so we gamely steered ourselves towards it, confident in our chosen next step.
Our original plan was to rent a house for six months. We researched specific areas, and earmarked the rolling green hills of the Midi-Pyrénées, somewhere between the pink city of Toulouse, and the famed wine capital of Bordeaux. We browsed online listings for rental cottages from our homestay in Bali, longing to once again enjoy the changing seasons of Europe, and life lived at a more relaxed pace.
It was only when returning home to England to visit family, mere weeks before our intended arrival in France, that the idea of house sitting first crossed our minds. Surprised that we hadn’t thought of it sooner, we quickly registered with two agencies, Trusted Housesitters and Mind My House, and devoured the advice given in an invaluable eBook we purchased from fellow bloggers and experienced house sitters, Hecktic Travels.
There was an abundance of short-term places available across France, but we were looking for a stay of six months, and as we quickly realised, it was rather late in the day to find such a thing. With little left available to us, we searched for houses suitable in our chosen area, and started submitting applications to anything loosely fitting the bill. It was with one such listing, no photographs included, that everything changed.
Though the description was vague, the location was perfect, and so too was the time frame; a delicious six months from November to April. Despite not knowing exactly what we were applying for, something about the advertisement just sounded right. There was even a cat to look after, which anyone who knows me will tell you was reason enough for me to apply.
We felt a rush of excitement when we made it past the first stage of the application process, and were told we had been shortlisted for consideration. Things got even more promising when we were invited for an interview via Skype with the owner’s personal assistant. It was at this stage that we were emailed a link to the house we could possibly be looking after for the next six months, though the word house barely does it justice.
After successfully passing the initial Skype test, we were put through to the final round: a Skype call with the owner herself. We were as giddy as school children, and so nervous that we both dressed up for the occasion, Lee’s unkempt locks neatly tied back, and my face baring make-up for the first time in months.
But our nerves were soon assuaged, and we found ourselves chatting freely with the owner, Lizzie, as though old friends; our conversation peppered with laughter and discoveries of numerous shared interests. Things went so well in fact, that at the end of the call, and much to our delight, we were offered the house sit on the spot.
Or should I say, chateau sit.
Set proudly atop a hill amidst 22 acres of beautifully maintained grounds, Chateau Dumas boasts an impeccably restored 18th century interior, featuring trompe l’oeil walls and original stone flooring, vintage furnishings, and stunning artwork. Topiary bushes and cypress trees stand proudly in the courtyard, their roots awash with swathes of fragrant lavender.
An artist’s haven, the chateau holds seasonal workshops, where guests can participate in a wide variety of arts and crafts. I can’t imagine a more idyllic setting, and our arrival here has triggered a wave of creativity for me, one I hope to ride for the long winter months ahead. Wandering though the many rooms, past walls decorated with vintage gowns and arrangements of luggage from the early 1900’s, the travelling artist in me is filled with such an overwhelming sense of joy, I can hardly wait to get back to our newly appointed office, draw out my pencils, and start sketching the stunning views that sit just beyond our window.
We’ve been living here for two weeks now, and our awe has not yet dissipated. I doubt it ever will. We feel honoured to have been entrusted with such a magnificent home, and can’t wait to see what these precious six months have in store for us. Though this is not our home forever, it is our home for now, a gift of chance that elegantly holds the key to all that we have been longing for in recent months.
It’s a place where we can slow down, and focus on creative pursuits. A place where we can rekindle that which was lost out on the open road. I can’t help thinking that maybe it wasn’t luck that brought us here after all, but more a case of fate leading us right to where we needed to be.