When Steve and I were introduced to each other, on a blind date nearly 8 years ago, we discovered that we both harboured a dream to live in France. In 2002 we started our hunt for the “perfect property” and after 2 years had found plenty of properties we didn’t want but none that we did want.
Eventually in August 2004, we discovered a house in the village of Azé in southern Burgundy and realised that we could have a new life in this part of France. We used the house as a holiday home until March 2008, when we were finally able to move over here permanently to renovate the house in order to open a chambres d’hôtes. It wasn’t an easy decision as we have left behind 7 children and a large family but we wanted a challenge and we felt that a move to France would provide that.
After purchasing the house, we realised that the area of the Saône et Loire has so much to offer. With great road, rail and air links we found that this area also has incredible historic links; the ancient town of Cluny is only 15 minutes away. The predominant industry in this area is wine and with the Beaujolais region only 20 minutes to the south, we are surrounded by what is a remarkable and varying environment.
We came out here with certain ideas about how we wanted the house to be when it was finished, but realised quite quickly that your ideas when it’s a holiday home change dramatically when you live in a house permanently. One word of advice, you need to be flexible in your approach to renovating property not only with ideas but also the finished result. Sometimes reading too many UK based magazines does not translate into what’s available here in France and you can end up being disappointed.
In the UK we had undertaken some DIY but doing it in another country was completely different. The plumbing works on different sizes, electricity is wired up differently and even the type of paint is not familiar. But after a lot of reading and a few mistakes, we finally finished what we set out to do and opened Les Portails Bleus.
Since living in Azé we have met some wonderful characters; like the 80 year old Count who lives in the village and stops at our house for a chat when he goes out for a walk. The locals have been very supportive of our attempts to speak the language and we have made them chuckle with our “faux pas”. It was our aim to develop a friendly and welcoming chambres d’hôtes but along the way we have met some very interesting people and had quite a few laughs. We discovered a wrought iron bed in the attic that was so heavy we couldn’t lift it and carrying it down two flights of stairs was out of the question. So in the end there was no alternative – we threw it out the window onto the road below. And like the night we had an Italian couple turn up – a WEEK EARLY – and the electricity had burnt out whilst cooking dinner! I thought they’d be eating salad for dinner with the other guests and going to bed by candlelight but our neighbour (an electrician) came to the rescue at 8.00pm and re-connected the supply and wouldn’t take payment for it.
So how different is our life now? Tremendously so – there is no more commuting and no more working for other people. The pace of life is much slower; people have time for each other; neighbours know and look after each other. The local tradition of “aperitifs” is one we have welcomed with open arms. It gives us a chance to meet our neighbours and friends and chat the best we can in French and, of course, sample the local vintage.
So, our advice is follow the dream but be realistic and make the most of all opportunities.
Linda Baker and Steve Taylor
For further information about staying at Linda and Steve’s B&B “Les Portails Bleus”, visit their website www.burgundyblueholidays.com