It's been four weeks since we arrived in the Aveyron and what an adventure it's been! We had a massively long driving journey of almost 24 hours - ridiculous when we only had a journey of about 12 hours - but we got sent on a wild goose chase around Belgium for a good 6 hours (not actually as funny as it sounds) due to some questionable directions from the satellite navigation. Belgium is not even big enough to spend six hours driving across so how we took that long I will never know. After that we meandered ever so slowly through the north of France until we got onto a toll road and then started to make progress.
Stopping along the way for the necessary pit stops for ourselves, three cats and one old dog also ended up costing more time than we bargained. We snatched some short naps along the highway, but it was nothing compared to what we needed and we were both shattered by the time we arrived. My romantic notions of filming the journey with the GoPro were long since abandoned and we rolled up at the new house exhausted but happy to be there safe and sound.
And then we stopped and looked.
We'd only seen the property once and that was over half a year ago. It was beautifully green and lush looking, the surroundings were breathtaking and birds were singing - it would have been magical, except for the fact that all we really wanted was a hot shower and a comfy bed to sleep in for about 12 hours. Our hearts sunk a bit as it dawned on us that there was none of the above currently available and that the animals in the car needed letting out of their confinement. Added to that we needed to set up camp, make a bed, cook a meal and try to stay warm that night. The plan had always been to camp in the house but a quick look inside only revealed a massive amount of work needing to be done before even a tent would go in. We both went silent for a good 20 minutes...
And then I realised that there was only one thing to do. We were here now and there was no going back, my little apartment in The Hague was sold and far away - it was time get to work.
Some day when I'm feeling braver I'll post the short 'before' video I made of the house, but today's not the day. I was utterly exhausted from the packing, sorting, house sale and journey there the past weeks. Being a photographer at that moment wasn't something I could muster the energy for, but I managed to get a short video before I started. But since I'm not sharing that right now, instead I'll just tell you that there was a massive heap of broken wood on the floor, creepy old furniture, masses of hazelnut shells and poop from whatever ate them, gigantic spiders everywhere, the odd wasp and hornet buzzing around upstairs and dust...lots..and lots...of dust.
Being a master organizer I had of course brought everything I thought was important, unfortunately though none of those things included any form of cleaning equipment. We rummaged around and found an old brush and a pair of gloves and I cleared as much of the garbage as I could from the old house, trying not to let the cats escape every time I carried something out. Apart from trying to create a clear-ish sort of space for our tent and set up a small camp, I also had to think about the removal van travelling only hours behind us. Somehow we managed to get things set up in time to receive our boxes and gear (adding yet more stuff to be sorted in the house).
The day after the moving van dropped off our stuff it started to rain. But it didn't just rain, it poured down. Day after day for a good two weeks solid. It was miserably damp everywhere, our clothes, the bed, the house. I caught myself wondering why people bothered with rubber boots for the rain, our feet seemed constantly wet with or without them. We had a few moments here and there of good weather (those are the ones that went on instagram!) where we tried to get firewood, but with all the rain the wood was damp and going to a forest we didn't know felt a bit too risky. The forests here are not like the manicured green areas in the Netherlands. They're steep with gorges at times, overgrown and jungle like with ancient trees, massive vines and growth everywhere. Full of wild boar, deer and snakes - quite beautiful and wild, exactly what I'd always dreamed about, but I definitely didn't want to go in on a bad weather day!
The damp wood we did manage to get smoked a lot and burned badly. One of the lowest points for me was spending a cold morning in a cold house in the rain with no fire - that was the day I fitted the wood burning stove! Come hell or high water, I was determined to find a way to botch it in so we could light a fire at least. After buying the wrong attachment and making another 40km trip back to the closest city, I managed to install the stack pipe and hold it in place with a piece of scrap metal wedged between the stones in the chimney area. What a happy and slightly scary moment to be able to light a fire again! Which was a good thing too as we needed to huddle over it for another solid week or so of terrible weather.
Was this the South of France weather I'd heard about? Had I done the right thing leaving my comfortable organized predictable little life in the Netherlands? What had I done? And why am I writing about this?
Well, firstly, we'd been assured by many locals it was an awful weather for the time of year and not at all 'normal'. It's been a weird year weather wise for a lot of Europe, perhaps due to our impact on the planet, or perhaps due to a radical change in human activity globally that I believe has climate repercussions. I don't know how normal the weather in May was, but I do know that next May I intend to be much better prepared than I was this year.
Secondly, yes, I'd done absolutely the right thing leaving my comfortable, organized, predictable little life in the Netherlands. I was home. I was chasing my dreams. Living out of my comfort zone to create something better than the old. No matter where you are, that's not a bad place to be I reckon.
Lastly, why am I writing this? Because life is not everything you see on instagram. It's hard work sometimes. Unpleasant, scary and uncomfortable. But sometimes that's exactly what you need to go through to get to where you're going.