Back to square one with the online house hunting. My perfect booking had fallen through (see virtually homeless – part 1). But as with many crises, there was an unexpected blessing: a chance to reflect on the kind of life I’m wanting for us over these three months.
This isn’t about trying to recreate the convenience we strive for at home: short commute times, proximity to shops, covered car-parking and rooms enough for two children and the occasional guest.
This is a different enterprise where other qualities matter to me: living a country life, feeling the seasons, seeing the snow, waking to a sunrise behind layers of distant mountains.
I have a deep longing for a cosy home with a heart-lifting view.
Everything else feels secondary:
Garage: nice to have, but I can always get a car cover
A room for everyone: well, the children can share (and let’s face it, Delphine’s going to be sleeping in my bed for the most part anyway)
A bath for the children: no big deal, we can all shower together
I did set two practical parameters to temper my romanticism: internet for video calls back home, and a 30 minute upper limit for the school commute.
So with this odd checklist of romance and reality, it was back to the online accommodation sites.
I started to take notes. It was getting difficult to remember the stand-outs in the sea of search results. My scrawling comments are telling:
St A. house: 25 min, 4 rooms (too big?), view uncertain, interior design a bit odd
T.ville: pleasant house, wif-fi, internal garage, hmm, but Google Streetview shows a light industrial centre just blocks away
O.ville: only 18 min, parking space but no garage, view of vines ?, fire place,
Les VDA: big house, fire place, great view.. aah, no internet
And then I landed upon it: a charming little chalet high in the hills. A chocolate box of a tiny home but with a view of the valley that drew a faint sigh – “here, I could stay here.”
I flicked through the photos: compact ground floor with kitchen, dining and little living space all in one area. A grassy lawn just outside the French doors where I could watch the children play as I prepared dinner at the tiny one-bench kitchen. Two little bedrooms under the eaves upstairs: twin beds in the children’s room and, in my own, a window opening onto that mountain view.
This was it. I sent in the booking enquiry. And waited. Waited an age it felt.
Feeling yet another perfect chalet slipping away, I feverishly searched for another way to get in contact. I swapped to French language websites about the region and typed in the name of the chalet. But it was at the mayoral website of the chalet’s tiny town that I struck gold: a list of local accommodation providers and their phone numbers. I checked my timezones, drafted up some French speaking notes, took a deep breath and dialled the number.
“Bonjour Monsieur, je cherche Madame X…
I had a lovely conversation with the chalet owner’s husband, but still it was deflating. I wanted certainty now. It seemed I’d have to wait a few more days until the owner returned from an overseas trip.
It was roughly 1.30am. My mobile was ringing. Fumbling disoriented across the darkened room I hit the speak button :
It was the chalet owner: was I still interested?
I find speaking in French on the telephone slightly tricky at the best of times. I sorely miss all the secondary signs I normally use to make sense of others’ words. So it was doubly harder in the black of the night, lying prostrate in my bed, in the befuddled state of being recently awoken.
But I must have I made myself understood; the next day I received an email confirming our booking for November through to end-January.
Reading her message, I let out a sigh of pent-up anxiety. Now I could begin looking forward to the trip again.