Were we having a daydream, entertaining a romantic notion of packing it all up and moving to another country? This delightful narrative of an adventurous (or foolish) couple in the autumn of their lives, who desire a lifestyle change, begins in 1992. He a skeptical, flamboyant American, and I, still clinging to a British passport and three dogs. Knowing no French, we make a bold decision to abandon California for an unspoiled village in the heart of the French countryside, called Le Berry.
Once the germ of the idea becomes firmly rooted, we begin to realize the myriad obstacles and complications that must be addressed. This valuable information is laid out in a light-hearted way, and gives the reader some insight as to what actually must be done to buy a foreign property and make a move, as well as a sense of our determination and fortitude to follow the dream.
The story truly unfolds once the interminable bureaucracy is behind us and our feet touch French soil on a frosty winter morning. Our first night does not go as planned, as our rented van becomes mired in a watery ditch on a desolate country cowpath in the pitch-black night.
We feel like two aliens dropped onto another planet, as all our belongings are sailing the high seas, and were camping out with three dogs in our vacant cottage in the midst of France. This raw fact forces us to explore our village, meet the town folk, and become familiar with our idyllic surroundings. It also allows us to try dealing with merchants for the purchase of a car, a sofa-bed, and some kitchen cupboards; simple transactions, we thought!
We find that living in an adopted country means adapt. Not so easy with strange shopping hours, and a lack of ethnic food. I resort to some bizarre culinary experiments, using ersatz ingredients, in order to re-create our melting- pot American cravings. The language is difficult, especially for my very verbal actor husband, who begins to feel alienated from lack of expression. He has a brilliant idea to utilize our acting backgrounds which has us scurrying to Paris. An agent links us with a film producer in Lille, who hires us sight unseen. The project lands us pleading our case in a French court; judge and magistrates attired in flowing robes and powdered wigs, and no one speaks English! Can we win this case? I try my talents as foreigner working in the very French environment of a chateau-hotel in a valiant attempt to hone my halting French.
With seasons so defined, we learn complicity with natures timetable, inevitably becoming a part of country France. We find the rich rewards of life are the simple joys; snail, mushroom, and firewood gathering, the challenge of transforming a cobwebbed attic into a grand room, delicious long evenings around a dining table with Berrichon friends sharing country cuisine and bottles of wine, delights of true French picnics on warm afternoons on the banks of a lookinglass lake in the woods, encountering little creatures wed never known before, or those many peaceful times wandering the picturesque lanes, exploring medieval villages scattered like windblown seeds across the velvet patchwork of countryside.
This charming adventure, filled with first-hand knowledge, told with warmth, humor and paintbrush-upon-canvas descriptions, beckons the armchair traveler, as well as those so bold as to consider such a move. So curl up in your cosiest chair, pack your imaginary bags, and savor the taste of a bucolic village in the Berry!