When I announced that I was coming to France for a year, a lot of friends said they were envious and wished they could something similar. Along with the note of wistful yearning though was the invariable question. Wasn’t I concerned about feeing lonely? At times I could almost hear my mum’s voice. “Off in a foreign country all by yourself, Janice, no-one to talk to. . .” Even as I assured everyone, including the mum voice in my head, that I’d be fine, there were moments when I wondered, especially in the sleepless wee hours, what exactly I was doing. But a friend gave me a good piece of advice. Just go. If you don’t like it, come back. Really it was that simple. If I got desperately homesick, I’d come home–a bit embarrassed, maybe, but really no big deal.
Now, as my two months in the Dordogne wind down and I look ahead to my move to Montpeyroux, I’m feeling a bit of trepidation about leaving Excideuil.
As an introduction to France, it has been fantastic. To start with, I was lucky finding Domaine de Tabary which I discovered on rentaplaceinfrance.com. Le Pigeonniere had looked quite charming and suitable for my purposes when I saw it on the internet and it turned out to be just as I’d hoped. I love drinking my morning coffee on the terrace, hearing the birds singing in the woods and every night I look forward to settling down with a book in the wood-beamed coop with its indentations from which pigeons once flew in and out.
But as much as I like Le Pigeonniere, it has been the owners, Richard and Luisa, who have made my stay here so enjoyable. From wine and cheese by their fireside, to offers of lifts here and there, to a great day in Bordeaux with Luisa and her family, it has all been a delight. Ian and Adel and their son Alex, neighbors in Le Ferme, next to Le Pigeonniere, have left now for their new home in a village not far from here, but I’ll remember the warm evenings sitting outside drinking wine in the courtyard while Alex rode his bicycle around and around–and Ian teasing me about my socks. “Were you drunk when you put them on?” That would be telling.
I look on them all as new friends — along with Jeanni, who once lived here, her children, her mother-in-law, Joan, now back in England.
Before I left for France, I joined a number of expat websites. One of them was called, I think, Americans in France. Soon after I got here, I posted on one of them to ask whether there might be anyone living in Excideuil. I hardly expected a response, but within minutes someone e-mailed to ask why on earth anyone would want to be in Excideuil in March. That was Melissa. We met for coffee that afternoon and I’ve enjoyed her company on various occasions since. She lives in a converted railway station and has the sort of kitchen I crave. We’ve both lived in California, both worked in public relations. Last night, we went to an art exhibit in the village. Interesting people; writers, painters, musicians, photographers. I’ve been invited to another function next Saturday.
So now I’m looking ahead to Montpeyroux and wondering will I like it? Will I meet people? Make friends? I’m sure I will. And even if I spend every evening alone and never speak to a soul, that will be part of the adventure too I think.
top: one of four Tabary cats and, according to Luisa, the most photographed cat in the Dordogne. Likes to sleep in the herb beds and smells pleasantly of oregano.
middle: Adel, Janice, Joan, Jeanni