It is three months since we sat down in the office of the notaio in Citta della Pieve, signed a contract and handed over a cheque for our new house in Italy.

Today we set off to stay in the house for the first time so we can get the work started on renovating it. We will be camping out in the house for a while, so we have filled the car with all the essentials we will need for our 3 week stay: inflatable mattresses, bedding, plates, cutlery, glasses, bottle opener, Marmite… And, of course, Daisy the dog and her bed, treats, toys, food, water, blankets, towels, etc. How do families with children cope! There was barely room for Paola’s shoes.

We had a last minute panic making sure we had all the legal requirements for driving in Europe in winter: every possible spare bulb, snow chains, high-vis vests, warning triangle, breathalyser, … Hopefully, we won’t need the snow chains. They are supposed to be really easy to fit. I wonder if that is true when you are tired and caught in a snow storm in the dark. That might test even Jamie’s engineering skills.

The day started with torrential rain – not the best conditions to try and pack our life into a car. But, surprisingly, it all fitted and we set off. We had planned our departure time to make sure we would have plenty of time to get to “Le Shuttle” even if the traffic was worse than expected. But we had forgotten to allow time for walking Daisy (in the pouring rain) before we set off. And the traffic was even worse then expected. The M4 turned into a car park at Reading and the M25 was … well, the M25.

Amazingly, despite the sat-nav consistently telling us we would arrive too late, we got to the Chunnel in time (well, Paola was driving, so what do you expect). The terminal was eerily quit and there only seemed to about 5 other cars on the train. Odd for a Saturday, but then again who goes to Northern France in November.

We are taking our time with the journey down, so our first stop is just outside Calais, at the Chateau de Moulin-le-Comte in Aire-sur-la-Lys. We arrived around 5pm, which meant there was time for Daisy to run around the garden and us to have a refreshing glass of Pineau des Charentes to celebrate the start of the trek south. The hotel is owned by a Belgian father and son and is a lovely old chateau with an atmospheric sense of the past. There is an enormous gesso plaque of a cherub above the bed. Hope it’s fixed securely! Really high ceilings and a dining room large enough to hold 5 enormous carved sideboards plus tables and chairs.

After a nice dinner, cooked by Francis, we were introduced to the owner’s puppy long-haired Chihuahuas – Bobo and Lola. Three months old and cuteness off the scale. Although, we had to hold back Daisy Dog who thought they might be a tasty hors d’hoeuvre.


Planning an early night and breakfast so we can have an easy journey down to Perouges.


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