, 2022-11-27 19:45:00,
I came late to a love of travel. A combination of early marriage, child rearing and a focus on my own front yard were to blame for the delay. But I recovered from all three and started to focus on the horizon instead. Being well into my 50s, I knew my chances of ticking off all the usual tourist destinations were slim. And, for me, there was only one other horizon I absolutely had to see for myself. It belonged to a country with a cuisine, culture and history I knew better than that of my own: one whose language I had studied for nine years but had never spoken on its soil. In 2015 my long-distance love affair with France was finally consummated.
Liberated at last from – and with the encouragement of – my children, who clearly wanted me out of the country, I joined a house- and animal-minding website. I then went about trying to sell my animal husbandry skills – at the time non-existent – to potential hosts.
Convincing strangers to leave their beloved pets and their homes in your care is difficult at the best of times. Doing it in a language you haven’t spoken since your university days increases the degree of difficulty by a factor of 10. I gave up on the French site and moved to an English one, whose clientele were mainly British expats living in their dream homes in idyllic corners of France. The switch worked in my favour: during my six months in France, every home I stayed in looked like the postcard cottage of my feverish France-starved imagination.
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