About UsWe are Penny and Steve, with our children Jake and Lucy and yes, we did what all those get a new life programmes show, we made that decision to change it all and to really get a new life. Back in 2004 we had a wonderful holiday in rural France (2 weeks out from a very stressful few years in SW London with our noses to the grind stone) and sitting out on those balmy holiday evenings, wine in hand we discussed what we wanted to change in our lives as we did every year on holiday, the elusive more time as a family, a simpler life and an escape from the noise and traffic. We carefully developed over the two weeks our escape plan, many of us do it and then return to the grind with just the fond memories of a perfect dream.
We returned to the UK but the grand plan this time didn’t fade away it grew and made it onto paper and conversations with the rest of the family. For us this time we decided it was now or never, our children were 10 and 5 and now was the chance to change everything.
Steve and I took several trips to France and visited over 30 properties, there is nothing like deciding if you want to live in a new place when you are house hunting in February. We chipped our way through ice and snow to look at so many houses that the French called habitable but we would and did call derelict. Their criteria here was obviously if in the past it had inhabitants, water and electricity then in theory it could be habitable; by spiders may be but however hardy we felt we were, we had to wade our way through a lot of hovels.
In April 2005 we found La Petite Breuille. We pulled up to the gates and fell in love, well the kids did really, we were greeted by 7 dogs, 2 donkeys, a horse, 2 goats, chickens, millions of cats and somewhere in this lovely old farm house a charming lady called Catherine. We wandered around and the dream just grew and grew. Then we noticed how wonderfully happy the children were, they had disappeared to play with the animals and with every turn we took we were greeted with squeals of delight as they explored another barn or animal stable. We signed our lives away then and there and 2 hours later were the owners in all but a transfer of money of La Petite Breuille. Madness I know but it felt so right and the whole family were already talking about this as home.
In July 2005 we made the move having sold all in the UK. We waved off the removals lorry, packed the car with the family, two cats and a rabbit and made our way through the night to our new lives.
La Petite Breuille at this stage was habitable just, well it had electricity, water and a loo. It was in all other aspects just an empty shell, the kids described it as camping with bricks. Steve and I at this stage were committed to the next 18 months of some serious hard graft, huge quantities of determination and NO EMPLOYERS.
The next 18 months saw the re-development of the farm house at La Petite Breuille – we now know that this is a project that will never be finished and every year we develop a new bit of the property but there is always plenty left to do. Having said that Steve can now build, mend or make just about anything (pretty good start for a Finance Director) and I am the queen of pointing and make a fairly decent builders mate, even if it is in my pink Cath Kitson wellies.
The original farmhouse at La Petite Breuille dates back some 200 years and many of the villagers at some stages of their lives have lived here, all are delighted that the Farmhouse and Cottage have been restored and are loved again, we have been welcomed into the community as have all our many guests. We were for the first few years the local village entertainment, I think we provided hours of fun at the village suppers and aperitif evenings especially as we struggled with the language and cultural difference.
Summer 2007 saw us open for business with our first families arriving in a ground force moment with us laying gravel as they sent a text to say they were on their way. We are now very settled and have had so many happy families here and we just love sharing all of this with them.
My favourite part of all this is watching our tired and grey families arrive and two weeks later leave with hugs all round, a rosy if not bronzed complexion and children and parents that have all had the holiday they wanted.
After their 4th summer holiday with us B wrote "Well, see you next year. Every time we arrive we start to relax, and every time we depart we long to return." August 2011