January 2021 (from Issue 34 of House Sitting Magazine)
Happy New Year.
Welcome to the first issue of House Sitting Magazine for 2021.
Are you, like us, hopeful for a better year ahead than last year turned out to be? I imagine, like most, you'll be glad to see the back of 2020?
I think it was a pretty challenging year for all of us, and having flexibility was one of the major keys to getting through these very strange times. I think the year ahead is also going to be filled with surprises and challenges, and who knows how things will play out over the coming months.
Vanessa and I do feel, however, that we made the best we could of the past 12 months, despite the situation we found ourselves in. We hope you managed to do so too.
At the start of October, with a possible new lockdown on the horizon for the UK, we decided to head south into France, in our newly converted campervan, where we had a great month of safe touring along the Normandy coastline.
Then in early November France beat the UK to implement a second lockdown, and we had to make a dash across the country to our new home base in the Burgundy region.
We had very kindly been offered an empty holiday property from a UK home owner, and were extremely grateful to have a warm and cozy home to ride out the six weeks of strict lockdown.
In order to leave the house we had to create and take an "attestation", declaring why we were away from home, and what time we had departed. For us, the only valid reasons to be out and about were either going shopping, or getting some exercise.
Exercise could be for a maximum of 1 hour, up to a maximum of 1 kilometre from home. I think sometimes our cycle routes took us a bit further afield, but we hardly ever saw another person, so didn't feel we were acting irresponsibly.
At the start of December the rules were relaxed a little, and we were allowed to wander as far as 20 kilometres away, for a maximum period of 3 hours. Our world opened up significantly.
Living in a home without pets made us realize how much we missed having animals around, and with France potentially opening up again on 15th December, we had applied for and were accepted for a couple of house sits. It helped that we were already in the country and close by. But everything still depended on whether the home owners would be allowed to travel, and then pass the mandatory covid tests before leaving.
Thankfully everything fell into place, and on the 15th we set off for Chamonix, high in the French Alps, for what would be an amazing Christmas house sit, looking after two dogs and two cats.
We stayed in a beautiful chalet with an amazing view out onto Mont Blanc, Europe's highest mountain. We enjoyed some fantastic clear winter mountain weather, and took the younger dog on some long hikes through the forests and up into the foothills.
We even had a go at snowshoeing.
The home owners returned after Christmas, and we stayed on in Chamonix over the New Year in the family's little apartment in town. Their winter renters had had to cancel.
Our next sit wasn't too far away, but we had to battle snowy conditions to get there, and couldn't make the final climb up the steep hill to get the the house. We had to park the van in the cemetery car park at the edge of town for the first night there.
Our second winter sit was fun too. We looked after two more dogs who both loved to be out and about in the snowy conditions, so we all got plenty of exercise.
On our way "home" we spent a couple of days in the campervan in cold conditions, with night-time temperatures dropping as low as -5 degrees (C). The heater system in the van performed admirably, and the sheepswool insulation meant we had a couple of very comfortable nights.
This allowed us to visit two wintery lake towns, staying one night at Annecy, and another at Aix-le-Bains.
Our almost-month-long mini adventure over Christmas and New Year allowed us to see a few places we haven't been to before, to look after some lovely pets, and to meet some wonderful home owners.
Once again, we feel we have made the most of what is currently available to us. I think that perhaps is going to be the key to enjoying what the coming year has to offer too.
Although for now we have lost many of our freedoms, and travel is incredibly restricted, it is as important as ever to remain optimistic, and try to find the positives in whatever situation we find ourselves in.
We have all had our horizons narrowed for now, so we must try to find the joy in the little adventures we can still create for ourselves.
Here's hoping for a happy 2021 for you all, however you choose to live it.
Ian and Vanessa
(currently house sitting (without pets) in Burgundy, France)