In 2015, Gregg and his wife Patricia left Belgium with their two young children and headed to a small town situated on the Canal du Midi in southern France. In this week’s guest blog, Gregg describes their move to Le Petit Viala and their new life setting up a B&B.
‘Moving to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches…’
“Somehow this song by the Presidents of the United States always comes to mind when people ask me ‘Why did you move to France?’ Not that the Languedoc is known for its peaches but hey, replace peaches by wine and you know what I’m doing here! The sunshine and a different lifestyle were the 2 major reasons for moving, but please, do not mistake a different lifestyle for doing nothing. We have to work just as hard (if not harder) here as we did in Belgium, but the southern outdoor lifestyle just gives another feel to how we perceive our work.
Like many people we dreamed of owning our own B&B. No, let me rephrase: We decided we would own a B&B. We took this decision after we had spent our first summer together, helping out my wife’s parents in their B&B in the Ardèche. 12 years, 2 kids and a whole lot of travels later, we found our dream location in the Languedoc. Situated in the middle of the vineyards, with a swimming pool and an extra holiday house on the property, it has everything we want… and more! There are also 150 olive trees, 10 sheep, 2 goats, 2 pigs and a dog. Having no experience whatsoever in farming, it took us a while to get everything sorted. The B&B is not yet up and running, but we do offer a lovely gite for six people, and everything we earn gets invested in Le Petit Viala, so we can convert it into a holiday home with B&B service over the next few years.
“Pardon? Je ne vous ai pas compris” (“I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you”)
This must be the sentence we have used the most for the past year and a half! Which came a bit as a surprise to us, coming from Belgium and having learned French in school ever since we were 11 years old. However, let me tell you that there is a huge difference between “making conversation” and actually speaking a language. Sure, we didn’t have any problem going grocery shopping, ordering in a restaurant or making small talk to the locals. It was a different story once we stumbled upon the dreaded French bureaucracy, and we found our French wasn’t quite as proficient as we thought!
Would we move back?
Never say never, but at this point our answer will be a definite NO! When we see our 2 girls running through the fields, helping out with the animals and vegetable garden, we know we’ve made the right decision. We moved here to change our lifestyle, to find a different pace in life and that’s exactly what we’ve found. Growing our own food, being more outdoors… We finally get the feeling that we have the time and space to breathe, that we are more in charge of where our lives are going instead of just racing along in the eternal rat race. All this and al fresco lunches in January make it easier not to miss Belgium too much. Isn’t there anything we miss? Of course we miss our family and friends, but fortunately they’re only one click on the mouse button away. Besides, we are the perfect excuse for them to go on a holiday!
Moving to another country isn’t the hardest part, staying there is. So you need a good plan and stick to it. Adjust when necessary and jump at opportunities. We will be launching several holiday packs over the next few weeks to attract more people outside summer season. You can’t be living in the world’s largest wine region without getting smitten, so thanks to Vin en Vacances, 2017 will be a wine filled year!”