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I would like to welcome you all on this space, I’m very glad to "represent" la Vendée, where I was born and where I now live. I spent my youth in le bocage, the hilly, green area that forms the western part of the département. I’m now enjoying another beautiful aera, the coastline and marshlands. Having lived in these very different landscapes, I can tell you that la Vendée has a lot to offer! While famous for its long sandy beaches, it is much more than that. The cultural and architectural heritage is wide... Ideally located between Brittany and Bordeaux, it’s easily reached from England, by ferry, eurostar or plane; I hope you’ll enjoy reading about that my tips and experiences.
A bientôt in la Vendée!
My name is Maud Vinatier, I live in Soullans, a pleasant village located in the north west part of La Vendée; although I’m from this aera, I’ve only been "back" here for three years... At 39, I’m a cook, a taxi driver, a story teller, well, in other words a mum! mainly but not only... with the bit of time left on my hands, I write in the local newspaper, Ouest-France. All of our three children were born in Guildford, Surrey and their first words were english ones: " mum, car or look!".
How did it all start? Well, we have to go back to the 30th of August 1997 (not a happy day for you and the royal family, I know); on that day, I got married to Vincent, French and "Vendéen" like me. Earlier that year, Vincent had found a job with Cazenove & Co in the City of London and I had decided to follow him there. "What was a trainee spanish teacher like me going to do over there?" I often heard...
Anyway, young ex-students, broke but full of energy, we set foot in the perfide albion. One of my first memories of London was the millions of flowers laid around Buckingham Palace in memory of Princess Diana. Incredible sight for a foreigner like me! We also soon found out, naive as we were?, that house rents quoted on estate agents’ windows were not per month, but per week! Yet, we fell in love with a charming town on the outskirts of London, Guildford, its caste grounds, the paved high street, the river Wey. A taste of the countryside but still on the commuting belt for Vincent. Then, while my other half was working very hard, I ran for a few years a shop called " Leaping Lizards", selling furniture ans gifts from Indonesia and Africa... and from two we became five!
During all these years, we discovered the pleasures of Sunday lunch at our local pub, we went to parties with English, Italian, Swedish, Spanish people... and time flew by.
Until one day of January 2008 the urge to come back to my country and family was too strong. So, the decision was taken, the house sold and the ferry booked. One way this time! We put the children’s names down to a local school (no waiting list!) and came back in la Vendée in June 2008, for a life not far from the sea. All these years in England gave me a taste for old houses so, guess what we found in 2010? An XVIIIth century logis, old enough and with all the features we were after! And obviously in need of lots of TLC... We spent most of the last year in dirty clothes, smashing old mushy bathrooms, laying up tiles, painting, tidying up the jungle/garden. And the dream gradually came true.
The idea behind this purchase was also to open chambres d’hôtes, a B&B, so I could work from home and keep an eye on the children’s homework. I also knew, at the back of my mind, that it would be a way to keep a link with this "other life" and that british tourists would keep us in touch with the UK. With the house nearly finshed, and the guest rooms now opened, I can now say I live the life I imagined we could have back in France: an old house in the countryside, with children and a dog all running wild in the garden, chocolate around their mouth.