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Soon we will be living at Le Grippault for one year. We have not regretted our move and our new life for a second. We are incredibly happy to no longer live in the city and enjoy every day the nature, landscape and architecture of our stunning Loire region. When we spend a week in Amsterdam, we are homesick for our cats and the two chickens. We miss the fresh air and our friends here. The children miss the space to play outside and the freedom to walk to the bakery by themselves. We have landed.

But it wouldn’t be fair not to say that we’re struggling at the same time. French bureaucracy is tough, slow and often downright old-fashioned. Systems are digitised but not linked. A different form exists for every action. And on several occasions we have ended up in a kind of catch 22 situation, where we had to wait at one authority for the stamp of another authority and vice versa. Fortunately, we speak good French and are surrounded by lovely people who help us, but even they regularly sigh “Bienvenue en France”. Welcome to France. What is comforting is that the French’s daily fight against bureaucracy is also fraternising. Everyone has to deal with it and we’d better have a laugh about it. And so, every time we get a bit down when things don’t work, like importing the car, getting our Carte Vitale or a tax number, there is always someone on our doorstep with a home-made jam, a home-grown truffle, or that one very tasty Saumur wine from a befriended winemaker. The French never seem down for a long time. “Tout n’est pas toujours rose, c’est la vie!”. It isn’t all roses, even if you are living the dream. Luckily the French know that nothing works more uplifting than a good local treat from a friend!

The hardest part of this period for us is the scale of the project, our unbridled ambitions, our often too fast pace (for ourselves but especially for the Frenchmen around us) and the fact that the two of us are both the building superintendent, as well as gardener, interior decorator, theatre teacher, fundraiser, programmer, producer, father and mother. Two octopuses who always lack a few arms. We run a business in the making together and do so day and night, seven days a week. We do what we believe in and that keeps us going. And going. And going. That requires a lot from our children, and sometimes from ourselves. Life can be tough, specially in months like these when there have been a lot of emotional events in our private lives too. It is tempting to park negative emotions and keep on working, but in the meantime we are also learning that sometimes we need to take a break. Our doctor prescribed daily half-hour walks. So we are doing that now. In our own forest, where the birds are already teeming, the paths are already full of wild garlic, the elder is starting to sprout and the deer are jumping in front of us. Our own forest. Our resting point where we watch the seasons slip by day by day. Our forest that offers comfort and shelter, and makes us breathe. It grounds us and helps us slow down. The forest puts everyting else into perspective. There is a lot to be thankful for on this journey, even when the road gets a little rough.