Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Our First House Sit: Paradise in the Messiah's Kingdom

Near to Aurignac, France
October 2015
It was in late October that we had our first experience of a new and promising way of travelling: house sitting. We were lucky enough to land our breakthrough gig in the French countryside in the Toulouse area looking after a cat. The home owner, Sarah (name changed for privacy), cooked us a lovely dinner and we chatted late into the evening about all of our travels. 
She had previously told us the story of how on a dark night, a kitten was born in a barn under a bright star, and so (believing the next messiah may have just been birthed) named him Brian in reference to Monty Python's Life of Brian. The tiny black ball of fur evaded capture for two weeks, and once finally caught it turned out that the kitten was a girl. Even so, the name stuck.
Sarah departed the next morning and Brian took an instant liking to us. She enjoyed curling up at the end of our bed and taking up much more space than a cat should need. 

She purred ferociously and would sometimes look pointedly at her food bowl. Brian and food were like two peas in a pod if peas ate each other and there was a constant supply of one of them. She had a particular fondness for ham and Sarah left a packet in the fridge for us in case Brian needed encouragement to bond with us. 

Having purchased an old farmhouse, Sarah was taking the time to renovate her new home. She retained many of its features including the stone work, painted shutters and climbing ivy. 

We had the fortune of staying up in the loft bedroom topped with wooden ceiling. After living out of a tent for so long, this was absolute paradise! Not only did we have a bed, not only did we have a room to ourselves, not only did it have an ensuite bathroom, but it was all so spacious! It was the lap of luxury. 

Spending time inside the house was wonderful, but the cherry on top of the enormous housesitting sundae was the fine weather during our ten-day stay. Temperatures reached such highs that many days I sunbathed and devoured book after book lounging in the sun. Naps were frequent. 

The evenings were quite a bit colder, so we would gather wood for the fire from the stockpile ranging in sizes from kindling to 'will-it-fit-in-the-fireplace?'

Our success at firestarting seemed to grow slowly as time went on, and we were lovely and toasty after the sun went down. We spent our evenings generally lazing about, though I did take the opportunity to practice some Spanish for the next leg of our journey (we wanted to follow the warm temperatures south for as long as feasibly possible).
Our stay coincided with the last couple of matches of the Rugby World Cup. We procured cider to go with the telly watching and chomped through shallot and vinegar flavour chips while cheering on those glorious men in black stubbies. Occasionally while we were curled up on the couch Brian would wander about meowing. I'd check that she had food and her attention meter was filled before giving up and returning to my seat. The messiah was most displeased about something, though what I had no idea. Apart from the random fits of meowing she seemed to have no qualms about her new roommates.

The ten days passed and on the last morning of the house sit, Brian woke us at dawn by stomping around the bed and making a ruckus. Though we were annoyed at the time and evicted her from the room in the hopes of catching a few more Zs, Yannick happened to find that a wonderful sunrise was lighting up the Pyrenees and snapped some photos.
Then Sarah returned with a new cat friend! Brian hissed and skittered off - not a promising start to the relationship but I hope they're now getting along well.
It was a brilliant first experience to have for house and cat sitting, and we already had the feeling that we'd enjoy it as a means of travel in the future. We did make a couple of day-trips during our stay which will be covered in the next two posts - Aurignac and Surrounds, and Toulouse!

Today's post was almost called: More Ham for the Son of God