Hello, I am Nicola and in the photo above you can see me with my husband, Scott and our 4 year old daughter Summer, who is enjoying a horse ride in the Vendéen countryside on a warm summer's day in France.
Scott and I were born and raised each side of the Hampshire/Berkshire border in Southern England - both raised in the countryside within 15 minutes distance from each other, so both country bumpkins at heart.
We met almost 10 years ago, having both gone to support a band in Reading, of which we separately knew members. 10 years on and we are married with a wonderful 4 year old daughter who is our absolute world and have been living in the Vendée region of France since December 2012. We made the move when Summer had just turned 2 years old and not long being married, with our wedding being in June 2012! A very busy, eventful and slightly stressful year!
We did not plan to buy a house in France at the same time as organising a large wedding with over 120 guests, but it just kind of happened that way!
With both of us having a parent in the property development industry and being brought up watching, learning and sometimes getting involved, it is almost like it is was destined for us to meet and was inevitable that it would one day play a part in what we do together for a living.
When I met Scott, he was working as a CAD Designer, but like me, was looking for a little more diversity in his working life and was just embarking on his first property investment project, hoping to move further into the property industry; working independently on a more hands on level, broadening his skills and stepping away from the office.
I was working in residential property lettings within a well established family business which was set up by my aunt and now run by my cousin.
After his second project, Scott decided to continue in the property business and set up his own property renovations company, which proved to be very successful.
We decided after having Summer that it would be best for me to leave my office job and for us to join forces, with me doing the company marketing, accounts and administration from home, giving me the flexibility to look after Summer at home and fit working hours around that, therefore saving on childcare costs and profiting from more time with Summer.
With us starting to outgrow our home in England and plans to move to a larger house in a countryside location, who would have known that we would have ended up moving to France! (To find out more about our reasons for choosing France, please read more in my "Why Move To France?" article.
Just over 2 years on from the big move and no regrets, but lots of huge change, learning to adapt and emotional times with massive highs and lows shared along the way.
We are trying our best to stick to our plans and make them work for us. We have completed the first stage - The Gite - (the stages of which I am currently logging as historic posts in my blog each time I make a current update) and are about to embark on the next - The Barn step 1 (our home to be).
To keep us fed, watered and to pay the bills, we need to be earning around the renovation work that we are carrying out. It can be a bit of a juggle and rather frustrating timewise at times as we are itching to get on with it, but it is also nice to change things up again and earning money for us to survive is obviously the priority over anything else!
Scott works as a freelance CAD Designer and set up his company, Plan_170 in November 2013, specialising in building and renovation plans. He is very clever at what he does and the plans are amazing! Especially the 3D ones - always blows me away every time he does one! He is so patient - definitely wouldn't be a job for me!
I specialise in children's wall murals. It was something I was doing as a kind of hobby and people kept remarking that I should do it for a living, so that is where my alias, "Madame Mural" would eventually stem from, now being my company name!
I am also in the process of creating a short children's story book, which arose from the wall mural which I did in Summer's first bedroom. I do not have time to focus on this at present, so I choose to spend time on it during the summer, when we can no longer do any noisy work in the barn and I have more time to focus on it. I hope to get this printed by the end of the year.
We already replaced the roof to the section of the barn which will be our home just before the summer let season last year and had 12 days to make it liveable before the first guests came to stay in the gite, which we live in out of season and so also needed to move out of and clean. This sort of timescale is something we have fast become used to since moving and racing to get each part of the project done to enable the next part of our plan to work.
Within that 12 days, we were able to install a 2nd hand roll top bath we managed to obtain, temporarily fit the old kitchen we removed from what is now the gite and move our furniture in, with curtains dividing bedrooms as make shift walls! We call it "camping a la grange".
So, that is the stage we are at now. You will be able to view the stages above which are all documented with information and photographs on my blog page.
Please feel free to follow our story. We hope you enjoy your read! :o)