No heating, no toilet and one cold tap… “Should we buy it?”. That was the questions we asked ourselves about a 400 year old farm-house in Brittany that we found in 1989. And the response from my friend Chris, when I told him we bought it, “of course you did”. Thus began my life of commuting each summer to the Brittany countryside in Northwestern France.
Over the years, I have found myself explaining repeatedly to people why I have missed the past 27 summers in my hometown, Newport Beach, CA. I still live here, just not in the summer. I have missed every High School reunion (they are always in August), have not been to the OC Fair since I was 17 and am never able to celebrate my birthday with my siblings. My children have never spent a summer in California. Neither was born here. They have never done Jr. Guards, summer camp and only a few times have they celebrated the Fourth of July! Of course this has never bothered my husband, because he is English, well, half Welsh. But we’ll get to him later.
You have probably all heard of Peter Mayle’s book “A Year in Provence”, well, my story is more like 365 days in Brittany. Not as glamorous as it sounds! It’s day-to-day living with neighbors, government offices, supermarkets, strikes and all the things that make it quite different from living in the United States. I don’t think of my home in Brittany as “my summer home”, I don’t have enough dough to have a summer home. In fact, we rent out our Newport Beach home during the summer just so we can afford to live there nine months of the year. So far, the renovation of our home has taken 20 years and still counting. We have never been able to just get on with it. We either had the money but not the time, the time but not the money and over the past 10 years have not had the time or the money for construction. So this year we somehow were able to start construction again and I felt that it should be documented.
In 1964, Newport Beach was a tight-knit community, mostly located near the beach. There was nothing much past Harbor View Hills, just a cemetery and some buffalos. Fashion Island did not exist and UCI was still under construction. My father was a boat builder, founder of Columbia Yachts in 1958, and my mother an artist, who by that time, at the age of 28, already had four children and would have two more before the decade was over. I grew up on Linda Isle, with boats in the backyard. Access to the Back Bay and the Peninsula were only a boat ride away.
Therefore, it seems only fitting that I would grow up and marry a sailor, and that is where it all began. In 1985, I left Newport Beach for the Caribbean, coming back six months later to visit, engaged to be married, and beginning my life of travelling the world. I spent the next eight years sailing boats between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, the East Coast and down through the Panama Canal. Eight months in Hong Kong and in between all that visiting family in California and fixing up the house in France.
They say that travel is a great education; you would think I would be a genius by now! But alas, I am not. However, I do have some good stories to tell; at least I think they are good. I am not a writer but hopefully my humor, and the shenanigans herewith told, will make up for that! I hope you read on.