Although technically the house were looking after in the Burgundy region of France is a long term house sit, we don't have any pets to care for. Our home owner is quite happy for us to be away for extended periods, which means we're free to take on other, shorter house sits.
Approaching the end of the year (2020) the strict French lockdown began to ease, and travel once again became a possibility.
We applied and were accepted for a couple of lovely house sits at the end of December and at the start of January. We packed the van, and headed for the French Alps, where in a small village close to the mountain resort of Chamonix, we spent Christmas in the snow, looking after two characterful dogs, and a couple of cats.
When the home owners returned from their holiday in Cuba they offered us the use of their studio apartment in the centre of Chamonix over New Year, as they didn't have any bookings for this lovely little rental property. This was a perfect gap filler for us, as we had a following sit not too far away, due to begin in early January.
We had planned on using the van for this period, and were confident that the gas heater would have kept us warm and cosy, but a ski resort New Year was much more appealing.
There was a cheerful up-beat atmosphere in Chamonix, but the town was generally quiet, and it was surreal to walk up to one of the ski resort cablecar stations, where all was silent and snow covered, not a skier to be seen.
Both Vanessa and I have been to ski resorts many times over the years, and have always experienced them as bustling hubs of noisy activity. To see the piste map at peak ski season, with every run marked as closed, was thought-provoking and unsettling. How would the resort manage to cover the costs of a season with zero income? What about all the other businesses which relied on servicing a huge seasonal influx of tourists?
Strange times indeed.
Our January house sit was in a beautiful home on the hills above a small town called Allonzier La Caille. We had a couple of lovely dogs to look after. They were full of energy, and enjoyed lots of long walks with them in the snow.
After this house sit we took a couple of days to make the journey back to our "home" in Burgundy. We stopped off in the beautiful lakeside town of Annecy. The lakefront area was busy, and the pathways around the lake were filled with walkers, joggers, cyclists and rollerbladers. Groups gathered, sharing coffee (or maybe something a little stronger?) from flasks, chatting and laughing in the sun.
For a brief moment it felt like we'd stepped back in time by a year, to a pre-pandemic normality, but the illusion was easily shattered, as just about everyone had a mask on, even if most people wore them under their chins!
Back at home it snowed heavily in mid-January, and we made a house sitter snowman, complete with a dog and a cat. In the evenings we enjoyed log fires as we hunkered down for winter.
In February and March, as the weather began to warm a little we fitted in another couple of house sits. At the first one we looked after a few cats and a tortoise at lovely chateau in the process of being renovated. The following sit, hidden away high among the vineyards, involved 3 dogs, a cat and - a first for us - two llamas.
We also managed to fit in a few trips in the campervan, the two main highlight being a few days in the hills and lakes of the lovely Morvan region, just an hour or so from our Burgundy home base...
and a visit to Chateauneuf, closer to home....
We were sad to think that we were just about to make another big change, and would no longer have the camper for these little adventures...