Travelling is in my blood, and going through thousands of digital photos is like climbing on Aladdin’s magic carpet, flying to all those amazing places I’ve experienced over the years.
“Flying” over the magnificent Mount Everest and Nepal, or the faraway Cocos Islands, small dots on the Indian Ocean, the beautiful Mount Kilimanjaro shrouded in mist or looking at Manhattan Island from the top of the Rockerfeller building are just a few of the moments locked in time. Annually (pre-Covid-19), I used to travel up to 30 times a year with 69 international flights being the zenith achieved in 2019: Tanzania, Zanzibar, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, US,Russia, UK… and then of course, France!
I’ve always loved Europe. My son lives in The Netherlands, my sister in Germany, and I have countless friends all over the continent. And, it has always been a dream of mine to settle down where history seeps from every old castle wall or cobble-stoned street. Perhaps it is my love of history that inspired this dream? Or perhaps, just the beautiful architecture, the art and the fact that you can actually walk where millions have lived before?
I had this overwhelming feeling when walking down the Champs Elysees in December 2019 that this is where I wanted to be. The incredible museums, the seine and its bridges famous for lovers kissing in the night, or the magnificent Eiffel Tower or the Sacre Coeur that just lifts your spirits whenever you see her rise about the city – all just takes your breath away.
I’ve been happy in Malaysia for the past 10 years. But, I’ve always had this nagging feeling that I’m longing for my roots. Since 2001, when I moved from South Africa to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), I’ve been renting property. Yes, that sounds rather silly, doesn’t it!
So, wanting to buy a house I could call my own – where I could paint and renovate became a must-be! And then, Covid-19 happened and because I was on a four-day business trip to Kyrgyzstan, I was locked out of the country.
I flew via Moscow to Istanbul and there I found myself in a hotel room for three months, unable to return despite my resident Visa. This was when the moment crystallised for me: Buy a property in France!
I was lucky enough to have close friends who had recently settled in the beautiful little country village called Saint Jean Sur Erve. In December 2019, I travelled from London via the Eurostar and caught the TGV to Le Mans to go and visit them and experience their new little piece of heaven. The beautiful surroundings, sloping green hills, small surrounding towns with ancient chateaus and lovely rivers, fresh country air and a much more peaceful lifestyle seemed just perfect!
I wanted to be a bit closer to a big city though, and this is where I found the lovely town of Sillé-le-Guillaume in Pays de Loire. The town is only about 25 minutes from Le Mans and therefore, a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from Paris. And, it is big enough for me to not miss city life too much. On top of that, there is a working railway station from Le Mans, where the best of both worlds await: A lovely old chateau that is a huge tourist attraction but also a nature reserve with a huge lake where people flock to during the spring and summer months to camp, hang out on the beach, hike, do archery and lots of fun stuff. The Le Mans race course is not too far away either!
I finally bought my house. A magnificent old house with two huge attics and lots of space to start an art gallery and jewellery shop (my own designs – KLEUR Jewellery) and whatever I wanted to do with the space available. In March this year, I then found another treasure: An old house in the historic centre of the town called Place Saint Etienne that I’ve decided to turn into a Bed-and-Breakfast enterprise.
I’m dreaming of what this is going to be! The most exciting venture of my life where I can let all my design and creative ideas flourish. A place that travellers will book months in advance since it will be the experience of a lifetime! I can’t wait to create what will be a breathtaking adventure for anyone wishing to get South African hospitality mixed with 20 years of international travel experience.