A year in the French alps

It’s been a busy year living in the French Alps…

When the builders completed the transformation of the shell of our 1850s Savoyard barn in August we spent a fun, exhausting and fascinating five months completing the renovation ourselves. From fitting floors to building furniture.
here is how we renovated a tumble down barn to boutique ski chaletbarn to boutique chalet

Finishing just in time for winter season we had a busy year; enjoying time with friends old and new to enjoy winter season in the French Alps. Getting just a little better at snowboarding, learning to ski again.
Here’s our winter season captured in pictureswinter season Portes du soleil

We were also busy during this first year living in the French Alps managing our holiday rental business in the UK and building up to the sale of the business in May and June.

We think we amused and inspired the team at Travel Chapter (the new owners of the Sheepskin brand and UK holiday property collection) in equal measure by choosing to camp in our VW camper van throughout the six week sales completion process.
Just for fun here’s our business sale ‘adventure’ in picturesIMG_4539

Business sale complete, at the end of June we were off on the road with Adam’s parents this time for two weeks sharing some of our favourite places with them on a camper van trip as part celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary.
A day in Provence, ten days in Italy and back to the French Alps….ten day motorhome holiday Italy Pastum

In July, back to home in Montriond in time for the bikers to arrive in force. 10,000 Harley riders, two BMW riders (us!) and one Triumph rider (my dad!). We made the most of the Harley Days Festival with two ride outs on Harleys, a night at the Blues Brothers concert and a quiet evening BBQ at Lac du Montriond.
All in all a great Harley Days Morzine 2017Harley Days experience tour

In August the mediterranean sea and sunshine were calling us but so were the peaks around our home in the French Alps so in August we completed our quest of walking the four peaks that we can see and that inspire the artwork in our home; Roc D’Enfer, Nyon, Ressachaux and Nantau and a few other wonderful alpine walks with friends too.
Walking in portes du soleil.walking portes du soleil

So that is the whistle stop summary of our year in the french alps, from August to August.

Of course we didn’t sit still in September,  we’re still busy and I’m busy writing so stay tuned….

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Adventure of selling a business

Having negotiated the sale of our holiday property business that we launched together and ran for seven years we approached the emotional and fraught time when contracts would be exchanged, the point of no return.  At this stage too we would be able to tell our team the news that the sale of our business meant that we would no longer be involved but their jobs were secure as they become part of a larger organisation.

Knowing this would be a complicated time for us, our team and our buyers we wanted to be there ‘on the ground’ during the sales completion process.

In May we therefore did what most people would do, well ok maybe not many people but some people at least, which is set of our in self-converted VW camper van with the plan to camp in the UK wherever we needed to for as long as we needed to.

First the most surprising and potentially embarrassing thing happened.  Do I even want to put it in writing? …we joined the Caravan club!  To much amusement of my caravan owning family and now fellow club members.  It was my northern roots taking hold when I found we would save our membership fee after staying just three nights,  I couldn’t resist the bargain.

The first week did not go as we hoped.   Our plan was to exchange contracts on the day we arrived in the UK and be able to tell the team immediately.  Unfortunately after we had set up camp in Moreton-in-Marsh campsite, close to the office so that we could go talk to the team the following day, we found there was more data and more double checking to be done by the buyers.

At this stage we had to maintain full confidentiality and therefore work away from our team.   So we connected to the painfully slow campsite wifi and pulled together business data and checked the sales contract sitting in a field in the Cotswolds…IMG_4536

We were deflated and emotionally exhausted knowing we had to be completely professional and detached but it felt alien and deceitful not able to tell our team.

We were pulled in two directions working with our enthusiastic team on creative ideas to continue to grow the business and the harsh reality that actually all we really needed to do was maintain the ‘numbers’.

I admit sometimes I just gave up and abandoned my desk for a comfier spot on the grass to put things in a different perspective…IMG_4556and the environment was a little distracting and not perhaps encouraging of the strictest work ethic…IMG_2092
Finally ready for exchange, we were asked to print and sign the 40 page contract.

We were stumped for a moment but then set off to the nearest shopping centre, bought a printer-scanner and signed, scanned and emailed the contract from the office/van in the car park.IMG_2089

Finally we could involve the team and work each day, openly, in the office as we prepared for the completion of the sale.  We were first in the shower blocks each morning and possibly looked a little out of place in office wear rather than shorts and t-shirts as the rest of the campers.

We always made sure we had lots of coffee and a hearty breakfast to set us up for the challenges of the day ahead and continued to grow the business as well as crunch the numbers.IMG_4544

It was an exhausting time so when we needed a break we escaped the ‘board room’ for some fresh air and relaxation…IMG_4538IMG_4537

On a couple of weekends, admittedly feeling a little fenced in by our little field we escaped to Birmingham for some much needed curry and concrete.IMG_4549

During the week, back to the Moreton-in-Marsh field to be close to the team, dressing in our van for the office each day.  Many evenings, drained, we arrived back after most of our campsite neighbours had retired in doors but still with the long summer evenings still had time to relax and enjoy some wonderful evening walks.IMG_4562

and stunning early summer sunsets.IMG_4560

We camped until all was complete in mid June and after a celebration with the new owners of our business in Bideford, we set off home.

One last stop in the camper van, at an aire on the French motorway.  We know how to live the life!IMG_2093

We were both very quiet, processing all that we had  learned and experiences not just over the past seven weeks but seven years.  I felt so proud of what we had accomplished but felt empty too as our involvement with Sheepskin slowly disappeared into sunset…IMG_2096

On the drive south we found we were both feeling the same and agreed we should force ourselves to celebrate, take time to reflect and recognise all we and our team had achieved.  So picked up some Champagne on our way through Champagne and did just that when we got home.IMG_4572After our reflections we agreed; if we were to ever do the same again, we would do the same again!SaveSave

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