Hello and welcome to the latest blog from The Olivia Rose Diaries on November 11th 2022.
It’s that time of year when we begin house-sitting in France and our first one this year is in Gervais les Bains in the French Alps, a shorter stay than usual at just four nights but it slotted neatly into the gap between leaving the boat and starting a longer house-sit. It’s not exactly on a direct route back to Le Shack, in fact it takes us to completely the wrong side of the country, but we fancied a change of scenery and, if we have to justify it somehow, it does at least take us in a southerly direction. We are looking after just one dog, a spaniel called Filou. In English that means ‘rascal’ but he didn’t live up to his name, instead showing himself to be an affectionate and endearing little chap.
People often ask us how house-sitting works and so I thought I would give you a brief introduction to the process.
We arrange our house-sits through a company called Trusted Housesitters. They put people who are looking for a sit in touch with people looking for a sitter, not just in France but all around the world. Each party pays an annual fee to join the system which then allows them to register their profile on the website, rather like a dating service but in this instance no-one is looking for romance. The home-owner enter the dates that they are looking to fill on their profile page, the prospective sitters browses through the properties and dates in their country and region of choice and then pick one that suits their requirements.
In the next part of the process more information is exchanged, questions asked, perhaps a video-call, until all parties feel comfortable, at which point the sit is confirmed. No money changes hands. It is an exchange of services rather than finances and the entire system works on trust. The homeowner trusts that we are who we say we are and are not going to run off with the silver and we trust that their dog is indeed as sweet as they think it is and is not going to bite the hand that feeds it.
We pay Trusted Housesitters around £120 each year and that joining fee gives access to the system as well as insurance in case we break anything and basic security checks. We can read reviews about the home we are interested in from previous sitters which gives us peace of mind, and the home-owner can read reviews about us. It is as much about us choosing them as them choosing us. We gain because we now have a base from which we to explore a region. The home-owner gains as their animals can stay in their own home without expensive kennel fees while they leave to visit family or friends.
It is a question of debate as to who gains the most, and the balance can swing either way depending on how many animals are involved. We set our own parameters of what we are comfortable taking on, avoiding certain potentially aggressive breeds of dog for example. We’ve seen some entries with six horses or thirteen dogs to look after, or where you might be staying in a chateau but they expect you to work all day long in the grounds for them. To us this seems to be an abuse of the system. House-sitting should not be confused with a free holiday, but neither should it be taken as an opportunity for slave labour. We recognise that there is a responsibility that comes with looking after someone’s home and animals and that there is a limit to how much free time we have, depending on how many and what type of animals we choose to look after. Long days out sight-seeing or walking are often not an option unless you strike lucky with just cats to look after. It’s a compromise, but one that we are prepared to make, especially as travel isn’t our sole motivation. This gives us the chance to go beyond just being a tourist, to live in someone else’s house and take on their lives for a few weeks, meeting local people and learning the customs of the region.
As I write this blog it is 17 degrees outside, barmy sunny weather for November, although it drops to freezing at night. The snow won’t arrive at this level (around 900metres) until December but the peaks are snow-capped. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of what we have been doing over the last few days.
Next week we move on to another location, still in France and only an hour away, just south of Lake Geneva or Lac Leman as it should be called, where we have two kittens and some chickens to look after. We’ll be there for two and half weeks and after what seems a long stretch of continually moving on, we’re both looking forward to putting down some roots for a while!
See you soon and hope all is well with you.