Second-home owners in UK happy to be planning a return to France
Marc and Nicky Meltonville are desperate to get back to their Normandy second home when Covid-related travel restrictions ease
Like thousands of other maison secondaire owners, Marc and Nicky Meltonville are counting the days until July, when they will, hopefully, be returning to their French country home.
After an absence of nearly a year because of restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, they will drive from Berkshire to le tunnel then head along the A16 and A28 autoroutes towards their village, which is set in countryside surrounded by forests near the market town of Neufchâtel-en-Bray (Normandy).
If they get there before the shops close, they will head down to town, stock up with fresh local produce and wine and enjoy a stroll around the square before returning for drinks and a meal cooked by Marc. They will also call on the village mayor to say Bonjour.
“Our French hideaway is a real home not just a holiday place,” says Marc, 58.
“We have both missed it so much. This year’s trip, after such a long absence and many worries for everyone, will be very special.
“We have a long to-do list, but will take our time and relax before sorting out non-urgent problems.”
The couple, who have two adult children, bought their Normandy longère (farmhouse) and the old village café next door two-and-a-half years ago.
Marc, a consultant food historian, has French ancestry. His great-grandparents moved to London from Saint-Omer, Pas-de-Calais, in 1931.
He wants to help bring the café back to life for friends and family and even make his own beer and cheese.
Nicky, 54, a primary school teacher says:
“We had always wanted a home in France. This little property, on just under an acre of land with its beautiful oak-beamed cottage, lovely but shabby café and quirky outbuildings, was perfect.”
“The previous owners had looked after it for over 25 years, but it was ready for some TLC, and we were ready to give it,”
“After we bought the property, in November 2018, we popped over every month to work on it, to paint the exterior and make plans.”
They both remember one particular sunny day in July 2019.
“We arrived from the UK, (car laden to the gunnels!) and pulled up outside,” says Marc.
“Our double gate was open, the grass cut, hedge trimmed, shutters and windows flung wide to air the house. A pot of stunning wild blooms had been placed on the long table in the oak beamed main room.
"Our wonderful neighbours had popped in and made everything comfortable and homely. You cannot put a price on that kind of welcome.”
During their first summer visit they savoured the pleasures of Normandy country life: meeting local folk at the frequent kermesses (fêtes) and street markets, eating in the village hall, walking the many country and coastal trails, trips to Dieppe for sea, sun and moules marinières.
Marc went to the US to lecture last February and so at the end of their last trip to France they prepared the house for their absence.
“Before my big trip - and as we subsequently discovered, just before lockdown - we secured the house and café.
“There was nothing to go mouldy in the larder, and we had stripped the beds!
“Later, some rabbits set up home in the old stable-woodshed outside, but that sounded fun. Our neighbours kept in touch with rabbit news and aired the property from time to time.”
Marc and Nicky are now looking forward to continuing to enjoy their home.
“After such a long absence, this July trip will be extra special,” Marc says.
“We’ll open a bottle of wine and relax on our terrace as we wind down and rediscover the tranquillity of our cottage garden, beautiful village and the generosity and warmth of Normandy people.”
He is planning further developments on the property to cater for his culinary skills.
“I want to start work on the wooden outbuilding to make a garden kitchen where I can serve traditional and modern dishes to my family and friends.”
“It will be a labour of love, fuelled by good food, wine, and entente cordiale.”
Do you plan to return to your French holiday home this summer? Tell us what you have missed and the things you are looking forward to re-discovering: sights, culture, food and people. Email firstname.lastname@example.org