Au revoir, Normandy, and thanks for the good times

Sally-Ann Voak (in stripes) marks the end of an era with family and friends.

Need some last-minute help moving house? You just have to ask your neighbours, says writer Sally-Ann Voak

After 28 years of fun, friendship and fabulous fromage, we recently said goodbye to our magical Normandy hideaway.

Despite the tears, eased with copious amounts of champagne, we have left the property – a longère and village épicerie café linked by a neat lawn and pretty orchard – feeling positive.

We are passing on our precious second home, near the Seine-Maritime market town of Neufchâtel-en-Bray, to a couple we know will cherish it.

But back in October when we were given our signing-over date, in November, we panicked: how could two people empty two houses, both stuffed with stuff, without going bonkers? We had just three weeks to do it!

We had decorated the café in true ’Allo ’Allo-style: saucy posters, lace curtains, fin de siècle furnishings, bar, salon and even a little dance hall with tables, chairs and music.

Edith Piaf would have loved it but, not surprisingly, the new owners wanted to renovate and modernise.

The longère and épicerie café linked by a lawn

The cottage had a surfeit of gilt-edged mirrors, lamps, sofas, cabinets, a vast oak table and sideboard, memorabilia from our travels in France and the UK, and yes, more saucy French posters.

After our son, daughter-in-law and grandson had chosen lamps, furniture, pictures, and other items for their own chalet home in Samoëns, we transported our most precious items back to London.

Yet, the weekend before the signing we were still left with a mountain to climb (almost literally – the pile of duvets, ...

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