It’s been a little while since I’ve written a blog post and today’s post is a little different. It’s a love story based in France. Recently on my Instagram page I’ve been sharing my favourite château in the Loire Valley. For me, there could only be one winner, Château de Chenonceau, where my husband and I got engaged and I thought it would be nice to share a positive story in the middle of such worrying and unsettling times.
About five years ago I decided that it was time to do something about my dream of working and living abroad and started work for a company called Canvas Holidays.
Although I wasn’t completely sure what to expect I had a romantic notion that I would meet the love of my life while I was working overseas. I arrived at the campsite I was going to be working on, just a ten-minute drive from Château de Chambord and immediately fell in love with the area. I couldn’t believe that I’d been placed in such a beautiful place. The team on site were great, but the majority of them were much younger than I was and some had come to work overseas with their partners. After a few weeks I realised that I probably wasn’t going to meet the love of my life in France, but I was going to have a brilliant season. I was working in a beautiful place, the job was fun, if a little tiring (in my first season a large part of my job was cleaning customer accommodation), and the team were a lot of fun.
About five weeks after I arrived on the site, we had an event that is known as Courier Christmas. This takes place on 25th June and is basically a Christmas celebration with your season “family”. The whole team were at the event including someone I hadn’t met before, the area manager for another holiday company, Chris. At about 10.30pm most of the staff decided to continue the party at a local nightclub. Everyone that is except for Chris and I. We hadn’t spoken before, but we both agreed that we were too old to go a night club. Instead we shared a bottle of wine and stayed up talking all night. It turns out that I’d gone all the way to the Loire Valley to meet someone from Accrington, a little town in the north of England just half an hour’s drive away from where I lived. We bonded over life as northerners and Chris told me that despite having worked in the Loire Valley for three years he had never been to a château. Not one.
I was horrified by this and we went on our first date to Château de Chambord the very next day. Three days later we went on our second date to Château de Chenonceau and had the most magical time. Chenonceau is the most picturesque of all the châteaux of the Loire, spanning across the River Cher. The interior decor is both stunning and fascinating and the gardens are superb. We had lunch at a lovely, family owned café that overlooked the river and then took an hour-long boat trip along the Cher that seemed to last no time at all.
Then I was moved to another campsite four hours away, near Ile d’Oléron on the west coast of France and just a few days later headed off towards the coast. I was pretty philosophical about the whole thing as although we’d had a lovely time, Chris and I had only known each other for a week. I arrived at my new site to find a bunch of flowers from Chris. We talked on the phone every single night and whenever we had more than one day off at a time, we took it in turns to drive the four hours to visit each other.
My intention was to work overseas for one season and then return to my permanent job in the UK, but obviously things had changed and I decided to do another season overseas. As there was no guarantee that I would be placed anywhere near Chris if I worked for Canvas again, I decided to apply to work for Eurocamp as a trainer. After a very stressful interview and presentation, I got the job which meant I would be working in the Loire Valley with Chris as my boss.
Fast forward to June and we celebrated our second Courier Christmas together. The next day we returned to Chenonceau to celebrate our one-year anniversary. We had a drink at the café whilst waiting for the boat. Chris downed several pints of lager in just a few minutes and as we got on the boat, all the staff said, “Bonjour” to Chris. I found this a little strange but didn’t think too much of it. On the boat the staff continued to be equally as friendly, offering to take photos of us. I thought this was lovely, but what I didn’t realise at the time is that they weren’t offering to do this for anyone else.
The boat stopped for a few minutes under the arches of the Château and I was busy trying to take photos with my phone. I turned around to see Chris at the front of the boat with a microphone in his hand. He asked me to join him at the front of the boat. Then he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I cried and Chris is still adamant that I never actually answered his question but, of course, the answer was yes. The rest of the passengers on the boat applauded and shouted, “Bravo” and the staff, who had known about this since Chris had visited them the day before, presented us with flowers and champagne.
We got off the boat and the café owner presented us with another bottle of champagne and we were joined for drinks by the café owner, his wife and all the staff from the boat. At this time my French was still pretty basic, so I just sat happily drinking champagne in the sunshine while Chris chatted to everyone. It was perfect.
We returned home to find that our team had decorated our accommodation with signs and balloons and bought us some more bottles of fizz. It turns out that it wasn’t only the staff on the boat who had known about this before I did!
We got married 18 months later. We wanted to have an idyllic French château wedding, but there were some elderly family members that wouldn’t have been able to travel to France. It was so important to both of us that our grandparents were at our wedding. Instead of getting married in France we took a little bit of France to Lancashire and had a French themed wedding on a snowy November’s day in Ramsbottom. That’s a story for another time though.