« Isolated cottage at an altitude of 1,250m » That’s what the advert had said, but as we left the last village behind us and started the climb, I wondered what had attracted me to such remoteness. Glutton for punishment I thought, as the road twisted and turned through the Auvergne countryside.
The website for last year’s gîte had said much the same thing and that particular cottage had been stuck on the side of a mountain in northern Italy. I had been pleased to find somewhere cheap to rent, but the advert had been somewhat evasive and neglected to mention that the house came complete with its own micro-climate of fog and snow.
Arriving in the mid-December darkness, we had quickly discovered that Italian electrics would not stretch to both lighting and heating. What should have been cosy and intimate, lost its charm at exactly the same moment we discovered that we were limited to the use of a radiator in the children’s bedroom and a light bulb downstairs. The much awaited annual holiday quickly veered to a nightmare of Siberian proportions. We came home early.
Surely it wouldn’t be the same here I thought, as I fiddled with the chain on the gate, the name written across it in rusty metal. Our journey through Le Cantal had resonated with warmth and greenness and the house had central heating and a stove. But if the gate I had just closed was the entrance to the property, then where was it?
Barbed wire and electric fencing extended along the road, encircling fields that stretched to the horizon, and as we drove we caught glimpses of our future neighbours; their lyre shaped horns crowning shaggy faces. They watched us follow the track over the hill, until we finally caught our first glimpse of a tiny cottage with a slate roof and stone walls.