How one Londoner left West Hampstead ‘to live the dream’ with a farmhouse, family and new career in south-west France
When Anneli Plumb decided to move to rural France she had dreams of living in a beautiful old house, and raising a family in picture-perfect peace and tranquillity, surrounded by nature.
Her cross-Channel life change hasn’t had quite the ending she had imagined — curveballs included a divorce and single parenthood, and an unexpected new career — but Anneli is thrilled she decided to take a risk and get out of London.
Back in 2006 Anneli and her ex-husband were living in a “tiny but lovely” one bedroom flat in West Hampstead. She had a fun job working as a music editor at MTV, and life was good.
“I had thought I would never leave, but they were doing a round of redundancies at work and we were desperate to start a family,” she said. “My ex’s parents had already moved to France, and the idea was to live the dream in a big house in the country in France.”
At first all went according to plan. The couple exchanged their tiny London flat for a six-bedroom farmhouse with a swimming pool in the village of Larroque-Saint-Sernin, south-west France. They had two children — now aged 14 and 12 — but although Anneli loved being a mum she was also a tiny bit bored. “My brain is too busy to do nothing,” she said. “I realised that I needed to be busy.”
With no experience of professional kitchens other than short stints working in various pubs Anneli, 46, started writing a food blog and began catering for private events. The business took off and in 2012 she was offered a job running the catering at a local wedding venue. When she and her husband separated the same year she was able to move into the venue, which was set in a picturesque private village, and stayed there for ten years.
Last year, however, Anneli decided to shake things up again. She quit her wedding job and has bought her own restaurant, in Larressingle, a gorgeous medieval fortified village a half an hour’s drive away. The family — which now includes Anneli’s new partner plus pet dog Jayjay — is renting a three-bedroom apartment on a pretty square in the unfortunately-named nearby town of Condom for €600pcm.
Right now, she is too busy putting the finishing touches to the restaurant, which will open this year (www.delicieux.eu) to worry much about finding a more permanent place to live. “At the moment I am putting all the money into the restaurant, but we hope to buy next year,” said Anneli.
When Anneli arrived in France she spoke only schoolgirl French and lessons fell by the wayside after her first child was born. “I learned French when I started working with French people and employing French people,” she said. “The ideal is to get out there and then it all comes together.”
Getting out there has also helped Anneli build up a new network of friends, and she finds the local people extremely welcoming. “It is not a very young population in this part of France but everyone is so friendly and interested,” she said. “It has got that kind of old-fashionedness to it.”
She does still have pangs of nostalgia for vibrant London but feels that her catering career gives her a best of both worlds’ lifestyle. “It is busy in the summer so it gives me that same buzz, but it is quieter in the winter, and I can relax, travel, or just hibernate,” she said.