First of all can you describe the house sit?
Where did you find this house sitting assignment?
The assignment was listed on TrustedHousesitters.com. We’re also members of three other housesitting sites (Housecarers, Mind My House, and Nomador) although there are many more online options where homeowners and house sitters can connect.
What was the process for finding (and applying for the house sit)?
As members of Trusted Housesitters we receive a daily email that lists the latest homeowner requests for housesitters. We read each very carefully, taking note of the dates the homeowners will be away, the location of where they live, the number and type of pets, plus any specific household chores or duties that would require our attention.
We also try to read between the lines to get a feel for the personality of the homeowner, if you will. Housesitting is about trust and while homeowners and housesitters start out as strangers we’ve found that 99.9% of the time it soon evolves into a close and enduring friendship.
Having said that, we refuse to waste a homeowner’s time if we don’t sincerely believe we’re the perfect housesitters for their current situation. We know our strengths and weaknesses and before applying for any housesit we consider what we can bring to the table that will make us stand out from other housesitters. As a couple the both of us also have to agree before we proceed. If there is the slightest hesitation on our part we’d rather not apply as that suggests (at least to us) we’re not the right fit for this particular housesit.
In the case of our Jacou assignment the homeowner specified the sitter(s) must have experience with birds. John grew up with a Amazon parrot who could talk and sing. Her rendition of the first few bars of God Save The Queen was a hoot and she was quite the character and beloved member of the family. Dianne’s family had a budgie and between the two of us we felt we were qualified to apply.
How did you contact the owner?
While we hoped to at least make the homeowner’s short list, we ended by wishing them every success in finding the perfect housesitter – even if that’s not us. In our eyes a housesit has to be a win/win for both parties. If it’s meant to be it’s meant to be.
When we heard back from the homeowners we were delighted and emailed back and forth, sharing tidbits of info, asking or answering additional questions, and just basically developing a homowner/housesitter relationship. This all took place during the two months before the actual sit. Although we offered to Skype or FaceTime for whatever reason it didn’t happen. Now that we’ve met the homeowners we realize it’s just not their thing and that’s absolutely fine with us.
As the actual date of the housesit got closer we continued our email conversations and provided details as to when and how we’d actually arrive in Montpellier as we had spent the previous six weeks in the Algarve region of Portugal.
Why do you think you were picked over any other sitters that applied?
We actually ask homeowners why they chose us and in this case our previous bird experience was definitely an asset. So too was the length of time we’ve been housesitting (since 2009). Another reason is our ‘professional looking’ website, personal blog and Facebook page. All three provide homeowners with an insight into who we are and what we’re about. We’re passionate about housesitting and believe it’s an incredible way to meet like-minded souls who love to travel, care deeply for their home and want the very best care for their beloved pets while they’re away exploring the world and making memories.
What did you see and do while you were in Montpellier?
Our housesit was actually in the town of Jacou which is on the outskirts of Montpellier and connected to the city via the tram. In less than 30 minutes we could be in the centre of Montpellier and during our stay we took full advantage of that public transportation. We wandered the old section and were delighted to discover Europe’s oldest medical college, the towering Saint-Pierre Cathedral, Saint-Roch Church, and fabulous Fabre art Museum. Another delight was strolling the village of Teyran and Jacou itself. We also toured modern Montpellier’s Odysseum and Polygone shopping complexes, plus the spectacular Place d’Europe. More details about our ventures can be found on our blog: http://www.20YrsFromNow.com
Had you planned to house sit in France before you came across this house sit?
We’d considered it, of course, but did not apply until this particular housesit came along. Again, a housesit has to feel right from the get-go. We knew immediately we’d be a good match, but as housesitting is always a two way street we held our breath until we heard back from the homeowners.
Do you think house sitting gave you a unique perspective on where you were staying, that you wouldn’t have gotten from say staying in a hotel?
Without question! Our housesit in Jacou was one of our all time favourite sits. Not only did it enhance our very first visit to France, it provided so much more than any organized tour or brief whirlwind stay in a hotel could ever yield. We prefer to travel slow and housesitting provides the perfect venue to do just that. There’s zero pressure to see all of the must-see sites within a few short days. If the weather turns nasty we can stay indoors without worrying we’ll miss something because there’s always tomorrow. We love wandering along narrow streets and alleyways, window shopping, people watching, savouring a glass of wine at a sidewalk cafe and just savouring the moment of being right here right now. Its a superb way to live!
What memories will you take away from this house sit?
There are many. We both loved sharing the home with Jake and Petra. Each have a distinct personality and watching them interact with each other and us was a joy. We felt privileged to have been allowed into their world if only for a few short weeks.
Dianne enjoyed getting up each morning and looking out the front window at the acres and acres of vineyards. Watching the sun rise and set and cast long shadows on the vines while labourers pruned the stocks and worked their way to and fro was like being cast into a French painting. John was thoroughly impressed by the number of bicycle paths that link communities and offer a safe and extensive outdoor lifestyle.
Where’s next in your house sitting adventure?
Our next stop is Winchester, England where we’ll be house and petsitting an adorable Golden Retriever named Poppy. In May we’re back in Ontario, Canada and are looking forward to a repeat house and pet sit with a captivating and charming Coton de Tolear named Keegan.
TLC International Housesitters, aka Dianne and John Burns, have been housesitting since 2009. Former high school sweethearts, married 30+ years, they’re active Canadian retirees who love to travel (25 countries to date) and being homeowners themselves understand the importance and value of knowing your house, possessions and pets are safe and secure during your absence.