Summer exchange, late July/ early August 2020, with Huguette et Albert Lemort (BE065)
Actually our exchange prospects started very early, as early as the autumn of 2019 and the exchange was to take place in the summer of 2020. Of course it was shaken by the coronavirus pandemic and by June 2020 we still didn’t know whether it would be possible.
With Huguette and Albert, who have become our « Belgian Friends » since then, we have very regularly shared some news from home as well as our personal experience of the lockdown both in France and Belgium. When we finally met them for the exchange of keys, they came along with armloads of delicious local produce and we felt we already had known them for a long time. It was like seeing old friends again while chatting eagerly.
This stay in Belgium was particularly enjoyable, not just because of the beautiful house and huge garden, but because after the lockdown we could enjoy some freedom again, though partially.
Moreover I like cooking special dishes from other countries and we have exchanged some culinary mails. Thanks to Huguette the « boulets liégeois » (meat balls typical of Liège) are now part of our favourite traditional recipes.
Last but not least, what I find extraordinary about it, is going on sending news. The coronavirus crisis is far from over but it is easier to live when you share it with friends beyond the national borders and I say to myself, that’s also what INTERVAC is about : friends with whom we come together to share a common destiny.
Carine L. is one of our most loyal members. She’s had a good 40 exchanges since 1988 and she shares with us today her latest British adventures!
In August 2019, we were thinking of spending a few days in London the following Autumn. As we are retired now, we can travel whenever we want. And we take advantage of that. As our house is big enough, and as each floor is totally self-contained, we suggest in case of short stays, a simultaneous or non-simultaneous exchange if the family prefers to come later on, during school holidays for example, periods that we personally try to avoid. Our home in Provence can host a couple, 3 or 4 people on the ground floor, which leads to the garden, whilst we can stay on the second floor, reachable by an exterior staircase. This level has a bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom too. The first person we contacted, a Franco-English lady living in England, replied quickly, suggesting instead of a week’s stay, « a long weekend ». « It will be a one-way swap, as I can’t do non-simultaneous swaps » she explained. « I don’t have many holidays and half of the following year is already booked. But as I go to Porto in October, you are most welcome » Her generosity did not surprise us : we have also welcomed people in the past, being totally unable to give them the precise date when we could go to their place. Valérie, for sure, has a long experience of exchanges : she has been a member of Intervac since 2003 and has done 25 swaps. On our side we have done 40 since 1988. The very morning we took off to England, Valérie was flying to Portugal. She returned from Porto the very evening of our departure. A week before our arrival, she had sent us by email the instructions to get her keys. These were in a key safe, openable with a code, attached to the gate facing her building. We never met during our stay, but to thank her, we had brought her 2 bottles of wine from France [to thank her] and some Mediterranean aromatic plants. Apart from a list of her favourite pubs and restaurants, she had left us a full fridge and 2 Oyster cards. These London transport cards are very useful for visitors. You have to pay for them but after you can recharge them with your own credit card on the Tube; we posted them back from Heathrow airport before checking in, having recharged them. Future guests could use them again. In January 2020, Valerie contacted us, asking if she could stay at our home in June wih a friend of hers. « Of course » we answered. But Covid 19 quite changed our plans. Borders shut down one after the other in Europe from mid-March, and Valerie did not feel like being stuck in quarantine on her arrival to France or on her way back to England. Her stay has been delayed until better days, because of the pandemic. As for us, we went back to England to visit friends in Kent in August. Staying one night in London, before we left, we invited her for dinner in order to meet her at last. She had been kind enough to print the official documents we were supposed to show to health authorities. But nobody took our temperature or asked for any document at Saint Pancras station, before we took the Eurostar, nor were we checked on arrival at Paris Gare du Nord.