Village to Villa

Living like locals in 4 countries

A Very Good Year

After 300 days house and pet sitting in France, UK and Italy

plus 2 months in Australia that we prepared earlier – Village to Villa is “in the can” !

Gai is writing the final  episodes,  our two fabulous editors are turning shots into visual stories, and Neil is creating the

“Village to Villa House and Pet Sitting Handbook”.

We want to inspire people who are searching for a truly authentic and unique travel option – to give house and pet sitting a go.

We’ve brought together a selection of highlights from our privileged experiences in this video.

If you love to travel but don’t want to be a tourist – if you love animals – and if you want experience different ways of life in other cultures,  please leave us your details in SUBSCRIBERS so we can keep you in the loop.

They said it couldn’t be done!


Each of us has worked in television production for most of our working lives.

That’s a scary number of years!

Gai experienced a little bit of everything during her time spent working in regional television – mostly she has worked in Brisbane networks as a writer and producer in factual programming.

Harriet at Australia Zoo

Dreamworld tiger cubs

Neil has worked mostly in news in regional and the networks – as a reporter, reader and news director.  We both know what it’s like to spend a week or longer on the road.

click here to meet THE CREW 


Normally when a TV crew travels to shoot a program – 4 people would check in 12 to 18 pieces of luggage, including cameras, tripod, lights, sound gear as well as crew suitcases.

WE are the crew!

Because of the nature of our project – we couldn’t take a crew.

That meant we had to figure out another way to bring you what we knew would be engaging and inspirational stories.

Neil at Nelson Bay

Florence Pont Vecchio

We came up with


We streamlined down to the absolute minimum gear – we had to carry it where ever we went.

Most importantly – we wanted to record authentic  travel experiences.

We wanted to be able to talk to strangers without intimidating them with a large camera on a tripod.  They needed to feel comfortable in order to open up and tell us their stories.  We wanted to make story gathering a pleasurable experience for everyone involved.

Fort-du-Cap-Levi, Normandy

With Ann Jeanne in Paris

So when we set out on one of our many trips –  we had a suit case each and ONE backpack of camera gear!

Florentine & Neil at Fossato de Vica

Segur le Chateau, France

We used a Nikon digital SLR with external mic –  a Samsung Galaxy K phone with external mic – occasionally a basic Samsung phone – a Sony action cam and a selection of mounts.  Sometimes we shot an interview with 2 different angles.

shooting on the canals

We found a fantastic tripod that folds down to about the size of 2 fold up umbrellas.


We wanted to be one of the early adopters of using a mobile phone camera to shoot a series –

to show that it COULD be done.


Ashley at the Donkey Sancutary, UK

recording VOs with Ruby

“Village to Villa” is now in edit!

There are 13 episodes of 24 minutes duration.

We look forward to posting a preview of each episode as they are completed.

PLUS videos of stories that are not in the final cut.

Village to Villa

We wanted to know what it’s really like to live like locals – in another country.

Neil in Paris!

Gai in Florence -Pont Vecchio

One of the best ways to embed yourself into a community…  is to live in someone else’s house.  We discovered an ideal way to do that.

House and pet sitting!

Neil at Chateau Chaufaille SW France

It’s sweeping the world as a unique and convenient way to travel for long periods of time, rent free!

The possibilities are enormous!

Scotland house

La Fontanella, Umbria

For one year – we visited a smorgasbord of locations in 4 countries

– beginning in our own back yard, Australia…then moving on to France…The United Kingdom …and to Italy.

During our year-long “Village to Villa” journey, we savoured …going coastal …going country….going quirky!

To kick off the tour, we show you Australia’s Gold Coast –  where WE live!

Gold Coast canals

After spending serious time in the wine growing areas of South Australia, we were ready to take on France!

We spent a few days sampling the delights of Paris

Neil in Paris!


–  then we settled into rural life in south west France – to live like locals.

Connecting with neighbours gave us a real sense of the French village lifestyle.

Chateau du Mauran SW France

This 200 year old classic Chateau deep in the south of France –  was our home for one glorious month during spring time.

We gained a real perspective on the luxury of villa living.

After driving the length of France – we settled into our stylish farm house in Normandy.

From here we explored the famous WW2 landing beaches and historic coastal towns.

We also witnessed the birth of a lamb – which was awesome!

Crasville lambs Normandy

Hampshire in England – showed us how to achieve the perfect balance of city and country living. New friends introduced us to the joys of English pub culture.

For two weeks, we were the Laird and Lairdy of a modern castle!

Craufurdland Castle

We immersed ourselves in the rich and often quirky history and traditions of Scotland.

Gai & Ian Smith, Balatar Bagpipes

Neil’s kilt by Gordon Nicolson


There are few places in the world as pretty as the Cotswolds – a cluster of quintessentially English villages straddling 5 counties.

Our Minchinhampton base put us close to these iconic villages.

Great Tew cottage, Cotswolds UK

Ottery St Mary delivered the peace and tranquility of the East Devon countryside.

The large stately home came with an intriguing combination of pets.

Our love of animals lead us to a Sanctuary of very friendly donkeys…..

and an American bald eagle called Baldrick!

Gai & bald eagle at Hawkridge Birds of Prey Exmouth UK

We had clear blue skies to enjoy spectacular coastal regions – like the famous Lyme Regis.

We finished our year in a magnificent home high in the mountains of Umbria in central Italy.

La Fontanella in the mist

Being invited into the homes and lives of our warm and generous new friends and neighbours – was a highlight of our year of living like locals.

Italian women Umbria

Village to Villa is based in reality – not everything goes to plan!

The animals have their own idea about the rules!

Becky eyes off a pheasant

But they will always reward you with a special thank you for being there.

Living like locals in 4 very different countries – has given us an exceptional insight into other ways of life.

Olive harvest Umbertide Italy

Truffle hunting in Umbria

It’s shown us how to find the SPECIAL in the everyday.

Belac France in autumn

Chateau du Mauran iris

Village to Villa is a new way to experience travel and lifestyle from a fresh and personal perspective.



Village to Villa –  series 1 – 13 episodes

Neil at Hampshire UK

Fortress St Giuliana, Umbria

Currently we are still writing and our editors are cutting episodes.

Meet the crew.

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