Having visited this enchanting city four times before – I felt that we could easily spend a few days – almost living like locals in Paris.


It’s a long way to Europe from the east coast of Australia!  When we fly half way around the world to get to our destination – we like to make the 27 hour trip worth the discomfort.

BHV department store Paris

It’s no secret that France is my favourite destination – so far.  Early in the planning stages of our “Village to Villa” epic house sit in 4 countries – we locked it in as our first European destination.

Paris book sellers on Seine

In my quest for authentic travel experiences, I try to be as Parisienne as possible.  To get into that feeling, I visit places that have become familiar. This trip, I will be showing Neil, why I adore this city.

behind Notre Dame Paris

One of my favourite parts of Paris is known as the Marais, sometimes called “the 4th” – which refers to the arrondissement number. The city of Paris is divided into 20 arrondissement.

music shop in Marais

The Marais is one of the oldest and most authentic parts of Paris.  The small back streets of this area are full of life. It’s a mixture of residential and retail with a generous amount of museums and many of the most important historic buildings. There is something of interest in every direction.

Hotel de Ville Paris 2

One of the prettiest and most visited, is the Hotel de Ville – the city hall. At least once a week, a market springs up in one of the public spaces.

metro stop Place Colette

From here, I like to catch the metro and get off at the “Palais Royal Musee du Louvre”.  This stop puts you in the perfect position to see the stunning, glass pyramid entrance to the Louvre.

Metro Palais Royale Musee du Louvre

If you walk west on the rue de Rivoli, you will pass the golden statue of Joan of Arc and  many other landmarks.

Joan of Arc on rue de Rivoli

Eventually you will reach the most famous street in Paris.  The Champs Elysees. and the busiest round about, the Arc de Triomphe.

Neil’s first day in Paris!This is just a sliver of our treasured few days in Paris.  From here, we collected a car and headed south.

More stories from my previous trips to Paris at


Have  you ever  considered moving to France?

We love meeting friends, family and neighbours of our house sitting hosts. They always have colourful stories to tell about the property, the town, the region, even the country where we are staying.

While we were on our first French pet and house sit in Normandy, we met Geri, an entertaining and joyful American with a love for France.

Geri and one of her Pacemakers!

We loved her dogs, and we enjoyed her company.  Geri  agreed to share her story of moving to France.  She’s taken on a huge task – renovating an enormous old stone house near the small village of Crasville.

Geri’s interview

One winter’s morning in Normandy –  we met Geri at one of her favourite locations.  The vide greniere at a neighbouring village called Yvestot Bocage (eve-stow  bow-carzgh).  In French, vide greniere  (veed gron-yay) literally means empty the attic.

See what she comes home with, for her house!   This is Geri’s story.

VIDEO: Village to Villa French Animals

From Spritely Spaniels to Newborn Lambs

Do French animals respond to spoken French?

Traveling around and living like locals in other countries, we discovered this –  the universal language between humans and animals – no matter where you are – is kindness.

Our treasured time in France was filled with the company of dogs of all sizes… a Movie Star Cat called Monsieur Gaston!!  Some we were pet sitting, others  belonged to neighbours.

These are just a few of  Village to Villa’s amazing animals – met during our house sitting in FRANCE.

You might like to meet more AMAZING ANIMALS

Bordeaux – the other Paris!

The world’s favourite city -Paris – has a rival within its own country!

Bordeaux – the other Paris in South West France.

Centre of Bordeaux

Bordeaux – the other Paris – is the 5th largest city in France and with a population of 240 thousand, it’s very easily navigated.  There have been settlements in this location on the Garonne River, since Roman times, so plenty of history to discover while you’re living like a local.

The ancient heart of the city remains – under UNESCO world heritage protection.

The golden age for Bordeaux was the 18th century, with luscious honey coloured stone and lots of attention to detail.  When Baron Haussmann was remodelling Paris, he used this town as his inspiration.


Porte d’Aquitaine in Bordeaux

The Porte d’Aquitaine marks the symbolic entry to the town.


The rue Sainte-Catherine is one of the longest in Europe.

rue Sainte-Catherine
rue Sainte-Catherine

You may well shop until you drop on this 1.2km strip of retail!  Where the street meets rue St.Remi is the entrance to Galerie Bordelaise, a shopping development of 1834.

I want to show you what is quite possibly the most exquisite fountain in the world.

I think it rivals Rome’s Trevi Fountain.

Monument aux Girondins, Bordeaux

To one side of the inner city is 31 acres of space punctuated with extreme beauty. This city landmark is known by locals as the Monument aux Girondins. It was dedicated to a political faction that were massacred during the French Revolution.

Monument aux Girondins, Bordeaux

The grand column reaches 50 metres into the sky. At the tip is a bronze statue of Liberty.  There are masses of horses that are bursting with energy.

I expected to see them break free!

Monument aux Girondins, Bordeaux
Monument aux Girondins, Bordeaux

We’re lucky to still have this masterpiece. In 1942 during WW2 the Germans had plans to melt down the bronze to make cannons and they were removed. Luckily that didn’t eventuate and they were found in Angers, a city about half way between their home and Paris. They were returned, but not completely reinstated until as late as 1968.

Monument aux Girondins, Bordeaux

From the fountain, take a comfortable stroll through a grove of trees towards the river, you will be glad you did.

The old Stock Exchange, Bordeaux

Place de la Bourse was built in 1755 for Louis 15th as a symbol of the city’s prosperity.

Miroir d’Eau in Bordeaux

Stand back close to the river and admire the affect made by the Miroir d’Eau.  The mirror of water. It’s the largest reflecting pool in the world. One inch of water covers 37 thousand square feet of granite paving, giving the illusion of walking on water.

Many people know Bordeaux because of its most famous export that comes in a stemmed glass!  Bordeaux is the world capital of the wine industry.

Grape vines were introduced here when the Romans were in this area.

oak barrels at Chateau Dauzac

There are 287 thousand acres of vineyards in this areas, contributing 14.5 billion Euros to the economy from roughly 960 MILLIOIN bottles of wine!

Bordeaux produces both red and white… and it could be an everyday quaffer, or one of the most expensive on the wine list.

Wine making in Bordeaux
Oak barrels at Chateaux Dauzac, Bordeaux

Thank you to Chateaux Dauzac for showing us through the wine making process.

MEET our friend Geri & her little “Pacemakers” !   She DID move to France.






Everything you need to know to have a fabulously authentic travel experience while you are minding the home and pets of a stranger.

Our TOP TIPS FOR HOUSE SITTING will help you navigate the process of becoming trusted house sitters.  Then you can enjoying the best travel experiences of your life!

Winchendon in Buckinghamshire UK

Pet and House Sitting enables you to travel the world for longer and for less! When you mind a house for someone, you have FREE TRAVEL ACCOMMODATION.

We would like to share some valuable information and TOP TIPS for house sitting. It’s all about having an unforgettable time – living like locals in another country. We gathered this knowledge from our experiences and some of it we learned the hard way!

In late 2015 we set off on a year-long, four-country journey. We started at home in Australia, then packed up everything and took a flight to Paris! We spent most of 2016 in France, UK and Italy.

We traveled 30,000km by air and 36,000km by car.

Along the way we picked up a lot of helpful tips for a smooth journey. If you’re new to house sitting or if you’ve tried it already, we hope you can take away some tips that will enhance your time at each of your many destinations.

Scotland, UK


As basic as it sounds, paying close attention to the locations you choose is critical. Also, the time of the year when you visit can make a big difference to your experience. A great question to ask yourself is – What will the weather be like when we go there?

We knew England would be cold for us, especially Scotland, so we applied only for sits during their summer. If you are used to cold climates, you may want to go to a warmer region and vice versa. Many sits may be booked months before the actual scheduled time, so do your homework on this one.
Another thing to pay attention to is the time of the tourist season and will there be any major events taking place nearby?  In Bordeaux we booked a 3 night stopover and on day 2 we had to move our car by several blocks for the weekend.

Flint loves to fetch!

Know the address of the property.

While this might sound like a no-brainer, we came extremely close to becoming seriously lost, not once, but twice!
Get very clear about where you are. Establish landmarks and have a back-up plan. Take a photo on your phone.


Village to Villa House Sitting Tips

walking the dogs at Chateau Chaufeille

Neil & Gai have put together “Village to Villa House Sitting Tips” to help guide you find unforgettable house sits and pet sits.

CLICK THE LINK –    Village to Villa House Sitting Tips

This is detailed and valuable guidance from a couple who travelled in 4 countries for 1 year – primarily house sitting and pet sitting.

As if that wasn’t enough – they also shot and are now writing “Village to Villa”  LIVING LIKE LOCALS – a 13 episode TV series – NOW IN EDIT.

Just scroll down to the black strip and you will see how to become a FOLLOWER.

We’ll help you to create a killer profile and nail the perfect sit for you.  THANK YOU we are grateful for your interest and support.  Please feel free to share with others who might enjoy our adventure.








VIDEO: Want to live in a French Chateau?

How about spending an entire month during the springtime, living in a French Chateau at no cost to you?

Profusion of purple at the chateau
We were lucky enough to do exactly that during our year of house sitting.  We lived in a French Chateau in South West France.
This is a video about Chateau du Mauran in the south west of France.

The garden was at its best when we stayed at this stunning French Chateau.

From early to late May we watched as nature did her most amazing work.  The roses were resplendent but the real stars were the Wisteria and the “Van Gogh” Irises.  Perfection together.
Roses are red…


The kitchen fireplace was rescued from a Paris hotel demolition


The chandelier is from Venice
Staying in this amazing house for a month, gave us many stories for our TV series “Village to Villa”  We lived like locals and enjoyed authentic travel experiences with neighbours, friends of the house owners and people we met along the way.  We will share them all here on this blog.  If you’d like to follow our incredible year long journey, please leave us your details in SUBSCRIPTIONS – and we’ll send you a note when we post another story.  Thank you.

Shoot a TV series without a crew!

Can 2 producers really shoot video for a 13 part TV series without a crew?

Neil McLean and Gai Reid are the only members of the camera crew for their 13 episode TV series “Village to Villa”. We developed our “TV production in a back pack” so we could travel for one year and shoot a TV series without a camera crew!

Having covered 4 countries – living like locals – we have now begun the huge editing phase.  Luckily we have 2 awesome editors.  Meet our crew.

First edit session

Gai & Neil have 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 in NSW and Tasmania. Mostly she has worked in Brisbane networks as a writer and producer in factual programming.

Harriet, Australia Zoo


Dreamworld tiger cubs

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

Neil in his TV news reporting days

click here to meet THE CREW 

What is a TV Production in a Back Pack?

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.  NOT for TV Production in a back pack.

Because of the nature of our project – we couldn’t take a traditional camera crew.  So WE became the crew!

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

Maggie the Umbrian truffle hunter!


Donkey cuddles for Gai


We streamlined down to the absolute minimum gear – we had to carry it where ever we went. It really was a production in a backpack.  AND it enabled us to shoot a TV series without a crew.

Most importantly – we wanted to record authentic  travel experiences that filled us with joy!

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.

German bunker at Fort du Cap Levi, Normandy

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

"Production in a Backpack"

We used a Nikon digital SLR with external Rode mic; a Samsung Galaxy-K phone with external Rodes mic; occasionally a basic Samsung phone; a Sony Action Can and a seriess of mounts.  Sometime we shot an interview with 2 different angles. We found a fantastic tripod that folds down to about the size of 2 fold up umbrellas.  THAT’S IT!  This is how we were able to shoot a TV series without a crew.


interviewing Ann Jeanne, “A Friend in Paris”


The Seine River, Paris

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.

on Mt Mutali with Florentine – our Italian guide

“Village to Villa” is now well and truly in edit!

There are 13 episodes of 22 minutes duration.

Here’s a preview   


recording voice overs with Ruby

 We have an abundance of extra stories and video clips to share with YOU over the coming months.

…but before you go, we are grateful for your support and in return – we’d like to keep you in the loop so you don’t miss a thing.

THANK YOU FOR SUBSCRIBING – it’s at the bottom of this page.


House sitting in 4 countries

What’s it really like to live like locals – in another country?

To find out, we took on HOUSE SITTING and PET SITTING in 4 countries.
Neil’s first day in Paris!


Pont Vecchio, Florence
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 sitting and pet sitting!

walking the dogs at Chateau Chaufaille
House Sitting is sweeping the world as a unique and convenient way to travel for long periods of time, rent free!

The possibilities are enormous!

Our Scottish Villa
La Fontanella at dusk

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!

The 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

Metro stop 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.

Springtime in 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.

Monsieur Gaston
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!
The Girls of 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, Kilmarnock
We immersed ourselves in the rich and often quirky history and traditions of Scotland.
I hear the bagpipes calling!  Ian Smith, Balatar Bagpipes


Neil in a skirt…..kilt by Gordon Nicolson in Edinburgh
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.

Neil at the Secret Cottage, in The Cottwolds, 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!
Baldrick the Bald Eagle at Hawkridge Birds of Prey, Exmouth UK
We finished our year in a magnificent home high in the mountains of Umbria in central Italy.
La Fontainella 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 house sitting – and living like locals.
Italian Mummas in the kitchen

Village to Villa is based in reality – not everything goes to plan!  The animals have their own idea about the rules!

Bekky thinking about dinner

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.
Harvesting the last of the olives


Maggie the truffle queen!

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

Bellac France, in autumn


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


Village to Villa – living like locals through house sitting and pet sitting. Series 1 – 13 episodes are now in edit.

walking in Hampshire UK
Fortress St Giuliana, Umbria

Meet the crew.