Manny's Blog

Sharing our French adventure as we live and work and renovate our forever home in the Haute Loire.

Atkins on a Bus or ‘Welcome to the World’

We left the UK in July 2007, selling everything and embarking on a great adventure of travelling the world in a bus we had converted into our home. We called our trip Welcome to the World  and we spent the most fantastic year on the road… home-schooling; playing concerts whenever and wherever we could and following our instincts as to where to go next.

Walking through the olive groves on the Cinque-Terre path in Northern Italy
Cinque Terre
Discovering Venice with new (and now old!) friends Franco and Nicoletta
Home-schooling, destination-choosing, researching what we want to see next…
Valley of the Fallen – Franco’s controversial monument near Madrid
Waiting for the bus to Delphi
Bus life!

How it all began…

Joe and I married in 1990, I’m an actress/singer, and Joe is a designer, so we’ve always been freelance, and Joe can work from anywhere he lays his hat (as long as it has an internet connection!) We have four children Luke, Harry, Beth and Arthur, and after many years of Joe often working abroad, we saw a window of opportunity when Luke was 16 and had taken his GCSE’s, and before Harry hit that important exam age to go travelling as a family…

We sold our house, paid off our mortgage, bought an old 52 seat school bus – A Leyland Tiger, and transformed it into our home for a year. The children were a part of every stage of the planning and especially of the bus build! And Joe, with his years of design experience in the theatre, designed the most extraordinary, innovative and as it turned out superbly conceived living space for our precious family of six to travel and live in.

Stripping the bus
Building our new home
The Hobbit Hole beds going in
4 hand built work stations – they were a triumph!
Getting ready for departure!

As things turned out our world tour was really a European tour… circumstances led us North when we had always expected to head South, and a winter in Europe cost us more than we’d bargained for. To be honest the balance of freedom and security was perfect, and although we had tickets for a freight boat to South America, which would have been an amazing adventure, we made the hugely difficult decision that it wasn’t the right step… we simply didn’t have enough funds to have a safety net if we encountered problems. With no green card it wouldn’t be possible to get a job, and one of the big advantages of being in Europe was that Joe was still able to do a bit of remote work.

Living together in such a small space was a truly amazing experience – I can honestly say that it never felt claustrophobic or stressful. It was like we all fell into the same rhythm, where our needs were in sync, and all the outside pulls of normal home life – school, work, friends etc. were gone – so we became this really harmonious team – the schooling was effortless – and fantastically rewarding – there was time for everything and everyone and I think the autonomy and responsibility that the kids took for their learning stood them in such good stead during their French schooling experience.

We travelled through France and Spain, through Italy and Greece and then accepted an invitation to play a few concerts in Romania for a children’s charity.

We spent Christmas 2007 in Istanbul, New Year in Athens, and it was during our trip back through Italy (on our way to Spain to catch our freighter to Rio) that we changed our plans. We decided to spend six months or so in France re-grouping and deciding what we’d do next. We’d met a wonderful French family in Northern Italy, and had vowed to keep in touch, so after spending a weekend with them in their idyllic mountain town of Tence, in the Auvergne, we decided to spend the full season (April to October) in the municipal campsite there – we never looked back! Little by little it became clear that our next big adventure was going to be a life in France!


Looking back…

I like to think that our bus adventure gave our children their wings to fly – writing now in 2021, Luke and his wife Marie live in France with their baby Oscar, just 50 minutes from us which is heaven to be so close to our first grandson ! But Luke lived a few years in Ireland and in Paris before heading back to our precious Haute Loire.

Harry and his wife Armel live in Sweden at the moment, also having spent a few years in Paris. Beth and her boyfriend Jacob live in Brighton after she went back to the UK to university. And Arty, now in his third year at University lives in nearby St Etienne with his girlfriend Cass.

I so admire them all and their bold and excellent life choices – but I can’t deny the delicious pleasure when we all manage to get together – for me it’s just the best!

This summer – minus Jacob and Armel – Harry and Beth made a surprise visit !! My heart nearly exploded with joy!

We Tamed a Tiger

This year (2021) Beth launched her first EP Honey – I honestly think it’s a work of genius ! One of the songs on the album describes what the trip meant to her at that tender age – as a parent it was such a gift to listen to, and to keep listening to – such rich memories flooding back – what a time we had taming that Tiger!