The Story of How We Bought Our Home

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The phone suddenly burst into life with a jolt of energy, and picking it up, I heard a distant voice asking, “Susan? Susan?  Is that you? I think I may have found something………”and my heart gave a lurch of excitement; the dread I had been feeling for a week lifting tantalisingly off my chest. There were more words on the other end of the line, but I was already gone, drifting back to France and the sound of cicadas.

With five children at school and a house to pack, we’d decided it was Roddy’s turn to go house-hunting. We’d all lived in France before, and we knew what we wanted this time, going back to a country we loved so much. So we’d drawn up a check-list of things that were vital to the purchase, along with a second list of things that would be ‘nice’. We’d already chosen the area, the Charente Maritime, since the prospect of living in France’s second sunniest region appealed to us greatly and we also wanted to be within fifteen minutes of the coast and not too far from a year-round airport. The seaside, figs, lemons, olives, grapes and melons drifted in and out of our conversations as we discussed the move, and there was much muttering about beach life and coastal marshlands.

Roddy knew La Rochelle well from a previous life spent amongst boats, and so he packed a small bag one late June morning and I drove him to the airport as we discussed gardens, rooms, schools and resources. An hour later I was driving back home, chagrined I was not going myself, but confident enough he would find something from the list of properties we had booked to see.

Except he didn’t.

For five days, he drove his little hire-car back and forth across the region, and down dusty little coastal roads by the sea. He sent nightly reports from a remote chambres d’hôtes via intermittent internet, his iPad growing hot each night as we discussed properties seen and discarded, and he slowly whittled down the list of appointments till there were none left. He called me on the evening of the fourth night in some disarray, and we discussed our choices. There was nothing to be found that matched our list of requirements; certainly not for the budget we had in mind, anyway. Each house he visited had some heinous problem with it; whether it was its isolation, or lack of schools, the distance to a town or distance from the coast; there was always something out of kilter. He did find one house that seemed ideal, and yet when he rang two days later for a second viewing it had gone, signed away the day before. It was a bitter blow. We talked late into the night as our dreams grew dimmer and dimmer.

The morning before he was due to leave, he parked his car by the Place Colbert in Rochefort and in desperation went around the estate agents once more, reaching out along a few streets in each direction, carefully picking up the weekly magazines in the rack outside each door. Then, settling himself into a chair at a café, he ordered a coffee and set to work. It took him but an hour to cull through the properties and by the time he finished it was nearly lunchtime and he still had nothing to show for his efforts. Looking up, he was surprised to see an agency on the far side of the square he had obviously missed. Paying for his coffee he set off across the cobbles.

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After an initial greeting the estate agent quickly gathered some particulars of properties that fitted our parameters. Two of them, Roddy had already visited, and his heart sank as he scanned the others. As he did so, the agent fussed with a notepad, and then he looked up; “I have something else, but I don’t have any particulars for it, I’m afraid. It came on the market two days ago and we have already had someone to see it. Would you like to have a look, maybe next week?  It is just within your price-range, and it is in a village, as you want.”

“Yes,” laughed my husband, “but it will have to be today!”

The man across the table scowled at the difficulties this was going to present, but he was different to all the other agents one typically meets in France, and he was highly motivated and a keen business man; he picked up the phone and made a call, and then asked, “This afternoon, after lunch?”

It was at this point that I received the message I had been hoping for, a simple text which read;

“FOUND SOMETHING POSSIBLE WILL CALL LATER XXX”

What Roddy had not told me was that it was in a village, it had a large garden, outbuildings, grapevines, a fig tree, and the village had a school and a boulangerie. It met just about all of our requirements, but appeared to belong to a very old lady, and his heart quailed at the thought of finding something in a perfect situation that might be in complete disrepair – all for an asking price that would leave little change from the budget for much more than a new coat of paint.

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Piling into the agent’s car at the appointed hour, the pair of them sped southwards across the ancient salt marsh towards a church tower far away on the horizon. A short time later they rolled down a dusty sunny street in a small village, and then came to a stop at a huge pair of gates, covered in ancient peeling paint. As if by magic the gates slowly opened to reveal an old gravelled driveway bordered with hedges, and a garden beyond that stretched as far as the eye could see; towering over everything were tall mature trees and birdsong echoed in the great green cathedral-like space. The gates finished opening with a clump against their stops.

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Roddy told me later that he’d known instantly this was to be our home. As he stood there, the shrubs to his left buzzed with bees and a swallow-tail butterfly curled its way across the driveway to a herbaceous border.

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The house belonged to a family that had been there for generations. The old woman had gone to a nursing home near Paris, and the interior was in a time warp. In one room, upstairs, a shelf groaned under the weight of every Paris Match ever printed, and in corners books stood in stacks, covered in dust. In the attic, boxes of scientific journals going back a hundred years lay ready for serious study, and each room seemed to live on a different level, steps leading up and down like a rabbit’s warren of dark and shuttered spaces.

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The outbuilding turned out to be the old farm manager’s cottage, complete with a kitchen and bathroom that has been untouched for decades. But despite the long grass and unkempt appearance, Roddy knew this would be a wonderful home for a large family. The garden even came with a sun-dappled set of childrens’ swings – a proper set, proud and tall with room for three siblings.

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After a frantic night of phone-calls, photos sent via the internet, discussion and more time on Google Earth, I put the choice in his hands, and told him it was his decision, and the next morning he rang the agent and made an offer. The agent then made some phone calls, obviously very much on the ball. It was the old lady’s son in Paris who was handling all the details though and the answer came back just quickly; it was refused, with the warning that only the asking price would be accepted.

More frantic phone calls followed between Roddy and myself, and then he nervously put in our revised offer of the full sale price. The reply came back within half an hour to say it had been accepted and there would be papers to sign that afternoon after lunch. At half-past two, as Roddy sat at a desk in the agent’s office, scrawling his signature across the contract, the phone on the table rang. It was the people who had seen the house first, a day earlier, wanting to put in an offer; but they were too late, the ink had already dried on the sheet of paper under Roddy’s hand. It had been a close call too fine to contemplate.

Two hours later, Roddy drove back to his chambres d’hôtes in a daze, a copy of a power of attorney in one hand, the sale papers in the other, and two weeks to pay the deposit. When he rang me, the children whooped with excitement and my eyes grew moist with elation. We were going back to France.

198 thoughts on “The Story of How We Bought Our Home

  • The best story I have read in ages, you certainly have a way with words that can turn an ordinary tale into a compelling piece of writing.

  • I have hoped you would one day share this story. I’m sure the elderly lady would have approved of your transformation of the house into such a lovely family home.

    • Actually she did get to see photos of all the things we did. Her children who handled the sale came back and visited about a year later, they loved how we had chickens as they said she always had chickens wandering around the garden and they took photos to take to her in Paris. Sadly she died last year, but on all accounts I hear from villagers that she was a truly lovely and well respected lady. xx

  • I’m hoping soon to find something that makes my heart beat, knowing we have found our new home. At the moment I still feel I’m in limbo, as our time here is running out.

    • Not at all, something will come up by the end of February, I have a very positive feeling. Something that you know is just irresistible! You will know instantly when you find the right property. xx

  • clearly this was meant to be..love your writing and pix…they make my day…and make me want to visit the charente maritime or anywhere in france….thanks for sharing and have a wonderful day….

  • Oh how lucky you are, I’m still looking for my dream home & would love to move to France. You’ve inspired me to try again, here in the UK initially, but Brexit pending, hopefully France! x

    • Keep going, I hope Brexit works out a reasonable deal and you can continue to search over here in France, it is horrid being in limbo. Somewhere there is the perfect house just waiting for you! Plus house hunting is such fun! xx

  • What a dream come true, I could lose myself amongst your flowers in that magical garden and house, thanks for the story of how it came to be.

  • Just loved hearing the details of your family’s search for and discovery of your beautiful home. Well done, Roddy!! And, Susan, what a gorgeous way you have of telling the story. I love your voice. Thank you for sharing this with us. Also, how beautiful are those gates! I don’t think that I have ever seen a photo of them before.

    • Thank you Anne, well done Roddy indeed, I quite agree, it was obviously meant to be. I can remember it like it was yesterday, the texts, the Skype messages and the disappointment for days before the excitement! Hope you are having a lovely Sunday xx

    • Thanks so much Susan, I remember all the details so clearly, the bitter disappointment at the beginning of the week when all the properties we had so carefully selected were useless and the feeling of utter despair and then I remember the excitement and Roddy’s happiness over the phone. Hope you are having a lovely Sunday xx

    • It was such a fun story, a little unusual perhaps in that Roddy was house hunting on his own, but then I trust his judgement completely and I remember it all so clearly, it was obviously just meant to be! xx

  • Fascinating story. I never told on my blog the story of how WE ended up in France, and why we ended up where we did, and why it was, for us, such a great thing. Yours is a lovely, happy story … apart from for those poor people who were about to place an offer 😦

  • I would have been smitten at the gates! Do you own both of the houses? Is this the little cottage where Pascal was born? It’s all making sense now!

    • I am still smitten every single time I drive through the gates, even after several years! Both houses are part of our property, yes and you are right, the little house is indeed the cottage where Pascal was born. xx

  • Susan,
    I have recently found your blog and have fallen in love with it! I have always wanted to visit France and hopefully one day I will! My mother lived in Verdun hence my name Babette and my sister’s name Monique! I am living vicariously through your stories! I so enjoy them! Thank you for these beautiful stories. Beautiful property!

    • So happy you have found the blog Babette, I love your name and your sister’s, in fact I have to admit I rather love French names! I really hope one day you do get to visit, especially as your mother lived here, I am sure you would love it and find it quite fascinating, there are so many different areas, something for everyone. Let me know if you start to make plans, I would willingly help. xx

  • I love reading your blog on life in France and this was a great post. I live in the United States and hope to visit your country someday. Thank you for taking me to France as a read your well written posts!
    Vicki

    • Thank you Vicki, I really hope one day you do get to visit, there are so many beautiful areas, each offering something different, you can plan exactly where you want to go and what you want to see, mountains, coast, cities, farmland, there really is a place for everyone! Hope you are having a lovely Sunday xx

  • Before/After pics plz? If u have them. Oh you’ve taken me to France again this morning in my dreams! So peaceful to read your words and of course in my head, I’m hearing your accent!
    How far are you from a major city?

    • I will do another post with some befores and afters in the summer when the garden is looking a little bit more interesting! However, if you go back through the posts, before Christmas I did a before and after of the inside of the house which you might find interesting. I might disappoint I’m afraid as my accent is very English! However, when I speak French I like to think that, thanks mostly to my children, my accent is not too English! They don’t allow me to get away with pronouncing anything in an English accent, it’s good, they are constantly correcting!! We are about ten minutes from the city of Rochefort which is about 25,000 people and about half an hour from La Rochelle which is around 100,000 people. xx

  • I know envy is one of the seven deadly sins, but this wonderful story of fate and chance turns me just a little vert!! I’m always a believer in “meant to be” and your house certainly seems to come under that heading. It has a slight ring of “Under the Tuscan Sun” about it. I don’t know if you know the book and the film. The book is written by Frances Mayes about her purchase of a house in Tuscany and the film is just one of those wonderful stay in with a glass of wine and watch it over and over films!! It’s warm and never fails to give me a lift if I’ve got the winter (or anytime!) blues.
    It’s so good that your house is once again a family home with children’s happy laughter bouncing off the stones, I’m sure the old lady would have been so glad to know who was living in her home now. Have a lovely week. x

    • I do know the book and the film Marian, although it is years since I either saw it or read it, funnily enough someone else mentioned it not so long ago, I don’t even remember it at all and so I think I must find the book and read it again or find the film and watch it again as I know I would love to do both! This house was definitely just meant to be, I am quite sure of that, and her daughter was here about a year after we bought the house, we showed her around and she took photos of the chickens in the garden to take back and show her mother because she too had always kept chickens here. Apparently she was a really lovely lady and very well liked in the village. Hope you too have a lovely week and stay warm, I believe parts of the south had snow yesterday, did you get some? xx

    • Oh how funny, did you just pass it and know that the house had to be yours? That’s exactly he sort of thing we would do, it’s all about the location, location, location. One can alter an interior but one cannot alter the location. I would love to hear more about this house, are you still living there now? and was it as good as you thought it would be? xx

      • The house is a vacation home on top of a mountain in a small borough built around a spring fed lake. We had already started the process of purchasing a house, when we were told there was a lien on it and a public access road through the middle of the property. Needless to say, it was very upsetting and stressful. We were shown another house that was actually much better and in a quieter area. While floating in that canoe, we realized that was the house for us. It is across the country from our permanent residence, but many family members live in the area and it has become a gathering place for family

      • It sounds absolutely perfect, I always think things happen for a reason and it appears that was exactly the case for you. Had there not been a lien on the property and the public access road you would have gone ahead with that house and missed the one that was actually so much better for you! Hope you have a lovely week xx

    • Hi Carole, I will do a follow up at some stage I promise. No the house didn’t come with the furnishings, although they did want to sell some and they gave us a list of items of furniture that they wanted to sell. We did buy a beautiful old armoire, a desk and one or two other bits and pieces. It was rather nice to start out with some French furniture already in place! xx

  • Dear Susan, what a close shave! Finding the home you were wanting when all hope and time had almost, almost run out. I believe in cycles….the walls on that property must have seen more than a few generations of children grow up and leave, and the old lady who moved to a home near Paris could have been nothing short of very pleased to know that a new family with no less than five children was going to bring new life to her old house. A gorgeous read, thank you! ❤ Jeanne

    • Thanks Jeanne, it was quite obviously just meant to be. I know when the family bought the house originally in the 1930’s they had four children, the old lady who sold the house to us was one of those four. She herself had three children and so this house has always been filled with lots of happy laughter and big families. Her daughter came and saw us about a year after we bought the house and took photos of the chicken in the garden to show her mother as she too always kept chickens here. It is definitely a house with a wonderful warm, happy atmosphere and I always feel good things happened here. xx

    • We truly do enjoy living here. I think it was absolutely just meant to be and even now, years later, every time I drive through the gates I fall in love with it all over again, always a good sign! xx

  • I’m glad Roddy was first to get your offer in. How horrible it would have been to have just missed! The feeling of coming home is what we all hope to find in our houses and you’re blessed to be living it.

    janet

    • I agree Janet, I am actually glad we missed out on the first property because although it was lovely the location was nowhere near as good and we would never have found this house, which I feel was just meant to be. It always feels wonderful the moment I open the gates, I am always happy to be home, can’t ask for anything more than that. xx

    • No, sadly we didn’t Nadia. Although I know from many people in the village that she was hugely respected and a lovely lady. We met her son and daughter several times, her daughter still lives in Rochefort and we see her at various village events. She came and took photographs of the chickens in the garden a few months after we moved in to show her mother as she too always kept chickens here. xx

  • I really enjoyed hearing your story and am so happy that the house turned out to be perfect for you. My husband once picked out a house for us when we were moving from Michigan to Ohio, about four hours away. The kids were 6, 4 and 2, so I left it in his hands when he moved to Ohio to start a new job. It was a nice house, but we moved a few years later into a more vintage house that was our style.

    • The house is indeed absolutely perfect for us and I trusted Roddy implicitly. But it is also quite scary, buying a house is easily the most expensive thing most of us will ever buy and doing so on just a couple of hours viewing and one half of the couple not even seeing the house is quite frightening really! Still they say home is where the heart is and my heart is definitely right here! xx

  • Susan,
    What a lovely story…what a lovely find. I have said this so many times before…This is my dream. It’s not going to happen but in my next “lifetime” it will! I agree this house “was meant to be” for the Hays family. A “win win” situation…The house “loved” by families before was getting another family who would “cherished” it for years to come. Congratulations to Roddy for his pesistant dedication to get the family back to France. That is what I “love” about life…you never know when our “Guardain Angel” is going to appear and bring us something so wonderful that our life changes forever. Susan, thank you once again for a heartfelt post. Have a Wonderful week ahead.

    • Thanks so much Stephanie, it really was meant to be, that is for sure, this house has always been filled with children. I am a great believer in atmosphere’s, the house was in desperate need of updating, it was utter chaos inside but it still oozed warmth and a friendly atmosphere, it was as if the walls were filled with happy memories. This house has certainly changed our lives, so much has changed since we came to live here, so many adventures, all making life more interesting and more exciting. Hope you too have a wonderful week xx

      • Susan I ❤️ your comment “as if the walls were filled with happy memories.” One of the main reason (besides you being a FABULOUS writer and a very kind person) is that post after post I continually see someone who cares dearly for her family. This house…your home radiates a picture of a “life well lived filled with laughter and love.”
        I can’t think of a better compliment than that for any wife or mother. You’re Good Person Susan Hays. ❤️

      • Thanks so so much Stephanie, what a truly lovely thing to say. I can honestly say that my family are the most important thing in the world to me, I would do anything for them. But then I think it is the same for you too. Hope we get to meet sometime this year?? xx

  • Oh, if only it was that easy – or difficult (which ever way you want to look at it!). And what a house. Amy has just finished leaning over my shoulder amidst mutterings of intense jealousy. Well done to all of you.

    Would I be right in saying the house was empty when you moved in? I’m sure there were a thousand things there you would have kept, for sure. It’s also nice to see some of the before pictures too. I’m a sucker for before&after stories.

    • Hi Simon, looking back now it all seems as if it was terribly easy, but I cannot tell you how stressful the first few days of that week were, I remember the feeling of utter despair, all the properties that seemed so perfect on paper, that I had already mentally found myself living in, were useless, we really were not sure what we were going to do, it seemed that Roddy would return empty handed. Sadly, yes the property was completely empty when we moved in, aside from four of five items of furniture that they had wanted to sell and that we had agreed to buy. It would have been so exciting had all the old magazines and things still been here. Oh well, we can dream! xx

  • Loved this story so much. Talking about the old lady & the house as it was with pictures reminded me of the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. Lol! Beautiful story. It’s a good thing your husband could speak French. I can only imagine my husband & myself walking around with a translation book all day. That would be a nightmare. If we ever get a chance to visit France I’ll try to learn some French words. You are a beautiful writer.

    • Thanks so much Deborah, I read the book Under the Tuscan Sun years ago and saw the movie, but I don’t really remember either, time to either reread or watch again I think! It would have been quite impossible had Roddy not spoken French because the agent, a lovely man who has since become a friend, certainly doesn’t speak any English at all! I hope one day you will get a chance to visit France, learn a few vital words and phrases before you come, because it will make it so much more enjoyable. xx

  • Oooh! Very nice story!!! I got misty when you discribed, what you saw, when the gates were opened.When you discribed the garden. This is exactly the place I would love to have but we still have too many years to work in a big town till we can get our pension and move to the country and it must be in France! Your home is lovely!!

    • Thanks so much Rose,I can honestly say when I open the gates and drive through now, every day, years later, I still fall in love all over again! At least you have a dream for the future, an end goal and what fun when it does happen. Hope you have a lovely week xx

  • My husband and I have a tendency to be impulsive, even on the biggest purchases. When it’s ‘right’, it’s right. This is how we purchased our home in Umbria. You feel it in your gut. Well done. Lovely post.

    • I totally agree Lisa, Roddy just knew the moment he drove through the gates, that this would be our home, long before he even saw inside the house, which is probably just as well, as the house really did need so much work! I still fall in love with the property all over again every time I drive through the gates, it’s just one of those places. I am so glad that that’s how you bought your home in Umbria too, a real love story! xx

  • It is so very true….we do know when we have found….HOME…..Thanks Susan for sharing your wonderful French life with us. Looking forward to the next instalment…

    Ali xx

    • We do indeed Ali, Roddy just knew and I trusted his judgement implicitly. It was definitely meant to be and I feel that so many good things have come from living here. It’s a happy place to live. xx

  • Your tale is familiar. Our rental apartments also were in a time warp, and sadly, the elderly lady who had lived in them nearly her whole life died just last week. We’re so disappointed that we didn’t get to show her the renovations–she had insisted on interviewing us about our intentions and accepted our offer because we promised to keep all the historical details.

    • How sad that you never got to show her all the hard work you have done. We never got to meet the old lady who owned our house because she was in a nursing home in Paris, but we do know her children. Her daughter lives in Rochefort and we often see her at village events. She came and took photos of the chickens in the garden to take to Paris to show her mother because she too kept chickens here. She has also seen all of our alterations and says it is exactly what she wanted to do, so hopefully she gave her mother positive news. xx

  • Un papa en chasse, une famille fébrilement en attente, du suspense, des rebondissements et enfin une fin heureuse, voilà tous les ingrédients d’ un bon roman ! …Comment ? … C’ est une vraie histoire ???… Alors je compare Susan à Agatha Christie ou à Mary Higgins Clark pour son talent d’ écriture ( ” … l’ encre avait déjà sèché sur le papier…” a été un bonheur à lire et relire !) !!! C’ est de mieux en mieux Susan et un très grand plaisir de vous lire. On comprend mieux pourquoi Roddy, vous et vos enfants êtes tombés amoureux de cette splendide maison charentaise que vous avez baptisé votre oasis français ! // Daddy on the hunt, a family thrilling to wait, suspense, a final twist with an happy ending, here are all the ingredients of a good novel!… What?… I am told that is a real story???… Then, I can compare Susan to Agatha Christie or Mary Higgins Clark for her talent of writing ( “…the ink had already dried on the sheet of paper…” was a must to read and reread! )!!! It’s better and better Susan and also a great pleasure to read you. We understand better why Roddy, you and your children have fallen in love with this magnificent Charente-style house that you called your french oasis. Thanks again to share nice pictures and great stories. Hope you have had a sunny and warmy sunday.

    • Thanks so much Philippe, you know I remember the story as if it was yesterday, I still remember the feeling of utter despair that the houses we had chosen, the places that looked so perfect on paper were utterly useless when Roddy viewed them. I remember him teasing me; “you wanted a fig tree, you wanted grapevines, you wanted a guest house” he said, “well I’ve found it!” Today was a wonderful Sunday but alas there was no sun, that was yesterday, today it was just a little grey and overcast all day but very mild. Oh well, spring is just around the corner, but before that we have the school winter holidays and that means the Pyrenees and snow! Can’t wait!! Hope you have a lovely week.xx

      • Très bonne nouvelle pour tous vos followers Susan que de savoir que vous allez faire du ski en famille dans ces belles montagnes des Pyrénées ! Encore de belles photos à voir sur votre blog ou sur Instagram pour nous tous ! Vive les vacances ( comme disent les écoliers )!!! // Great news for all your followers to know you and your family go to ski in these beautiful Pyrénées mountains! Another great pictures to be seen for all of us on your blog or Instagram! Vive les vacances ( as say school children ) !!!

      • We adore the Pyrenees and they are so much closer for us than the Alps, plus a lot less crowded. Of course I am sure I will post lots of photos! The children are terribly excited, very nearly the winter holidays, can’t wait! xx

  • I concur with Philippe – you really need to be writing a book, Susan. You MUST have a publisher amongst your fans, surely? Failing that, an e-Book perhaps? I know many people who read on their iPads and Kindles. Write it, publish and be damned, as they say. 🙂 The missus and I want the whole deal, the big picture of everything.

    Sign me up for the first volume, and make sure you include lots of photographs. Please.

    • Thanks so much Phil, a lot of people keep talking about this and I do, truly, feel very flattered. There really is quite a story that follows this initial finding of the house and the first steps in purchasing it. Perhaps this summer I shall tell it all! You will have to wait and see!! xx

    • Thanks Libby, I love that we know so much about the house, we know it’s history back to the 1930’s when the family who sold it to us bought it. What I would like to know is who owned it before that and it’s history back into the 1800’s. It certainly is a wonderful family home and we all feel very lucky to live here. xx

  • What a great story. Love happy endings. Although I have had many moves in my life there is nothing better than finding a house you love. Now go make some memories!

    • I agree, when you find the perfect home that is just meant to be it really is special. We have already made lots of memories here, it’s a great family home and I feel good things happen here. xx

  • Thanks for that story – it has brightened my start to the working week. I like the story particularly because it resonates with our own house-hunting efforts in a different region.

    Your blog has made me realise that Charente-Maritime is somewhere I’d love to visit. I’ve never been there but it is obviously very beautiful.

    • At times it does seem like a fairytale adventure and at others it doesn’t! But the most important thing is, still now, years later, every time I drive through the gates I fall in love all over again, now that just has to be a good sign!! xx

      • Home is a wonderfully warm word and that defines it beautifully …. the feeling of loving a place and belonging there and just letting go in a big flumptious sigh of content when you return is unbeatable. Xx

      • Home – how often do we say “I just want to go home” to walk through the front doors and feel content, there is nothing better. There is no place like home after all! Warm here today, 14C it’s fabulous!!! Do I dare hope for spring or are there more surprises to come, this year, quite frankly, who knows!! xx

      • Snap! Here too …. meanwhile stepson house-sitting for us in Massachusetts has had another foot of snow this morning (he has been in England for the last 3 1/2 years and said he had literally forgotten what Winter actually is!!). I bought two rather gorgeous new coats the other day which maybe why we now have warm weather!! Enjoy enjoy ☀️ xx

      • Warmth, after I sent you the message, I was in the car, it was 15C, it really felt warm, nice not to be shivering for once! So is your stepson enjoying a real winter? But I am a little concerned, I often think we get the weather the East coast gets over here only a few days later, does this mean we are going to get another dose of cold cold weather next week, perhaps my spring hopes are just too early! I’d better get outside and make the most of this week! Of course, if you went out and bought winter clothing it is bound to get warmer, that’s just how it goes!! You’d better head to St Bonnet so you can be in the cold and enjoy them!! Xx

      • Hubby is en route to Boston as I type so I don’t doubt he will get the lowdown on whether stepson has welcomed the ‘real winter’ or is regretting his haste to get back to New England after his studies. They have had two storms in the last few days … both, of course (we both know what the weather reporters are like in the US) heralded as mighty but according to The Brains’ staff about half the snow forecast actually fell. I will keep strutting round in my coats to ward off the possibility of the weather tracking across to you! St Bonnet will be graced next weekend as we drive through. I shall be disappointed if it isn’t snowbound! Xx

      • Ah, the weather reporters and their slight over predictions! I think after Michael Fish and the dreaded storms of the 1980 something, no one has ever dared say it won’t be windy again!!! My parents talked about that for years! I hope you have snow in St Bonnet, it would be seriously upsetting if it weren’t all white! However, today, once the fog cleared we reached 18C today, lunch outside in t shirts, it was soooo warm, made us all long for summer and long warm lazy days! Xx

      • I’m not ready for summer yet …. strictly a four seasons girl me – but lunch outside does have its appeal. My eldest daughter is permanently scarred by Michael Fish. She nagged and nagged at age about 3 or 4 why his name was ‘Fish’ so I told her he was half man-half fish and that was why we never saw his legs ….. wicked mother, I am. Xx

      • I agree to an extent, I love seasons and I’ve actually really enjoyed this winter, despite the lack of snow! But I do love those long summer days, the flowers, the beach, the garden, eating outside and wearing shorts, doors and windows open, I can’t help it, I love summer most of all, unless I lived in the mountains, which of course Roddy never would, but then, then with the snow I could be a winter and summer girl!! Your poor daughter, you scared her for life, I can still picture his face and voice now!! Xx

    • Thanks so much Monika, I really do believe in things happening for a reason and this was just meant to be. It has happy vibes throughout the house and has made the most wonderful family home. Hope you had a lovely weekend and were not too cold! xx

      • Thanks so much Monika, I can honestly say that this move here has lived up to all our expectations and more and happy children certainly do make a happy family. But we have also been lucky, we have the most wonderful neighbours and have met some lovely people here, everything has helped to make it feel like a truly great place to live. xx

  • What a great story. So glad you found the right house and when you do find it, you know.
    We’d come down to Devon for a week in a holiday let (in January, brrr) and a list of 50 properties to see. By the last day we’d rejected all the ones I thought would be wonderful and were into the also-rans. No 49 was the house we bought. The estate agent’s details had completely underplayed it. I could see it had potential, but did rather underestimate how much work it would take!

    • Oh I know that feeling so well. Some of the agents details can look so perfect, I have literally bought properties in my mind long before we have seen them, I’ve moved in and am arranging furniture only to find that when we do get to visit them in person they are nothing like the details! Whereabouts did you buy in Devon? two of our children were born in Exeter. xx

  • Halleluja – I’m not surprised at all – and believe it or not, our tiny house we bought in Switzerland (Lutry, Ct Vaud) was acquired under the same circumstances. Except, that (we had to fly back to UK where we still lived) this really old house (foundation dating back to 1430….) had come on the market the day before and had no papers made out yet and we could only see it next morning at 10h30…. – and ‘you have to be aware that much work needs to be done’…. Alrighty!
    We couldn’t sleep, we were so excited to see the ‘ruin’, we stood in front of the house at the appointed time – ONLY, there were another 5 people also standing there to also have a viewing!!!! The house was so tiny that you couldn’t even all go inside together and see everything, no way could you discuss anything, ask questions, way up things…. all we could do to speak with our eyes – and then we took a huge leap of faith and our courage in both hands and asked the woman showing us around if we could talk to her for 5′ in private. The other two parties went for lunch. We returned to her office and after a few minutes we said we would love to buy the house – even though much needed to be invested and much didn’t make any sense – and yes, we would buy at the suggested price! Papers were drafted, much activity got into motion, and then the door of the agency opened and the two other parties came in together. ‘We want to buy the house together’ and ‘we pay the full price’, they said…. Don’t forget, this is Switzerland and the tiny house was and still is located in one of the prettiest vintner villages at the shore of Lake Geneva. When the agent said that the house was sold to us, they upped the price by 50k and the agent told us, that she hated to do this to us but she had the interests of the owner in mind….. So we had to pay another 50k which we didn’t really have (we hadn’t sold our house in England) and only then could sign the papers…. I know exactly how you must have felt then – and I will remember until the end of my life how WE felt!!!!
    Yours is a beautiful story – I am fully convinced that some things are meant to be – and in fact every one of our purchases was ‘not normal in any way’…. only in the latest case of our French home we weren’t so lucky for a very long time. NOW we can enjoy our beautiful house, but we would never want to re-live the ‘before’ and the first 2 years of ‘this untold story’ – we couldn’t….
    Thanks for ‘making my evening’ – And of course, we want to hear MORE…. so much more!!!!
    Hugs to all of you, Kiki

    • Oh my goodness, what a way to buy a house, some houses come on the market and create a great interest and others languish for months or, as is often the case here, for years, slowly becoming more and more run down and neglected. I know that our house was meant to be, just as your little Swiss house was meant to be, you didn’t really have the extra cash and I can tell you we didn’t really have the extra to pay the full asking price, as that meant we had precious little to do a vast amount of work, it’s a long story, I will reveal all at some stage! The house your are in now in France does sound as is if has many stories to tell, we will simply have to share a few glasses of wine at some stage and a lot of laughter I am sure! For now I am happy to say though we have 14C today, it is so mild and for the rest of the week we have sun forecast, could this be spring??? xxx

  • I’d be interested to know if your renovations were difficult to achieve. Are wokmen easily hired? How do you pick the right ones? Did you all live in the house while renovations were being made?

    • Hi Sally, the renovations weren’t difficult as such, just long and time consuming. We had to completely redo all the electrics throughout the house, that alone took over a month and then all the plumbing and then a new kitchen, new floors in places, endless painting, repairs etc etc. We were very lucky, we found a wonderful local French electrician quite by chance and he has remained loyal to us ever since. The plumber was a bit of a disaster story, we found one and then he disappeared half way through fitting a new bathroom. My husband and a friend of his who is a very very good builder did most of the work themselves elsewhere. We rented a house nearby for the first two months as it was quite impossible to live here and then moved in after that, although even then it was really like glorified camping! One day I will reveal all!! xx

  • Hi Susan
    Loved the story of ‘home finding’ Loved the thing you and your family have done to make it our own but have kept the character of the home intact. Lovely lovely story …please continue with your story.
    Happy Valentin’s Day to you and your family.

    • Thank you so much Freda, I remember it all like it was yesterday, the utter despair at not being able to find anywhere and wondering just what we were going to do and then the hope when Roddy found this house. Even now, years later, I still fall in love with it all over again every time I drive through the gates, it was just meant to be! xx

  • Buying a home is so emotional to begin with … add in the challenge of being in different countries, and I can only imagine how difficult and stressful it was.
    … but you’re right, when you’re lucky, you just know when you’ve found the right place! I love the photo of the gate with the flowering bush – what appears to be lilacs to me. I would have been absolutely sold at that point alone!!

    • I can remember the feeling of utter despair as if it was yesterday, wondering if we would ever find anything suitable, within our budget and chosen area. However, although this left us with little change to do what we wanted we just knew it was meant to be. I can tell you, even now, after years, when I drive through the gates I fall in love all over again every time! xx

  • I just passed this to my husband to read and asked ‘would we have bought our Normandy house without one of us seeing it?’ Both of us said yes, without hesitation, sometimes you just know that it’s meant to be……

    • That’s just the sort of thing I would do! Interesting that you both felt the same way too. Sometimes one just knows and if it is meant to be then it is meant to be. I trust Roddy implicitly, and he knew exactly what we were looking for and what would work for our family. It’s been a fabulous few years and a great experience, thoroughly enjoying it all! xx

  • Took us 2 years to settle on our home in TN. Never did we think that is where we would be, but when we found the area and then the house, it made sense all along. Neighbors have become good friend, and life goes on with smiles on our faces. The only small regret is why we waited so long to pick up and go.

    • I can quite understand what you mean, sometimes we have our minds set on something completely different, but then something else turns up and as you say, it all falls into place. So happy you have obviously found such a wonderful home, neighbourhood and friends, it really does make all the difference to living a happy life. xx

    • Thanks so much, I remember it all like it was yesterday, the utter despair at not being able to find anything and the hope that this might be the right house and the endless phone calls and Skype calls, thank goodness for the internet! Hope you have a lovely week xx

  • This was better than reading any suspense novel tho’ we did know the ending ere ‘turning a page’ 🙂 ! With your wonderful talent for description methinks we all followed those two days hour by hour: thanks for the fun and how great it did all work out so marvellously well!

    • Thanks so much, we couldn’t have done it without the internet, the photos that pinged their way back and forth, the questions, the diagrams Roddy drew trying to explain what we would do. I remember it all like it was yesterday and the suspense. Oh my goodness it was terrifying!! But it was meant to be and we have never looked back, we are truly so lucky to live here, it’s a very happy home. Have a great week xx

    • Thanks so much Angelina, it was such a fun story to write because I remember it like it was yesterday, every minute of the suspense and the waiting and the not knowing and wondering if we would ever find the perfect home. Hope you have a lovely week xx

  • I have recently discovered your blog via comments you have left on other favorite blogs. What a lovely discovery! You write beautifully, in a way that takes the reader off to France with you. Congratulations on actually living what is only a dream for so many. I too was able to escape the rat race for calmer pastures here in the mountains of Southern California. While it’s not Europe it is my way of slowing down in a tranquil, beautiful environment complete with a lake, a ski resort and 4 seasons. I look forward to following you living the dream.

    • Thanks so much and I am so happy you have found the blog and thanks for taking the time to comment, always much appreciated! I must admit I am slightly envious that you have the mountains and a ski resort, if I didn’t live close to the coast that would be my other requirement for definite. Seasons really do make such a difference don’t they? We may not like the grey days or the cold weather but each one lets us look forward to the next, even our youngest daughter, who is ten, was saying this just last week, how she loves the different seasons. Looking forward to chatting with you more. Have a great week xx

    • Thanks so much Elizabeth, it’s a story I remember as if it was yesterday even though it was a few years ago now. It’s a very happy home and was just meant to be, the right place at the right time, it was fate! Hope you have a lovely week xx

    • I am quite an impulsive person so I think between Roddy and I we knew we had to act quickly, plus he had a plane to catch the next day so time really wasn’t on our side. Who knows perhaps if he had found it at the beginning of the week, we would have waited, knowing we had a week to spare, thinking nothing ever happens very quickly in France, and we would have missed it. It was obviously just meant to be. Hope you have a lovely week xx

    • I agree, that’s because it is just such fun to look at the houses for sale and to dream a little. When I get an email listing various properties every now and then I always think how I would love to buy this one or that one. It’s been rather fun this month as we have had friends staying who are house hunting and so I have been able to scour the internet looking for them and visit some houses, some better than others I hasten to add! xx

  • I’ve always been a sucker for a story that has a ‘happily ever after’ kind of ending. What an amazing adventure! Thank you so much for sharing Susan – and for reminding me why buying a home in France is a dream to hang onto.

    • yes, I rather like happily ever after endings too! It really has been quite an adventure, I remember the beginning as if it was yesterday and the best bit it, several years later, it has lived up to all of our expectations and more. Keep your dream alive and make it happen! xx

  • What a lovely post! Having just bought our French home last August, I do believe in fate, destiny, karma, whatever you want to call it, especially when it comes to house buying.

    • Thanks so much, I certainly do believe in fate, if it is meant to be then it is meant to be. I hope you are thoroughly enjoying your French home, we are all so lucky to be able to live here. Xx

    • Thanks so much, I can remember the whole week like it was yesterday, I was on feeling utter despair, as I think Roddy was too that we were never going to find the right property, everything that looked so perfect on paper was a disaster in real life. Then he just happened on this house, it was quite obviously meant to be! And yes, it has lived up to all of our expectations and more! Xx

  • I have been reading your blog for a little while now and absolutely love it. You have a beautiful way with words and have an amazing home. I do have a question that may seem dumb but… since I never see screens on Windows and doors are open so much, how do you keep flies out of your house? I am always wondering that because we would be overcome with them. Thanks.

    • Hi Debbie, firstly thank you so much, I am so glad you are enjoying the blog. We do get the odd fly in the house, but we really don’t get that many. I guess having always grown up with them, two or three flies just totally go unnoticed, but we rarely get more than that, they are not a problem at all. I don’t think I have ever seen screens on windows anywhere here. I can’t wait to get to Spring, to those days when we can fling the windows wide open once more and air out the house, then it really feels fabulous! Have a lovely week xx

  • Your French property captured my heart also. The sight of the gates and the gardens would have sold me. I pinned the gates/column supports for ideas on how to create the same feeling at our entrance.

    Happy Valentine’s Day,
    Judith

    • Hope you create exactly what you are hoping for. If you go back through my archives to July 2015, you will find a post titled French Gates and Curb Appeal and you will be able to see lots of gates and maybe get even more ideas. I think this was long before we connected with one another via blogs! Have a very happy Valentine’s Day too. Xx

    • Thanks so much, we had a little left over, enough for the electrician and plumber for the rewiring and plumbing issues which were the most vital things. The painting and anything we could do ourselves we did which saved a huge amount. We have about an acre and a half of gardens, but we keep it very natural so it is manageable, just!! xx

  • YOU MADE MY DREAM COME TRUE…………Now in reverse I saw the house we live in today and told the REALTOR NOT TO SHOW MY HUSBAND AS I DIDNOT LIKE IT!WHat was available two months later when he moved and we stayed behind to finish FIRST GRADE!THIS HOUSE…as all the other CUTE HOUSES HAD SOLD by the time he got here!!!!Let’s just say after 22 years it is PERFECT…………not too BIG, a GARDEN full of blooms………..and A LOT of EUROPEAN ACCESSORIES!!!!!!!!XX

    • Oh how funny is this, we could put the two stories together!! It was quite obviously meant to be for you too, and I love that we both trust our husbands enough to let them buy our houses whilst we both stay at home with the children sorting out school work and homework! We are peas out of the same pod!! xx

  • What a lovely story! I recently found your blog from another one and have been enjoying it very much and I don’t travel if I have to fly and so enjoy being an armchair traveller through the internet.

    • Thanks Ann, I am so glad you found the blog and thank you for taking the time to comment, always much appreciated and it’s great fun to get to “meet” people. I don’t blame you for choosing not to fly, I hate flying, but that’s the luxury of the Internet and armchair travel, it’s inexpensive and great fun and there is none of the hassle! Have a great week xx

  • You are a braver woman than I, letting your husband pick you out a house sight unseen. That said, I would more likely let him do that than what one of my friends did – she let her parents pick out her wedding dress, sight unseen!

    • I had no worries whatsoever letting him choose and buy our house, I trust him implicitly but a wedding dress, I would NEVER let him choose a dress of such importance for me or my parents choose such a thing, that is far too personal and far too easy to get wrong!! What a brave friend you have, did it all turn out happily?? Xx

      • It did! Her wedding was actually in Martha Stewart’s Weddings (I’m not sure you have the magazine there, but it was a big deal). She is someone fashion forward, which made her trusting her parents to make the decision even more surprising!

  • Susan, a wonderful story, thank you. I remember looking for a house with my husband a long time ago, how excited we were and how happy it was to find a place to buy. I am very happy for you, and also that you live in France.

    Since I am able to do so, I read a lot, and visit other persons blogs often. I know my English is not very good, but I see quite clearly how your writing is so beautiful, and also being copied so much. I visited a blog the other day from here, someone else in France and found it sad that almost every thing you do they follow. I think they call this the price of fame? You are so real, so spontaneous, it would be difficult to copy your success, and I wish you much of it, and of course, I will buy your book if you make it. Do not give up?

    I love my notebook. It corrects all my mistakes. No need for a dictionary.

    • And are you still in the same house Marie and is it in France? Auto correct is wonderful, when I type in French it automatically does all the accents and corrects my spelling for me, I love it! But your English is fabulous. Thanks so much for your kind words, I was trying to explain to Gigi, our ten year old, the other day that copying is the highest form of flattery because someone had copied something she had done, I am still not sure if she believed me or not! I have to tell you we feel very fortunate to be able to raise our family here and enjoy everything that the country has to offer and so it really does give me so much to write about, I write from the heart, just what I see and feel and I am so glad you are enjoying it. Hope we get to chat more and if you are ever over in the Charente Maritime let me know. Xx

    • So glad you enjoyed it, I must admit I do love a happy ending too! I hear the rain has been very welcome in CAlifornia though, perhaps a rare weekend to snuggle up indoors! Either way, hope you are having a lovely weekend xx

  • Thank you for writing this post. Like many others, I’ve wondered how you found your home. You are such a talented writer and I feel as if I’m transported to France while reading your stories. But, it feels like there should be a Part II!

    • Thanks so much Debbie, I thought after two years it was probably time I gave everyone a little history into how we bought our house! I promise there will be more about the renovations and the story of how we actually settled in. Perhaps in the summer. Hope you have a lovely week xx

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