Sometimes dreams do turn into reality; for some that dream might be a passion to live in France and to own a small piece of French real estate. It sounds simple enough, but (and trust me, I know from first hand experience) the planning and amount of work required to move countries and continents, and to set up a new home in a foreign land where the spoken language is not one’s mother tongue is never easy. One thing is guaranteed however – it is always going to be a grand adventure.
You may remember Jeff, our American friend who we first met in April 2016 when he visited from the USA. You can refresh your memory here if you want the whole story! Well, this week he signed and completed on his French house which will become his permanent residence; this summer he is moving – lock, stock and barrel – to France.
He had been looking for a long while, although I should add that most of those initial trips the previous years were as much about finding the right area as finding the right house. In November 2017 he came to stay in our gîte once more; he searched through the agents yet again, drove around for many a country mile by day, and then each night we discussed over dinner a few places he had seen in passing. But a week flies by far too quickly and it seemed no sooner had he arrived than he left, flying back to the USA, empty handed yet again.
He asked me to keep my eyes open for anything that might be suitable, as I had a pretty good idea by now of what he was looking for, and just a few hours after he departed I came across an advertisement which had only just that minute been listed on a French site. How typical is that? It was for a private sale (absolutely no agents involved which saves quite significantly on fees for the buyer) and the house was in a very pretty village that I knew quite well.
As he was boarding the plane in Paris bound for the USA I sent him a quick email with a link to the house, asking “What do you think ? Should I go and have a look ?”, but by the time he got to read it he was already on the other side of the pond.
An exchange of emails later, I went to look around on a freezing cold early December evening. Many, many, photos and emails followed, with descriptions, measurements and minute details. Flying half-way around the world to view a property is not like hopping in the car and driving an hour down the road, as for Jeff this involves four flights in total, plus a train from Paris and then a car, not to mention several days for just viewings. But he was seriously interested. The lady selling the house had another very keen party, so before Jeff made the decision to return we managed to obtain a guarantee from her that she would not accept any offers until he had seen the house and Jeff made arrangements for the long trip back to France once more; of course flights by then were charging pre-Christmas fares – nothing is ever simple!
The day after he arrived I took him to the house feeling a little nervous; what if he hated it and I had dragged him back here for nothing? We spent a long time there on a cold morning. This was followed by a walk around the nearest large village where we found a pretty little cafe, ideal for a much needed coffee.
Conversation at supper that evening was all about the house – the pros and the cons of it. The next day he went back to visit again, but this time with Roddy, so a little building and painting talk could be undertaken. There was a fine drizzle falling, which in my opinion is hideously perfect weather for viewing a house. You see, I always think that if you love a house when the scenery is far from at it’s best, then you will surely love it even more in the prettier months. Never be put off from a viewing when it’s raining!
A week later a decision was made and an offer followed. Remember this is France, nothing happens very fast and buying houses is notoriously slow! Fast forward a few months and this week the house was finally signed over to Jeff via a power of attorney and the keys came home in my car. The next day I found it funny that the first time I returned to his house, it was raining again – a soft gentle mizzle falling from a soft spring sky. This time though it was landing on roses in bloom and vines in full leaf.
I am so delighted for Jeff, I know just what it is like to be at this planning stage, where anything is possible and I have to admit I too am in love with the property which comes with far more than just a house. He is more than happy for me to give you a little look around and to share in his excitement. But first let’s take a wander around the village, because one can change the interior of a house, but one cannot change the location. That is what has to be right and this certainly is.
It is immediately obvious that the locals take great pride in this little hamlet, but there is enough that has been left unchanged and original to keep it real and to stop it from looking too pristine and too perfect. It is a proper example of what most buyers in France long for – an authentic rustic hamlet with wild flowers in the street and an excess of old cut stone.
And there are still one or two uninhabited properties that set my mind racing and mentally I begin planning, those that really fire up the imagination!
And hidden away at the end of one of these tiny lanes of old stone houses sits Jeff’s newly purchased abode. Despite now being empty it has a wonderfully warm feel and a delightful atmosphere. For the time being these ancient walls are basking silently in the sun waiting for their new owner to arrive.
As is often the way with old French houses there are a host of outbuildings, which would have once housed the animals which sustained the family who lived here. Now they add to the character and ambience and come complete with climbing vines. There is a small enclosed courtyard and an open barn which would make the most wonderful place to entertain on warm summer evenings.
There are plenty of original features still in situ, the old hay rack in one barn
and the ancient stone sink outside a kitchen window.
For the most part, the windows have their original fixings
and the fireplace in the sitting room is fabulous.
The upstairs bedrooms have original beams and wooden floors, and even though there is plenty of work which needs doing, it will simply put Jeff’s personal stamp on the property, this is what will make it truly his.
The garden was of great importance for Jeff. Here it is a blank canvas, a place where he can plan and create, grow vegetables, keep a few chickens and make it exactly as he wants – the old owners were not gardeners.
There is the most vital addition – a well for watering
and far reaching views over protected land that can never be built on.
I really hope this is going to be Jeff’s forever home, where his dreams will all be fulfilled.
Imagine aperitifs sitting around this stone table under the vine which is absolutely heaving with tiny bunches of grapes already. Jeff, I am so looking forward to a glass or two of champagne here to celebrate with you!