21 May 2009
20 May 2009
The boucherie in the villageThen along came M. Fairhead. There are quite a few English in and around the village, some with holiday homes and some are permanent residents. The chances are that we would meet them all eventually. I can still hardly believe our luck that we happened to meet the one person who could make all the difference to our plans on that day, right at the moment where I was beginning to see all our dreams disintegrate into mush.
The church in Place Savoie-Villars
Just an ordinary pump in the village
Barrie was familiar with the cottage as he had shown a client round it only a few days earlier, with the idea of it being turned into a gite. This client had put in an offer which had been declined by the vendor. The cottage was also for sale through the agent in the village (where we made ourselves known but from whom we never heard a word). This agent told Barrie that he thought another thousand euros on the offer would secure the house. This put it at twenty thousand below the advertised price. Barrie was also able to give us an idea how much the repairs and alterations might cost, plus the reassurance that he could obtain the necessary planning permission and oversee the work. To quote Barrie's wife Lucie "it just gets better and better".
The old railway bridge
We did our sums and the whole thing would come in well within our budget if we could buy it for the lower price. Unfortunately we had to wait until Tuesday to get any further as today was Sunday and on Monday the immobilier was closed.
17 May 2009
A rooftop view in Le Grand Pressigny
The bridge over the river in full bloom
Down by the railway station
La Poste vans resting
As we talked, I thought that the other couple might be listening to us - the way occasional looks were exchanged and the odd glance across to our table. I don't know how we actually got talking - something to do with asking the time and Nick's watch behaving strangely. After a few minutes' chatting, the man leaned over and said, "I don't normally do this but I heard a bit of what you said and I think you need my card". It said:
It took a only few seconds for the meaning of this to sink in. M. Fairhead was an architect and structural engineer from Sheffield who had retired to the village but since started working as an architect and project manager - for people exactly like us.
The war memorial in Place 11 Novembre
Now call it a luck, call it fate or anything else you like. I just think it's an incredible coincidence that Barrie and his wife Lucie turned up just at the moment we needed them. It is something for which I will be forever grateful, if somewhat mystified. Thank heavens for that pizza van.
Chez Grand Ma, the restaurant on Grande Rue
Our worries about organising any work suddenly melted away. Barrie and Lucie went off to their home in the village with their pizza and we went to the local restaurant to celebrate. We had invited them round to our gite for coffee in the morning and we were really looking forward to talking some more.
16 May 2009
The elusive cottage "au pied du chateau"
- a small house
- two bedrooms
- a proper kitchen
- a functioning bathroom
- a small private garden (with a view - of sorts)
- off-road parking for the motorcycles
- in the middle of the village
- dog-walking terrain nearby
As we were walking round the house, we already found ourself making plans for what needed to be done to it. Nick fancied putting "lucarnes" in the bedrooms - dormer windows which would open up the rooms to give more light and a lovely view over the village rooftops. The gite we were staying in had these. Also, in the one room downstairs, there was a window on the outside of the house, complete with lintels and hangers for the shutters, that had been blocked up. We thought how much lighter it would make the inside of the house if we could reinstate it.
We could see that the roof on one side of the house was in good condition but the other side would need replacing at some point. Also the electrics and plumbing would need sorting out a bit and there was obviously some damp in the walls. In spite of all this, it fulfilled one of our major requirements:
- somewhere we could use comfortably as a holiday home whilst work was in progress - not a major renovation project
The restored house at Cussay
Antony was keen that we should also see the other two houses he had organised for us so off we went. The next one was at Cussay and, just as he said, it was beautiful. It was right at the top of even our first budget but we could have moved in straight away and it was spotlessly clean. It was an old bungalow, although not as "ancienne" as the cottage we had just seen. It had been tastefully restored with three bedrooms, a modern fitted kitchen and a large garage that had a second kitchen in it for all the outdoor entertaining ! The garden was large with a lovely little vegetable patch but mostly just lawn so half an hour on a ride-on mower should sort that out - Nick had always fancied one of those.....with the lovely garden icluding "potager"
Not for us, that one.
The view of Le Grand Pressigny from the PreHisto bar
We parted company with Antony and arranged to meet him at his office on Tuesday morning to view the next four houses. We then returned to Le G P and retired to our customary spot outside the PreHisto bar for an apero and a serious debriefing. Having spent the first part of the week feeling quite depressed at the end of each day, this time we had the luxury of two possible properties to choose from. Both completey different but equally suitable.
We had a lot of thinking to do.
15 May 2009
A fireplace in one of the houses we had seen
"LE GRAND PRESSIGNY - AU PIED DU CHATEAU"
I thought "now that narrows it down a lot"........ if it was at the foot of the chateau, then it couldn't be 25 km outside the village ! It was a bit more than our revised budget but probably worth a look.
That evening we went for a walk around the chateau. We walked up and down the narrow streets with all the quaint little cottages. There were no "for sale" signs to be seen and we saw nothing that looked even vaguely like this picture. This was not entirely unexpected but we thought that anything around there could be a possibility. The agent also had several other small, cheaper properties advertised in his window so we decided to pay him a visit the next day, Saturday, half-way through our house-hunting fortnight.
From the beginning, I always thought that once we were standing in front of the right house for us, I would know that "this is it."
The next day, it happened.
13 May 2009
The town of Langeais
Then we stopped at Langeais. Not because we were looking at a property near Langeais but because he'd forgotten to pick up the keys to the first house from the office there.
Once fully equipped with petrol and the right keys, we set off back again to find the first house. After quite some time we stopped outside a modern bungalow with a hand-written for sale sign on the gate. We thought this was odd as we didn't think we were looking for such a modern house. The English owner came out to see what we wanted and by talking to him in English, obviously, we managed to work out that this wasn't the house we were supposed to be looking at althought it was for sale. The agent was, apparently, lost and had no idea how to find the first house.
He had no map with him but we did so with a bit of furtive consultation (after all, we weren't supposed to know where we were going), off we set again. We stopped outside a really attractive, renovated house, with painted shutters and pretty planters all around. It was somewhat isolated but we started to get excited - it was so lovely that we might be prepared to compromise on our requirement for the house to be in or near a village. In fact I could hardly believe we could get something so nice for the price being asked.
That was because it was the wrong house again.
This agent was obviously a complete twerp. He made some joke about the fact that he had only been doing the job for one month and as soon as he'd made his first sale he would buy himself a Tom-Tom. We had our doubts that he would last that long.
An attractive fireplace for sure
After another half hour or so of touring the flat and unintersting countryside, we finally arrived at the "hamlet" we were looking for and the house. The one picture in the information sheet showed a smart tuffeau fireplace, giving the impression of a nicely renovated house. As per normal the reality was completely different. The "salon" was a huge, almost windowless room of enormous proportions and completely unfinished. The fireplace was the only nice bit in the whole house. It was not cheap and the cost of all the work that needed doing would put it way over our budget. It also had a substantial garden but within moments of us arriving, the neighbour appeared and offered to sell us his orchard as well.
At least it had walls
Not for us, that one, then.
The Troglodyte house
We had always fancied seeing inside a Troglodyte house - one where the back is a cave and some kind of dwelling is built on the front of it. This agent has several on his books and we thought it might be fun to own one as a holiday home. When we arrived on the doorstep it looked quite sweet. As soon as the agent unlocked the door and we stepped in, the smell of the damp almost knocked us over. Inside, the house was very chilly even thought it was hot outside. And literally every room had a cave at the back of it, even the bedrooms and the kitchen. The downstairs hall/corridor was a cave. There were curious hooks and brackets sticking out of the walls and ceiling in the salon. It was very spooky.
The hallway downstairs
The kitchen had mould all over the walls (so did the bathroom). I really didn't fancy scrubbing that off every few weeks so we decided against that one too.
Next we went to see a house that the agent was really excited about, near Bourgueil. It was another large, 4 bedroomed house on a busy road, with little garden and the usual spare cottage in the back yard to do up. It was in very poor condition and not cheap.
But the water supply was not so good.
By now it was late in the afternoon and we had truly had enough. The agent didn't mention the fourth house we were supposed to be looking at and neither did we.
When we got back to the comfort and tranquility of our gite in Le G P we phoned the agent we were supposed to meet the next day and cancelled. We needed to do some serious rethinking for surely we were doing something completely wrong here. We were certain that there must be plenty of houses suitable for us out there but we had no idea how to get these agents to understand what we wanted. All they did was show us really grotty properties in poor condition and poor locations. Either that or they were in the middle of a farmyard or miles from nowhere. Maybe that's what the British usually go for.
An older couple in our French language class were selling up and hoping to retire to France. They had looked at 50 properties so far and not found one they liked. We thought that was unbelievable at the time but now we could see exactly how it could happen.
12 May 2009
On Wednesday of the first week we had arranged to have the day off. The previous two days had been a frustrating waste of time and this house hunting lark was turning out to be very hard work.
In the morning we drove into Le Grand Pressigny to go to the boulangerie for our bread and croissants and found the place buzzing with activity. There was a sort of auto-jumble taking place down by the station so after breakfast we went to have a look.
It was great fun. Lots of old cars, motorcycles and tractors on display and some for sale (runners and non-runners). There were food stalls and meals being served in the station building. In fact it was carnival time. We recognised our gite owner, M. Duport and he was very friendly and seemed pleased we had made the effort to turn up. We wouldn't have missed it for anything !
There was lots of old junk for sale, but some good stuff too. We didn't buy anything but had a great time looking. Apparently there was some sort of old vehicle society in the village and this is one of the events they do every year.
We then wandered back up to the village and had a proper look around. It suddenly occurred to us that this is the sort of village we would like to live in. It had shops, bars, facilities, events and a market every Thursday. If we could just persuade the estate agents to show us little houses in places like this, we would be quite happy. They only seemed to show us huge renovation projects miles from anywhere.
A different sort of renovation project
In the afternoon we went a little further afield and looked at some other villages nearby, including La Guerche. That seemed like a nice little place too.
The chateau at La Guerche
Later that evening, we sat in the sunshine outside the PreHisto bar, watching the world go by. There were lots of people going about their business, having fun, greeting friends. This was just what we wanted from a village.
The next day, Thursday, we had an early rendezvous with another estate agent in Chinon and on Friday with one in Dange St Romain. We had high hopes of both of those. As we were talking, wondering what the next two days would bring, I said to Nick, "actually, I quite like it here".
10 May 2009
Our standard poodle puppy Lulu is growing up. She was tiny at 2 months.
Apparently "la fete des Meres" is on June 7th this year.
She seemed so fragile and vulnerable - just like a baby.
She's a big girl now - she knows how to get treats from my dad. Just sit perfectly and look cute.
As usual we asked for a room and then asked for secure parking for the motorcycles. Nick was on his Zephyr 550 and I on my Virago 535. The man at the desk said certainly and gave us directions to get to the "secure parking". We had to first mount the pavement and go through a queue of people at a bus stop into an entrance . We then went through a corridor that had a couple of 45 degree bends. This opened out into a small yard at the back of the hotel. To get the bikes into this space we had to go down 4 steps.
She came into season yesterday at almost 10 months. I feel quite sad - the baby months are gone and she's grown up now.
With the bikes safely stowed right under our bedroom window, we had an early pizza and retired to bed. About 11.30 pm we were woken up by banging and cracking noises - fireworks somewhere in town. We were a bit miffed that we hadn't known they were on as we were fond of French firework displays. They went on for about an hour.
I made smoked salmon and asparagus quiche for dinner yesterday. I looked at some recipes but then just made one up out of what I had. It was lovely.
At 1.30 am we were woken again by someone knocking and whispering at the back of the hotel. Assuming the worst - someone trying to steal the bikes, which would have been quite a feat thinking of where they were parked, we looked out and saw a couple of youngsters climbing in through a downstairs window. Presumably guests late back after the fireworks.
I made some jam tarts for my dad from the pastry trimmings. He loves them, but especially if they're a bit burnt like my mother used to make them. These weren't.
The little balls are biscuits for Lulu.
At 5.30 am we were woken again by the most infernal racket - banging and grumbling and rattling of metal things. Assuming again that someone was either trying to steal the bikes or was annoyed about where we had parked them, we looked out and saw the backside of a chef who was rummaging in a shed in the yard.
I made some belly-dancing earrings for a colleague's birthday next week. She doesn't know about this blog so they'll still be a surprise.
We were too tired to be bothered with breakfast, having been awake most of the night. This was something we would regret. All restaurants are fully booked at lunchtime on Mother's Day and nobody felt much inclined to make space for a couple of scruffy bikers who looked as though they had been up all night.
We have avoided travelling in France on Mother's Day ever since.