August 10, 2014

A GARDENER’S DELIGHT

house with lovely garden

After a few days’ rest we carried on with our search and arranged to meet a different agent to visit this house.  The day before our rendezvous she emailed us to say she had hurt a hand and was unable to drive so gave us full details of how to find it for ourselves.  When we arrived the owner was ready to greet us and act as stand-in agent himself.  In French of course!

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First impressions were very promising.  The house consisted of a two storey  and a single storey house joined together to make a substantial dwelling.  It was in a lovely position above a narrow, little used road, with views towards the river.  The land across the road and down to the river, including the river bank, also belonged to the house.

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The house looked beautiful on the outside and sat very well in its plot of land.  Parts of the building dated back to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and the external walls had been restored to a high standard.

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The garden was amazing.  It had several small, themed areas for sitting, relaxing or just admiring the view.  It was crammed with lovely plants, all beautifully situated and well tended.  A true gardener’s delight.

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Many of the garden features were obviously home-made but to a very good standard and with a great deal of thought and skill.  These people were definitely passionate and talented gardeners.  It reminded me of some of the English gardens owned by the National Trust that we have visited.  There was also a large vegetable garden and orchard.

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The land across the road stretched down to the river Claise and had the opportunity for some good fishing.  The river bank was well cared for.

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Inside, the house was a bit quirky.  First impressions were good and there were lots of modern features but in the living room there seemed to be something like rough concrete on the walls which had been painted white.

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It was a strange mixture of old and new which somehow didn’t quite work.  There was also carpet on the walls in several places!  But I told myself that it was only decoration, and it could be changed.

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The very modern theme continued in a downstairs bedroom and bathroom.

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It was in the bathroom that I felt that this house was probably not for us.  Although elaborately and lavishly decorated in parts, none of it was to our taste and the cost of turning a house of this size into somewhere we would enjoy living could be huge.  We are not averse to redecorating, or installing a new kitchen or bathroom, but in this house everything needed to be changed for us to love it.

I also noticed a strong smell of damp at this end of the house.  Not the kind of damp smell you get if someone has just taken a shower – the other kind of damp, coming from the walls themselves.

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Upstairs there was a lot more finishing off to do.  This floor had been divided into several odd-shaped rooms and passageways, being used for bedrooms and other odd bits of office space, and nothing was actually finished.  There was a massive fireplace which looked very out of place.  Rooms and corridors had been crammed in around it whereas it would have made a great feature in say a large bedroom.  Instead the owners had gone for several small bedrooms – something that we had seen time and again in renovated houses.  There was no bathroom of any kind upstairs either.

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There were also two rather dilapidated barns, used as garages and storage.  They both needed completely new roofs and a lot of money spending to make them safe and properly useful.

This house was almost right.  It looked beautiful and with a bit of imagination and hard work it could be finished off and turned into a lovely home.  In reality it was just too much work for us.  It was right at the top of our budget and there would not be enough left in the kitty to do all the work we would want to do.

The garden itself was a full-time project to keep it up to the standard that it was now.  I suppose we could have removed a lot of the flower beds and made it less high maintenance but that seemed wrong somehow.  These people had created a beautiful garden and it would be heartbreaking to destroy it – or not be able to keep up with it.

It was, however, pretty close to what we were looking for.  I felt the best was yet to come and surely it couldn’t be far away now.

15 comments:

  1. Looks like you are getting closer and getting a very good idea of what you don't want.

    It's out there, somewhere...

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  2. There's no hurry, and it's exciting checking everything out.

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  3. When driving past that house, the word "twee" came up once or twice. The gardens are fabulous, but if I was buying it I'd get a survey done. Safe journeying

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  4. Pity as the garden does really sound great. I have to agree I did not like the inside and to change it all is major work. Not so bad if you are restoring something that really needs something done to it. Keep looking :-) Diane

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    1. Diane, the garden was fabulous.
      The lady of the house was keen to reassure me that most of the plants were perennials, implying that they didn't need much attention. But it still looked like too much work to me. I love gardening, but I love other pastimes as well and didn't want to be faced with having to do a lot of work just to keep on top if it.

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  5. Oh, so disappointing. I fell in love with the place from your exterior shots. What a mess inside! And you're so right about the gardens anyway. After a first home with glorious gardens that required constant maintenance, we got a little smarter.

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  6. Does real estate dickering in France work the way it would here in the US? If there's a place you really like but there's a problem, you talk to the realtor about it. You say what you really like about the place and then tell them what is stopping you from buying it. Let's say you'd buy it if it was $20,000 less, or if the owners fixed this or that, and then the realtor goes to the owners and sees if they are interested in taking things further.

    Also, do you browse French real estate web sites? In the part of France I really like, there are websites full of houses for sale. As you describe the process, it really is time-consuming and disappointing. The realtor shows you anything they have available instead of showing you what you have asked for (if it's out there).

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    1. Carolyn, getting the agents to understand what you're looking for is a problem, and they will show you houses that are nothing like it, presumably in the hope that you might just love one anyway!
      You're right, they will negotiate on your behalf to agree a price that would allow for things to be changed.
      The trouble here was that even a substantial reduction in price would not have covered all the alterations needed. Some were essential repairs but most were because it was not quite to our taste. The owner said straight away when we looked inside "it depends on your taste".
      The agent had in fact been very helpful when we asked about this house and told us the barns needed a lot of work and that there was land across the road. However, she was typically unhelpful when we asked where it was.
      It's advertised as "in the countryside in Sud Touraine" and told us it was near Bossay-sur-Claise. It turned out to be the other side of Preuilly, so when we drove all round Bossay looking for it we had no chance of finding it! If we had driven along every little road within a thirty mile radius of Bossay, we might have recognised it!

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  7. Loved that garden, but in our hands it would probably revert back to a glorious tumble of weeds and flowers all chaotically mixed up! But I really did flinch at the inside of the house, which was not sympathetic to the age of the house. So...onwards to the next!!!

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  8. hi Jean have a look at saint Pierre de Maille on the Seloger website.

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  9. Hi, Jean. It's interesting (and confusing to me) that real estate ads in France mention how many total "rooms" ("pièces") a house has, but don't necessarily list the number of actual bedrooms. Is that how it works in Britain, too?
    Here in the U.S., a house would typically be described as e.g. a 3 bedroom/2 bath house.

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    1. Dean, my understanding is that the number of "pièces" excludes the kitchen and bathroom. So a 5 pièces house could easily have three bedrooms, plus a living and dining room, as well as the kitchen and bathroom, which are not counted.
      The UK system is similar to the US way of describing a house.

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  10. I've come across a few houses where the owners have obviously been far more interested in the garden than the house and it shows. That's a glorious garden, but a lot of work and what you need first and foremost is a home.Fingers crossed you're getting much closer.

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  11. This place is idyllic garden wise but I think you were right to pass it over. Yesterday and today I have been reading about a dozen of your wonderful posts. However, I have been reading them from latest blog post for and then older posts in reverse order .Makes for an interesting way of catching up on your news. Love Daisy the cat xxx Phil x

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