Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Monday, January 29, 2007
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Whereas there are many many people who
live in village houses that have no "piece of
outside", I guess our American values are rising to the surface because I can't imagine not sitting somewhere outside, on a terrase or garden, feeling an afternoon breeze, sipping wine, eating olives and bread and dream of chatting with the neighbors.
Here are the Pyrenees off in the distance, and some pictures of Mirepoix. The market square with its cover are center stage and the entire square has covered sidewalks. The architecture dates to 1200 and features the carved wooden gargoyles over the shop windows. Click on the photos to enlarge them.
We've been asked what drew us to this area, what the weather is like and how is our French coming along. I'm adding the photographs to help me explain the attraction to the area. With the rolling foothills covered with trees, it's reminisicent of Vermont and with the Pyrenees in the background, Montana. It's one of the least populated places in France with plenty of open space, farmland, cows, wild boars running around, yet it has many beautiful towns. It just felt good when we arrived in May, plus, we found we could afford some property here, unlike Provence or the Dordonge. Secondly, we ran into some wonderful people and it just seemed like there was no reason to go further afield.
The weather has been cold. We left cold, sunny Moab hearing about the unseasonably warm weather in southern France and the 71 degree days. We arrived to cold, gray skies, clouds everywhere and drifts from a recent blizzard. But it has cleared off and become sunny. Yet it remains colder than normal, or so we understand.
Our French? We haven't had much time to practice. Our estate agent, our hosts who have just gone back to England this morning, and most of the people we've met are British. And Nancy is American, so I'm only speaking English. Our French is not good but we have the company of others who are learning the language and are encouraged by their progress. I will say that we have learned enough to get the things we need at stores and restaurants. The test will come when we need to converse about plumbing, or carpentry or somesuch with a Frenchman who speaks no l'anglais.
Some of you have emailed us asking whether to comment directly on the blog or by email. The choice is yours, but if you post onto the blog, then everyone gets to join in on the 'conversation'. And don't worry about never having blogged before---we were total neophytes before jumping into this little venture. Now, off to Montseguer, the hotbed of history of the Cathars!
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Hailing from Flockton, West Yorkshire, England, Alan and Eileen are our most gracious hosts at 5 Rue de Four in Leran. We met them at the l'Impasse du Temple Chambre d'Hote last May and we would convene every morning and evening over croissants or drinks and recount our repsective days' events. Alan and Eileen were ready to pounce, and bought a place in France, and we are indeed grateful that they did. Last night they hosted a dinner party and introduced us to a few of their friends.
During the day our estate agent Lizzie took us out to begin the search. There is no such thing as an "apples to oranges" comparison here. We looked at a village house situated over the Credit Agricole Bank in Chalabre dating back to 1735, with exquisite original woodwork and tile. For sale are the top two floors. It has the original woodwork and the parquet and tile floors. What seems most unusual here in France, is that there appears to absolutely no attempt to de-clutter or clean up anything in order to show a home. No baking bread, made up beds or flowers in the vase. In fact, it's almost the opposite. The place was home to an amazing amount of junk, dinner leftovers, dirty clothes, etc. Its a possibility but it was very hard to see the potential through all the clutter.
And we looked at a portion of an estate now broken up into several units of manageable size. The place is a shell, gutted but with electricity, however has no water in or sewage out at this point. A beautiful space outdoors for a garden and terrace. The place, again, has much potential, but would be smallish.
We also saw the exteriors of several places which we will see in the following days. We have many things to see and we have just begun. Between travel, dining with Alan and Eileen, and trying to shake off jet lag, we haven't had much time to keep you informed. The Simmons leave tomorrow for England and it will settle down a bit so we should have more time to post some photos of what we are seeing. We should also have some time to sight see and will report on that as well. Right now we're off to the Saturday Chalabre market, then meeting Lizzie for some house showings. Ta ta for now.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
We have arrived in Leran, our house-hunting headquarters for the coming month. We missed the blizzard of a few days ago, but remnants of several feet-high snow drifts remain along the edges of the roads. The skies were clearing as we drove towards the Pyrenees and the fields were strikingly green for late January. Our rental car turned out not to be a Twingo but instead a Renault Elf. We laugh about whether good old boy Americans would ever be caught dead driving some of the names of cars here....I mean, Doug driving an "Elf"...go figure. We stopped in Mirepoix to see if our immobilier Lizzie's was around but she was nowhere to be had, so called Alan and Eileen to give them a heads-up of our impending arrival. They welcomed us into their Leran home and we have an entire floor to ourselves, and after Sunday when they leave we will have the entire house. We met them at the B&B last spring when they were shopping for their piece of paradise. Since their purchase, they have been coming from Britain about once a month and loving every minute here. They said they know more people here than back home in their village. Lizzie called to invite us all for a drink and "natter" this evening and has arranged some house showings for tomorrow, so the search has begun dear friends.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Today is Monday, the day before we leave for France. The goals for today are to get our gear packed, and to figure out how this blogging thing works before we get over there and have to pay for internet time.
We've got a few goals once we are there. One, of course is to find a house we can afford and that will suit our needs. Secondly, after we have found the house we intend to buy we need to open a French checking account. We knew this was going to be difficult, because we understand a French resident must accompany you to the bank and vouch for you. Our real estate agent, Lizzie, a Brit living in France, said she would accompany us, problem solved. That didn't seem to be a major obstacle and actually helps resolve the language issue. But, she e-mailed us the other day and told us to bring a few other things for our visit to the bank beside the funds: our birth certificates; our marriage certificate, our passports, recent bank statements and copies of utility bills that are less that three months old. Needless to say, this is quite a departure from opening an American checking account where all one needs is an ID and a couple of bucks. I'm not sure what the difference is............but we have been warned, never, ever, ever bounce a check in France. OK. We promise. But let me ask you......do you know where your passport, marriage certificate and birth certificate are? Neither did we.
Apparently, as we have been learning, all payments associated with the house are made by the bank. Mortgage, water, sewer, gas, electricity, (and to use a French term) et cetera (or is that Latin?).