Early February 2016 saw us embark on a roller coaster of a week in the Lot-et-Garonne (47) in South West France.
To find a rental property in the area we love, to serve as both a base for developing Studio Faire and to give us a little time to explore the region, and confirm that we are barking up the right trees.
Before travelling on Air France (who we love) to Bordeaux, we scoured many rental sites & apps and short-listed 6 properties for perusal whilst en France.
Our good friend Lionel (you’ll see a lot of him on here in the coming months) extended his hand of kindness even further, yet again, by giving us his property (pictured right) as a base for the week. Now… on our journey this past year or so, many people have said to us that the French can be ‘difficult, arrogant and unfriendly.’ Can I just state for the record that this is absolute MERDE!
I’d say that everyone we have met in France on the past 4 trips we’ve made has been pleasant, welcoming and extremely generous toward us.
Example: We popped into La Banque Postale in Nérac to try and set up a current bank account in anticipation of moving over. The lovely woman who greeted us at the desk spoke absolutely no English (of course, why should she!) so we tried our best to express our intentions. She very quickly stated that she can mime to help the situation and conversation flow. She also stated that she could mime in Italian if we liked. We left the place giggling … a lovely attitude to service. We will bank with La Banque Postale.
Lot-et-Garonne in February is a gorgeous place. Crisp weather, between 4 and 9 degrees (celcius) over the week so a bit cold but here’s the thing… when the sky is grey, the sky is HUGE, no low lying clouds to induce depressive claustrophobic feelings and then the sun comes out. Winter is great in France. The storms are STORMS, the rain is HEAVY and the hail is MARBLE sized. We love it!
The hunt for a home…
Day 1 saw us visiting Condom to looking at an ad-hoc opportunity 8km outside the town. Although a lovely spot and a house that provided a potential photo studio, it was just a little remote for us. Once in France, we intend to integrate fully, speak the language and be part of the community. Being remote to start out with won’t provide enough opportunity for us to meet the locals.
After leaving the lovely agent who drove us to the property, we said our goodbyes and headed for the car. Opposite where we’d parked, there was another immobilier so we plucked up the courage, used Google Translate app to prepare our opening statements and with a deep breath opened the door and approached the woman at the desk. We explained that we were not great French speakers yet, and were Scottish… We got an instant response with tongue firmly in her cheek of ‘oh well, never mind…’ in a Franglais accent. Needless to say, we clicked immediately and our new pal Rose hooked us up with an associate in Nérac who had just one property available in the area. We were told to wait until the next day for a visit but somehow we thought wandering in to the office to say hello would be a good start. We met Sandra who I think was in need of a break from the office as she grabbed her car keys and took us off to see a house in the great wee commune of Francescas, just down the road. We liked it, saw potential for photo studio space as well as office space for the both of us to work in.
I forgot to mention, on day 2 we had a visit planned to see a house that we had had our hearts set on. I don’t think that we were being blasé about the first two houses we’d seen, but we definitely had an idea that the ‘dream’ house was yet to come.
On day 2 we visited the aforementioned awesome property. The location was remote but quite near a small town with a train station. We loved it and then spent the day persuading ourselves that it could work for us. The next morning, after a few strong coffees and debates regarding the remoteness and price of this house, we e-mailed the immobilier to express our interest. Later that day while sitting in what appears to be our new local in Nérac, L’Escadron Volant, we received a mail asking us to come in on Monday morning to sort out the paperwork.
We were elated … but literally for only for 5 minutes. Another mail came in stating that there had been an offer to buy the very same property. FIVE MINUTES!
It was now Friday afternoon, we were gutted, had invested our emotions into planning life in this new space, what we’d do to secure the garden for the dogs, who would get the piggeonaire (turret) as an office and how we’d use the huge studio space to the rear of the building. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
The roller coaster of emotions continued… please bare with me…
As is tradition, for over 300 years we believe, the market in Nérac took place on Saturday morning. We used this as an excuse to visit the town again and see if the original agent may be in on a Saturday. They were open so we walked straight in thinking that we could simply reserve the first place we liked in Francescas. The woman we saw expressed that that house had gone… no longer available… GONE!
What are the chances we thought. We’d been led to believe that nothing moves fast in France.
We decided to enjoy the rest of the weekend and hit the ground sprinting on Monday to find a place.
Sunday saw us drive to Toulouse to visit our pal, Sue. It was lovely to see her and spend some time catching up. All the while though, butterflies in stomachs and the anxiety was mounting up over the drive home.
I’ll keep this short… it all worked out.
We re-visited the agent in Nérac with the house in Francescas to find out that our agent, Sandra was off for the day. This agent however, gestured for us to stay put as she leafed through the note book on Sandra’s desk. She turned to us and stated that the house WAS in fact available after all. Before I knew it, I was shaking this poor woman’s hand and the hand of her very patient customer who was politely sitting there waiting for her to get back to his business.
On Tuesday, we signed the reservation document for the house. And… relax.
There’s a whole load more I could write about here about our roller coaster of a week, the people, the journey and the place. Needless to say, it was a manic yet most enjoyable week where we found a home, made some great new friends and if I say so myself… kicked some serious derrier!
More news and pictures of the house soon once we’ve firmed the move date and the broadband is turned on in our new home en FRANCE!
Thanks for following our wee story.