P- After our blue sky living day on Monday and seeing our new home in the brilliant sunshine for the first time (and wow it looked and felt so amazing under a deep blue sky) we awoke to grey skies, rain washed streets and a fresh new day, an exciting day as we were off to sign the compromis de vent.
We have stayed twice now in a beautiful guest house in Gaillac called Combettes run by Madame Piñon, a waif in the mould of Edith Piaf, far more friendly but alas without song. On entering, it’s like you have been transported back in time, I’m sure nothing much has changed in this vast building apart from the introduction of electric and a few modern home comforts in the bathrooms. Now it sounds like I don’t like this place, but nothing could be further from the truth. It has an old style charm and the history oozes out of every antique in the place.
It’s in a superb location, a few moments walk from the Tarn river and across the road from the Abbey. It’s only 60 euros for a huge double room with breakfast. We would highly recommend staying here if you find yourself in or near Gaillac (before a certain group of luxury gites are available!)
Our signing wasn’t until 11am so we had plenty of time for an amble around the cobbled streets of Gaillac, not that this took long as it’s only a small town but with lots of charm and beautifully renovated public areas complete with many mood lighting features (viewed last night over a delicious dinner in the main square).
On we rambled commenting how well the shops were kept and the fact that many of the shopkeepers have exterior planting which softens the streetscape.
We finally found our destination – the notaires office – and very grand it looked, imposing wrought iron railings and gates, with lots of brass plaques displaying the names of all the notaries within.
We arrived 15 minutes early (I hate being late for anything) and waited, and wandered, and waited a bit more and tried to figure out how to gain entry to this place, and then my visual eye noticed a small out-of-place acrylic sign with horrible purple writing on it. After thinking to myself “why would someone put such an ugly sign on this lovely building?” I read the words on it and asked Kev if the word “Transferèe” mean “Transfer” ? To which he replied “yes” and “why” because I said “I think we are in the wrong place….” Oops, yes oops as it was now 10.55 and our appointment was at 11am. A frantic phone call to our agent Laurette did indeed confirm that we were in the wrong place and the correct office was a 5 minute drive away, which was fine. Other than our car was parked a 10 minute walk away. A small dust trail run later we were in the car speedily but safely (mmmm) driving to the correct address. Laurette greeted us in a vision of purple, arms waving from the side of the road, indicating where to park.
All was well as our notaire had only just turned up and the sellers’ notaire wasn’t ready anyway. So a big sigh of relief and a quick moment of calming down and we were ushered in to be greeted by the family Barthez, all 6 of them. It’s the last thing we were expecting, but bonjours abounded and broad smiles were fixed on our faces as we waited for the proceedings to begin.
K – The stress levels created by our mistaken address (and the fact that Laurette had tried to explain precisely the day before where the office was before I’d dismissed her: I have the internet. Surely, I can’t go wrong with THE INTERNET. No. I didn’t shout at her), meeting our notaire for the first time, and being faced with a bunch of French inheritors, whom I was convinced regarded us as money-grabbing English charlatans (we’re not English!) soon dissipated (the stress-levels: I know it’s a long sentence). I will be honest, our experience buying in Nice in 2005 helped enormously here. However, whereas in 2005 I had two notaires basically bickering for 2 hours, today could be regarded as light-hearted and fun. Maitre Mons was charming, and Maitre Fassino-Simon (our notaire) was demure and petite, but, both Phill and I agreed, shrewd. And not averse to using her petite-ness and demure-ness to her advantage. Thank-goodness she’s on our side.
Where we place quite a lot of trust in our British conveyancers to spot potential problems and send us a quick email, French notaires have to sit and read through (in summary, thank-goodness) the entire sales contract to all parties of the transaction. I can imagine that some who like the sound of their own voice could waffle on forever. Thankfully, Maitre Mons was leading the meeting and was concise. Maitre Fassino-Simon meekly (or so she would have us think!) translated the really important parts, and trusty Laurette was there in the background guarding our corner.
This is what is being sold. This is how much you’re paying. This is how much the notaire, government, and estate agent are getting. This is how the money is being split. There’s a bit of asbestos. There’s a bit of lead. There are no termites. The electrics and the septic tank are useless. But you’re buying as you find it. One of the sisters enquired about whether we wanted the kitchen wood-burning stove. Trigger images: antique iron valuable. STOP! That’s what we told Maitre Fassino-Simon as she tried to negotiate its staying. If they want it, take it. Major favour to us. Picture: half the size of a Smart car. White metal sheeting. Weighs the same as 3 cows.
Once the official bits were done, and Maitres Mons and Fassino-Simon went off to “speak to their respective assistants to duplicate and fill in some forms” (was it wrong of me to notice how they lingered over their initial cheek-kisses, how she was just leaning a little bit more towards him during the meeting, how they laughed more at each other’s jokes than any of the other French speakers. We all had a bit of time to relax and get to know each other. One of these sibling inheritors is going to be our next door neighbour. One told us how he used to make wine for a local co-operative. One told us she knew a neighbour close by to us who was English and commuted to London to work (I did double-check he/she wasn’t a pilot before I finally signed). Then there were signatures, lunch, a drive to the airport, then home. My God…. have we done all that today?????????
My one major screw-up is that we intended to take Laurette for lunch, but in the excitement, we forgot to ask her. We were all the way into the centre of Gaillac before we realised. And I feel majorly guilty. Hopefully we will get the chance to rectify our faux pas.
P- So, now that we’ve signed for our house on the hill, we have to wait. I’m never sure why we wait so long; what happens while we wait? It’s an unknown – I would love to follow the whole process closely to see what actually happen. My guess is nothing much, but I may be wrong. We are anticipating completion and getting the keys early July, with luck and a strong wind.
Anyway keep an eye on our posts, you’ll be the first to know.
A song popped itself onto Radio Two recently and maybe one day we will be known as these people…..