If the day started with a bit of a sore head, it didn’t dampen our spirits – we were still on a high from the wonderful night before, and we had high hopes for the day. Those positive, happy feelings lasted until, well…. midday, then it all went down hill from there.
We met our first agent at 10am – the lovely Sarah from Selection Habitat. She claimed never to have heard of Olivia Coleman, but we didn’t believe her – she was so obviously her sister!
We met at the church in Pellousens, a delightful small village in Gascony. This pleased us as our experience of the previous night led us to a revelation – why were we leaving our happy little street in south London to isolate ourselves on some hill side (however warm) in south France? The least we could do was place ourselves in a community and try to replicate some of the positive aspects of our little London street. This dawned on us when we witnessed the jolly camaraderie between our hosts, David & Vikki, and their neighbours and business partners, Bernard & his wife.
For those of you following our buying process, our first house was reference 37 on our house map. The main part of the house has been renovated to a very high standard, if not in our particular style. It was only when were taken into the unrenovated parts that I started to get excited. The amount of accommodation this property offered was immense. We could easily achieve 4 dwellings. But, our heart wasn’t in it – something was missing. Size of garden? Lack of great view? We scored it out of 40, but I can’t get hold of the figure right this minute! They’re online, and I have no access.
Then Sarah took us to Gourdonville. We’d driven through it on the way to the first house, and commented how lovely it was. She took us to a property (ref 42) she had lived opposite for 15 months, and was obviously very fond of. The owner had just gone into a retirement home. The main house was very old and run down, but the potential was amazing. Cosmetically, we could carry out all the work ourselves. The loft was unconverted, but had enough room for a huge master suite, and 2 ensuite bedrooms. Then, there was room to develop old barns and stables into further accommodation. Plus, the views (on top of a hill) were stunning. Add to that, a 400 year old open barn in the garden for open air films and a garden kitchen, and it all made it a very exciting prospect. The only negative was that the garden was north facing.
We left Sarah, still feeling the buzz, and headed to Nerac for our third meeting, with Carla, at 1345. We had about 15 minutes to spare and wandered around the town. It’s a beautiful place and we will definitely be back to explore more. Carla turned up. That was the only “up” bit about the next hour. In fact, the rest of the day slid into a mixture of disappointment, fear, and utter negative amazement!
Property (ref35) holds that rare quality of being the type of property you see and immediately know that you don’t want to even enter. I’m starting to read agents a little bit now, and there’s this trait I’ve noticed three times now; even with one we really like – Jenny. I’m sure every agent must have at least one property which, when a client asks to see it, makes their heart drop. I think this must have been Carla’s heart-dropper. And so, for that reason, I forgive her for her lack of enthusiasm when she met us. Both Phill and I vowed to be as positive as we could, while she was hunting for the fuse box to switch on the electricity (during which time we were both too scared to go upstairs with a torch). I think we might have overdone the positivity (I turned and took one last thoughtful glance at the building once we were finally released), because she seemed to be quite excited by our visit as we left. I don’t need to wait to check the score for that one. Our first null point.
So we set off to meet Antony for our third visit. At 1430 on the dot, approximately 5 minutes after we’d left poor Carla calculating her commission, we received a call from Antony enquiring as to our location. We’re about 45 minutes out, I replied, so we will be early (for our 1530 appointment). I meant our 1430 appointment, he replied? No, no. defintely 1530. Ok, no problem, he said. Drive safe. I did, of course, drive safely, while Phill busied himself using up our LeFrenchMobile ipad data allowance checking just exactly what time I had arranged. I needed to know whether to be profusely apologetic or smug. Smugness was to win the day, but as soon as I met Antony I knew neither an admission of fault nor apology would be forthcoming.
He showed us properties 29 and 40. To be honest they were both bitterly disappointing – 29 especially so, since many friends picked that as their favourite. They were a big waste of time, and I’m not going waste yours, or more of mine, with them.
So we sped our way eastwards after a busy day house hunting, anticipating our night in a luxury chateau with the tasty table d’hote (guest houses sometimes offer a meal in the evening-somewhere around €20 for a set meal and wine) I had prearranged.
Forgive me, but I have chosen not to name this guest house chateau, for a foxy reason which will become clear. My heart was warmed, if pounding, as I tried to navigate my way through a hundred chickens, ranging freely across the fields – and drive – of the chateau. Phill offered to jump out and try to shou them away, but immediately found it hilarious that they were following him around – and under – the car. I found it less hilarious because I planned on having a chicken-squashing-guilt free night in our luxurious chateau. I finally exited the surf of hen and wound my way up to the entrance, to be met by our haunting hostess. Picture middle England scrawny farmer’s wife. Sweet, though. And hugely apologetic. The meal I had arranged had been cancelled because i had not responded to a fantasy email requiring a 48 hour confirmation. Nor had I sent a deposit? Oh, I utter, the deposit I had offered but was told was unnecessary? No…. that was a German guest who had been told that. Not us. Ok…. Being utterly British, we did not want to make a fuss. Alright! Being utterly terrified, we didn’t want to make a fuss. Picture a cross between Royston Vasey and Cold Comfort Farm. We, of course, double checked our info on the emails, and for the second time that day were proved right.
This building was outstanding, but was being run as a “nature reserve” farm. Oh, if we could get our hands on it!! We were shown to our room – not the one we booked because we hadn’t confirmed and it hadn’t been heated. For some reason, the one we got had been heated though – it turned out to be a mini apartment, with a kitchen, and 2 beds. Was that the real reason? We unpacked, and decided to grab our own pizza, salad, and wine from a supermarket, and have a night in. Unfortunately, on our return, we were met by the offspring, who insisted on showing us his baby rabbits, prize chickens, baby lambs, dead lamb, chic hatching oven, and caged fox. And this is why I cannot name the chateau. They had caught a baby fox when it was young, and recently some neighbours have sent the police around to kill the fox as they disagree with its captivity. While I also disagree with the pointless capture and cruel caging of an animal who spends all its day alone in a tiny cage, bored, I can’t be the one to disclose its existence and risk it’s death.
A car roared up the hill, and presented a young man called Johan. Our rabbit/fox/lamb/chicken guide expressed surprise that he was here – surely he was still in prison? We decided to make our excuses and retreated to the safe (?) locked environment of our apartment. As the pizza was cooking, and salad prepared, we heard a commotion in the courtyard below. We looked out just in time to see our host’s husband screaming and thumping the ex-con Johan, his children pulling him back, trying to stop him. Breakfast should be interesting!!