Thursday 6 January 2011

Looking Back

Yesterday was the 5th of January and we've been living in France for 5 months. As today is Epiphany we thought it might be fun to just look back over events since we came here 1st August 2010.

Of course it all started way before that. We'd been coming to France on holiday almost every summer and if not for our summer holiday then for a short break in the spring or autumn. In short we always kept coming back here; one way or another, and most often to the Touraine/Loire region.

In 1995 we'd tried, together with family, to buy a small house near Amboise; but the sale fell through. One day, we promised ourselves...

May: roses at the corner of the barn
 Fast forward to March 2010 when we came over to look at houses in the Loches area. Various things had happened which meant we were in a position to finally seriously consider moving permanently to France. We'd spent 3 months researching properties on the internet and now had an intensive week looking at a series of houses. We were lucky--we found that one of the properties we'd identified as a 'potential' on the internet measured up in real life and offered almost all of what we were looking for. Our compromise was that it was a little further away from Loches than we'd hoped. Naturally there were some works to do....

 April saw us put in an offer which was accepted and dashing back over to sign the 'compromis de vente'. The vendors were a lovely French couple who insisted that we stay in the house in May when we came for a week 's break. So we were able to 'road test' the house before the final exchange of contracts and do a bit of intensive sight seeing in the immediate area. It was great! It also helped us crystallise what exactly we wanted to renovate before we moved in and what could wait until later.

digging out drive
demolishing old bathroom for kitchen diner

June and July saw works at the house. We needed a drive--there was just a grass track. No problem for a second home which is what it had been used as, but not good for living in a house permanently. We needed a kitchen & diner and wanted an en-suite bathroom upstairs. The wooden beams had been sprayed for woodworm and other beasties 4 yrs ago but we decided as it is such a smelly job to have it redone before we and the cat moved in. Treatment is usually valid for 10 yrs. The fireplace needed sandblasting as it was covered in while emulsion paint and there was some structural work to be done to the bread oven wall; oh and we needed a door out of the kitchen/diner. Then there were some electrics and extra plumbing ''bits''. In short quite a few things, but no central heating, attic conversion or roof renovations/insulation, as these had all been relatively recently done. 
house on 1st August
1 August saw us arrive with our cat, Shadow, two folding chairs, bedding, a couple of mugs and pans for a 2 week camp out before our furniture from the UK arrived. The vendors had kindly agreed to leave a bed! So there we were in an empty house. Armed with lots of whitewash we painted everything downstairs and generally got the house ready for the arrival of our stuff. Inbetween we also dashed back to the UK to sign the final exchange on the sale of our house there.

new kitchen/diner
Mid August: On the 1 day it really, really rained in August our things arrived....  The removal men had to wait until about 5:30pm before it slackened off enough for them to unload. It was 10:30pm when the last boxes were carried in, 64 cubic meters in all. They worked like Trojans and were absolutely fantastic. Not a break, chip, or mishap. Even our house plants, including 2 orchids came through it all fine [orchids are tougher than you think].

September:  We had trees felled, overgrown hazel bushes grubbed up and hired an industrial strength wood chipper to deal with all the ''stuff'' generated by chopping down the trees. We learnt how to use a chainsaw. We ordered a woodburner and made lots of trips to Tours for admin and other things. We bought a ride on lawnmower and little trailer and learnt to use those. 2 1/2 acres is a lot when you've been mostly used to small gardens in the Netherlands for years. We found out that our fosse etanche would only last us about 4 weeks before it needed emptying.... so....we became very careful with water usage.

October: Katinka the kitten arrived. We got the car through all of the hoops required and had it registered on French plates. We started up the process to get a fosse septique system installed. Our woodburner arrived. We ordered 4 fruit trees for planting in November.

November: We started blogging :-). We planted our fruit trees. End of the month saw work start on the installation of fosse septique system. The snow came......

December arrived: very cold, snowy. We went to our 1st Christmas market.  The work on the fosse was finished. We could now use the bath!! We stacked 6 cubic of wood to see us through the rest of the winter. 
Over the months we've throughly enjoyed the wildlife we see from time to time round the house. We celebrated out first Christmas in Charnizay and reflected that we've met some lovely new friends and found a warm welcome. 

Yes there were things in France over the past 5 months which made us grit our teeth--no doubt there will be others in the future. But so it was in The Netherlands and in the UK. Everywhere has its own quirks.

Having just come back from visiting family for New Year in Edinburgh we are comfortable calling this 'home' and are looking forward to what 2011 brings.


GaynorB said...

I have just stumbled across your blog for the first time. We bought our home in Le Petit-Pressigny at the beginning of 2010 and for now it is a residence secondaire. We manage to come out for most holidays, but would like to stay longer! One day...........
Anyway, I am enjoying your blog and wish you the very best of luck as you establish yourselves in this beautiful area.

Niall & Antoinette said...


Thanks for your kind comment :-) We're real newbies at this blogging thing but glad you enjoy it. We enjoy writing it.

The area is lovely isn't it? We're certainly having fun getting to know it.