Rent  A  Traditional  Country
Farmhouse  in  South-West  France

Background

This site is for our friends and family. For everyone else, if you're thinking of "living the dream"; and this became ours in France, there are several things you might do on this site. Firstly, you may simply watch our experience in the South-West of the country. This starts with renovating a Country Farm House and then we hope, making a living by renting it. I hope your observations will be with some interest and amusement, however I accept the possibility that it may be in complete consternation.

Perhaps you will learn a little from our mistakes. If you're a builder, or have done something similar, you could help us avoid a few errors. If there are enough hits, I will add a forum at some later point.

Finally, the site is dedicated to the many people who have encouraged us and helped to get us this far. There are too many to name individually, but you will all know who we mean.

Go to day 1, read the latest here, or rent a country house in South-west France

rent house france

Day 7, March 7th 2004

Sunday at last. I'm told the big guy said on the seventh day thou shalt rest. So after a great meal at a friends house on Saturday evening, (even better as there is no washing up), we lie in, but feel obliged to go and do a bit more. Psychologically I need to see some progress every day to maintain enthusiasm.

farmhouse renovationThe upper floor is cleared of rubble. The rotten floorboards are all identified so we know where not to step. All the rubble is ejected via buckets up and down the stairs or through the window; if that's what you call a hole in the wall.

Before lunch, time for a bonfire, to clear some of the rubble. Then, back for lunch and you guessed it, a quick siesta.

country house in France

In the afternoon, we clear stones and ivy from the barn. From the picture, you can see who's doing the work.

Yvonne starts talking to an elderly neighbour, who is interested in what we are doing having lived in the hamlet for all of his 82 years. We get invited back for Pineau which is the locally made Cognac.

Santé to new acquaintances, and on the way home we see a rainbow, (no it wasn't the drink) with the end just about where our house is. Tomorrow we'll get the pot of gold; if no one gets there before us.

dordogne countryside

Week 2; Rent a house in France; won't be long!

Day 6, March 6th 2004

3 bedrooms, three bedroomsToday, activity makes boring reading. We begin clearing the upper floor, which was once the animal feed store. The pigeon loft makes for interesting study and I know I really need a crowbar.

Trying our best not to go though the occasional rotten floorboard, the pictures speak for themselves.

sleeps 8, sleeps eight

If anyone knows what the interesting piece of furniture is, I'd like to
know before I dismantle it to get it down the stairs.
holiday rental

All we need now is the furniture.

Next comes Sunday

Day 5, March 5th 2004

It's overcast in the morning so we decide to go searching for scaffolding, as the roof is really the first major job. Armed with my personal organiser and it's English French dictionary, we drive to a larger town with several out-of-town building supplies stores. For scaffolding, we need to go further and I find exactly what I need but can't collect it till next week.

Of course its now getting on for 12:00, so time for a coffee and snack, before the drive home. On the way we pass a workshop making spiral staircases. A stop, some excellent French from moi, and a quick estimate, which took my breath away until I realised it was Francs, not Euros. Much like the British and "keep the pound", some people here would like to keep the Franc. I'm just too soft-hearted to tell them its too late. Anyway, now we know we can get one made when we are ready.

A call from my credit card company in the UK, asks if I've spent £1,300 in a French hotel. I'm not quite sure what sacre bleu means, but I'm sure you get the gist. So the card is cut up, they will decline the transaction and a new card is on the way.

After another lunch of bread, cheese and pate; its off to a friends to unload more of the van into their garage. Another domestic dispute about what we need in our temporary accommodation, what should go into their garage, and what needs to be protected from the mice, however we do eventually manage to unload some more stuff; and she (Yvonne) is a good cook so I give in gracefully.

By 6:00, I'm still working outside in a T-shirt. One of the wells has been recovered from the ivy, the second downstairs room has been cleared of rubble, and some of the ivy up the house walls has gone. Now I know why I need all my friends out here toute suite (see, I really am getting better). I also know why I should have listened to that gym instructor!

We brought a TV and video with us, so we can watch programs recorded in England. The TV broadcast system is different here so we will buy a local one some day. Tonight campers, we've been loaned some videos, so the weekend starts here. I almost forgot, Saturday tomorrow, but still a working day for us labourers. And is it my imagination, or is what I write each day getting longer? Perhaps there is just more to tell, or maybe the evening snifters are getting to me?

We'll soon be started, honest, on day 6

Day 4, March 4th 2004

Well, another early start for the boss. At the notaires for 9:45, to sign a pre-nuptial. Well not really a pre-nuptial, but a contract to ensure inheritance as the British would understand it, rather than the French way. It's also tax efficient, not that I will care once I'm gone, but good for Yvonne. The estate agent has to give them a cheque on our behalf as we don't yet have our French cheque books, the money sent in advance did not cover the "pre-nup" and the final purchase contract cannot go ahead until this is paid!

At 10:00 the vendors arrive. We all sit in the notaires office while he reads, or rather précis the contract. We all initial all the pages, termite, wood worm and asbestos reports, and land registry plans. The notaire writes a cheque to the vendor, a cheque to the estate agent, lots of handshakes and friendly discussion about the building plans and we celebrate at 11:00 with a coffee at the local bar. So, really no going back now.

The estate agent tells us again, that the house we have is now very rare in France and once converted, highly desirable. However I am definitely never moving house again. If anyone sees me near an estate agents, "you have permission to shoot me" (quote courtesy of Steve Redgrave).

After the customary early lunch, comes a siesta (well, when in Rome, do as the Romans) and another dash to the bank to draw cash and back to the notaire to retrieve the agents personal cheque. And then on to the house. We can now begin to unload the van. I don't know which is more daunting; unloading the van or the renovation work.

With light rain setting in, why is it that everything looks better in the sun? By the time its getting dark we have cleared all the rubble and cobwebs from what will be the kitchen. And the septic tank installer will meet us next week. So much for the next day. All we need to do now is ...; well that's for another day.

Day 5 is looming

Day 3, March 3rd 2004

At 10:00 we meet our French bank. Not looking forward to this as too much in French will really put a strain on the brain. But they provided an English speaking member of staff, were very understanding and helpful and we have now got the essentials.

We now have a French bank current and savings account, with cheque book and debit cards on the way. Bank transfers to EDF (Électricité de France) and General des Eaux (I hope you can work that one out) done so that we actually get some electricity and water one day. After two hours at the bank, its time for a coffee and a croissant. Then, back to the room for lunch and a siesta, before the afternoons exercise.

First, we must have a post box, so that all the mail we expect is actually delivered, so off to Bricomarche. And tomorrow is the big day; signing the final purchase agreement after which the house, the barn and nearly an acre of beautiful countryside are ours.

Day 4 awaits

Day 2, March 2nd 2004

The ferry was very calm, despite winds forecast at force 4 to 5. The meal was good, but climbing down from an upper bunk with dodgy knees, to go to the loo at night, was not much fun. Off the ferry at 8:15. Yvonne waiting at the side of the road and thinking she must have missed me - last on, last off!

An easy journey on dual carriage way and good motorways, except for the last 55 kilometres which were on single carriage way. Perhaps its just wishful thinking, but the motorway food is better and cheaper. Unless you're into high fat, all-day breakfasts, eat in France. The sun shone all the way, of course, as the sun shines on the good.

Went past the property to remind ourselves of what we have taken on. Oh, sh**. Oh well, tomorrows another day.

       

And then comes day 3

Day 1, March 1st 2004

The background is lots of paperwork to get the water connected. Courtesy of the estate agent and "twenty calls" to EDF, the electricity connection will shortly be underway. Septic tank installers ready to start the day after completion; or so we were led to believe. So far so good. Thanks to a shift in Sterling Euro exchange rate, our budget looks £2,000 better than originally envisaged, and I think we'll need it!

Three kitchen sinks and five hundred kilo's (see, I'm thinking metric already) of junk I wanted to throw away, stashed in a warehouse somewhere in the heart of England. My van is packed so tight, as one of my friends said, "I hope the customs guy doesn't have a bad sense of humour!"

Van loaded, goodbyes said, and on the road to Portsmouth. Money transferred to the Notaire in readiness for completion.  Just one thing. The cars so full, that Yvonne had to sit on the cacti she insisted on bringing, and she only managed to get in, courtesy of two shoe horns and a crow bar (which I knew would come in useful).

Easy drive to Portsmouth to get the overnight ferry. As cars and vans get loaded separately, and I was the last van on, I wondered if they ever over-book. With Yvonne on the ferry carrying my mobile phone, and me left on the dockside, ....

On to day 2