Why this title? Since we bought our French house, the question we get asked most often is:
"So, whereabouts in France are you?". Having tried all sorts of sophisticated ways of explaining, we finally settled on this as the quickest, simplest answer.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Private Word

Why is that whenever you put the word “private” before something it often sounds more appealing? Try it for yourself: private beach, private plane, private party....
See what I mean? Instantly they all sound more glamorous, more exclusive and, lets face it, more expensive. That’s certainly what you’d expect but.... I might just surprise you now.
On my travels last week, I came across a pretty riverside cottage. Four bedrooms, green shutters, recently re-roofed. How am I doing so far? Sound quite appealing? I think so. Affordable? Possibly.
If I go on to tell you that the riverside setting is in the heart of the stunningly beautiful wildlife haven known the Marais Poitevin , I expect you’d immediately add a few thousand euros to the price.
Still within budget do you think? Maybe. Then comes the clincher, this riverside house comes complete with.....it’s own private mooring! I guess that now you’re mentally adding at least another zero.
Before you make your mind up about the asking price, take a look at the photos.

Lovely house, picturesque setting, private mooring- over your budget,do you think?
Now for the good bit. In the Deux Sèvres department, this little gem is on the market for a little under 150,000. In this area, you definitely get more for your money so ,being exclusive costs a lot less than you might think. Another reason I love living in this part of France.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Week -To- View

This week I’ve had a busy but very productive time out and about trying to find a well -restored traditional farmhouse that won’t cost an arm and a leg. Luckily the weather was on my side as the temperature went up, the sun shone and the countryside buzzed in anticipation of spring. So, into the car with my Summer Hits CD (always the optimist) on full volume, camera at the ready and a list of possibilities to view.   
The first two properties I saw were quickly rejected; one on the grounds that the badly bodged “restoration” work had succeeded in removing most of the house’s original character and the other since half the roof looked ready to collapse and the 70s inspired wallpaper in all but one of the rooms continued across the ceilings and doors – why, oh, why... ?  
I finally struck it lucky on Thursday in the countryside of the Vienne after a friend alerted me to a farmhouse on the edge of a little hamlet that friends were about to put onto the market ( MI5’s intelligence network is on the slow side compared to the intel of a property finder on a search ).  By now, I was more than a little sceptical that this would be what I was looking for but ... sometimes it’s good to be wrong! What a delight it turned out to be. Original beams, fireplaces and beautifully re-pointed stone work complimented perfectly by shutters in a delicate shade of green. By the time I drifted through the farmhouse kitchen en route to a well maintained garden complete with fruit trees and potager, I was completely sold. (No pool but, hey, nothing’s perfect and there was plenty of room to put one in). Even the price tag was enough to make me want to reach for my cheque book. Fingers crossed, this will be “the one”.
Now, as the sun drops lower on the horizon, senior and junior cats line up in expectation of their evening meal and I can hear the encouraging sound of a cork being drawn, I can settle down to reflect on what has been a tiring but very rewarding week. Bon weekend!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Paws for Thought - The Experiences on an Ex - Pat Cat

One of my concerns when we moved permanently to France was how well our young tabby cat Daisy would cope over here. So many things would be different: the language – should I have used flash cards to teach important vocabulary like souris & oiseau?; the food -for an English born cat used to no nonsense Go – Cat, Friskies were initially viewed with great suspicion, and last but definitely not least, what kind of treatment would she receive from a French Vet (or Veto as the French call them)?
When, a few months down the line, we were also adopted by a tiny white kitten rescued from a pig farm, our experience of pet care in France developed rapidly. So that I won’t be accused of being biased, I’m handing the rest of this account over to the cats themselves.
Daisy- Senior Cat
I can tell you that as an English cat of delicate sensibilities, the news that we were moving to France came as something of a shock. Even though my “people” totally failed to ask my opinion about the move and in fact tried to bribe me with talk of a much larger manoir (French for manor) with hot and cold running rodents in abundance, I didn’t fail to pick up on their concerns about the quality of care I could expect to receive. They were, I recall, particularly worried as they had heard that French vets didn’t really take the care of felines seriously! You can imagine how anxious that made me feel- talk about a bad fur day – mine was standing on end for weeks! So it was that I resolved not to get ill. Staying out of draughts, I made sure I  ate only the freshest hand -picked rodents, got the recommended minimum of 22 hours sleep each day and, when things  got too stressful....I embraced alternative therapies, combining pilates with aromatherapy ( no mother , I was NOT simply rolling around in the catmint, I was preserving my emotional and physical well being!)   
I was beginning to relax into La Vie Francaise ( yes, fortunately I have discovered a natural talent for languages )when “he” arrived....tiny, white, male and....French. An orphan of dubious parentage...but with a cheeky insouciant charm. It was his arrival that gave me an insight into French Veterinary Healthcare and allayed my fears........
Fergus – Small white kitten
I may be a tiny white kitten but I’m certainly very, very lucky. When I first came to live with Les Anglais I was a sorry sight. Mama said I was so tiny and thin it looked like I had borrowed my coat from an older and much larger kitten! I also had a very swollen tummy. It really hurt and, even though I ate all my meals up, I never felt full. A few days after I arrived, I was very, very sick. Fortunately Mama made an appointment with the vet straight away. I was very frightened but Madame was so gentle with me and took such a lot of time to stroke behind my ears that I started to feel better straight away. I didn’t enjoy the injection she gave me but was very proud when she said I had a good strong heart and lungs! She also spoke to my Mama in English – just to make her feel welcome- and spent a long time writing out all the instructions for my tablets in English ( just a pity they didn't realise that my name would become Fairgoose in France!). Mama said that the surgery and waiting room were very clean and noticed that a lot of the medicines that were advertised for Cats and dogs were the same ones that were used in England but were not so expensive. When I came home, I told Daisy that she should stop hiding in the barn because going to the vets wasn’t even scary and that, when she went for her injection next week, I’d come with her and hold her paw because after all  -“je connais les ficelles” ( I know the ropes as they say in these parts).