A Weekend in Toulouse

I spent an enjoyable weekend in Toulouse even though things didn’t go quite as planned. The theme seemed to be “running late”.

The original trip was planned for a couple of weeks earlier. But there was an event Saturday night so it was rescheduled for this past weekend. The event was with InterNations a group designed to connect people from around the world.

Jardin des Plantes 2

Jardin des Plantes – Toulouse

I took the train to Toulouse. This first segment was fine but the connecting train was a half hour late. No problem, I’d just loose a little sightseeing time.

When traveling I like to get a hotel near the train station so I don’t have to deal with schlepping baggage around. After settling in I walked to the town center to do some exploring.

My first site to visit was the beautiful Saint Étienne Cathedral.

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I observed a wide assortment of architectural styles of various buildings as I strolled around Toulouse.

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St Sernin

I was headed back to the hotel to freshen up and spotted the spire of St Sernin Basilica. So I took a detour and arrived just as they were locking up, just a few minutes too late to go inside. After taking a few pictures of the exterior I headed out again, only in the wrong direction. After a while I felt I had missed the street where I needed to turn so I asked directions. (My phone battery had died so I couldn’t check GPS.) About 10 minutes of backtracking I got on the correct route.

I checked with the hotel clerk about requesting a taxi and she said it would probably only take 5 minutes for the taxi to arrive after calling. I figured I’d just wait until I was ready before calling thereby avoiding paying for a cab to wait if getting ready took a little longer than expected.

When she made the call they told her it would be about 15 minutes. – Something I learned quite a while back, in France “about 15 minutes” is more an expression than an actual time frame. – After about a half hour of waiting I went back to the desk and asked if they could check on the cab. A different clerk was on duty and when he called it sounded like it would be quite a while longer. By this time I was already late. (Not a big thing as it was an open event but I didn’t want to be extremely late.) So I asked him to cancel the cab and I walked to the train stations and got one shortly after arriving.

I had a very nice time. I met several people from various places including the USA, UK, France, Thailand, Mexico, Ukraine, and even from Geel, the town I worked in when I lived in Belgium many years ago. It was a fun event and a nice opportunity to meet people.

There was only a short wait for the taxi back to the hotel. After a sporadic night’s sleep I woke early and was hungry so I went out and grabbed a quick croissant and came back to doze off a little while before checking out.

I had noted a couple of times for return trains and decided that I’d take the earlier one since I didn’t feel like walking a lot. At the train station I waited in the queue and went up to buy my ticked only to be told that, for that train, tickets could only be purchased on line. I had never come across that before so it took me by surprise.

I was hoping to get home earlier than the later connection would allow so I went to check on buses. There was a bus leaving for Brive-la-Gaillarde about 40 minutes later. By the time I bought that ticket I didn’t want to chance returning to the train station to buy a sandwich so I opted for a bottle of water and snack from a vending machine. I got the water and put in the money for the snack and the spiral turned but it didn’t release the item. Oh well, I thought, I’ll just wait until I get to Brive and have a late lunch while waiting for the train to Uzerche.

About 20 minutes out on the bus there was a plunk sound followed by the driver calling for a backup bus to meet us at an aire, a road stop, just past the toll entry. A little over 2 hours later the replacement bus arrived and we got underway again. (So much for getting an earlier train from Brive.) I must admit that I was impressed by the experience. Of the 30 or so passengers there was no ranting, no raised voices, everyone seemed to take it in stride. I can’t imagine things going so smoothly in the States. Later I overheard a French woman on the bus, calling someone to give her new arrival time, state simply “C’est la vie.”

A little over 2 hours later the bus arrived at the stop in Brive – but, it wasn’t the location I expected. I’m not generally excited to see a McDonalds but by 3:30 in the afternoon and nothing but a croissant around 6 am a filet of fish sounded really good.

Being a Sunday afternoon there were no buses from that stop to the train station which was nearly 5 KM away. (So much for not wanting to do a lot of walking!) A little over an hour later I arrived at the station. The train to Uzerche was on schedule at 5:58!

The weather had been very good over the weekend with no prediction of rain so I hadn’t bothered with an umbrella. On arrival in Uzerche there was a fine mist coming down. I wasn’t soaked, just a little soggy, after the 20 minute walk home from the station.

I love traveling but I certainly was happy to get home!

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Posted in Around France, Life in France, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

A Field Trip à la Art’ Scène

This past weekend I spent a wonderful two days seeing a bit of France, forging friendships and practicing some French.

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Most of the Art’ Scène group

Several people from the art class that I attend got together to visit Giverny, Château Gaillard, and La collégiale Notre-Dame des Andelys located in the Normandy region of France.

We got off to an early start Saturday; most of us carpooled with Dédier chauffeuring the van. It was a long drive so after a couple of rest stops and a final stop for a picnic we met up with the remainder of the group.

Monet's house in Giverny

Monet’s house in Giverny

Claude Monet, known for his impressionist paintings, called Giverny home from 1883 until his death in 1926. He not only lived and painted there but also designed the gardens.

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The flower garden, named Clos Normand, was impressive even with autumn approaching but I have to admit the Jardin d’eau, the water garden, was my favorite. I can understand why Monet chose to spend so much time there.

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After wandering around the gardens, touring the house, and visiting the Impressionist Museum we headed out for our hotel and later enjoyed a wonderful meal French style. It’s true that a good French dinner can last for two hours or more. We started with an aperitif, then an appetizer, the main course with wine, dessert and finally coffee or tea. Each course is served and not cleared until everyone has finished, nothing is rushed, and conversation flows freely.

Château Gaillard

Château Gaillard

The following morning after breakfast we headed off to Château Gaillard.

The Château was built in 1196 by Richard the Lion Heart despite a treaty declaring Andeli to be a neutral area. Les Andelys with the Château was considered a strategic location and passed back and forth between British and French control. Demolition of the castle began in 1598 with stones being removed for use in other buildings and stopped in 1611.

Château Gaillard overlooks the Seine River, chalky cliffs, and Le Petit Andely with the picturesque Saint Saviour’s church.

After viewing the castle ruins we made our way to Le Grand Andely for lunch and then a look around La collégiale Notre-Dame des Andelys. Initial construction of the Cathédrale began around 1215-1220. Improvements and enlargement began in the 15th century and ended in 1570.

The interior of the cathedral is currently under renovation so only limited viewing was available. The impressive exterior provided many wonderful views.

I hope to go back sometime and explore this fascinating area further.

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Time Flies, Encore !

The whirlwind of my daughter Mary’s visit this year was over all too soon. While she was here she helped me with some French business, we traveled a bit, visited with friends, enjoyed some local culture, savored many good meals, and of course ate lots of pastries.

We were off to a running start as soon as she arrived. Mary and I met up at Charles de Gaule in Paris and took the RER from the airport to Gare du Nord where we lunched at a nearby restaurant before catching the train to Rotterdam in The Netherlands.

There we dropped our luggage at the hotel and the fellow at reception shared some thoughts on places to explore. We walked around a bit then strolled to the dock area and enjoyed a nice evening meal.

Rotterdam

Rotterdam is an impressive mix of old and new

 

Utrecht Lunch

Lunch with Elaine in Utrecht

The following morning we caught a train to Utrecht to meet up with Elaine, one of our ‘adopted’ family members. She is attending University there working toward her PhD.

Elaine was an excellent hostess and tour guide. She showed us around Utrecht: a tour up the Dom Tower – all 465 steps, a visit to the Speelklok Museum, a tour of the lab where she works at the university, lunch of Dutch pancakes and more.

The Speelklok Museum is a large collection of automatically playing musical instruments that goes far beyond music boxes and player pianos.

Heading south we spent a night in Antwerp and the following day visited with Gabrielle, a friend from when I worked in Geel, Belgium many years ago. It was good to get back in touch, catch up on what our families were doing, and to meet her grandson.

Returning to France we arrived in Uzerche late in the evening. Mary had only seen my house once before I bought it when it was still full of layers of dust and cobwebs. So I got to show her around the house after it was all cleaned up and discuss my renovation plans.

The next day was the fireworks for the Fête National (Bastille Day). My neighbor invited us to a party in his garden which provides a great view. Because they wait until dark the fireworks didn’t begin until around 11pm. The fireworks show was spectacular. Around midnight Mary and I wandered down to La Petite Gare where the town festivities were still going strong. We listened to the band for a while before returning home and were serenaded by the music as we drifted off to sleep.

The festivities continued on Friday. During the day we wandered around Uzerche, walked along the river and watched the donkeys in a nearby field. In the old town there were some Boutiques ephemerals (temporary boutiques) and one was put on by Art’ Scène, the art class that I attend, so Mary had a chance to meet a few of my friends.

There was also kid friendly street entertainment with a theme of old time Uzerche.

Friday night was also Marché des Producteurs, our local market night. We had dinner there and enjoyed the live entertainment. I bought some wonderful fresh peaches, and of course another pastry. Mary had a goal of eating at least one pastry each day. Then of course we also had to walk them off – which wasn’t too difficult since we averaged at least six miles each day.

On one of our more leisurely days we went through some of the things I’d found in the house when I was doing the first pass of cleaning. There was lots of old stuff including pictures. We found a few old photos of the house; when we took them outside to compare one of my neighbors came over and identified the couple in the picture as the owners that he knew as a boy and told us their names. We then connected the name to some papers and discovered I have the man’s birth certificate from 1908 and an id card from the 1920’s.

The following week we rented a car. Our first stop was Jardins de Collette. We started at the butterfly shaped labyrinth with five internal gates. To get through you must collect clues and type a code in at the gate to open it or at the water gates to turn off the water to pass through. We then explored the theme based gardens and stopped for a cool drink.

A trip to Carrefour allowed me to do some major shopping which was extremely helpful since I could get large and heavy items that aren’t possible when walking home from the local supermarkets.

After a brief rest that evening we were out again to Mardis dans Uzerche, family oriented entertainment. This time it was literal good clean fun – with soap bubbles. It’s amazing what can be done with bubbles; the show included a working bubble puppet.

The next morning we set out to visit some towns to the south. In Salers we had lunch at a cheese museum (Mary’s idea). On the way out of town we heard what sounded like a very loud wind chime. It turned out to be a field of cows with every one of them wearing a bell; the sound was incredible.

Salers Cows w bells 1

Amazing Cow Bells at Salers

Later that evening we reached our destination of Conques which is amazingly beautiful. We had a chance to walk around before dinner. We visited the Abbey church of Saint Foy, Trésors de Conques and Musée Joseph Fau. As we returned to the hotel it started to rain. Later there was a wonderful thunder storm; we left the windows open and enjoyed the sound of the rain and thunder.

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The next day we made a brief stop in Figeac. The town was nice but we didn’t really have time to explore well. On the way out of town however we stopped to take some pictures of a beautiful castle.

Château de Saint-Dau 10E

Château de Saint-Dau outside of Figeac

After returning the rental car in Brive-la-Gaillarde we went to Emmaüs, the charity shop where I’ve bought most of my furniture. Mary was completely blown away by what they offered and the prices. In Brive we also enjoyed some ice cream made in-house at a local patisserie/chocolatier.

We returned by train to Uzerche and had a relaxing evening.

The next day it was market night again. This time we were joined by my friend Jo from Laguenne. We all had dinner and wine as we watched the entertainment. The market itself is not very big but lots of people show up for meals and entertainment. Some buy food there and others bring their own picnics. It’s a lively and fun environment.

Saturday morning we walked up to the Auto Retro to have a look around. It’s fun to see the different types of cars on display.

In the afternoon we just took it easy, walked up to the boulangerie to buy some pastry and returned by the river path to my house. Then a dose of reality hit when Mary had to pack for the trip up to Paris on Sunday.

Her vacation was way too short – for both of us.

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A Visit from My Grandson

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Derek

We packed so much into the eleven days of my Grandson’s visit but the time still flew by way to quickly.

I had been looking forward to Derek’s arrival for a long time. He had been to Uzerche once before but that had been over ten years ago, long before I bought my current house.

We had decided to meet at Charles de Gaulle airport. I took a morning train to Paris planning to do some shopping before time to take the RER to the airport. But, as so frequently happens here, things don’t always go according to plan. I knew the 1st of May was a national holiday. I had anticipated boutiques and small shops being closed but not the Grand Magasins, the major department stores and malls, after all it’s Paris.

So after giving up the idea of shopping I returned to the hotel, close to Gare Austerlitz, then explored the nearby Jardin des Plantes.

Sacré-Cœur

Sacré-Cœur

His flight arrived too late to catch the last train to Uzerche so we spent the night in Paris and left the next afternoon. Derek had stopped in Iceland for a few days on his way here. After a bit of hiking, cycling and late nights with new found friends there he slept-in the next morning before we headed out to see a bit of Paris.

Late morning we grabbed some lunch, picnicked in the Jardin des Plantes and walked around the gardens. Later we caught the Metro to Montmartre where we visited the Sacré-Cœur Basilica then wandered around district before time to catch the train.

First on the agenda upon arrival in Uzerche was a tour of the house: walking through all the rooms, looking at the features, explaining what had been done, what needed to be done and how I envisioned the completed renovations.

Just before going to bed Derek discovered that his phone was missing. A frantic search ensued with calls and listening for his ringtone. So after staying up later than planned we had to get up early the next morning to try and track it down. The call to the taxi driver was to no avail. Since there was only a pay-per-minute number for SNCF, the French train company, we took a mile hike up to the train station only to be given a web site to file a claim. Later that day we relaxed, did a little local exploring around Uzerche and of course ate some yummy pastries.

The following day we took the bus in to Brive-la-Gaillarde. I took Derek to Emmaüs, the charity shop where I’ve bought most of my furniture. Then it was off to pick up a rental car so we could explore more of France. On the drive back we stopped at Donzenac, a medieval village with the impressive Église Saint-Martin.

Then because we were busy talking and missed the turnoff to Uzerche we stopped at Salon-la-Tour on our round about way home.

The next day we drove to Oradour-sur-Glane. It was a somber visit due to the town’s history. On 10th June 1944 Nazi SS officers marched into the town and rounded up the residents. They locked the women and children in the church and men in barns. After looting the town they killed the inhabitants and set the town on fire leaving it in ruins. Only six of about 650 residents escaped.

The town has been preserved as a memorial to the inhabitants and the outrages of war. Other than some wear from weather the buildings look much as they did after the town had been destroyed.

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The reminders of the horrors of war are even more striking when viewing pictures of the town and people in previous peaceful times.  (Some of those pictures can be viewed in the following video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vbaVgT6QDM. )

The sixth day was rainy so Derek did some work on my house. He removed the shelves & backs of the cabinets in my (soon-to-be-again – I hope) kitchen. He was also going to remove a corner sink on the second floor but I didn’t have the right tools to disconnect the copper pipes.

Sunday we went to Church. There was a special service at Église Sainte-Eulalie because the area Bishop was going to be there. Services are usually held at Église Saint-Pierre or at the chapel Notre-Dame. It’s posted that services are held every Sunday in Uzerche at 11:00 – I always like to add “except when it’s not”. Because of the Bishop’s visit the bulletin gave the start time as 10:00. I figured it would go a little long and that we should be through by at least 11:30. So I had arranged to have Jo come meet us for lunch at noon.

But I didn’t know the 10:00 start time was for an introduction and question/answer session with the Bishop. The service didn’t start until around 11:00. I had left my phone at home so I couldn’t text Jo that we were running late. Communion is offered near the end of the service so I told Derek that as soon as they finished we would make a quick exit. As it turned out, the Bishop served communion at the front and the priest about half way down the aisle, which happened to be the end of our pew. The priest turned to return to the front of the church and just as we got up to leave he turned back around. Derek and I were both feeling embarrassed but at that point there was no turning back. When we arrived home Jo kindly assured us that she hadn’t waited long. We enjoyed a nice visit and lunch .

The following day we set out for Rocamadour but on the way we stumbled upon the beautiful town of Turenne. We pulled off the road to take some pictures then proceeded to the town where we stopped for a wonderful lunch.

After lunch we walked up to the top of the hill and also enjoyed an amazing view of the countryside surrounding Turenne.

We wanted to stop for gas and as we followed the signs to a gas station we noticed another sign for Collonges-la-Rouge. I plugged it in to Google Maps on my phone; since it was only a short distance we decided to take another detour.

On our way again and we finally arrived at our destination of Rochamadour, a clifftop village celebrated for its religious buildings and known as the Cité religieuse. Some of the buildings are built into the cliff. The pictures just don’t do it justice.

The next day we returned the rental car and took a brief look around Brive before taking the bus home.

Wednesday morning was rainy again so a little more work on the house before going up to the old town in Uzerche to enjoy an exhibition of 1920-1940 couture and picking up some goodies from a mobile British shop that come to town about once a month.  Back to my house and sadly having to pack in preparation for Derek’s return home.

We had one more outing though. I book a night train for Derek from Cahors to Paris so he wouldn’t have to pay for a hotel the night before his flight. Thursday we took the train to Cahors. After dropping off our luggage at the hotel we went out to get some lunch. Afterward we were going to have a quick look around then go back to the hotel for a rest before his train which left just after midnight.

We saw an interesting building that I wanted to get a picture of. There were several people standing in front of it so I took a couple of other pictures hoping they would move away so I could get a good view. We noticed that they were waiting for a tour so we inquired about the price and decided to join it. As it turned out it was an architectural tour of Belle Époque, Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings around the town. It was a walking tour and took three hours. Very interesting, at least what we could understand as it was all in French, but also very long. We estimated that we walked at least 6 miles on the tour. We eventually made it back to the hotel for a well-deserved rest before dinner.

I saw Derek off on his train. We both wish he had more time to stay and hope he’ll return soon.

 

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Reflections – A Retrospective

Grateful ! – That’s the word that springs to my mind as I look back over the past year; actually beyond the past year because I’m not just looking at the end of another year but the beginning of a new life.

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Reflection in the Vézère

Had things gone according to my original plan I would have had the majority of work completed on my little house and I would have retired and made the move to France sometime around September 2016.

But as we have all experienced things don’t always go as planned.

Dissatisfaction with my job only increased following a family drama and the death of my mother in 2013. Although things had begun to change at work the legacy of a chauvinistic manager still occasionally reared its head.

I weighed my options knowing that an earlier retirement would leave me with a little less in my savings and slightly smaller Social Security payments. I decided that money was a small price to pay for personal peace and well being. So in September 2014 I quit my job and began putting things in order to move to France.

My dream to live in France had evolved over the years beginning with a desire to live in Europe for a couple of years to eventually buying a house for retirement in France. I bought my little house more than ten years earlier and thought I would have it habitable by the time I retired. Sadly the first builders I’d hired didn’t follow my specifications so I was left with a shell of a house and a hole in my retirement plans.

Fortunately I don’t give up easily so I’ve persevered; instead of investing in improvements I socked away money to pay for them once I arrived and could oversee the work.

After retiring I took some time to relax and then started getting things in order for my big move. There was a mountain of paperwork to get together to apply for a long stay visa. I waited to finalize things such as giving notice on my apartment and travel plans until I had my visa in hand. I can tell you it was a tense couple of months waiting because all my future plans were dependent on the visa going through.

When the visa arrived it was time for action! Take care of business, give notice, sell or donate most of my possessions, box up important items, etc. Thanks to family and friends it all happened but it was down to the wire.

My friends at Victoria Springs, the apartment complex where I lived, threw me a wonderful going away party. Then I spent a few weeks with my daughter & grandson before heading out.

June 11, 2015 marked my arrival in France and the final steps toward fulfillment of a long held dream.

It was late evening when I checked in to Hotel Ambroise in Uzerche. The next morning I went to my house and was shocked to find a van parked inside. (The house had not been lived in for many years before I bought it and the ground floor had been occasionally used as a garage.)

Since it wasn’t possible for me to start work inside until I sorted out the problem with the van I headed up the path that lead to the back of my house where my garden is. There I was met with another surprise. The garden had been overrun not just with weeds but with massive brambles.

After a call to the Gendarmes the owner of the van was identified and arrangements made to have it removed. Once the house was cleared I could have a good look around and start getting some estimates for renovation.

I was able to find house to rent. This was crucial on two levels: most importantly I had to have an address with utilities to complete the French portion of my long stay visa, secondly it was cheaper than the hotel and I could prepare my own meals.

The rental was a large fully furnished three bedroom house. Although I didn’t need a huge house for myself it turned out to be a good choice since I had guests come to stay in autumn. It was so much fun traveling in France, sharing experiences and my new town with friends and family.

Summers in Uzerche are filled with things to do. July 14th is the Fête Nationale with fireworks and the following weekend is the annual Auto Retro. It’s fun to see the variety of classic European cars on show. Mardis d’Uzerche offer family entertainment usually in the form of comedy skits. Each Friday in July and August is the Marché des Producteurs de Pays held at the Papeterie. Although the market itself is quite small it’s a fun opportunity to mix with locals who gather for meals that they bring or buy there and to enjoy some live entertainment and often dancing.

Clearing the garden was an ongoing task that took most of my first summer there. I got plenty of exercise; in addition to gardening I walked two to four miles almost every day. Midday was too hot for work in my garden so sometimes I’d make the trek both morning and evening from the rental to my house. Once I arrived at my house I had to walk around three other houses and up a steep path to get to the garden before starting to work.

While working at my house I had a conversation with one of my neighbors who mentioned that the house next door to mine was for sale, he also mentioned the price which was quite low. Frequently as I passed the back door of the house on the way to my garden I thought how convenient it would be to live there. There was no for sale sign on the house but eventually I went to the Mairie, City Hall, to get the name and address of the owners and wrote a letter of inquiry.

Once I saw the interior I knew I wanted the house. My daughter was scheduled to arrive in a few weeks so I decided to do a reality check with her before making a commitment. I did have to consider that it might be a little crazy to buy a second house in France.

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I was even impressed with the cobwebby attic.

My daughter and I looked at the house together and she deemed me no more crazy than I’d ever been. Actually she snapped a picture of me while I was looking at the house and thought I looked very happy so she put her stamp of approval on my idea.

A deal was struck and I began the process of buying the house. Two months later on 18 December 2015 I signed the final papers and the house was mine! The house had not been lived in for several years so there was a lot of serious cleaning to be done before I could move in. The rental contract was up on 31 December so I had to scramble to get everything in order.

New Year’s eve 2016 is the first anniversary of living in my new house. One year of going beyond my dream of a simple little house in France to a wonderful big house in France.

You generally think of “things not going according to plans” as not being good. In this case it meant going beyond my expectations.

It meant going from a shell that would be converted into a small one bedroom house to moving into a large three bedroom house that was immediately habitable. (Although there’s still substantial work required.)

It meant going from an uninhabitable house with no plumbing or electrical to an immediately habitable house with a fully functioning toilet, bathroom and kitchen sink with working lights and a few updated outlets in the kitchen (though the electrical throughout the house would eventually all need updating).

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A humble lunch in my new home.

When I first moved into the house I had almost no furniture. A few odds and ends had been left in the house so I had a chair, a small table, and portable heater (a house warming gift). I bought an air mattress, bedding and refrigerator and borrowed a toaster oven and hot plate. So I was able to camp out in a couple of rooms in my house until I could gradually acquire some more furnishings.

I now have a couple of beds and night tables for the guests who have come to visit in 2016.

I also have a dining table, chairs and several medium pieces that I use for storage and small kitchen appliances that I’ve purchased, along with an armoire that I actually got into my bedroom and upright (long story).

Some of the electrical has been updated along with a little plumbing work.

I started renovating the little kitchen on the 1st floor back in September and due to some unexpected and extensive renovation requirements it’s still in progress. – One of the beauties of retirement is few hard deadlines. – My fridge still resides in the nearly demolished kitchen with the hot plates, toaster oven, microwave and sink in the “ancient kitchen” on the 2nd floor. Preparing a meal requires an organized effort and usually several trips up and down stairs. Since I’m not walking as much it’s good exercise.

In addition to my house in the beautiful town of Uzerche I’ve been blessed to make a couple of good friends and meet some other people whom I’m getting to know. I attend church and joined an art class so I’ve begun to integrate in the local community. My French is improving, albeit slowly.

I’ve had some miscellaneous adventures: experiences with bats, the heating system going on the blink last winter, finding fascinating objects in the house, a rescued bird, as well as being interviewed by a local newspaper regarding my views on the US elections.

I love this new chapter of my life and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

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Old Town Uzerche at sunset

Posted in How it began, Life in France, Ma Maison, The Dream, Where I am | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

One Thing Leads To Another

I was all set for my next post to be about the progress being made on renovations. Instead it is more a path of discovery.

When I looked at the house, before buying it, the realtor told me that the electrical needed to be brought up-to-date throughout the house. The plumbing, she thought, was okay. There were things I could see that needed to be done and I was quite certain there were also things that I couldn’t see that would need to be taken care of. In addition I noted a few changes I hoped to make in the future.

But the house was habitable which meant I could move in once the sale was complete and save on monthly rent. So I signed the Compromis de Vente to begin the process of buying the house with the sale to be finalized by the end of 2015.

A few new(er) outlets had been installed in the kitchen on the 1st floor and one at the top of the stairs before I bought the house. So after move in I could safely plug in my kitchen appliances plus my extra-long extension cord could be used from the outlet by the stairs for work anywhere in the house.

It may be beneficial to insert a brief description of the situation & construction of the house.

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Ma maison: the main house with the addition on the right

The main house is built of stone with the back wall of the first two levels directly against a hill. In such cases it’s not uncommon for a secondary wall to be constructed in the interior, with a small gap between it and the stone wall, allowing for some circulation of air to ward off damp problems.

Each floor is supported by large beams running from the front to the back of the house. This includes the ground floor whose beams are raised slightly above the bedrock. A small section of bedrock was hollowed out to form a cellar.

The ground floor has two large rooms. When the house was built one room was used as a workshop, atelier, and the other as a showroom, magasin, where furniture was made and sold.

The original house had an outdoor loo and evidently exterior stairs from the street to the first floor, the main residential area. The second floor was used as an apartment. Possibly the owners parents had lived there. Above that is a full attic.

Later, an addition was built at the side of the house. It comprises an interior stairway and garage, with an indoor toilet, bathroom, storage closet and bedroom above.

Fast forward – past the clean-up (the house had been vacant for at least a couple of years), the heating going out twice (January and then February), discovering a drainage leak at the back wall of the garage, and past determining some necessary changes in the kitchen – to finally beginning the electrical updates.

The electrician was scheduled to start his work 31 May 2016 to get the wiring up to current standards. He worked a day or two each week during breaks on another larger job he was working on.

The plumber was scheduled to start the week of June 20th. In theory this would have allowed for interaction with the electrician to get an instant hot water heater installed in the 2nd floor kitchen so I could use that sink for dishes and food prep. Once that sink was functioning he could remove the sink from the current 1st floor kitchen allowing me to take down the remaining paneling.

As I said this was in theory. As it turned out the plumber delayed his start date by three weeks which didn’t allow for interaction with the electrician.

Although the water heating unit above the sink had been plumbed in, it wasn’t wired in, so it couldn’t be used yet. The electrician was going to be away on holiday so it would be a while before he could connect it and I didn’t want to be without hot water in my alternative kitchen.

That meant the sink in the existing kitchen couldn’t be moved which meant that I couldn’t finish removing the paneling, rebuild the frame, relocate the electrical outlets and reinstall the sink before the arrival of guests in August.

So instead of stressing over the renovation, or lack thereof, I focused on redoing all the cleaning from the mess that the electrical and plumbing updates had created. Then I took a well-deserved break to enjoy Winnie & Elaine’s visit – which I thoroughly did!

After my friends left it was time to turn my focus back to my house.

I took some time to survey where I had left off and determine what I thought my next steps should be.

I attempted to attach a plug and new cord to the water heater but I didn’t have all the necessary tools. It required a small star screwdriver which I didn’t have. So I was at a standstill on that front.

To maintain some level of productivity I decided to remove the secondary back wall of the Magasin on the ground floor.

instant-water-heater-crop

2nd floor sink with instant water heater

Colin was back in town so he came by and was able to finish connecting the water heater. This turned out to be a good thing because it didn’t heat the water as connected so he was able to determine how the unit needed to be adjusted to make it work properly.

He also disconnected the sink in the kitchen so I could, again theoretically, proceed with the work there.

I did make a little progress, I got the remainder of the paneling down. I also decided to remove the half-wall between the kitchen and séjour, living/dining room, and replace it with a freestanding work surface.

The Emmaüs shop in Brive-la-Gaillarde is open on Thursdays. Since I wanted to look for some furniture for possible use in the kitchen I took a day off to go shopping.

I was able to find a lovely armoire and a couple of bed side tables, but nothing suitable for the kitchen. They deliver (for a small fee) but they tend to be booked up so the delivery was scheduled for 21 October.

Before going shopping I did some serious measuring; looking for all the potential obstacles to be certain the furniture could be maneuvered to where I wanted it.

The armoire was quite tall and the only obstacle would be an interior window above a door at the top of the stairs. Since the delivery date was over a month away that should have allowed plenty of time to remove it. Should have!

window-removed

The window safely down

I received a call from Emmaüs the following Tuesday afternoon to say that they would have a van in my area on Thursday and asked if I would be home. Between concentrating on understanding and being understood in French along with being happy about getting the furniture sooner I forgot about the window. That is until I walked out of the bedroom, looked up, and thought “Oh no”.

I sent Colin a text to see if he would be able to bail me out of the predicament I’d gotten myself into. He came by Wednesday and was able to remove the window, intact, which allowed space for the height of the armoire. And it worked wonderfully when it was delivered.

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Armoire – in the bedroom

The following Friday I was cleaning the armoire. The front door has a full mirror that is quite heavy. I had the door open and was preparing to vacuum the bottom. I pulled out the bottom drawer to clean behind it. The armoire began to slowly tip forward. I tried to push it back but it was far too heavy for me. Thank God it tipped toward the side and wedged itself at about a 45 degree angle between the wall and the deep window frame for the balcony doors. Had it gone straight forward it would have landed on top of me. It left me a bit shaken but also grateful for my narrow escape. God has given me the most awesome guardian angel ever!

My neighbor, Mathieu, was able to come and help get the armoire upright and put a couple of shims under the front legs to stabilize the piece.

Neither the mirror nor the window were broken and there are just a couple of nicks on the window frame and the top of the armoire; a little of the trim around the mirror can use a bit of glue.

I came away with a couple of bruises and a wrenched muscle in my back which only hurts when I move certain ways.

Since my back didn’t like it much if I pulled hard on something the removal of the frame in the kitchen was again delayed.

So it was back to the magasin. Some of the floorboards near the back wall I had removed were not in very good shape so I decided to take them up to see what was under them.

The back of the beams – the ones that go into the stone wall that is against the hill – the beams that support the floor – have severe dry rot.

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A 1st floor beam with dry rot

I knew what I had to do next, so after several deep breaths, I marched up stairs to pull up some floorboards along the back wall of the kitchen. And there I found a similar problem only not quite as serious.

As it turns out all the delays have led to discovery. Had I not found the problems I would have built a frame, put up paneling and had the sink reinstalled in the kitchen above partially rotted beams – and that would not have been good.

Finishing the kitchen will require some additional work to replace the rotted portion of the beams and floorboards above that section. It will take some extra time, and cost a little more money but it will only need to be done once.

As for the magasin I have a couple of options: partial beam replacements or pour concrete; the latter will probably be the less expensive option. The cement floor can be covered with wood to maintain an authentic look.

There were also a couple of delays in taking some of the renovation rubble to the déchetterie (tip or dump, depending upon whether you speak English or American). Another good thing, as it turns out I may be able to use the rubble myself to fill in gaps before pouring concrete for the magasin floor.

I plan to add a second toilet and possibly a shower on the 2nd floor. (Those beams should be fine as that part of the building isn’t against the hill.) I’m thinking about taking down the small portion of wall necessary to complete that task before proceeding with other work – just in case there is some new discovery lurking.

I still love my house and Uzerche. And I’m finding retirement anything but boring.

 

God is good!

Posted in Life in France, Ma Maison, Where I am | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Auto Retro 2016

Cars Citroën 5Auto Retro is an annual event held in Uzerche each July.  I find it very interesting to see a variety of classic cars from France, around Europe and an occasional American model.

This was my second Auto-Retro.

Cars Citroën 4The set-up is very causal.  There is a large field with some parking areas, one section is set aside for the cars, motorcycles, other vehicles, and a lineup of tractors (there’s a lot of agriculture in this area).

Vendors have an area where they display their wares.  A few vendors set up inside of an auditorium.  Most of them sell parts for classic cars but there are also stalls with auto related books, model cars, etc.  Some of the things are really cool.

When the renovation is completed on my house and the decorating phase begins I’ll probably pick up some things at the event to go in my house.

They have a food and drink stand and this year there was a food bus with global fare.  They offered little tacos.  It had been over a year since I’d had Mexican food so that’s what I ordered.  Ah well, I guess I’ll have to wait a little longer for some Mexican food.

Citroën raffleThey also had a raffle for a Citroën.  At 2€ a ticket I couldn’t resist buying one.

In addition to wondering around and enjoying the cars at the Auto Retro they can be seen driving around town off and on during the day.  As I said the set-up is casual so people come and go, if they want to pop out for lunch, come late or leave early there’s no problem.

Here are some more pics from this year, enjoy :

Cars 14 Majors Lotus Cars 13 Jeep & Truck Cars Citroën 7 Cars 12 Panhards  Car w umbrella stand Cars 11 Cars 10 Cars 9 Cars 7 Cars 6 NSU Cars 5 Cars 4 Cars A2  Cars MG 1 Cars Renault 2 Cars Renault 1 Cars Citroën 2 Racer 1 Racer 2 Van 2 Van 1 Cars 1 Cars Citroën 1 Car 1 Car 2 Simca Car x old moter bikes  Peugeot for Troy

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A Royal Diversion

I never knew a bird could be so spoiled or a name so unexpectedly accurate.

1 Early days in the cœur

Early days in the cœur

On my way home from the library a few weeks ago I spotted a baby bird on the sidewalk.  The nearest yard is about three meters above street level with a stone retaining wall.  Some trees in that garden overhang the sidewalk but there was no visible nest in them.  There is no access to the garden from where I was.  Since there are cats in the area and traffic along the street I picked the little bird up and took it home.

Some neighbors walked over to have a peek and told me to feed it moist cat food.  When I got home I noticed the poop was purplish so I knew it also ate berries.  I had a can of cat food I’d bought for a small cat I had seen near my garden but the food was too chunky.  I fed the bird a little of it and headed off to the store where I picked up some meat & veggie blend baby food and applesauce with berries.

I could hear a lot of chirping when I walked back in the door.  I cut one of the cotton tips off of a cotton swab and dipped the cut end into the baby food which was promptly gobbled down then tried the applesauce which was equally well received.

I had previously raised and released a mockingbird so I knew what was entailed: frequent feeding, lots of little clean-ups and release after the bird is self-sufficient at eating not just when it can fly well.

My dilemma was that I had a weekend commitment and no bird-sitter.  So I called to see if I could bring the bird along.

I took her with me to Jo’s where she got mixed reviews from ‘Why?’ to ‘Il est mignon’ meaning he’s cute.  At first I referred to her as him.  When asked why I thought it was a male I replied it was because I hadn’t had him any time before he shit on me.  (No offence meant to the good guys out there – more a reflection of some poor choices I’ve made.)

While we were there a couple of Jo’s friends enjoyed feeding her.  Someone told me she was a moineau, sparrow.  That helped because I researched her feeding requirements and learned to add a little mashed hardboiled egg yolk for additional protein.  Also, knowing the markings of a male sparrow, I realized she was female.

By the time we returned home Sunday evening she was a bit spoiled so I named her Princess.

Princess by her royal food dish

Princess by her royal food dish

The major goal is to get her to eat on her own; there’s no local pet store to buy mealy-worms for her.  One problem is trying to find food that she can get for herself inside the house.  My attempt at having her eat the baby food mixture out of a small container, instead of off the end of a cotton-swab stick, didn’t work; she ended up with some of the mixture stuck to the end of her beak.  I had success with various fruits and vegetables but they are too messy to scatter about so she’s learned to eat off of a plate.

I discovered that she likes fish.  I cooked fish for my dinner one night and she really enjoyed what I gave her.  So I scrapped off some small flakes and put them on her dish.  After a bite or two she was back to eating the fish off of my plate.  I guess it tastes better that way because she’s since done that with other foods too.  Oh, and she prefers her broccoli lightly cooked with a little butter.

2 Princess chambre

Princess’ chambre

I settle her into her room around 9:00 pm (yes, the princess has her own chambre).  I go back in about a half hour later, give her a little more food, then it’s lights out.  One evening I was trying to see if she wanted any more food before I turned the light off.  I said “one more bite?” and she reached out and bit the end of my finger.  She had never done that before.  At first, to get her to drink, I would dip my finger in some water and let her drink the droplet off my fingertip which she had always done very gently.

Her room is set up with a few plants, a stool, a ladder, and a chair.  I put a cord in for her to perch on after seeing how much she enjoys sitting on the computer cord in the séjour.  I added a shallow dish for her to bathe in when I discovered her trying to get wet in her little water dish.

While I’m home during the day she has the run of the house.  Early on she liked to follow me around. A couple of times when I headed up to the second floor she would flit up each stair after me.  One time she went up a few steps and kept looking back as if she wanted me to follow her up.

3 Princess on my shoe

First visits to the garden; staying very close

Her little chirps of demand have transformed into a melodious chatter.  It’s not that she isn’t still demanding; she’s just more quietly insistent now.  If she wants fresh water she’ll peck on a bottle of water.  If I don’t get her mixed food to her soon enough she’ll grab the cotton end of the swab and pull it out of her dish.

Whoever came up with the expression “bird brain” must never have spent much time with birds.

In an effort to get Princess to learn to find her own food I take her out to the garden with me.  At first she wanted to stay very close to me.  She would peck at the ground nearby and sometimes hop up onto my shoe which made gardening rather difficult.  After a couple of days she mostly stayed under a pair of large poppy plants; they provided shade and I suspect a bit of security since she was used to being inside.

5 Trees along path behind the cœur

In the trees along the path

I took her out to the cœur, the little courtyard off the first floor.  I had done this a couple of times but one time she decided to fly up to the trees along the path above.  I ran back in, grabbed her food, went upstairs and out the door leading to the garden & path.  She stayed in the lower branches and I was able to lure her onto my hand with some food.  I didn’t want to discourage her from coming to me so instead of taking her directly in I took her into the garden to peck around for a little while.

The next time out she pecked around in the garden for about 10 minutes then she spent about an hour up in the trees.  I continued working in the garden and calling her off and on.  I was about to give up and go in, which I suspect she sensed, when she flew down to me and I was able to take her inside.

6 Princess enjoying view neighbors tree

Enjoying the view from my neighbor’s tree

I had always known that taking her out was risky.  At any time she could decide to fly off and not come back.  But independence comes at a price and like it or not I have to be prepared.

The following time I took her out she immediately flew up to the rail on my neighbor Mathieu’s garden then into some trees and was out of sight for nearly an hour.  It was a warm day and she was hungry and thirsty when she flew back into my garden.  She was getting braver each time out.

From that time on I’ve had to grip her loosely in my hand to bring her in.  The first time I did that I expected her to fly out of my hand the moment I opened it once we were inside but she didn’t.  She’ll wiggle in my hand but when we’re in and I open my hand she’s fine.

The weather turned rainy but there was a nice spell one morning so I took her out for a while.  It began to sprinkle but she still stayed out of reach.  Then it began to pour and she sheltered herself in some grape vines in Mathieu’s garden while I crouched down waiting for her to get close enough for me to get ahold of her to bring her in.  We both had to dry off and warm up when we finally got inside.

8 Clearing Ivy

Set up to clear Ivy and stay close enough to feed Princess

Since Princess started exploring further out I began clearing the remaining ivy from the top of my garden wall.  Being up on the ladder allows me to reach to feed her when she flies to the neighbor’s tree or railing.  Generally on her outings, before time to come in, she will come close enough to have a bite or two of food but stay far enough I can’t fully reach her.  I keep her food dish handy for these times.  One time a little dirt from the wall had fallen into her food dish.  When I offered her some food she turned her beak up at it.  I went in, got some clean food and something to cover the dish with; when she came back, a little after I returned, she ate the fresh food with no problem.  (She obviously takes her name seriously.)

We had to spend a couple of days indoors because of rain and she was going a little stir-crazy.  By this time she learned which stairs lead to the garden and she would fly up wanting to go out.  I went out and found some aphids on my rose bush.  I snipped off a small branch and brought it in so she feasted on them and it calmed her a little.

I got a real scare the last time we were out.  We had gone out in the morning and all went well.  She spent some time in the trees and when it started to sprinkle she got close enough for me to get her to bring her in.  When it cleared later in the day we went out again.

I make it a habit to call and whistle for her when she gets out of view.  She was in a tree where I could see her when a predatory bird swooped down toward the tree then it flew off squawking.  I didn’t see or hear her for quite a while.  I continued calling and whistling with no results and was beginning to feel quite disheartened.  Finally I heard her then caught a glimpse of her.  I was so relieved.  Shortly after, she came close enough that I could get her to bring her in.

Today there are scattered showers and the electricians are here doing some work.  The noise might discourage her from coming back in, so we’ll just stay inside.

As I’m trying to type she is hopping around on the keyboard.  She alternates trying to peck at the letters appearing on the screen and my moving fingers.  I have to admit that one time, okay twice, I teased her a little by moving the curser arrow around while she tried to catch it.

Soon she will decide that she prefers staying outside.  I know that’s necessary but I’m not looking forward to that day.  My little Princess will always hold a special place in my heart.

 

Update:

Shortly after this post Princess decided it was time for her independence.  I hadn’t expected it because she stayed closer than usual when we were inside that morning. 

Previously, once we were outside, she would come back after an hour or two to get some of the food that I kept handy.  This day was different; she was gone for nearly four hours before she came near and she didn’t appear to want any food.  It had rained for a couple of days prior and it was warm outside that afternoon.  I never thought I would be grateful for lots of bugs outside but I was; it meant that food was plentiful for Princess. 

I’ve seen her a few times but she keeps a considerable distance.  Her appearance changed rapidly during the four weeks we had together.  So the little tuft of messy feathers on top of her head that made it easy to spot her the past few days will probably be gone soon.

I wish her safety, health and happiness. – And lots of bugs!

Posted in Life in France | Tagged | 4 Comments

From Dream to Reality

It’s hard to believe that one year ago today I arrived in France to pursue my dream.  And that dream is unfolding in ways I had never imagined.

Uzerche is a charming picture postcard town with a fascinating history going back to the 2nd century BC.  The town is full of wonderful architecture, full of the splendor of nature with the peaceful Vézère river flowing through it.  I’m still in awe of the beauty that surrounds me and hope I never lose the wonder of this magnificent place.

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Pont Turgot

 

On a previous visits to Uzerche there was a small grocery store, bakery and wine & gourmet shop on my street.  So I had expected to have everything I needed close at hand.  The bakery is still there but the grocery and specialty shops have both closed.  But as I’ve found with most obstacles there is a solution.  In this case it just requires more walking.  If I just need a few items there’s a little grocery up near the Vieille Ville, old town; otherwise it’s the long trek to the supermarket on the outskirts of town.

To begin with, the majority of my time here was spent clearing my garden.  I had anticipated this task to be secondary to working on making my little house habitable.  Both the unforeseen obstacles at that house and an even greater unexpected opportunity of the house next door being for sale created a shift in priorities.

I rented a three bedroom fully furnished house for several months.  While there my daughter came for a couple of weeks.  During her stay we looked at the neighboring house together and shortly after I made an offer on it.  Later two long term friends (I’m not saying how far back we go) came for a visit; we also did a bit of traveling together.

After the purchase of the second house was finalized I spent most of my time cleaning, which, although a lot of hard work, didn’t seem like such a chore because it was part work – part treasure hunt.  Shortly after getting the first pass of cleaning done another friend from school came for a visit; although I could only offer minimal amenities there were at least no more heating or plumbing mishaps while she was here.

I have recently started some of the renovation tasks that are needed on the second house and this has already been an eye-opener.  I described the process so far as one step forward on renovation and two steps backwards on cleaning.  I’ve learned a lot and know that I have a lot more to learn along the way.  I expect all the repairs and restoration to take several years to complete.  Once I’ve finished this house I still hope to renovate the first house.

My French has progressed but not as well as I had hoped.  This is partly because I have made a few English speaking friends, mostly from the UK, and partly because of all the work at my house and garden.

I’ve had a couple of French men show some interest which has absolutely floored me since they are considerably younger.  (It seems the French have less concerns with age differences than most Americans.)  At this time I’m more focused on establishing my life here and I’m in no hurry to complicate things.  Nevertheless it has been interesting and very flattering.

I find the people here to be very friendly and welcoming.  There are several people that I encounter regularly and we generally exchange a few pleasant words.  I have recently started to get out and meet some of the local French residents in a social setting.  Still I tend to be a bit quiet particularly when first meeting people, so I need to work on that.

Then I have my most recent friend, Princess, a little sparrow that I rescued (and spoiled in no time).  I take her out to the garden so she can peck around and learn to feed herself.  She’s not self-sufficient yet but the last few times she’s decided to fly off into the trees for a while.  Each time I take her out I remain uncertain if she’ll be returning with me but it’s a risk I have to take if she’s to be released.

Last month I submitted all the paperwork for the renewal of my Visa de Long Séjour, Long Stay Visa.  That was an ordeal !  The required documentation has been sent to Paris for review.  If all goes well I will get my Carte de Séjour which enables me to stay for another year.

I’m hoping that everything goes smoothly because I really feel like this isn’t just where I live, rather that it truly is home.

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Overcoming Obstacles – It’s all part of the adventure

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My first house

My first obstacle was my first house! Since work hadn’t progressed, after problems created several years ago by the builders I had hired, I didn’t have a place to live when I arrived. But I knew that before I left the states. After staying in a hotel for a few weeks that obstacle was overcome by finding a fully furnished rental house.

Neighbor's Van

The Neighbor’s Van in My House

The second obstacle was the van I found parked inside my house upon arrival. I couldn’t get in to do anything or have anyone in to give me estimates for work. As it turned out the van belonged to my neighbor Mathieu; we arranged for him to move it within a couple of days so that took care of that.

Then there was my garden that had been completely overrun by weeds and brambles. That took a lot of hard work and multiple passes to get it completely cleared. It also took a lot of walking from the rental to my house almost every day and sometimes twice a day throughout last summer. (At 1 kilometer each way I got in shape in no time.)

Since the upper floors & stairs in my first house had been removed for the beam replacement (that had been done incorrectly) I couldn’t go directly from my house to the garden behind it. The house is built against a hill with the front entrance at street level and access to the garden up two flights of interior stairs (when they’re there) and out the back door of the attic then up a set of stone steps.

Cité Lumière Panorama

The path I took to my garden

Up the Garden Path

Up the Garden Path

To get around that obstacle I had to walk three houses down to a path, Cité Lumière Panorama, then up a steep hill to finally arrive for work in my garden.

During one of my conversations with Mathieu he said that the house on the other side of mine was for sale and mentioned the price (which seemed quite reasonable). A few days later a neighbor across the street also told me the house was for sale.

After those conversations, for several weeks on the treks to my garden, I would walk up the path, past the back door of that house and think how convenient it would be to just go out that door to my garden.

Mes Maisons

My new house, to the right of the first – both the brick & plaster addition

So I bought the house! (Yes, I’m being rather flippant.) The reality is that the price of the house was less than the cost of renovation on my original house, it was immediately habitable (but not without its own set of problems) and I would no longer have to pay rent. Then there is the added benefit of the shortcut to my garden.

Buying a house in France typically takes around three months. I started the process in September.

The sale closed the 18th of December and my rental agreement was up the 31st of December. That left me 14 days to scramble in preparation for move-in and clean-up for move-out.

Keys

No shortage of keys (I added the tags)

When the papers were signed I was given the key to the house, actually the key to the garage door (it was all the realtor had). I knew there were lots of keys at the house so I figured the other keys would be there, somewhere, but I couldn’t locate the key to the main front door. (There are four front doors to the house.) The former owners had sent me a congratulatory email (around mid-January) so when I replied I asked if they had the key.

The house hadn’t been lived in for at least a couple of years so it needed some serious cleaning. I started with the W.C., the bathroom, and the connected kitchen & living/dining rooms. Those were the rooms I knew I’d require when I first moved in. (I got sidetracked with the shutters but was gently reminded about prioritizing so I got back on track.)

I also had to get estimates for updating the electrical for the entire house. The lights work throughout the house but there were only a few plugs on the first floor (2nd floor by US reference) that meet current standards.

The first estimate was from Einsargueix et Fils; Christophe, the son (fils), was my neighbor at the rental and he speaks English well. Their company also does heating and plumbing. While he was at the house he switched on the heating to check it out but before he left he discovered a problem. He had to leave for another appointment but came back the next morning to check it out further. The motor had to be replaced but since the boiler unit was a German brand he had to send for the part. As it turned out they no longer make parts for that model so there was further delay in getting a replacement that would work.

Since both the heating and hot water run off of that system I had neither the first several days after moving into the house. Fortunately I had a portable heater, small electric kettle for boiling water, and a camping shower. None of which were ideal in January but they did provide workable solutions.

In an attempt to plan ahead for move-in I also tried to arrange things I needed to have in place for settling in to my new house.

I made a trip to Brive to shop at Conforama, a popular French furniture and appliance store. My original intention was to buy a bed and refrigerator. The price of mattress sets was quite high and I found a sofa bed on sale for just a slightly higher price. This appeared to be a good idea because it would also provide seating for company.

I measured the sofa, went back to the house to decide if it would work where I wanted it and measured the stairwell to be sure it would fit going up. It all seemed good; that is until the sofa was delivered and wouldn’t fit through the doorway from the workshop to the stairway to the 1st floor.

A walk to a local shop yielded an air mattress so at least I had a soft place to sleep. (Not having a car has sometimes proved an inconvenience but not actually an obstacle thanks to friends who occasionally take me shopping for bigger or heavier items.)

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I found all of these items while cleaning

With the things I purchased, a borrowed toaster oven and hot plate, my makeshift heating and hot water system, and a chair and small table I found in the house I settled in for the first couple of weeks in my new house. A little rough but I was still happy to be here.

During that time I stayed busy cleaning and exploring my new home and finding some treasures that had been left behind.

The heating unit was finally repaired so I had heat. Not only that I could take a hot shower with real running water. But hot water with water pressure proved to be a bit much for the washer in the bathtub faucet. So Sunday morning as I prepared to shower before church the washer completely blew out; the hot water was running full force and there was no chance of turning it off at the tap.

The only solution was to turn the water off at the main valve in the cave (or cellar). But first I filled as many empty bottles as I could since I didn’t know how long the water would be off. With the water off I also had to turn the heating unit off since it’s a boiler system.

Colin to the rescue! He replaced the washer (and later the entire faucet) so I was able to have running hot water and heating again. At least for a while… The heating (therefore the hot water also) went out again for about a week and a half the end of February and beginning of March. That time it was a fuel regulating valve.

To continue cleaning I needed to buy a heavy duty vacuum. Since up-to-date electrical outlets are limited I picked up a reel type extra-long extension cord. As it turned out they didn’t have the vacuum I wanted in stock but I went ahead and got the extension cord anyway; as I remarked at the time, if nothing else I could now blow-dry my hair in any room in the house.

Another shopping trip, a couple of weeks later, I got the vacuum cleaner and ordered a washing machine for delivery. They said Thursday – but they didn’t say which Thursday. So eventually, two and a half weeks later, my washing machine was delivered. In the meantime I had to walk a little over a kilometer to the Super-U to use the outdoor laundry facilities a couple more times.

With a guest coming for a visit in April I decided I needed to get serious about buying some additional furniture. Jo took me shopping at Emmaüs, a charity shop that has quite a selection of used furniture. I chose several items and arranged for delivery – but they were backlogged on deliveries so they wouldn’t be in my area until May 13th.

Remember the missing key to the main front door? One fine day at the beginning of April I walked to the bakery which is quite near the immobilier, the realtor, who sold me the house. She was standing near the entrance so I said “bonjour” as I started to walk by. She told me to wait a minute that she had something for me and brought out an envelope which contained two keys to the front door.

Because of something written on the envelope I feel quite certain that she had received the keys shortly after I had contacted the previous owners in late January. But even with the delay I got the keys in time because I had finally gotten the number of a locksmith to have a new key made but hadn’t yet set an appointment. I laughed as I recounted the story to some of my local friends. But I have to admit, had I actually paid a locksmith to come out I wouldn’t have found the situation quite so amusing.

May 13th finally arrived; I was going to get my furniture!

I got a call from the delivery guys because they couldn’t find the house. They were up by l’Église Sainte Eulalie. I told them in French that the house wasn’t near the church and they needed to go a little further, it was near rue du Pont Turgot. A little while later I got another call, they still couldn’t find the house but now I didn’t know where they were so I couldn’t offer directions.

There’s a little butcher’s van that stops on the street once a week and people were waiting nearby. I told the delivery guys to wait, I saw some neighbors. So I went over and asked if anyone spoke English; the answer was no. But I was able to explain in French that I was waiting for a delivery and they were lost. I handed the phone to one of my neighbors and he told them that rue du Pont Turgot and Faubourg Sainte Eulalie were the same street and provided some directions. I thanked him and went back across the street to wait.

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Street signs

A short time later I received another call; they said they had arrived – but they weren’t out front so I told them they were not at my house. I could tell that they were getting frustrated and I could hear them talking to someone in the background, eventually they said that they were on rue du Pont Turgot.

I knew they weren’t far so I said to wait I would be there soon. Fortunately it was downhill from my house so I jogged to where they were and rode back with them. When we arrived I was able to point to the street signs to show why I used both street names.

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My new furniture – well most of it

They began to bring in the furniture. They brought in the sewing machine, night stand, table and chairs. Then they attempted to bring in the armoire. Sigh!  Before I bought any more furniture (after the sofa) I measured the doors, width & height, I measured the width of the stairwell, again, and I figured the maximum height, width and depth that could be maneuvered through the three doorways at the landing at the top of the stairs. What I didn’t measure was the height from a beam across the stairway to the nearest stair.

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The armoire

The armoire was three cm wider than the shortest distance. I now have an armoire next to the sofa on the ground floor. At least I have a really big room to store things in down there.

The two ground floor rooms were originally for a furniture business that the former owners’ family ran. One room was the atelier, workshop where they made furniture and the other, the magasin, a showroom. Since they had left a nice art-deco style dining set in the magasin I decided to move the couch into that room for downstairs entertaining. The problem was the sofa wouldn’t fit through the interior door. I measured the front door which was wide enough, but to get anything through I had to get the security grill opened.

Front door gate open

The front door to the shop with the security grill open.

I spent well over six hours cleaning the security grill in front of the magasin. Then I sprayed WD-40 on all the hinges to be sure they would move properly. With the portion of the grill in front of the door opened I took a step back and shook my head. Pushed back as far as it would go it still didn’t completely clear the door opening. Sigh!

More measuring… If I take the door and frame down between the two ground floor rooms I can have the sofa moved into the other room.

Before I buy any more large furniture for upstairs I will either find a mover with a lift or make certain that it can be taken apart and reassembled where I need it.

With all the obstacles I’ve experienced so far I have found life here challenging, but definitely not boring!

 

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