I had owned my house for a couple of years when I received a letter from SEMABL. They were working with the city for the purpose of improving historic parts of Uzerche. When I got the letter I wondered why they were contacting me. I began to worry that there may be some problem with my house. Not knowing what to expect I made arrangements to meet with the SEMABL contact and planned my trip.
When I arrived at my house I met my neighbor Mattheu and his brother Clement. Clement speaks fairly good English which enabled him to explain the gaping hole where the shared wall in my attic used to be. It seems Mattheu was doing some renovations and he wanted to replace the wall with more authentic construction materials (as related to his house, but they didn’t add that).
The thing is, when my imagination was running wild with the potential problems at my house theme, I prayed “Please let me accept whatever I find there.” Which was exactly what I needed and surprisingly I wasn’t completely freaked out about the situation.
Mattheu offered to help if I needed anything so I took the opportunity to have him install a lock on my door. (The one the previous owners couldn’t find the key to. – see The Dream Continues ) So I could now lock my house. I left a key with Mattheu so he “could finish the wall on my side”.
As it turned out the city, through SEMABL, was offering subsidies for renovations if the house could be used as a rental for a period of at least nine years. Unfortunately I knew there was too much work required and I didn’t have the funds for my portion of the expenses before the offer ended. In addition, at that time, I thought I would be spending more vacation time there. (This was pre Pompadour Construction.)
Well The Nightmare with Pompadour Construction was of course a very unpleasant surprise but I won’t repeat any of that here.
I had a couple of surprises when I arrived this time.
I arrived at Hotel Ambroise in Uzerche in the evening rather travel weary and decided to wait until the next day to go to my house. I walked to my house the next morning and unlocked the door to find a van parked inside. Since I had no idea who owned the van I ended up calling the local Gendarmerie so they could trace the license. I was to meet them at my house later that afternoon. When I arrived the Gendarmes were already there and my neighbor’s brother, Clement, was explaining that it was Mattheu’s van. Arrangements were made for the van to be removed and that problem was solved.
Then there was my garden. The neighbors on the other side, so I’d been told previously, had been using my garden. The last time I saw it, it was quite well tended. So when I got near the top of the garden path and saw what it looked like this time I was shocked.
When Mattheu saw me working in the garden a few days later he offered to go over it with a weed-eater. I declined that offer because I could get to the roots better the way I was working. But he also offered to let me dump my yard waste on a pile he had in his yard. He would burn the pile in the winter. That offer I gladly accepted. I only had to take the waste up a flight of stairs and a little way into his yard, as opposed to down the path, around the corner and up a few houses to my place. (I don’t have access to my attic door yet.) And I wouldn’t have to figure out how to dispose of it all later.
The differences sometimes still catch me by surprise:
I know better but I still sometimes forget. I knew that August 15th was Assentation Day but I wasn’t thinking about it. I waited until the rain had stopped for a little over an hour and checked the weather on the internet which indicated that it shouldn’t rain again that afternoon. Then I set out for the supermarket. I didn’t really need anything but there were a few things that I wanted. I was getting in better shape so I had shaved about 5 minutes from my original half hour walk to Intermarché. I arrived about 14h30 (2:30pm) to find an empty parking lot and a sign on the door stating they would close at 13h00 on the 15th *. So I turned around and trekked back to the house2 to drop off my empty shopping bags and put on some work clothes. I figured I may as well take advantage of the dry skies to get some more gardening done.
As I was about to walk past Place Marie Colein, which is at the entrance to the old town, I noticed that there was a “Festival des Arts de Rue”. The Festival ran from 11h30 to 18h00 in la vieille ville then continued at La Papeterie until after Midnight.
I wandered through the old town checking out the events, mostly geared toward children, as I made my way to my house1, this route being just slightly longer than my usual course. When I arrived I put on my work shoes, grabbed my tools and headed up to the garden. This was a continuation of my third pass, clearing out the deeper roots of regrowth after a few rains. Success ! I finished removing all but some small scattered grass; that could be left for another day. It was close to seven (19h00) and I was getting hungry. So I tidied up and headed for la Papeterie.
There is a pizzeria there along with a book shop/tea room and the post office. They were still setting things up for the fête in the outdoor area when I arrived. I noticed that the tables at the pizzeria all had reserved signs. I double checked their open hours * on the door (7-11pm) and went in to place a takeout order. Tonight they didn’t start service until 7:30pm (it was 7:20) and they were full until 10pm – this even though I wanted take out. So I went home2 and prepared what I had planned to have for Sunday dinner.
Sunday morning I got up and got ready for church. I left nearly last minute so I hurriedly walked to l’Eglise Saint Pierre. When I arrived I saw that the church was empty except for a couple of tourists. I walked quickly over to the Chapel de Notre Dame where services are held sometimes; no one there either. I walked back to the main church and went in again. I could see that it had been set up for an event the night before and I picked up a program from that. On the back I saw that Sunday services were being held in Saint Ybard, a nearby town.
I walked to the bakery nearest the church and planned to buy a sandwich for an impromptu picnic but when I got there the line was out the door. I didn’t want to prolong everyone else’s wait by requesting that a sandwich be made so I just picked up a quick baguette céréale and went home2 to make my own. I took the opportunity to put on some better walking shoes and set out for the picnic.
Flexibility is essential for life in France and I have to say I love it.
* Business hours:
The French take their jours de fête seriously and in a way it was surprising that the store wasn’t closed for the entire day. The normal hours for Intermarché, part of a major supermarket chain, is 9am – 7:15pm Monday through Saturday & 9am – 12:30pm on Sunday.
Open hours for smaller stores are generally from 9 or 10 am until noon or 12:30 and then reopen around 2:00 until 7:00pm. That is except Sundays, if they are open, it’s until 1:00 or 1:30pm and almost all smaller shops are closed on Mondays. Even most bakeries close for an extended lunch but sometimes not until 1pm. You can usually find a bakery on Monday, if there’s more than one in town, but you need to know which one to look for.
Restaurants open for lunch around 11:00am until 3:00pm then close to prepare for dinner service which usually begins at 7:00 or 7:30pm and it varies as to how late they stay open. If you are hungry between times you can hopefully find a local bar tabac where you can get something to drink and perhaps a sandwich, salad or pastry.
** In Paris most shops and restaurants are non-stop throughout the day.
To avoid confusion between the two houses: house1 is my house that I’m renovating with the garden in back – house2 / home2 is the rental house that I’m currently living in