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.


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


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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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Getting Plugged In

I’ve been very fortunate to meet several very nice people since moving to France.

Jo has been very helpful and she provides a wealth of insight to French living. I feel like we connect well and I always enjoy our conversations.

Colin has a good sense of humor, is very knowledgeable about renovation, and has been quite helpful in many ways including coming to my rescue when I had a plumbing emergency.

An interesting fact about the three of us is that we each own two houses in France, and for each of us our second house is directly next door to the first one we bought.

Many of the local renovation projects are being done by Brits, with some Dutch, Belgians, Germans and at least one American. A couple of my French neighbors are renovating their properties but in general the French are less enamored with the renovation process.

Tu es folle !” – You’re crazy! – I was told as I gave one of my French friends a tour of my house. This was partly because the house is so big and he knows that I’m living here alone. But it was also because of all the work to be done.

Colin had pulled down the plastic paneling along the back wall of the kitchen so I could determine what needed to be done before the electrical work got started in May. The previous frame, providing an air space between the paneling and back wall, had dry rot and had to be removed. The sink will need to be moved into the room to access the corner to replace the frame and put in wood paneling.

Colin laughed when I told him I was going to rebuild the frame myself. But that wasn’t as bad as when I was trying to explain to another friend, in my meager French (forgetting the word for build), that I was going to do the frame myself but I wouldn’t do the plumber. Oops. (That wasn’t my only mistake.) As he was leaving he pulled my French dictionary off the mantel, set it on the counter & gave it a couple of taps.

A very nice French neighbor a couple of doors down asked if I wanted some wood for my fireplace. He needed to remove it from the barn he is renovating. I told him that I couldn’t use it because my fireplace hadn’t been cleaned (I used nettoyer for clean but he corrected me that it was ramoner for a fireplace) but that I had a friend who could use it. So I grabbed a pair of gloves and we loaded the wood into his wheelbarrow and put it into my first house.

He had seen that house before, when we first met last summer, but I think he’d forgotten the condition of the interior. He uttered a soft “oh là là” and shook his head when he looked around inside.

I had shown he and his wife around my new(er) house in February and learned a bit from their visit. They live in Paris and come down on holidays.  His wife was born in Uzerche, just up the street in fact, and knew a bit about the house. I already knew that the ground floor had been a furniture shop. One room served as the workshop, atelier, where they made the furniture and the other as the showroom, magasin. Her parents had even owned some furniture made in the shop.

She had been friends with a girl whose grandmother had lived in my first house. I can’t wait to learn more but I need to up my learning curve dramatically first, unless my daughter can be here sometime while they are in town.

Casket handles - crop

Coffin handles

While looking in my attic my neighbor pointed out some handles that I had put with things I was keeping. He asked if I knew what they were and I replied no. It turns out that they are coffin handles. In addition to furniture they occasionally made coffins in the shop. Well those might come in handy someday. As I told my grandson, I’d rather molder than smolder. (But I’m hoping that permanent plug-in will occur much much later.)

Another neighbor, Mathieu, lives in the house next to my little one. Recently I met his mother when she had gone to visit him. We met again at a wine & cheese evening at La P’tite Fabrique Solidaire, a social group that I joined a few weeks ago. It was the first event that I attended after signing up; weather or schedule conflicts had kept me away from a few others. It was a pleasant evening and I enjoyed meeting some other people. They were very welcoming. Several of them spoke English so I reverted to that more often than I should have.

Now that the weather is warming I plan to get out more often. I’m looking forward to meeting more people and getting plugged in to the community.

La P'tite Fabrique Solidaire Avril Mai Juin 2016

La P’tite Fabrique Solidaire Calendar

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Welcoming Spring

Admittedly Uzerche experienced a mild winter this year.

I was grateful for this on two levels:

Since my heating went out a couple of times it was easier to keep the chill out of a stone house when the weather wasn’t extremely cold.

As a native of Southern California it broke me in gently to real winter weather.

Even though it was relatively warm here* this past winter I am still glad to see signs of spring around Uzerche.

(*December was mostly in the low 50°s F, January and February the low 40°s F, March beginning in the mid 40°s F, turning toward the mid 50°s F with the beginning of spring.)

The most obvious signs are the many wild flowers growing along the paths and roadsides.

Among the flowers were lots of Dandelions.  I’ve come across many Dandelion recipes lately so next time I go out for a long wander I’ll plan to bring a sack along to collect some.

Some of the trees are already in bloom:

as these by the Château Pontier,


Château Pontier

these trees in the garden of the Château Bécharie,


The garden at Château Bécharie

this tree in front of a popular hangout for locals, the Café de France,


Café de France, a local hangout

and this vibrant tree overlooking the Vézère River.


Overlooking the Vézère River

This garden is in transition from winter to spring.  You can see some rows of lettuce and a couple of fresh furrows in the foreground.


Garden in transition

I came across these wonderful brick features in another garden and couldn’t resist taking this picture.


Features in a private garden. The top one is a bread oven.

Another picture too good to pass up is the landscape maintenance man’s broom; this is what he actually uses.  You gotta love it.


Love the broom

April showers bring May flowers but they also chased me inside for the rest of the day.

I can’t wait for spring to come into its full glory.  When it does there’ll be more pictures to follow.


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Moving Forward – Slowly

As you can well imagine a house that hadn’t been lived in for over two years would require a lot of elbow-grease to get it up to par.


A few of the “found” items that I’ve set up in my Séjour

The first pass of cleaning was a matter of literally clearing out the cobwebs, getting rid of surface dust and dirt, as well as sorting through all the stuff that was left behind.  The latter step often made the effort seem more like a treasure hunt than work because of some of the wonderful thing I found.

As I cleaned each room in the house it helped me envision how I would likely set it up which influences how the electrical outlets should be placed.  With a few exceptions the entire house needs to be rewired but I was aware of that when I bought it.

I got estimates before the sale was final, but after living here a while I realized I wanted to make some revisions.  At last the electrical work is scheduled for April.

2 Shower curtain

My shower curtain – It works !

5c Cleaning - Chambre 1

In progress: the woodwork in the bedroom requires scrubbing (I don’t use the term loosely).

I’ve started the second pass of cleaning which is a bit more intense than the first.  This entails washing walls, scrubbing floors, cleaning fireplaces, etc.  Heavy duty, down and dirty, hard work.

The first room I tackled was the bathroom because that’s where I decided to have my washer installed.

It will be a while before the bathroom gets renovated; I decided to wait until after I install the second bathroom so I will have functional facilities when the current ones are out of commission.  In the meantime I rigged up a shower curtain to protect the plaster wall until it can be re-done with tiles.

A few weeks ago on a Monday Colin took me to Brive-la-Gaillarde to pick up a shop-vac and a washing machine.  They didn’t have the washer I wanted in stock but said I could have free delivery on Thursday.  I took that to mean in three days.  So the next Thursday I waited around the house for the washer to arrive.  As it turned out it was a Thursday but two and a half weeks away.

3 Laundry Super-U

The “laverie” at Super-U

That meant making another couple of treks to the “laverie” at the Super-U which required walking a mile to the supermarket, carrying laundry, slowly shopping while I waited for the wash to finish, then carrying everything back.

At least I had my shiny new vacuum to play with.  I have to admit I never expected to be excited about a vacuum cleaner but I really was.  I knew I needed something that would work for serious cleaning now as well as cleaning up after some minor demolition and renovation so I bought a shop-vac.

With the vacuum I could finish cleaning up the storage closet so I could utilize it to organize my tools, linens and other odds & ends.  That really felt like progress!

4 Clean kitchen 6

Ahhh ! A clean kitchen

The kitchen was the next room to undertake.  My intention was to clean out the storage area under the stairs but while doing so I discovered that the boards of the shelves had dry-rot so I removed them and will just leave the area open for now.

I cleaned the overhead cupboards and discovered that there is a gap at the back of those shelves.  If anything falls it goes behind the paneling below.

4 Clean kitchen 7

The narrow little cabinet is my food store – the small door leads to under stair storage – the other door is to the hall

So my plans for preparing more storage areas were thwarted.  There is one very narrow cupboard that I was able to clean and use to store most of my food.

Before the electrical work is done I will need to remove the existing paneling in the kitchen, repair the walls where necessary then finish the walls.  This work will need to be done later in March since it will probably cause a loss of heat and heating fuel is quite expensive.

I had 1000 liters of fuel delivered about a month ago; I’ve already gone through nearly half of that and it’s been a rather mild winter here this year.

I am saving some on fuel right now though.  A sensor on the heating unit went out so my heating, and hot water, are out of commission for about a week until the part arrives from Germany and can be installed.  C’est la vie!

Fortunately I still have the portable heater which keeps my ‘living’ rooms warm.  But I’m really missing having nice hot showers again especially since Colin installed a new tap in the bathtub when he hooked up the washer.  (Did I mention what a nice guy Colin is?  And he has his own houses to work on too.)

So I’m back to my camping shower in a rather cold bathroom.  Brrrrr!

5a Cleaning - fireplace

Feeling like Cinderella – the cinder and ashes part.

5b Cleaning - Entry tiles

In progress : scrubbing the encaustic entry tiles

I’m moving forward with other cleaning.  I’ve cleaned two of the fireplaces. The fireplaces and entry all have encaustic tiles.  The tiles are rather stained and take a lot of scrubbing; even after cleaning there’s still some discoloration.

After finishing the woodwork in the first floor bedroom I’ve started on the hard-wood floor.

6 Maison deux

Ma grande maison – next to my little house on the left

I never expected to have such a large house but I truly adore this one.

Although there is a lot to do I find that I actually enjoy doing it.  –  Who knew that I would ever like housework?  It’s certainly a good thing that I do because I still have a lot of it ahead of me.  It seems whenever I check a thing or two off my To Do list I end up adding another task to it.

So even if progress seems slow I am still moving forward.

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A Matter of Perspective

Shakespeare wrote “All the world’s a stage …”

My “stage” genre is comedy-adventure and I take my role (within that genre) seriously.  I’ve found most of my experiences can be viewed with either a comedy or adventure perspective.

For me Sunday fit right in to that category.

1 Cave 2 cobwebs

Cave – full of cobwebs

I was preparing to shower before church and ran some hot water first, to warm up the bottom of the tub.  I tried to turn the hot water down with no luck and it wouldn’t even turn off!  I had completely blown out the washer.  Knowing that the water would have to be turned off, but not knowing for how long, I began filling up my water bottles* (the ones I had used for hot water before getting my heating fixed – see Living Bohemian).  Then I went to the garage to turn the heating off and also had to go down to the “Cave” (the cellar – which still had an accumulation of cobwebs), to turn the water completely off.

God again had an angel watching over me.  Colin had offered to help if I needed anything so I gave him a call and he came out and fixed the problem.  He told me it may be temporary because he didn’t have the exact washer but it’s working for now so I again have running water, both hot & cold, and heating.  I’m living a life of luxury!  AND my plumbing problem was fixed on a Sunday!

2 Cave 1 old wine

Old wine in my wine cellar !

* When I was filling the second batch of water bottles I noticed that the water was tinted reddish-brown and realized that the rusty sediment at the bottom of the water tank was being flushed out.  I allowed the water to run until it cleared before filling those bottles then turning off the main water supply.  So, the silver lining is that my water tank got cleaned out, which probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

3 Cave 6 corkscrew

Emergency equipment: a corkscrew

After battling the cobwebs to reach the shut-off valve I was prompted to attack the Cave the next day.  In the process of cleaning it I found some unopened wine stored there – along with an old corkscrew, you know, just in case you got stuck down there sometime.

In between getting the heating fixed and the plumbing excitement I’ve managed to do quite a bit of cleaning, mostly sweeping: floors, stairs, windows, shutters, ceilings, walls, the usual things people sweep.

I’ve also been sorting through things that were left behind by the previous owners.  They left a great art-deco dining set.

5 Dining set - buffet


4 Dining set - table & chair

Hutch with Table and 1 of 6 chairs




In addition there was lots of little stuff left that needed to be sorted into the typical trash, recycle, donate, and keep, classifications.  I really like the old camera, wind-up alarm clocks, and whatever the object is to the right.

6 Odds & Ends

Odds & ends

9 Treasures

More cool stuff

There are also the treasures which make the sorting more like an adventure than work; such as an old school notebook from 1890, a book with notations on holidays between 1909 – 1920.

7 Notebook 1890

School Notebook dating from 1890.

8 Found Book 1909-1920

Book circa 1909-1920

I’ve finally made my way to the attic.  I’m just starting to sort things there and I’ve found a few keepers so far.

10 Attic cobwebs

Attic sky light with cobweb curtain

12 Keepers attic

Attic “Keepers” so far



21 garden shed

The “Garden Shed”

But what would a good adventure be without finding something scary?  I’ve got that covered too…

The “Garden Shed” in the Cœur or courtyard.

Okay, so I already knew it wasn’t really a garden shed before I got started clearing it out (sadly I didn’t take a picture of what was stored inside).  But a peek inside before starting had shown me the tank at the back so I also knew it wasn’t just a hole in the ground outhouse.

22 garden shed

Lurking inside …


When I had cleared everything out, with the exception of a particle-board cover on the floor, I just figured that the toilet bowl had been removed.  Wrong!

Most people have heard of two-seater outhouses …

Well I have my very own two-feeter …

23 - 2 feeter

My “two-feeter”

(otherwise known as a squat toilet).

I had seen one in France several years ago.

I have only needed to utilize one once, in Kenya.

If you have never had the joy of using one may it ever remain so.


I think I’ll go back to work in my cold, semi-dark, cobwebby attic now; it’s much less creepy there.

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Living Bohemian

Two days before moving into my house I had one of those days.  You know the kind, if something could go wrong it would.

My sofa-bed was scheduled to be delivered that afternoon and Christophe, who lived next door to the house I was renting, was coming to give another estimate on the needed electrical work in the morning.

The house has a radiator heating system with the fuel tank and boiler unit in the garage.  I didn’t know how to work the system so I left it off until it could be checked out professionally.

I should mention that Christophe’s company does electrical, heating and plumbing work.

While he was at the house for the estimate I had Christophe look at the heating system.  He turned it on and it seemed to be fine; the radiators were beginning to warm slightly.   We proceeded through the house and I explained how the rooms would be used, what I thought would be needed in the way of outlets, etc. and he made some suggestions.

As we went through the house he pointed out some potential plumbing issues.  Luckily those issues don’t impact the W.C., bathroom or kitchen, all on the first floor which was to be my living quarters for the time being.

But, when he was ready to leave he passed the unit that ran the boiler for the heating.  There was a problem with the motor.  He had another appointment so he couldn’t work on it then.  The boiler being out of commission means that both the heating and hot water system will be out until it can be repaired.

I had been cleaning in the house, a few hours at a time, after the sale was finalized on the 18th of December.  I hadn’t used the heating system but I was bundled up and moving around a lot.  A thermometer there registered 44°F and went up to about 48°F when the sun was shining in.  That wasn’t bad for working a few hours and going home to take a hot shower later.  But, living in that kind of cold, with no hot water, and waiting for a new motor to arrive from Germany, that’s bad news.


Lunchtime My table, chair, & portable heater Unfortunately the fireplace isn’t in working order

(Fortunately Colin, my neighbor near the rental house, had given me a portable heater as a “house warming” gift.)

After a lunch break I did some more cleaning while I waited for the furniture delivery.  When they finally arrived we discovered that the sofa wouldn’t fit through the doorway that leads to the stairs.  (I had measured the staircase but not the door.)  So my sofa-bed is on the ground floor and the room I will be staying in is on the first floor.  The ground floor room is very large with a doorway, but no door, leading to the garage, therefore it can’t be heated sufficiently to change plans and sleep there.

December 31st was my move in date.  After checking out of the rental the owners kindly brought me and my last bit of stuff to my house and I gave them a tour.

I had planned to live rather modestly in the house as I worked my way through it a little at a time.

I had not planned to go quite so Bohemian as it turns out that I have.

My Living Quarters

Séjour: My sleeping, closet, laundry and storage area

I am staying in the Séjour (living/dining room) next to the kitchen.  It’s set up like an open studio apartment.  My only furniture, at this time, is a little table, a chair, an air-mattress, a clothes rack, drying racks and my trusty portable heater (that keeps the rooms at a toasty 60°F).  I have a plastic box to store my dishes, another to store my utensils, and a basket for cleaning supplies.  In the kitchen I have my little refrigerator, a toaster oven, hot-plate and water boiler.

Kitchen first night 31-12-15

The Kitchen:  the hot plate goes on top of the toaster oven when needed

My hot water system is several water bottles filled with water heated in my little electric water boiler.  I use them for rinsing dishes (it’s a single sink) or washing my hands.

The door from the kitchen to the hallway doesn’t close completely; it needs the edge planed down a little.  To keep the heat in my living area I made a make-shift closure by tying some twine to the radiator and looping it around the door knob to hold it nearly shut.

The toilet is at the other end of the house so it’s a cold trek down the hallway and a colder seat when I arrive.  (At least it’s not an outhouse!)

I use one of the bedrooms to store things that I don’t need right at hand.  I went in this morning to get something and I could see my breath.  It’s not all bad, my wine stays chilled and I don’t have to go down to the cave (cellar) to get it.

I celebrated New Year’s Eve as the first night in my house.  I fix a baked potato, poached salmon and roasted broccoli all wrapped in foil packets and baked in the toaster oven, followed by a cinnamon baked apple.  And, of course, champagne!

New Year’s brunch was fried toast and egg scrambled with smoked salmon.

It’s a rough life! – But I’m still enjoying it.


A note on logistics:  The heating should be repaired in a couple of weeks.  I’ll arrange for a moving company to raise the couch to the first floor to bring it in through the balcony and while they’re here they will bring up the dining room set that the former owners left.  I’ll explore some nearby towns for a few overnighters and proper showers in hotels; I have a little camping shower here for in between.

It’s all about improvising.


Update:  My heating is now in working order and I have running hot water !

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Lost in Translation

I think my brain cells have gone on strike.  I just got back from the bank after doing business entirely in French.

I had received a notice from my French bank that required me to fill out a form and return it to the bank.  I had received something similar about three months prior so when I returned the most recent form I added a note stating that I hoped to keep the account since I was living in France and the bank was convenient for local business.

From what I understand US banking regulations have complicated the ability for Americans to have bank accounts in France.  Either the French bank has to be registered with the U.S. securities & exchange commission (none of the banks in Uzerche are) or must justify why the American should be able to maintain an account with their bank.

The French bank counselor and I got off to a fairly good start with the help of his manager to explain that I needed to verify that I was residing in France.  I suppose I was doing adequately up to that point because he then handed me pen & paper and told me I needed to write a letter stating …  I had to stop him before he got very far and explain that I would have to do a translation to be able to write what was needed.

I did get the gist of what he was telling me to write but my brain was translating it and thinking the response in English.  Besides, my spelling in French leaves much to be desired.  So he typed the statement on his computer and let me copy it.

Then it started going downhill.  There was a question as to what address I should use.  I gave the address for my second house but he asked if I was living there now.  No, but I would be in four days.  Where are you living now? I gave the address of the rental and said I only had four days left there.  Well it shows this address (the first house) on your visa.  Yes, I use that as a mailing address but I can’t live there.  What address is on your electric or water bill?  I don’t have a water or electric bill* because the sale of the second house was just completed 10 days ago.

By this time my brain cells were beginning to rebel but I tried my best to explain:

The visa paperwork in the U.S. has the address of my first house since I thought I would be living there by now.  But after discovering delays, cost, and additional problems that I was previously unaware of, I decided to rent a house instead.  So when I completed the French portion of my long stay visa I provided documentation for the rental house as my residence but maintained the address of my first house to receive mail.  After that I decided to buy the house next door to my original house so now, in 4 days actually, I will be living in the second house that I bought and will use that address.

The explanation is a bit complicated even in English.  But it’s even more complicated to describe in French, especially if you apply a conceptual thinking approach in addition to the language issues.

(Buying a second house to work on because one can’t complete the first house one bought to work on defies logic in some people’s minds.  –  For me it just keeps life interesting.)

It was decided that I will write an explanation of my ‘situation’ in English and drop it off at the bank and my banking counselor will have a friend translate it for him.

Now I’m off for a nap to give my brain cells a well-deserved rest.  I’ll need them in good working order when my sofa-bed is delivered tomorrow.


(*Fortunately a statement of service from the electric company arrived in the mail today and I took it to the bank later so they could make a copy for their records.)

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It’s a Small World –or– Thank God for ALL Favors

I met Colin last October.  He is restoring his two houses a few doors down from the rental house.

He had found some of my Uzerche pins and started following me on Pinterest before my move here earlier this year.  When I noted my blog on Pinterest he started reading it.  So he knew who I was prior to our meeting.  Small World!

I happened to be walking by after he read my post The To Much To Do List; he offered to help and mentioned he would be going in to Brive in a day or two and could take me along.

I accepted his offer and we went into Brive on Tuesday.  He had a couple of stops so he showed me around those stores so I would have an idea where to find some of the things I would need as I progress through my more advanced to do list.  (Yes I have more than one list.)  We also looked around some other shops in that area.

Conforama, the furniture store that I wanted to visit, was on the other side of Brive so we headed there only to discover that they were closed for a typical French two hour lunch.  We went into the town center and had lunch while we waited for the store to reopen.

The parking turned out to be an adventure.  We got the ticket when we arrived.  After lunch we put the ticket in the slot at the kiosk and it said no charge.  I didn’t see further instructions so we drove up to the gate but the arm didn’t go up.  We parked again and watched others put the ticket in a slot by the gate.  But now our ticket was in the machine at the kiosk; so how do we get out???  I asked someone who was getting ready to leave and they turned out to be very helpful.  There was an intercom at the kiosk but the attendant didn’t speak English so the fellow I asked explained our situation.  We were able to retrieve the ticket from the kiosk then proceed to the gate to put it into that slot and finally exit.

It was a little worrisome for a while not knowing how we were going to get out.  But thanks to a very nice and patient French couple we were finally on our way again.

Conforama had reopened after lunch and I was able to order a sofa-bed for delivery.

The store charges a delivery fee per item not per delivery so Colin put the other items in his van and took them to my house.  I selected a small refrigerator (about 85 cm. high) so it was easy to manage.  I picked up a couple of other items that he transported for me as well.

We were right next to a supermarket so I was able to pick up what I wanted for my Christmas dinner without having to make the trek to one of the markets in Uzerche.

This was all immensely helpful and to me a huge favor.

I gave Colin a tour of my house when he brought the things in.  As it turns out he is quite handy with a variety of tasks and does some local work so I now have another resource when I am ready to move forward with additional work in the future.

The following evening I went to Jo’s for a Christmas Eve-Eve dinner.  I spent a very pleasant evening with Jo and two of her neighbors.  Great food and wonderful company.  The next day she drove me back to Uzerche and is letting me borrow a few items, a hot plate and a toaster oven, and gave me a few other things I can use.

I am very thankful, not just for the favors that people are doing for me, but for the people I have had the privilege to meet and, I hope, call friends.



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The Too Much To Do List

Making a list and checking it twice …

No I’m not playing Santa.  I’m getting ready to move into my house by the end of the year!

Originally I thought the Acte Authentique (transfer deed) would be signed on December 30th so I planned to extend my stay at the rental house through January.  But since I will be signing on the 18th I decided to save a month’s rent and move in by December 31st.  That leaves a rather challenging and optimistic schedule to get just the necessities handled.  But, as those who know me well can attest, I’m not particularly disposed to choosing the easiest route to my objective.

Complicating this schedule are the holidays.  The French take their holidays seriously; no questions about businesses staying open here, they just don’t.  Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Fridays, Sunday’s, if open at all, shops are generally only open half day, most shops are closed Mondays and it is very common to bridge a holiday near a weekend, potentially knocking out Saturday and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they close early on the eve of the holidays.  I haven’t noticed extended hours for Christmas shopping, it does happen but it isn’t prevalent.  They tend to stick with sales, in store seasonal displays, and add in a few holiday boutique markets.

Today, thanks to a very patient agent, I was able to bumble my way through getting things arranged for my house insurance utilizing only rudimentary French.  To finalize the insurance I will need to meet with an agent at my house so they can view the condition.  That appointment will be set via email then I may need to go to Tulle to sign the papers since that’s where the policy for the first house was written.  It will take several days to arrange it all but the policy will be effective as of the signing date.

Check one thing off the list.

Tomorrow I will go to Brive-la-Gaillarde (thankfully known as Brive for short) to start shopping for furniture.  I have a second trip allotted for Saturday if necessary.  I’ve already been looking on line but I don’t want to buy a mattress without trying it first.  I don’t anticipate problems in finding items it’s trying to get timely delivery that is concerning to me.  It’s likely that delivery schedules are affected by the holidays either through volume or vacation schedules.

I have started to pack some things that I know I won’t need for the next few weeks and gather things that I may need so they can easily be packed as I’ve finished with them.  Fortunately I don’t have furniture to move.  The biggest items are my wire drying racks so that’s a plus.

I’m working on a laundry schedule to have almost all of my clothes clean and the linens for the rental house washed and hopefully dry on my move out date.  Without a clothes dryer it’s necessary to plan a day or two for drying time between loads.  I don’t anticipate having a washing machine for a couple of weeks after the move and the local laundromat has been closed so this is a critical step.

I’ve also setting up menus to use up my perishable food here.  Then the uncertainty of having a refrigerator available means some creative meal plans will be required for the first several days at my house.

There is a lot of cleaning required at my house.  A couple of year’s accumulation of dust and cobwebs and disuse of bath, sink & toilet means a great deal of elbow grease will be required throughout.  The bathroom and the kitchen sink will be the first areas to tackle.  Then brushing down ceiling and walls before sweeping floors; followed by a good old-fashioned floor scrub on hands and knees.  The bath, kitchen & bedroom will probably be the only rooms to get a thorough cleaning before I move in.

Once all my personal belongings are out of the rental house it will need a good going over too.  I’ve been keeping the day-to-day work up but it will need a final dust, sweep & mop on move out.  And I can’t forget to defrost the freezer and wipe out the fridge too.

Jo, my local friend and personal angel, will again help me, with moving things from the rental and possibly arranging some muscle to move the some furniture into and around in the house.

I’m getting exhausted just thinking about all there is To Do!

So I’ll take a deep breath …  and prioritize tasks by: Can’t Wait, Shouldn’t Wait, and Must Wait.

Although I would never literally paint myself into a corner I sure have a knack for doing it figuratively.

Fortunately I’m able to laugh at myself; it relieves some of the tension and lightens the mood.

Wish me luck!  –  Please!

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