To start off, let's introduce the main players in this French adventure. The husband called Keith and his wife Marijke, the writer of this story, are both living in Australia with their two daughters Yasmin and Zoe currently aged 22 and 16.
I have wanted to set ‘pen to paper’ about this French adventure for quite some time now. Usually ambitions like this tend to get on the back burner and not often see the light of day. Lack of time and/or urgency - whatever..... but not this time, though!
We created the blog, I wrote the first post and here is number 2!
France not yet a reality!
So rather then going to live in France in 2012 we ended up staying in Australia. We kind off ‘chickened’ out, but it seemed the better choice at the time. Economically Europe was heading for a black hole and Australia seemed to keep its head above water.
We faced new starts at Uni and high school for the girls, meaning the commitment to another era – or the equivalent of 5 long years. We are almost at the end but in the meantime I have chiseled away to set some French things in motion.
A "Europe" holiday instead
We did end up making a short trip to Europe. Keith's 50th birthday coincided with the Olympic Games in London. We tend to do 'special things' for 'special occasions' and Keith had set his mind on scoring some Olympic tickets.
He went in the ‘lottery’ for as many events as possible and lucky for him, he got them all. Less fortunate for the bank balance but then again going to the Olympics is one of those ‘once-in-a-life time’ experiences especially if they are being held in the town where you grew up. Ironically and rather painful, Keith's family who happens to live in London did not score a single ticket….!
Paris, Montpellier and more of Languedoc...
We also decided to explore a bit more of France. Zoe, at that time 12, being young and care-free had set her mind on shopping in Paris – with our money!! We opted for the area where we originally had planned to live - Montpellier and surroundings.
We spent a couple of days in down town Montpellier and then chose to stay a bit longer in a 14th century former winery in Sommieres, a pretty town north east of Montpellier. The Swiss owners of this recently renovated property, Mas de la Rivoire caused my dreams and imagination to go haywire and before long I was trying to convince Keith of the advantages of owning a property in France.
Initially Keith was not that keen but my mind was racing. I could see it, smell it and almost touch it. From then on anywhere we went I assessed with a buyer’s mind and debated the pros and cons with Keith who as a 'real Brit' only slowly got more enthusiastic.
Buying a French house.....??
The region around Montpellier is cheaper than Provence but pricier than the South of Languedoc. The scenery is beautiful, it has many cultural sites and we gave several towns a tick! One of my favourites was Uzes, a dazzling market town with an attractive town square and centre. I wandered slightly off the beaten track and found some great little streets where I could envision myself straightaway. Uzes is on the list of ‘les plus beau villages’ and it is indeed very pretty, but also rather touristy and busy. I made a mental note whether that could be a bit of a hindrance.
After our short visit to Sommieres we would head to Spain, near Roses on the Costa Brava where my sister owns a house. She was doing her best to persuade us to buy in Spain instead. Unquestionably cheaper but the fact that I don’t speak a word of Spanish, let alone Catalan and we prefer the food in France, Spain was not a real alternative for us.
On our way South we checked out Sete, a bit like Venice, surrounded by the water of the Mediterranean and the Etang de Thau. Sete is a busy port town and popular with tourists. It started to doom on me that rather touristy places may have some features that I am not that keen on. It was time to sit down and brainstorm, write a list of wants and don’t wants and see from there.
However at that stage, we were on our way to Spain and were looking forward to a week in my sister’s 300 year old Mas with its stunning outdoor area and sparkling pool.
Nevertheless the idea about buying a French property had been born, at least in my mind and I secretly planned to investigate this further.
Which I successfully did......