For many people the Global Financial Crisis was a time of pulling in the belt and anxiously watching the news. For us the economic downturn enabled us to fulfil a dream and buy a stone house in the town of Sarlat — la – Caneda in SW France.
I set off to France in September of 2010 on a discovery mission, my job was to do some ground work, get a handle on the market, make a short list for Alex and I to view together when he arrived in France a couple of weeks later. Our chosen area was a small part of the Dordogne as close to the medieval town of Sarlat as possible.
I fell in love with the first house I saw. Oh my goodness I thought to myself I can’t phone Alex and tell him I’ve bought the first (and only) house I have seen so I pushed on touring around the French countryside with various agents and looking at house after house. BUT I still kept coming back to the stone house sitting high on the hill above Sarlat.
After numerous long distance conversations and photos winging through cyber space we made an offer on the house and to our delight it was accepted. We never thought we would be able to afford a house so close to such a popular town as Sarlat, however all the planets aligned as they sometimes do and we found ourselves the proud owners of an old stone house sitting on 2000 sq metres of land 600 metres from the medieval town square.
No-one really knows the history of the house other than it started its life as a shepherds hut and sheep shed and over time has grown to the eclectic mix of rooms it currently is. We do know we have an arrow slit in the cave (basement) and as the house sits on top of a hill and the area is where the 100 years war was fought we wonder if the cave at one time was a defensive building.
We flew back to Sydney with a thousand plans in our heads and set about packing up our lives to move to our new French home. The paperwork to move to France was quite staggering and unbeknown to us at the time was just a small introduction into the bureaucratic nightmare that is France.
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At Last We Arrive..and so does our furniture.
We arrived at the house in March 2011 at the tail end of a cold winter, as we walked up the hill from the town very early in the morning we encountered a pair of deer trotting along the road. Our worldly goods were due to arrive later that morning and we were keen to get to the house and get started on our new French life.
The outgoing owners had left the house in pretty good condition and the gardens were tidy, however they had taken every light fitting in the place leaving bare wires hanging from the ceiling and all the toilet roll holders from the bathrooms. Now none of these things were of any value and they were all pretty ugly which we would have replaced, but a) we found it bizarre anyone could want to take a $2 plastic stick on toilet paper holder, and b) it was a damn inconvenience having not 1 light fitting in the place when it got dark at 4pm.
As we were wandering around the property (still scratching our heads at the missing loo holders and lights) the truck driver arrived at the door to tell us he was parked at the bottom of the hill. Our new property has difficult access and the removalists had organised a smaller van to ferry our belongings up the hill…but where were they? An hour or so passes with no sign of them, the truck driverwas getting cranky and we were getting worried, calls to our removal agent in France go unanswered and we were starting to think we were going to have to unload the truck on the side of the road and somehow ferry it up the hill ourselves. Finally they arrive at 100 miles an hour up the hill, the head guy leaps out of the van and starts yelling at us that we had given them the wrong address. Our address is La Peyriere and they had gone to an area up the road called Les Perieres, similar pronunciation but definitely a different place. They insisted they were right and we had got it wrong and my French was not good enough to say “Um I think we know the address of our property..” so I ignored them and just got on with it.
For the next few days we pretty much lived in the kitchen with the single bedside lamp as our only light source.
Over the next week or so we unpacked our belongings, bought a car and started to settle into French life.
Getting a visa for AP was next on our list, I am a British citizen and AP is my legal partner so the French cannot refuse him entry under EU law so how hard can it be..yep its hard and saw us having to leave the country before it was sorted..