My intentions to blog earlier this month were unfortunately scuppered by developing a really bad case of la grippe (flu!), followed by my mandatory bout of bronchitis. As someone who had whooping cough as a child, I find most decent colds or flu go this way, I don’t know about anyone else…

Nonetheless, the last few weeks have been pivotal in our move – we received (most of) our items from the UK via our British delivery courier. No longer are we using the strange mid-90s furniture that we inherited when we bravely/crazily (delete as appropriate!) moved into our 1930’s traditional French home in the middle of January and the deep snow of the French winter.

Delivery Day

We’ve spent weeks unpacking, and still have a few boxes lurking in the kitchen while we work on our storage system. Right now we have four cupboards and very limited kitchen work surface, so my partner has identified some decent looking wood that the previous owner left in the top woodshed, and he’s brought it down to make some shelves. Hopefully once this – and a few more – are made we will be free of wading through cardboard to get to the dinner table!

Outside, the good weather has returned and with it my desire to get out in the garden. One of the highlights of our furniture delivery was the receipt of all of our plants. I was really upset on the day of the move – what seems a million years ago now, but in reality, was just December 2018 – because we didn’t have enough room to bring any plants whatsoever. Our lovely Bristol neighbours very kindly agreed to look after them for us until they could be collected by the courier, and so they joined our furniture in the big delivery. Last night over a glass of wine my fiancé and I pondered the new locations for our various plants. We’ve made some decisions and I’m sure I’ll be taking some pictures later on as they go into the ground and when they come into their own in flower in a few weeks. I’m really excited about that.

For now, I’m preparing to get out to the potager – well, to first create the potager, all we have at the moment is lawn. So I’ve pegged out the space that I’m going to use (thanks for all of your input on where to put our beds on my Instagram stories!) and will get the tiller out shortly to get that lovely french soil ready for use. Wish me luck!

Lx

 

Well, that’s a strange thing to type.

By this time next week, I do hope that we shall be on our way to Folkstone to make our planned channel tunnel journey to France. Buying a one-way ticket felt like a big moment. It is a big moment. I’ve been talking to people on Instagram this week about the process and it is a weird feeling now that it all seems as though things are starting to come together.

For so long we were wrapped up in getting the house sold, choosing a house in France, sorting pet passports (!!) and the myriad of other tasks which needed to be correctly and meticulously resolved so that we can move. I think the delays to our exchange happening on the house in the UK became the most intense period of this process. As so much investment of time, energy, hope – and not least money – had already been sunk into working towards this outcome.

Now we are almost there, seven days to go. Our LeShuttle ticket is booked. We all have our passports ready (yes, even the cats). We’ve booked our storage and are working on an inventory. Work for me is over, my partner is finishing the last days of his role. It’s so weird. Brilliant, a relief, but also now a bit scary.

The only time I’ve ever had this feeling before has been in the run-up to my first marriage – where six weeks of intense planning resulted in a very stressful lead up to a brilliant party and overall fantastic day. I remember distinctly though that I didn’t really realise that I was getting married until I sat in the car with my dad, on the way to the ceremony. There has been so much to do, manage and set-up that my consciousness hadn’t had the chance to appreciate the gravity of the situation. I feel that now too.

Except for the fact that this time, I don’t feel fear. And I hope that is because this is the right thing to do for us. That we are going to make changes to our lifestyle so that the things that we currently don’t enjoy in the UK can be put down. And replaced by some of the things that we love in France. Also, it really feels like an adventure. And for me, this is probably the biggest, riskiest, most exciting thing that I have ever done.

So please do wish us luck. We haven’t even tried to see all the people that we love in the UK, and with airfare between Bristol and Limoges being as low as £5.99 with Ryanair for a single ticket, I don’t feel a sense of finality. I know that we will be back. Probably not for a few months while we sort things and move into the new place, but my hope is that this new life gives us both more time for us, for spending with the people that we care about, and for doing the things that are really important to us.

I may not blog again before we go, but I am working hard at becoming more active over on Instagram and started with my ramblings on Instagram stories this week. Do check them out if you’re a fan of inane waffle and predominantly unkempt hair… speaking of which, I just bought a beret because I’m a walking chiché and I couldn’t help myself.

So for now, au revoir!

Laura x

Picking up where I left off earlier this week – we were about to sign the compromis

After re-viewing the house we took a little walk around the village to the local boulangerie (we have to be sure the essentials are there after all!) and to one of the two bars in the village (C’est occupé, non?!) for a coffee. Now when I say bar – it’s not a bar such as you might find in the UK. It’s a tabac. Which is basically a corner shop/newsagent with seating and alcohol. Sounds like a winner to me too.

 

After our fantastic and incredibly cheap coffees, we headed down to the local lake. Its about 3-4 minutes drive from the house max, and maybe 15-20 minutes walk (I have short legs, honest). It was deserted. So tranquil, so litter free, just gorgeous. Here are a few pictures:

 

 

 

On from there, we drove on to Saint Léonard de Noblat for a walk around, nosing in the windows of the medieval-looking village and the closed shops that we were presented with as we had arrived in the middle of the French lunch-time. It was bitterly cold so we were more enthused than we might otherwise have been to head over to the notaire’s office.

A great thing about Haute Vienne that we have noticed so far, is that parking is plentiful and free. Even a small village usually has a large free car-park, I suppose recognising that la voiture is probably the most common means of visitors coming to the village, and so they are catered for. And we are grateful.

Meeting the notaire we switch back into French, and here I had a rude reminder that my French – while perfectly adequate for ordering in a restaurant, or resolving a question with a shopkeeper – is still woefully behind. The speed at which the notaire spoke made me glad of our lovely translator. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t understand what was said, I could pick out words, phrases and housebuying terms which I have now become familiar with, but that I was anxious that I would miss something. Signing the Compromis-de-Vente is in the

favour of the purchaser. Once signed it binds the vendor into the sale meaning that they cannot find another purchaser – however I as the buyer have 10 days within which to change my mind. I can cancel within this period and not have to complete the sale. That in itself is a comfort. Because while our new (old) French house is not expensive by British standards, it is still a considerable amount of money and we have decided to spend a little more so as to have a house which we hope will have fewer issues than some of those that we visited.

After environ 30 different sets of initials on each side of the contract papers, as well as signatures and writing out of statements (in English, mercifully) we were complete, and we bid the notaire goodbye with the promise of sending 80€ via our new French bank account to take care of the processing. It was all over within an hour and fairly painlessly, we are due to return in a few months – all being well – to sign the acte de vente, however, we anticipate (big fingers crossed here) being in the country by then and so booking in a firm date for that was not necessary.

The rest of the weekend was spent mooching around the local shops, finding a reasonably local bio-shop for our plant-based foods and catching a flight back to the UK. We are now sat in England waiting for our chain to reach the stage where they can exchange so that we can get on with the tasks of giving notice to jobs and booking channel crossings. I am crossing everything that this happens very soon… and you can keep up-to-date with all the latest happenings over on my Instagram account.

This weekend we had the pleasure of visiting department 87 Haute Vienne again to re-view our house-to-be, and to attend to the bigger issue of signing the compromis de vente. The purchase of a house in France is very different from that of the UK, and from our experience so far, much more satisfying.

On Friday we headed over from Bristol to Limoges on a budget Ryanair flight costing the princely sum of £9.99 for a single. Given that the price of a ticket for the bus to the airport has gone up to £4.50 single, and decreased frequency of buses to once every 30 minutes (First Bus sticking one last knife in before we escape…) this seemed like a bit of a bargain. This time our flight from Bristol was uneventful, and after a game of musical chairs with the people sat next to us on the flight, we even managed to sit together (Ryanair charge around £6.99 for the pleasure of being seated with your travelling companion, and we can live without each other for 1 hour and 15 minutes…) but our neighbours couldn’t, and so we benefitted.

We chose to stay at a yoga retreat in Sussac this weekend where we met some fantastic Brits who have already started their French adventure. After welcoming us in and a brilliant dinner with our hosts we slept soundly knowing that we would have the whole of Sunday with NO JOBS. Can you imagine? The list of jobs in the UK is as long as your arm. For example – sell the sofa, sell the fridge, buy a new bigger car that can fit the cats in, sell the insensible car, get a French bank account, close down the business etc. We have so many jobs we have a shared Trello board. I kid you not. So with our job-free-Sunday, we decided to explore the area in our hire car and visited the enormous Lac de Vassiviere on the border of Haute Vienne and Creuse. Being eternal optimists we had not bargained on this weekend being the weekend that the French winter would begin, so we were suitably admonished by the freezing cold for being coat-less but had a great day out which included visiting a traditional monthly market in La Croisille Sur Briance (pictures over on Instagram).

Monday was crunch day and the reason for our visit. We spent the morning visiting The House again and decided on all the things that the vendor would take or sell. Since we have aspirations to start a business as brocanteurs together once we arrive, we decided that most everything could stay if the vendor can’t be bothered to take things, and made a note of a few things to ask the estate agent about once we returned to the UK and have the facilities of Google Translate. We have been having all of our visits and communication with our agent in French, so this has really been testing my abilities, but we manage and anything that isn’t understood we iron out over email.

This post has become way more full than I intended so I shall close here and continue again tomorrow with details of our encounter with the notaire – and that’s where it gets spendy…

It sure does.

We’ve been working out what to do for the best in terms of getting us, our two teenage cats and the much-pared-down contents of our three-bed house across the channel and down to the French countryside.

It turns out, moving internationally is quite pricey. Who knew?! (Well, I guessed…)

A quick punt on Anyvan produced a four-figure quote, and I refuse to pay anyone that much money for belongings that I probably picked up on eBay or from a Bristolian charity shop.

SO where does that leave us? Well firmly in the land of a DIY move I should think. And anyone who has had the misfortune of doing this before has I’m sure, shuddered at merely reading those words. (I’m sorry for any flashbacks of loading a sofa onto the roof bars of a Toyota Avensis in the rain this may conjure).

packing the lounge

It’s still going to cost, but hopefully around a quarter of the quote if we self-drive, still things to consider are:

– flight costs to Limoges

– XL van hire

– return ferry fare France – UK

– loading all by ourselves 🎻

– loading the cats, and the long drive back to France

Plus so many more things I can’t bring myself to list now. One glimmer of positivity is that on the interview call to set up my French bank account this morning I’ve received an offer with an international moving company who offer free storage for a short period of time. That might help.

For now, here’s a peek at the state of us mid-international move…

packing the hall packing the kitchen