Monday, November 30, 2009

How I came to be here. Part 4

My first impressions of the house, Wow! great views but Hmm quite a lot of work to be done on the interior and the garden, luckily most of it cosmetic and MG is a whizz when it comes to DIY so his work was cut out for him for the foreseeable future.

The house had originally been a village farmhouse built in 1873, mainly built out of the purloined stone from the then crumbling medieval chateau at the top of the lane (now fully restored with new stone purloined from somewhere else). The house had been bought as a derelict, wreck in the early sixties by a French diplomatic family based in Morocco, who renovated it sixties style.

For the first month we stayed at our friends holiday cottage, as the whole house had to be rewired, MG was in Paris all week returning at weekends, so I was driving to the house every day to get stuck into the task of re decorating. I started off in what was to be our bedroom the first job was all the preparation work, I remember endless filling of cracks and sanding down, the first attempts were umm dodgy to say the least, but with each new room I improved, Monsieur Carniato the French, Gitanes smoking electrician whom was single handidly rewiring the house would often survey my work, with a critical eye then suggest a new improved way of doing things, some which worked and some, well, dismal failure.

Once the house had been rewired, our bedroom finished and a Satellite dish installed so I could watch British TV and most importantly listen to radio 4 whilst working I moved in, it was a weekday, MG was in Paris, It was just me and the bats, I had a celebratory bottle of rosé and then, deciding the house had a good feel to it, ran round all the rooms whooping with joy!

The next few months involved endless decisions on tiles, flooring, white goods, etc. MG came home every weekend to do plumbing, measuring, yet more filling and sanding, we went to Ikea to choose kitchens and all the other bits. We also signed up as WWOOF hosts, and I had company and help during the week, from a succession of fabulous Woofers.

Luckily for us with the help of the Woofers we could do most of the work ourselves, it was a couple of years later, when we decided to landscape the garden, that we ran into problems, we needed skilled builders and stone masons. I have yet to find anyone living in France who has not had a story involving the difficulty of obtaining skilled labour, we had difficulty getting quotes let alone any works being carried out.

fortunately seven years later, we have finished the house, well as finished as an old house ever can be, they need constant work and attention and there are still a few works to be done, which involve planning permission, which is a bureaucratic nightmare in France.

So here I am typing this at the laptop, MG no longer works in Paris he has set up his own company and now works from home, we also acquired a lovely dog, I am sure you have noticed his picture, I will tell you all about him in a future post. I now also work from home. Living somewhere as rural as this does do my head in sometimes, when I visit towns or cities it is a joy to cast off my fleece and wellies for high heels and sophisticated clothes, visit lovely shops, cafés and restaurants, visit friends and do cultural things.

One always thinks the grass is greener but now, I think we are ready for a new challenge.......

Monday, November 23, 2009

iPhone love and the Puppini sisters

There has been a technical revolution going on in this household over the weekend, MG took delivery of his brand new iPhone 3GS on Friday, now I don't normally get excited about gadgets but all weekend I have been playing with it and muttering "amazing, so clever, so easy to use, gosh and it does that too" even the box it came in is a thing of beauty, I am completely won over and very jealous of MG because I want one too.

We have also been listening to The Puppini Sisters, they are fab, their style is a modern take on the Andrews sisters, retro, kitch, swing and burlesque, the arrangement on their albums (Betcha Bottom Dollar and The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo) is excellent.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How I came to be here. Part 3

Oh my God!

Sometimes in life you have to go backwards to go forwards and this is what we did. After much discussion, we felt that the only option we had was to return to the famous spa town in Northern England to regroup. Unfortunately I had sold my flat, because I had become fed up with dealing with unreliable tenants and insurance claims from afar (The lady upstairs had let her bath overflow, causing considerable damage to the ceiling in the master bedroom). So I had to enlist the help of my mother to search for something furnished we could rent.

Once suitable accommodation had been secured and most of our furniture and worldly goods had been put into storage, we moved back, now as you can imagine this was a huge shock to the system, the flat we had rented was small and poky, I can still remember the look on MG's face as he looked round the flat, which took all of five seconds, he needed a very large whisky to soften the blow.

This was a bit of a rocky period so I wont elaborate on it, I started temping which was pretty soul destroying and MG was permanently glued to the PC, working on his CV, trying to find work and getting hooked on Medal of Honour. Eventually MG was offered a position and what do you know! The new job was based in Paris. So he was now back in Paris from Monday to Friday.

This was when we decided it would be a good time to buy a property, we could not wait to escape from the poky flat, but where? property prices were going through the roof in the Northern spa town and we did not really want to stay there anyway, so as we had friends living in South West France, MG decided that for the next few weekends he would fly down there to look at properties.

One evening, he called me, very excited he had found something suitable with amazing views and within the next few days put an offer in, alas it was not to be, the french estate agent (crocodile) had some Belgian's interested in the property and they had put in a higher offer, MG put in another offer, in effect this became a Dutch auction scenario, so we went on holiday and forgot all about it, when we got back the crocodile had left a message saying Belgian's no longer interested, MG was by now thoroughly pissed off with the crocodile and he found out the house was on with another estate agent and did the deal with them, the crocodile did not even have a mandate to sell the property and we doubt the existence of any Belgian's.

So house in France nearly secured, we made preparations to get stuff out of storage, packed up and gave notice on the poky flat.

Soon we were on our way to a new life in South West France, I still had not seen what was to become our new home.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

How I came to be here. Part 2

MG had recently moved to a lovely apartment in a hotel particulier, on Rue Jacob in the sixth arrondissement, so this was where we spent the first year of our life together, looking back I realise how privileged we were, living just around the corner from the three famous cafés, Les deux magots, café de Flore and Brasserie Lipp. As I finished work earlier than MG I often used to get a table outside Les deux Magots, order an aperitif, read my book and wait for him to join me. It was bliss, I became a real left bank girl, spending hours exploring and wandering around the labyrinth of streets in the Latin quarter. We did a lot of shopping, wining and dining and at weekends when we didn't have friends staying, we would often get out of the city and explore new places such as Deauville, Hornfleur, St Malo, Fontainbleu, The Loire and lots of other places.

After about a year the contract was up on our apartment and we had to look for another. Now anybody who has rented an appartment in Paris will know this is easier said than done, you see one advertised, either in the paper, Fusac or through an immoblier, then you usually turn up to a mass viewing, and if you want it, you more or less have to decide on the spot. Most importantly you need to have all the right paperwork with you, proof of earnings, ID, references etc. so that the agent can decide who is the most suitable, earns the most money etc. It took a while and a few viewings to get our duplicate packs spot on, then either MG or myself whoever was nearer and available would go to a viewing and if it looked promising call the other and describe it. Rue Jacob was a hard act to follow but many viewings later we moved into an apartment on Rue Lord Byron (Great name) in the eighth, Just off the Champs Elysées.

The apartment was lovely, however I had become attached to the left Bank and most people who live in Paris hardly ever go on the Champ as it can be a tourist trap and most of the establishments on the Champ are overrated and overpriced.

Shortly after moving I got a new job, miles out of central Paris, I had to get the RER to Massy-Palaiseu and then take a special coach to the industrial Park where the office was, this took about an hour each way. The good news was the company paid half my travel costs and gave me a book of luncheon vouchers, worth around €120.00 a month, as the only eating establishment in the industrial park was a Buffalo Grill, I took a packed lunch and blew the entire book every month, in a fancy restaurant (Just about all restaurants in France, from the most humble to the grandest, accept luncheon vouchers) and treated MG to a slap up meal.

At the end of our second year, disaster struck, MG'S work contract was not renewed and the bottom had fallen out of his industry, so he was finding it difficult to find a new position. We could no longer afford to stay at the apartment.

Some of Samplers favourite resturants in Paris

  • Brasserie Galopin - 40 Rue Notre Dame des Victoires, 75002, Metro Bourse.
  • Brasserie Ille Saint Louis - 55 Quai Bourbon, 75004, Metro St Michel, Notre Dame.
  • La Coupole - 102, bd du Montparnasse, 75014, Metro Montparnasse
  • Le Train Bleu, Gare de Lyon, 75012, Metro Gare de Lyon

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How I came to be here. Part 1

Me and Monsieur Grognon got together about 11 years ago, at the time I was living in a well known spa town in Northern England and MG had been living and working in Paris for two years, we had known each other for ages, but through mutual friends and finding ourselves both attracted to each other and available, one weekend whilst MG was over, visiting the mutual friends, we finally got it together, and after a night of passion, exchanged phone numbers.

MG returned to Paris, after trying to play it cool for two weeks, he finally called and invited me over to Paris for the weekend, I packed my weekend bag and off I trotted. A pattern began to emerge for the next year, once a month I went to visit him in Paris for weekends and occasionally he would visit me in the UK, but lets face it Paris is much more romantic than Northern England!

After about a year, things came to a head, having beaten off the competition, yes MG had been keeping his options open, with various floozy's most of which were of the trolley dolly persuasion (apologies to all cabin crew, but they were floozy's) eventually I managed to secure a job in Paris, and persuaded MG, a huge commitment phobe, that it would be a very good idea if we lived together, and see how it went. I rented out my flat, packed two very large suitcases and off I went without a backwards glance.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dear Santa

Whilst living in Paris I discovered Diptyque, they have a wonderful shop on Boulevard Saint Germain, pure scented heaven! Their scented candles are the Rolls Royce of candles hence the rather expensive price tag of €40.00 and €50.00 for special editions, boy are they worth it, the subtle fragrance permeates rooms making them smell beautiful and they last for ages.

They do have stockists in most cities, although it is a bit difficult to obtain one of these gorgalicious items of luxury, if like me, you live in the middle of nowhere, but I have just discovered that you can buy them mail order from le Bon Marché.

So if your feeling flush and fancy a luxury splurge either as a gift or just to cheer yourself up this is the perfect solution; Oh, if Santa's listening, Feu de Bois is my favourite!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Just rambling really

Today has been a good day, the sun has just set and the mountains are clearly outlined against the darkening sky. I woke up this morning feeling content and happy which is unusual especially as yesterday we spent the afternoon and evening with good friends eating and drinking copious amounts of wine, I should by rights have a stonking hangover but maybe the fact that we got home before 10pm and the soluble paracetamol washed down with litres of water helped.

The reason for this happy state of affairs is the weather, it is glorious to wake up and look at the view from bed when the sun is shining and the snow capped mountains are so crisp that you feel you can touch them. The temperature has been in the low twenties all day which is pretty good for mid November.

Of course nothing much happened today, which is where my discontent lies, NOTHING ever bloody happens here life just seems to slip by, I know I am being a bit whiny and should go out and make things happen etc. But honestly there is nothing to do after all daily chores are taken care of except walking, cycling and outdoor pursuits, it is very hilly, and we are talking steep!
(actually this is lie, there is always plenty to do in the house and garden but I am very lazy and always put off what I can do today, tomorrow)

The nearest town is a ten minute drive, it is not particularly pretty although they do their best in the summer with beautiful floral displays, in fact the town actually looks like it was bombed in the second world war, and then rebuilt with extremely ugly 50s 60s architecture but this is not the case. The town has not got one decent restaurant, cafe or bar (A handful of poor ones) it has got a few decent shops and lots of opticians (not with a practicing optician, you have to go to a big town for that, just frames and lenses) and for some inexplicable reason 25 hairdressing salons, do hairdressers get some kind of tax break in France?

Anyway you get the picture, please excuse my ramblings, but I am a maiden blogger, I will improve. Think I will go and pour Monsieur Grognon and myself a large glass of Vin rouge, look in the fridge for something to rustle up for dinner and settle down in front of the box for the evening.