It was 12 years ago today that Walt and I became the owners of this house we live in near Saint-Aignan, in the Loire Valley. I'm sure that on April 24, 2003, we had no idea what our lives were going to be like over the next dozen years. But the fact is, we were homeless — we had sold our house in San Francisco with the idea that we would soon be moving, lock, stock, and barrel, to France. We were spending time with friends in the SF Bay Area and in the Sierra foothills, waiting for our French long-stay visas to be granted — with fingers crossed.
We didn't actually come to France for what they call les signatures — the closing. Instead, we made an appointment at the Consulat de France in SF and signed a procuration — a power of attorney — giving our real estate agent in Montrichard the legal permission to sign the papers for us on April 24. All we had to do was wire the money over here from the Bank of America. We had faith that it would all work out, and the real estate agent, the seller, and the two notaires involved in the signing acted in good faith.
This was not a dream house for us, as houses in France are for so many expatriates. We had a plan when we moved here, not a dream. It was all very practical. We wanted a place with some privacy, but we didn't want to be far from towns and neighbors. We wanted to have a vegetable garden. The bonus we got was the vineyard, which is like our own big park, maintained by people who we don't have to pay or supervise. We walk the dog out there every day, rain or shine. It's an ideal location.
And we've had a lot of fun, accumulating a lot of good memories here. Many old and new friends have visited and spent time with us. Much good food and wine has been consumed. Our French neighbors have been welcoming, friendly, and helpful. We've had fantastic vegetable gardens. Our dog Collette departed at age 14, but then we brought Callie into the household — not to mention Bertie the Black Cat. Unfortunately, we've seen at least five neighbors pass on, and one good friend down in the village. As for quality of life, we have been getting bread deliveries for many years now — for the first two or three years we didn't know we could have that service. What would life be in France without fresh bread? We've enjoyed all the local food and wine, markets and supermarkets. I think we are settled in for the duration, however long that might be.
P.S. My friend CHM sent me via e-mail a recipe for the bread pudding that he used to enjoy at the restaurant across the street from his building in Paris. It was made by an African (Togolese) woman who was the chief cook, and he requested and was given the recipe. With CHM's permission, I'll post a translation of the recipe here in a few days.