24 April 2015

12 years and counting

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.


We didn't arrive here until June 7 that summer (during a sizzling heat wave) after finishing our time in California, driving across the U.S. with the dog, and spending about a month at my mother's house on the North Carolina coast — not to mention nearly a week with old friends in Normandy. Then we spent most of a week in a gîte across the Cher river from our new house, in the village of Thésée, because we didn't yet have any furniture or appliances in the house, which needed a thorough cleaning anyway. It had sat unoccupied for at least two years before we moved in.

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.

We didn't want a house that needed major work, but we've made the house our own. We've had new windows put in all around — double-glazing and all that. We've repainted every room in the house over the years. We had a wood-burning stove installed in the fireplace, which was pretty much useless for the first three years we were here. We've had the back yard fenced in so the dog can't wander off. Mainly, we had the attic space finished, putting in new windows and a new stairway and floor, five years ago, nearly doubling our living space. We've had electrical and plumbing improvements made, and we have now been hooked up to the town sewer lines for nearly 10 years.That was a fantastic improvement all by itself.

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.

42 comments:

  1. Happy House-versarry!!
    We did the same thing with the power of attourney...
    four days after you signed!!
    Tim

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    1. Funny coincidence, no? Nice to read your comments.

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  2. Happy anniversary!
    You made an excellent choice - your home is lovely.

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    1. Lovely or otherwise, there's no place like home.

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  3. A good time to look back and review the changes you've made over the past twelve years to turn your French house into a home for you both. Congratulations.

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    1. :-) Nice to read you, G. See you soon, I hope.

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  4. Another milestone! Over the last years your lovely home has become a virtual 'pied-à-terre' for many blog readers all over the world. I'm one of the fortunate ones who had the chance to visit the real thing and to enjoy your generous hospitality.Thank you! Wishing you many more happy years in your little vineyard paradise. Martine

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    1. Yep, Martine, another milestone. The years fly by, but the vineyard endures. So do we... so far, so good. Who knows what the future will bring?

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  5. Here's wishing you many more years in the house.

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    1. Thanks Ellen. Our 12 years in France (plus the 8 or 10 I had earlier in life) are nothing compared to yours. Best to you and P.

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  6. Thank you for sharing your French home with us each day

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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  7. Everything has been said by other commenters, so I'll just nod!

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  8. Tempus fugit, etc. We met just at the time when you made your life changing decision to move to France and take a chance. We just had forums for talking then (some of my friends still think I met you in a chat room lol, they didn't understand what that there was a Francophile Forum on Delphi). Now we have blogs and more, plus so may great memories.

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    1. Luckily, I somehow found the Francophile Forum all those years ago and met you and Marie and Jean. It was so good that you and Lew were able to come here in 2004 and that we quickly became real, not just virtual, friends. Really good experiences and memories -- Saint-Aignan, Paris, Le Perche, Le Haras du Pin, Anniston, Atlanta, and North Carolina. And soon, Paris again, if all works out.

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    2. Not to mention your special days together in May, in Albany, New York a couple of years ago! (It will be 3 years this coming May, right? Is it May 10?)
      Congratulations on making what really likes like a lovely, bright, welcoming home and yard. I love reading your blog!
      Judy

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    3. Yes, too Albany for sure! And Paris one more time we hope...I will always remember Le Haras du Pin- un spectacle.

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  9. The move you made is not imaginable to me but you have made a success of the transition. Your home is not pretty, but very handsome. And hopefully without a leaking roof now?

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    1. No more leaks, Andrew. All it takes is finding a good roofer. We did. We have a comfortable and pleasant house to live in, in a great location. Much light and great views.

      It's funny, we had leaky roofs in three places we lived in back in SF. It must be our lot in life.

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    2. No more leaks, Andrew. All it takes is finding a good roofer. We did. We have a comfortable and pleasant house to live in, in a great location. Much light and great views.

      It's funny, we had leaky roofs in three places we lived in back in SF. It must be our lot in life.

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  10. I think you acquired a little part of paradise. It is all beautiful. Do you ever miss living in the US?

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    1. I always enjoy visiting the U.S., but I can't say there's anything there that I miss much. That I don't have here, in other words.

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  11. You have a lovely place dans votre petit coin de France .
    Many more enjoyable years enjoying your potager and the vineyards.

    BTW: Did the house down the street, from you manage, to find a buyer? You mentioned the property in your blog a couple yrs ago.

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    1. sorry for using the word enjoy twice in the same sentence. I am deep in the review of some technical stuff for the past week and it escaped me when I was writing.

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    2. That little house is still for sale. The man who is selling it doesn't seem to be in a hurry.

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  12. Your post made me smile, remembering the times we've spent together throughout the years. I still have a sweater that J&V bought at the outlet store in Gilroy when you all were staying at my house before your move to France. Now I know how old that sweater is. May you have dozens of more happy years.

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    1. Yes, March & April of 2003. Not to mention the '70s in Illinois and Paris, the 80s in Paris and California, the 90s... Glad you are doing well. You have been very generous over the yeats, and we have all had a lot of good times together. Here's to more in the future.

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  13. Happy House Anniversary to you both , I have followed your blogs for a while now , all very interesting ,

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  14. I just feel so lucky to have found yours and Walt's blogs a few years back. Reading about your daily activities, enjoying the entertaining antics of both (make that all members of your household) Callie and Bertie and having a little "France" in my life nearly each day has been and is wonderful! Merci, Ken! (and Walt, too!)

    Mary in Oregon

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    1. Merci de vos commentaires aussi gentils que pertinents, Mary.

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  15. Your house looks very comfy and the grounds are lovely with the flowering trees. The wisteria must be on the other side of the house.

    I am sure the euro dollar exchange rate lately has put a smile on your face. It is close to what it was when you moved there.

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    1. The euro was at $1.09 when we wired the funds to pay for the house in 2003, about the same as today. It's much better for us than when the euro currency hit $1.60 not that many years ago. Hope it lasts.

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  16. Happy house anniversary to you and Walt. You have certainly made your home comfortable and welcoming and I am happy to personally vouch for the good food and wine there as well as the good company. Sue

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    1. See you and Leon again in 2016, I hope.

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  17. We're all so lucky to know you both. Happy Housiversary!

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    1. Chris, you were one of our first visitors. I remember you were here in March/April 2004. So many years ago. It's always been fun.

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  18. Happy Anniversary! You two have made a wonderful life in a wonderful country. Thank you for sharing it with all of us each day. And thanks for your generous hospitality. To many more years of living!

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    1. Hi Christine, it was really nice to see you last October. Re: Brittany, I want to send you an e-mail about all that. Hope we might see you this summer anyway.

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  19. Adding my belated congratulations on the house -- it looks wonderful -- and the anniversary. And many thanks for the insights into French life and the travel pictures and the recipes. Felicitations.

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