After finding a house in France that we thought we might want to buy and live in, we spent a few days in Paris and then returned to San Francisco. Walt had to go back to work. We had to decide what we were going to do — would be stay or would we go? The next time we came to France together was in June 2003, having sold our SF house and bought the French one. I had made the trip alone in February 2003, for different reasons — one was to measure the rooms in the French house so we could see what pieces of furniture we owned might fit and what we would have to get rid of. Walt had to stay and work.
No, that's not our place in the photo above. It's the gîte where we spent our first few nights here in the Loire Valley. When we arrived in Saint-Aignan in early June, we rented it to stay in for a week while we cleared out and cleaned up the house we had bought. We couldn't move right in. For one thing, we didn't have any furniture or appliances except a boiler and a water heater. During our first week here, we went out a bought a refrigerator, a kitchen stove, a washing machine and dryer (there were no laundromats in the area), a telephone, a coffee maker, and a couple of air mattresses on which we would sleep before our furniture arrived from SF in July. A friend had loaned us some sheets and towels.
Here's what the kitchen looked like. It was old-fashioned, but perfectly clean and well furnished. I think there were three bedrooms. There was a full bathroom — I remember that the shower pan was actually a laundry sink that had been set on the bathroom floor and plumbed in. The price we paid for the gîte was more than reasonable: about $250 U.S. for the week. The people who rented it to us lived in a bigger house nearby and they were very helpful and welcoming. I remember being invited to their house one evening and sitting in their kitchen with their two grown sons talking and enjoying a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc wine they made. It was a nice evening.
The woman who sold us the house in Saint-Aignan had left a lot of stuff (junk might be a better word) behind. We hadn't yet met her. We had a lot of cleaning out to do. We filled up our rented Opel and made numerous trips to the local déchetterie (dump and recycle center) to haul stuff away. Also, the grass and weeds in the big back yard were at least knee-high because the seller had cancelled her gardening service two months before our arrival. We had to go buy a weed-eater and a lawnmower for Walt to use outdoors while I was scrubbing floors and walls inside. The house had sat empty for about two years before we took possession.
Looking at these pictures, you can see why these French vacation rentals are called "rural" (gîte rural is their name). They are in the countryside, and they often really feel rural. The older couple who owned this property kept rabbits — for food, I'm sure — and the man (I wish I could remember their name) came and fed them every day. We could see him out our back windows.
We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, dog in tow. By Thursday, we had ordered and and received delivery of essential appliances. We bought a vinyl table and chairs (patio furniture from a garden center) and used it as our dining room table for more than a month. Walt got the yard under control. Starting on Thursday, then, we slept on our air mattresses — we had been on many camping trips in California over the years, so we had the right skills.
We were excited to be living (or camping) in our own house. When we left the gîte two days early, I told the people we rented it from that I wanted to give them some money to cover the cost of having the place cleaned. The woman refused. I insisted. I told her we had been there with a dog who tracked in quite a bit of sand as she came and went. She finally relented and I gave her 25 euros, with our thanks.
Such an interesting story. That feeling of going to stay in your own house, new to you, in France, must have been very satisfying.ReplyDelete
Moving into a new (for us) house was like starting a new life.Delete
So interesting to hear about the transition to France. Were you worried at all to leave your new home vacant and go back to SF? And why do kitchens seem to be unequipped in many homes for sale? Perhaps the appliances are considered furniture?ReplyDelete
I remember stories from the '70s about how when you rented an apartment in Paris the departing tenants would have taken everything, including doorknobs and light fixtures, with them. Nowadays, you see places advertised as having a cuisine aménagée (with cabinets and sink) or even a cuisine équipée (with stove and fridge, maybe even a dishwasher and washing machine). We hadn't been afraid about leaving the house in France empty, be cause it had been unoccupied for 2 or 3 years already, and there wasn't much in it that would have been worth stealing.Delete
That’s a nice, homey looking gite. Just curious, if you don’t mind. When the three of you arrived in Paris, did you rent a car at CDG or take the train? Did you arrive with lots of luggage or just the bare essentials to get you through the time until your shipping container arrived?ReplyDelete
We rented a car at CDG and drove up to Rouen to spend a few days with friends there before driving down to St-Aignan. We had a few big suitcases with us, as well as the dog and her kennel, in which she had traveled from SF to NC and then on to France. We weren't sure when the container would arrive. It did, finally, around July 10.Delete
Do you have a vivid memory of sleeping in your house that first night?ReplyDelete
Not really. I think I was exhausted by then. And it was so hot that summer. No AC.Delete
Not many of us have had such an experience, but that doesn't mean we haven't contemplated such a move. Choosing garden furniture for a temporary dining set was clever. Thanks for the details; who knows when we might take advantage of that history of your move.ReplyDelete
We figured we would want patio furniture even after our household furniture from SF arrived. We didn't know when that would happen. It was so hot that summer that we kept all the doors and windows open, hoping for a breath of fresh air. There was only heat, however. In early August, we bought an air-conditioned car and we would go out for afternoon drives just to cool down.Delete