That first day of house-hunting in December 2002 — a Monday — realtor Bourdais showed us two houses in Montrichard. The first was up on the road that goes to Amboise, just a few hundred yards after you cross the railroad tracks, up on the right. The house was the plain-looking one in the middle of this picture — I've put a red dot on its roof.
In Montrichard there is a huge retirement complex up on the hill overlooking the town and the Cher river valley. The place we were going to look at bordered on the retirement complex property, which Bourdais said was an advantage. That land was like parkland, he said, and it wasn’t likely to be developed in the foreseeable future. Actually, the retirement complex fell on hard times just a few years ago, according to a report I saw on the French national news. I haven't kept up, but I think it went into bankruptcy. I wonder what has become of it. I'm glad we don't live there.
Anyway, the location was not what we were looking for. First of all, there were a lot of other houses really close by. The yard was big, but it was on a hillside and was divided up into several oddly shaped plots, one of which was a narrow strip that ran down the hill to to the Amboise road, where there was a gate. It was true, as Bourdais pointed out, that we could have a good garden there — it had a southern exposure. But it also was completely exposed to the neighboring houses. I've put a red dot on the road in front of the house in the Google Maps image above. You can see the Montrichard train station in the upper left-hand corner.
We arrived at the house, just 100 meters off the Amboise road, in Bourdais' Audi. There was a gate across the driveway, and it was locked. Bourdais tried several keys but couldn’t get the gate open. He looked at us and said, well, are you willing to climb over the wall? It wasn’t very high, so we said why not? You can see it in the image above. I hoped he hadn't taken us to the wrong house. What kind of character had we gotten ourselves involved with? Over we climbed. I was almost 20 years younger then.
Here's what the house looked like as you drove up the hill. Inside, it needed a lot of paint and polish. There was a central hallway, off of which we saw a small dining room, a small living room, and a couple of bedrooms. The kitchen was a medium-sized, totally empty room — no cabinets, no appliances, no sink. It needed a new floor, I think. All over the rest of the house there was ugly carpeting that needed to be removed. There was no telling what the floors under the carpeting looked like.
Nontheless, the search for a house was not off to a roaring start. Okay, it was only a first encounter. At least Bourdais had been able to find the key that opened the front door`to the house itself, so climbing over the wall didn't turn out to be a complete waste of time and effort.