Thursday 10 December 2009

Monday 7th December

Late afternoon sun from the garden
Time to go home - for now!
A quieter day today - just enjoying the weather.
It does feel as though we have been on holiday - even though we have been working hard for all (or most of ) the week. Dave however has now finished 'real' work and will be officially retired in February, so the 'holiday' continues. We are looking forward to a family Christmas, skiing after the New Year, then a 'real' holiday to Australia and New Zealand in Jan/Feb, before returning to La Maire in March to start renovations in earnest.

Saturday and Sunday 5th - 6th December

We woke up to a beautiful red sunrise - so dashed up to the living room to take some photos.

The men at the farm down the road were just setting off hunting. Jeannine Prax told us on Sunday that they were hunting for wild boar, and that Dave would be very welcome to join them next time....maybe next year!!

The weather continued to improve over the course of the weekend - very calm and warm with plenty of sunshine. Sue and Steve visited us on Saturday morning (our first visitors!), and we also met them in Foix in the evening for a delicious meal at 'Gaia', run by an English/Australian couple. Had the most incredibly tender steak - and tarte tatin exactly as it should be made!

I also went cycling for an hour - Dave was busy chopping a wooden support into shape for a beam in one of the outhouses. Cycling was all either very much downhill or very much uphill - but good fun and amazing views. The weather had cleared enough to be able to see the whole range of the Pyrenees - with more snow on top after yesterdays rain - beautiful!!

On Sunday, we went up to the mohair farm to see Olivier and Marielle - and to have a look in their shop. See for more information. Olivier also took us up to see the goats, which are very pretty and very sweet - I never thought I would say that about a goat!!. The goats are shorn at the farm, the wool is sent away to be treated and made into the lovely products which they then sell back at the farm. It really is beautiful wool, and in such a huge range of colours.

Friday 4th December

Wet weather - and a very pleasant evening!

Wind and rain all day today - but the countryside still looks lovely!

We started painting the hall - and were pleased to be making some progress, however small. There will be a lot to do next year, both inside and outside the house. Every room will benefit from some decoration - we will need to fit 2 bathrooms and convert the garage into a guest ensuite - along with building a balcony, patios, tidying up the land and putting in a pool. Dave keeps adding 'new jobs' to his list. However we are very relieved that the house is very comfortable for us as it is, and it will be a pleasure spending time here while we do the work. The majority of the work will be outside - lots of dismantling and clearing of old farm buildings, before we can even think about landscaping a beautiful garden - but we will get there!!

We are enjoying our wonderful and very efficient wood-chip boiler - see photo.
However, we are also discovering that the boiler will keep us fit. It requires about 8 - 10 bucketfuls every day at this time of year - and the pile of woodchips are down the lane in the barn!! With no wheelbarrow at present, this means several trips a day each to keep it running....will have to look into that!!
In the evening, we recieved a kind invitation for drinks by Lucy and David Brooke at 'Le Chateau'. They had also very thoughtfully invited some other neighbours, Olivier and Marielle from the mohair farm next door, and Neil and Lisa Anslow, who also live in the village, along with 'le maire' and his wife. It was wonderful to be made to feel so welcome and also to discover that we have such lovely friendly neighbours.

Thursday 3rd December

Weather not so great today - so less of a distraction! Went to the bank in Foix, then to Brico-depot (Dave's favourite shop!) to change the postbox that we had bought, as the keys didn't work. Did some filling in the hall to prepare for the first layer of paint - Dave planted some trees - and we ate, and walked the grounds - again!!

Wednesday 2nd December

Settling in

Wednesday dawned cloudy, but by lunchtime, it was beautifully warm and sunny, so we were able to admire the surrounding countryside in all its glory! Spent a few hours measuring up and exploring (again!) but also found time for a coffee in the garden, accompanied by our neighbours' friendly dog!!
We met Moise Prax, the farmer who runs the farm behind us, and his son. We also went for a walk up above the farm and met a man out hunting - who somehow seemed to know exactly who we were!! Feeling very welcome already!

We are loving the peace and quiet of this lovely area. It is so very tranquil - the nights are very dark and very silent - and by day, all we can hear are the birds, cockrels, dogs from the farm, and occasionally the tractors. It is lovely to be out in the country but not to feel at all isolated - with the farms around, there is always something going on, people to say ''bonjour' to and activities to watch

More photos of our stay can be seen here

After a few glasses of wine in the evening, Dave started ripping the hall apart - renovation has started in earnest!

Tuesday 1st December

Signing the Acte Authentique

We all met at the notaire's office in Varihles. Before going any further, we went through the proceedure to change our marriage contract under French law - so that we own everything jointly instead of half each - seems to make sense!!

We went through all the legal documents, with Sue ensuring that we understood everything that we were signing. The land searches had brought up nothing of concern - except perhaps that light aircraft from Pujols airfield might need to land in St Victor Rouzaud if they were unable to land at Pujols for any reason. Apparently this has never happened, but we were happy to be made aware of it!

Before leaving, David Prax presented us with a wonderful tray of goodies prepared by his aunt - see above!
We then set off with the keys in hand for 'La Maire' - 'our house'!! After exploring the house and grounds for the first of many times during the coming week, we unloaded the car and set up our little cosy-corner for the next few days - a table and chairs, table lamp, and a few essentials for the kitchen...and lilo and duvet in one of the bedrooms! Bubbly and pizzas for dinner...and very pleased to be in such a warm and cosy house which feels so friendly and welcoming in spite of the current lack of furniture!!

Monday 30th November 2009

With the Freelander piled high with 'essentials' - paint, decorating equipment, tools, bikes and even a large mirror, we arrived in the Ariege on Monday 30th Nov. We met David and Cecile Prax ( in torrential rain!) at ‘La Maire’ to have a final look around before signing the legal documents to become its new owners the following day. They helpfully explained how the wood-chip boiler works, (we think we understood!!) and we were pleasantly surprised to find that the house was beautifully warm and cosy. We then spent a very pleasant evening with Sue and Steve at their cosy chambres d'hotes and looked forward excitedly to the following day.

Thursday 8 October 2009

September 2009

Signing the Compromis de vente
We returned home at the end of July, and after several weeks of anxious waiting and negotiation, we finally agreed on a price for 'La Maire' and excitedly arranged another brief trip back to the Ariege to sign the Compromis de vente, pay the deposit and open a bank account. These things could have been done in our absence, but we wanted to be there for the experience - and were very glad we did! It was good to meet David Prax the owner, and also his parents who still farm the land near the house, and will be our nearest neighbours.
It was great to have the chance to spend a few more days in the Ariege - as the Pyrenees gradually got closer on the drive from Toulouse airport to Pamiers in our hire car, it really did feel as though we were 'coming home'!
So things were moving..and very smoothly so far!
We were also able to visit the house for the third time - it was great to be back there and have some time to wander around and start making plans...coming away with a list of things to do in order to get the house and grounds ready to receive chambres d'hotes guests and running watercolour painting holidays. The list is a very long one...grounds to clear, swimming pool to put in, landscaping of the garden, balconies, pati0s, veggie plot - and that is just the outside!!
Next year will be a busy one!!
Now all we need to do is wait for the 1st December when (all being well!) we will return to sign the Acte Authentique, which will finally make us the new owners of 'La Maire'.

July 2009

House hunting

It was about 5 years ago when we first decided to make the move to France after Dave retired from the police. Like so many others before us, we watched one of those 'relocation' programmes - and it seemed like a good idea! We felt we would be ready for a new challenge and lifestyle, and have always loved the French way of life.

After much research and discussion, and a few more holidays spent in France, we decided that the ideal area for us would be somewhere south of Toulouse!! We love the climate that far south, the secenery is beautiful, and the Pyrenees just a short drive away.

19th July 2009.
Our first house-hunting trip! We decided to start our seach based in the Ariege, so set up camp at a very friendly campsite just outside Pamiers. We had already been in touch with several agents and had a folder full of properties that we were very much looking forward to seeing. Seduced by glorious sunny weather, fields full of sunflowers and spectacular views of the Pyrenees, we set off for our first day of house-hunting in the Gers, about 2 hours to the west of where we were staying. Lovely houses...beautiful scenery....a promising start!!
However, on the second day we met up with Sue and Kay from to view a number of properties in the Ariege.
Having had lengthy email correspondance with Sue before arriving in France, she knew exactly what we were looking for, and sure enough, we knew that the first property she showed us was 'the one'!! An old farmhouse - mostly beautifully renovated, but 'to be finished' such a lovely spot with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and glimpses of the Pyrenees - so we would be able to see when the snow arrived! We spent the rest of that day and the next hurtling around the Ariege countryside viewing a number of other properties - all so interesting and different - but we had already made our decision! We knew that the Ariege was where we wanted to live, and that 'La Maire ' was the house that we would like to buy!