September has been a real month of highs and lows for us as we try to get our heads round leaving this place for real and starting on new adventures. We have done some good things, some exciting things and some sad things too.
I`m not sure which category this falls into, but lets start with the house sale progress. We have now had the (useless and costly in my opinion) fosse septique inspection done. As predicted, due to the fact that we haven’t done anything to the fosse, the report said exactly the same as the last one – big surprise eh? Anyway, its done & the report is now with the notaire who is we are told working on the compromis de vente. We are now waiting for this to be done and once that is signed, we can breathe a sigh of relief as the sale will go through. We have also started to get a few quotes for our complicated removals. The first one was from the firm who moved us out here and frankly was a bit eye watering. We have since had a couple more which seem more reasonable, but it is still a bit difficult to tell them exactly what is going where and when at the moment, so that may all change. Meanwhile, two other factors have presented themselves this month with regards to the sale. The first one was the arrival of a couple in the garden who were interested in the house. We told them it was under offer, but showed them round all the same. It turns out that the house is exactly what they are looking for and they want to buy it! We have told them we will not back out of the sale now, but have agreed to keep their contact details just in case anything goes wrong. The other big thing is that whilst on holiday in the south of France we found an apartment we liked and put in an offer for it, which has been accepted…dependant on the sale of our house going through. More about this later, but it has concentrated my mind a little more as to what furniture and stuff we will be taking with us. The apartment is very small so lots more stuff to get rid of, I fear!
So, the decluttering has continued. I have managed to sell the old easel in the loft and will give the other two to my art class. I have also managed to sell a few paintings and have given a few more away to friends so that pile is diminishing too. The biggest wrench so far though, was to throw out most of my certificates from my speech and drama and singing days. I used to compete in many musical and drama festivals when I was young, and I won a lot! So, I had a big box of certificates which have now all gone except one or two I have kept for nostalgia sake. Also gone are all the greetings cards I have hoarded for years…milestone birthdays, wedding, anniversaries, cards from the birth of the children etc, etc. Many tears were shed with that lot going for recycling. All my files from my teaching days at college have gone too and I am now ready to part with all my nursing books if I can find somewhere to take them. So slowly but surely the attic is emptying. Now that I have stopped taking any more guests (again more of this later) I can start on sorting out all the bedlinen and towels from the B and B business and get rid of a lot of that too. I am making progress…honest!
Talking about the business, I have now stopped taking guests. I will officially retire and surrender my siret in the next few days, but we had always said we would stop at the end of September. We have had some lovely guests stay with us this month which has made the end very nice, if a little sad too. We had a nice guy stay who was doing a walking holiday and we ended up sharing our evening meal with him too. Gordon and Julia stayed with us again on their way to and from Spain and so we all went out for a meal at Vivianes on the first night and again at the lake to “celebrate” their last visit here. There were lots of tears when they left the next morning but we will keep in touch with them and hope to see them in Carlisle in the future, as one of their daughters lives near there. There were more tears when the very last of our visitors left on Saturday morning and the realisation that it really was the end set in for real. It did also feel really strange not making up the guest beds too after they left. Definitely the end of an era. I have really loved doing the b and b and gite for the last 13 years and we have (mostly) had lovely people stay with us. I will really miss welcoming folk here and sharing our little bit of France with them. Mind you, I will not miss all the waiting around for people to arrive or for them coming down for breakfast. Nor will I miss all the washing and ironing either. I am a bit sad though that it is all finishing for real now.
Lets move on to some of the “highs” now then. We had a lovely holiday in Frejus. Our house sitters arrived in good time on the Friday so we were able to set off and broke the long drive by staying for a night at Aubenas. We arrived in Frejus about 2pm on the Saturday and having collected the keys to the apartment we were renting for the week, we got settled in quite quickly. I had been a bit annoyed to discover that we had to pay extra for bedding, towels and wi fi in this flat, (all of which I provide for my guests!) and I had refused to pay on principle and had taken my own stuff instead! Apart from that though the flat was nice, had a good balcony and we liked the location very much. I did not like the mosquitos in the bedroom though and got very badly bitten on the first two nights, which was miserable as I react badly to things like that. We really enjoyed being next to the sea again and were at the beach swimming and sunning ourselves most days which was great. We also met up with some friends who we had met a couple of years ago on a cruise. Mandy and Carolyn live on the south coast and Jean and Ewen had come over from Scotland for a few days holiday. We had a lot of fun with them, eating lunch in Frejus one day and being taken on a wonderful trip into the hills to visit Valbonne and Gourdon on another day by Mandy and Carolyn. It was great to meet up again and we were all really pleased we had kept in touch. The trip into the mountains reminded us too, that we really didn`t know this area that well and there were lots of things to see there. Our original idea of going “car less” when we move there, died at that moment, as we realised, we would like to explore the region more and to do that, we would need a car.
The other thing that occupied a lot of our time that week was looking at apartments. We had originally thought it would be perfect opportunity to look at different parts of Frejus and see what we could or couldn
t realistically afford. We had two agents show us some places and it quickly became apparent that we couldnt afford a lot! We did see some awful flats and some nice ones too, but it quickly became apparent that we could only afford bigger places in areas we didn`t want to live in. Anyway, to cut a long story short we ended up looking at a flat in St Aygulf which is just 5 minutes along the coast from Frejus itself, and we liked both St Aygulf and this flat very much. It is very small (small salon, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen) but it has a nice balcony which has a sea view over the rooftops. It also has the advantage of having a bit of storage space in the roof space and a small “cave” under the block. There was the disadvantage of it not having anywhere to park, but the agent found us a garage we can rent so that problem was quickly solved. We talked about it a lot, and when we came home, we decided to put in an offer for it, which has since been accepted. So long as our house sale progresses now, our dream of living, for at least some part of the year, on the south coast of France is all coming together. We will have to make some big life style changes - going from a big house and garden to a tiny living space will be challenging – but so long as we accept that this will be a holiday place and not a year-round living place, I think it will work. Fingers crossed that all goes to plan for the sale of our house and purchase of this flat now.
With all this in the pipeline, we have had to give our retirement & pensions some very serious thought this month. Geoff has sent off all the documentation (well we hope all…this is not a given here in France where excessive amounts of paperwork rule!) to apply for my French pension. This will not amount to much, but is better than nothing. He is also in the process of sorting out his private pension which will be our main source of income when he stops working at the end of the year. He will apply for his French pension then too. Its all very complicated and I am more than happy to leave all this paperwork up to him!
On our return from holiday, we were saddened & shocked to hear of the death of one of our farmer acquaintances here. He was only 35 years old and died of a massive heart attack. We do not know the family well, but used to see them out and about here tending to their cows. It is a real tragedy as this man`s father died a couple of years ago and since then he and his mother have struggled to keep the farm going. They were also inseparable, so goodness knows how she will cope now. Geoff went up to his funeral on Saturday morning. It was a strange affair as it took place in the cemetery at St Etienne sur Usson, all in the open air. There were about 200 people there and Geoff struggled to see anything. All those people then filed past the coffin which was still left above ground at the end of the ceremony, as everyone departed. It was all very sad and Geoff will miss seeing Jean Jacques and his mother every morning on his dog walks. This event has also helped us to concentrate our minds on the future. As our daughter keeps telling us you never know what is around the corner and so you have to live life to the full while you still can.
We did end this month on a happier note though, as some friends of ours, Pascal and Katy, invited us to come to the circuit in Issoire on Saturday afternoon, to have a spin in their Porsche. It was supposed to be a treat for Geoff (and he needed it after that funeral I can tell you!) but I went along too and was persuaded to let Katy take me round the circuit too. Now, neither of us a great fans of motor sport or excessive speed but it was quite an experience for us both to be whizzing around that circuit at speeds of 180-205 kph! We will never be able to say that life has been dull here at all!
And so, after a real month of highs and lows we head into October which I think will see me sorting out a lot more stuff, washing bedding galore and starting to pack things away. Please keep your fingers firmly crossed for us that all goes well with the sale of our house and purchase of our new flat. I won`t be sleeping well until all the papers have been signed methinks! Oh, and just a little extra note, if any of you send us Christmas cards (yes, I know it is only September!) please can you send them to Carlisle this year as that is where we hope to be. Please contact me for the address.
A bientot mes amis