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BUYING AND SELLING A HOUSE IN FRANCE: QUICK TAKES #6

  Little things can trip you up.  Just about everyone of a certain age has purchased a house at one time in their lives. I realize that the current common wisdom is that the old aspiration of owning your own home instead of renting may be passé, but I still cast my vote for the benefits and satisfaction of ownership. We have lived that philosophy. Cathey and I have bought four houses in our several decades of marriage and we’ve sold two. A third is on the market. (I’m open to offers.) Let’s talk about some of the oddities of the process in France.  GETTING YOUR MONEY BACK You never do, do you? Below is a picture of how the kitchen looks today and, under that, a picture of the kitchen the day that we bought the house. You just can't put a value on that kind of work.  THE MAYOR The latest hurdle to clear if you are selling a property in France is getting the signature of your mayor. Why? To ensure that the village does not have plans for the property. Playground? Parking lot? Whateve
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THANKSGIVING IN FRANCE: A PREVIEW #5

I'd like to say that our cousins all sat with us on our living room on Thanksgiving Day, drawing colorful turkeys while our dads watched over us, having loosened their ties just a bit, smoking their pipes. The moms, of course, were in the kitchen, chatting away happily among themselves while they prepared the feast. I'd like to paint that picture, but I don't remember Thanksgiving happening like that. I just don't remember Thanksgiving being a thing at all until Cathey made it a thing some years after we were married and ensconced comfortably in our house in Bath, Pennsylvania. That's when we instituted Second Thanksgiving, a full Thanksgiving gathering on the Saturday after traditional Thanksgiving Day. You see, we worked on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving kicked off a big holiday season for us, the money was too good to pass up, and we were young and foolish. But good came out of it. After family and friends had their celebrations with various in-laws and out-laws on T

LIVING IN PARADISE: FRANCE IN OCTOBER #4

   It's the end of October.   The sky is blue with puffy white clouds floating by. The temperature approaches 70F during the day, hovers in the high 40s at night. The vines, having just been harvested, are turning color prior to dropping their leaves. Many of those leaves turn yellow before going brown but some blaze bright red. Same with the deciduous trees, mostly yellow but with some autumn colors more familiar to this Northeastern boy. Yes, it's unusually warm and pleasant. If this is a result of climate change, I'm down with it. I just hope that next summer isn't a killer. Even given this inviting weather, tourists seeking to prolong summer heat find warmer climates by heading farther south, into Spain. Perhaps taking a ferry or a short hop to northern Africa. Zanzibar is within reach. And many Europeans have spent considerable time in Southeast Asia.  We remain here in our little rural village in the southwest of France. Quiet descends. Traffic eases. Scarves, swe

RANDOM THOUGHTS, SOME FRENCH SOME NOT: VENDANGE, BREXIT, GERMANY, AND MORE #3

 VENDANGES  The rural south of France is crisscrossed with two-lane blacktops, narrow and with curves that skirt old property lines several times per kilometer. Unlike the USofA, where roads take precedence over property, the French are unlikely to consider condemning a portion of a vineyard just to straighten out the road a bit. Since I like driving on twisty roads, I like driving in France. But not during vendanges , the grape harvest. Grapes are harvested at any hour of the day or night, depending on the personal preferences of the vigneron, the winemaker. Some go by the phase of the moon or other astrological and/or mythological signs and portents. Some are of the opinion that pure chemistry rules. Whatever the case, for several weeks and at unexpected times of day, you may find yourself on a curvy patch of blacktop behind a slow-moving tractor who has insufficient verge to let you pass…and probably would just as soon let you fend for yourself anyway. It’s a miracle that the byways

FINDING A HOUSE IN FRANCE: FIRST STEPS #2

  First, be advised. I am not an expert in anything except my own experiences. And my experiences are confined to a particular time and place. If you have issues, I welcome them in Comments. We've been house hunting in Herault on several occasions since 2003. (Herault is a French department, somewhere between an American county and a state.) We twice visited to find a holiday home from which to learn about and explore the region. After deciding that this region of France was where we wanted to settle in our retirement, another search led to our current home of seven and a half years. And recently, we searched for a home with broader, gentler stairs given the state of our old bones. So I do speak from experience. As always, my advice is free of charge and worth every penny. There's no multiple listing service in France. Each agent has their own website and, while some agencies do cooperate with partner agencies, it can easily be the case that there is a house for sale next door

SELLING OUR HOUSE IN FRANCE: TRUE STORY #1

 Transacting business in France is always an interesting undertaking.  Don't get me wrong. I am not one of those sourpusses who has moved to France and complains that French people live there. But French people do have ways of doing things that do not often correspond to the way that I am accustomed to doing business. We are selling our home of seven years in order to finance the move to a house more suitable to our age and old bones. (Links and pics below.) We'll have fewer, more gentle stairs to climb. More room to display, store, repair, and otherwise deal with the stuff we've accumulated over those years. We're talking about multiple opportunities for cross-cultural misunderstanding. Take the case of applying to our French bank for a mortgage. I won't go into numbers. But I walked into the meeting with the young, casually dressed banker hoping to borrow about 40% of the cost of buying the new house. (It's strange calling a house built over 1,000 years ago a

BAR LE 40: RESTAURANT UPDATE

Quarante has a takeout pizza joint, an upscale-wannabe restaurant just outside of town, and the Bar Le 40. Tito's Pizza is OK. It offers thin-crust French pizza, if you like that sort of thing - or can at least get used to it. Christophe, the owner, also runs the local wine co-op. (Why is Christophe's place called Tito's? I've never asked.) Because it's the grape harvest now, Christophe is busy day and night. Tito's is closed. Pizza will have to wait for a few weeks. The Terminus, as you might surmise if you have a bit of French, is in the old train station just outside of town. The owners have spent the past few years 'upgrading' the menu to the point that they have priced themselves out of our rotation. And then there's the Bar Le 40, which most of us just call Bar 40 because who needs the extra syllable? The management of Bar 40 has changed hands several times since we moved here more than seven years ago. The latest owner, Alex, is the son of a p