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Resume property search – February 2015

We had made the decision whilst in Newcastle that we needed to resume the hunt for a suitable property to create our perfect guest-house and we were going to do this the week we got back. Then an opportunity to go and work in Nürnberg for five days appeared before Phill’s eyes and the next thing ya know we are headed to Nürnberg via Strasbourg on Sunday, 8 February; putting a hold on looking for and visiting properties as Phill had to write the outline of the course he was going to tutor.

We got back to Monty on Sunday, 15 February and we started looking online for property – we had updated our search criteria and away we went. On Wednesday, 18 February I sent a link to Phill re a property listed with an estate agent we met in May 2014, when we had spent a week looking at property with a Consultant we hired.

Friday, 20 Feb
So, our local excursion to Marseillan Plage to look at a property that seemed to have potential was very well executed. Let’s get one way tickets as we don’t know when we would like to return to Monty – we can always get tickets at the train station – they will have machines (they all do, don’t they?).

We get to Marseillan Plage, get off the train, only to discover that there is actually no station and no ticket machines to be seen. Oh well, we can get tickets from the Visitors Centre just up the road, after we have a bite to eat and a look around the area and the house that we considered to have potential.

Enjoyed a delicious lunch, walked around the main town area, where pretty much everything was closed for the winter period. Walked back to the Visitors Centre – closed. Oh well, let’s look at the property whilst we are here and figure out how to get back to Monty after that. Phill was rather keen as it was house and land covering 2000 m2. Main problem – it is right up against the main railway line. Phill – “not many trains go by, maybe one an hour”. Whilst we were there up to five trains in 10 minutes flew by – loudly. When we got to where our train had arrived, one went by so loudly I nearly jumped out of my boxers! Stern veto on that property.

So, how to get back to Monty – no car, no taxi’s, no buses; but we do have legs. Which way to go? Sete is heading towards Monty and it does have a train station, but is three and a half hours walking distance – no. Agde is away from Monty, but it does have a train station and is only one hour and forty-five minutes away; and there are two Real Estate offices which have interesting potential properties for sale. And away we go – 10 kilometres and one hour and forty-five minutes later – civilisation appears before our eyes (feet feeling rather strange, but I am glad I (yes me only) wore my new walking shoes, which made the walk extremely bearable). Phill’s ankles were somewhat worse for wear.

We find the first Estate office and whilst looking at the properties in the window, Helene pops out to give us her card. As I mentioned, we met Helene way back in May last year when we doing our initial look for properties. She recognised us and invited us in to discuss our current requirements – a very honest and trustworthy individual that we both know will not do us wrong. So, the following Tuesday we had a potentially suitable property to view, along with other she may find after doing a search against our criteria. Went to the second office, but the person we met last year was not in, but they did have a number of properties which could be of interest – I emailed her and expected to hear back at some point, but never did.

Got to the railway station at 1815 hrs and there was a train heading to Monty at 1838. Ticket machines are a wonderful thing – punch a few buttons, make the payment and there you have a ticket ready to use – yay.

It is only half an hour from Agde to Monty by train. All I wanted to do was get back to the flat, have a shower, soak me feet and apply anti-sore stuff to me legs before I headed off to la la land. But no, we found a rather good Thai restaurant just across the road from the railway station and stopped for a delicious dinner.

So, in conclusion, even though our day ended up being rather more complicated than we anticipated, a number of positives came out of it – puts a simile on ones face, even if one could not move from the sofa.

Wednesday, 25 Feb
After our initial visit to the property yesterday (Tuesday); we revisited the property again after writing down loads of questions the night before – which, thank goodness, were all answered to our complete satisfaction. We made an Offer to owner at the price recommended by Helene and were informed that we hear back quite quickly as the other two offers made had been quite low. We were then contacted later by Helene that the owner had to consult his sisters, as it is a jointly owned family property.

On Thursday morning we received and email from Helene with the good news that our offer had been accepted unconditionally. Now the ball starts rolling quite quickly!
Here is the link to the webpage: Bourse de l’Immobilier

It is well within our budget, has 1600 m2 of land that can be built on and the house only needs minor alterations to make it into a home (the total area of the maison and garage is 107 m2 – which is double the size of our flat that we sold in London in 2013). We would need to get some sort of transportation to get about, as it is in a semi-rural area, but it is so handy to all the various places that we like in this area; plus a winery is just down the road! Bikes will be one of the first things to get before we investigate electric scooters/cars – which, apparently, you can drive without a licence in France.

Newcastle – January 2015

Got back to Monty on Thursday, 15 January, and I was full of a cold I had caught in the second week whilst in Cape Town. Flying back was rather torturous with ears and sinuses blocked. I hoped that I would get much better before we departed for Newcastle on Tuesday, 20 January, but I actually just got worse – it had moved to my chest area, with me hacking up my lungs on a regular basis. So I doped myself up on drugs and endured the journey. Dormouse Crawford was very much a happening thing.

Before departing Monty, I had contacted my doctor in London and arranged for a prescription of anti-b’s to be sent to the hotel. I have had chest infections a few time over the last five years and I knew that I needed to get on to the anti-b’s pretty darn quick. I got the prescription filled and threw one down my throat immediately.

On Thursday, 22 January I dragged myself to the local NHS Walk-in Clinic to get my extremely scratchy and sore throat looked at (I had looked up throat cancer on the web and, naturally, when one does this, I had all the relevant symptoms!). The service and efficiency at the clinic was simply amazing – hats off to the NHS. I was seen by an absolutely lovely and fun female nurse. The diagnosis was….. acute sinusitis with an engorged uvula (yep, I blinked at that one), which was making it extremely difficult to eat or drink anything. It was confirmed that I was on the right anti-b’s and that I should start taking aspirin three times a day as well. After four days of this regime I actually started to feel human again and actually have some energy to do thing – but at a much slower pace than usual.

We were supposed to have been in Newcastle for three and a half weeks; but it in fact it only turned out to be for one and a half week, as Phill’s contract was terminated with only two days’ notice! So, we packed up and headed back to Monty on Friday, 31 January.

Leeds, Xmas and Cape Town – December 2014

With Phill in Leeds, I went and visited David & Ian in Sitges for three nights from 4-7 December – taking in the ambiance of both Sitges and Barcelona. I them came back to change underwear and flew to meet up with Phill in Leeds on 9 December – the day of the arrival of the “Weather Bomb” in the UK – good timing on my part! We got back to Monty on 20 December to relax and enjoy the pre-Xmas preparations for a feast of Duck à l’Orange and roast veges, with lashings of champagne. Then, on Tuesday, 30 December we flew to Cape Town to enjoy some much needed sun, for two weeks.

Cleethorpes, Bristol and Paris – November 2014

Phill secured a contract with the UK Government which meant that he would be spending at least two weeks each month back in the UK! First up, Phill departed for Leeds on Saturday, 1 November for two weeks. We then joined up a trip to Cleethorpes to see Phill’s Mum, with work in Bristol for Phill and then catching up with Mitch & Tom from San Francisco at a Wine Festival in Paris. On Sunday, 30 November I then headed back to Monty whilst Phill turned around and headed back to Leeds for three weeks.

Time to relax and adjust to living in France – October 2014

Phill was fine, me, not so much – it was all rather overwhelming and after such a hectic pace since April, I found the slower pace of life difficult to adjust to, along with not understanding the language or the names of things in the shops. It was hell for Phill for a while as I lashed out in frustration at him – even though it just was not his fault at all. I was mentally teetering all over the place – rather a roller coaster time for us both – but we made it through!

Moving out of London – September 2014

The packers arrived at 8.00 am on the morning of Thursday 17 September. Looking around that flat at that time, I was wondering “how the hell are they going to get all this lot packed up in a short space of time”. Well, it was all done and dusted by midday, with speed, efficiency and a cheerful disposition. All we had left between us as was six bags, which we hauled to the DoubleTree Hotel, Islington. We then relaxed in the evening by going to the Royal Festival Hall to see Joan Baez – I need a bit of kum ba yah at that point.

The next day, we fled London and went to stay at Jean and Laurent’s guest-house Villa Littoral – Villa Littoral for just over a week. On 29 September we then moved into the apartment in Monty; the same day a major storm hit the area and Monty experienced its worst flooding in years. We got totally soaked just getting out of the taxi with our bags, crossing the road (which looked like a river) and getting in to the apartment building.

Removals companies

Back in June, when it had looked as if we would be purchasing the dodgy property, I had contacted five moving companies seeking quotes for the movement of all our belongings to France. The quotes ranged from £1,250 to £4,464 (VAT included). We chose to go with the mid-range company Anglio French Euro Removals Ltd – to store our belongings in Kent and then move them to France once we had found a property. The service we have received from them has been exemplary.

Property Hunting

This is the most difficult and critical stage of the process. We have got to find the right property in the right location, as we have no desire to move again!

We got our first 5 property details from French Entrée. All of them were in Agde which is a bit far from the sea. Only one of them was worth visiting. It has a lot of ground, pool and development potential.

We also found that we need to visit the local Mairie (Mayor’s office) before making a purchase. In order to operate a Chambre d’Hôte it needs to be registered with the Mairie, so we need to be sure that the Mairie is happy for us to do this. We found some useful information on the Complete France and French Entrée Websites.

Full steam ahead – March/April 2014

After stumping up the property finder registration fee, Neale informed us that we would be receiving an email with details of suitable properties approximately two weeks before our trip to the South of France on 19 May. The best bit is that Neale if going to use us as guinea pigs by providing videos of each property as well – pictures are one thing, but videos are another.

Within two weeks of submitting our mortgage application to BNP Paribas, we received notification from Alex that the mortgage had been approved – which will make the purchase process that much simpler. So much information was requested by the bank for the mortgage application, that we went out and bought a combo-printer, photocopier, scanner and fax. The only thing not asked for was how regular our stool movements were!

On 31 March Steve completed 12.5 years of full-time employment with the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Not working full-time will allow him to be able to concentrate on getting things ready for the move to France and research all that is necessary for the grand opening of the Guest House in 2015.

From 16-30 April we were on holiday in Cape Town at the Cactus House, we enjoyed the delights of fine weather, food and wine, catching up with friends and just relaxing.