Wednesday, February 23, 2005

How we ended up in Brittany

After being on the work, travel to work, pay the mortgage, too tired to go out treadmill for quite a few years, Mr FF and I decided a change was in order.
I'd had one big change about 4 years earlier, in that I had moved from Highgate in North London to Winchester, but the daily commute on the 07.02 to Waterloo was beginning to get me down.

We decided to get away to his mum's holiday home in Normandy. I wasn't looking forward to it very much and kept grumbling, because I am a bit of a moaner. I'd been to Paris a couple of times and had been driven through France en route to Italy and knew it was a beautiful country, but I'm ashamed to say that my view of the French was coloured by media stereotypes.

After a week in Normandy all that changed (never let it be said that I waste time dreaming and not doing), and we started to discuss our new favourite idea of a move to France. One thing holding us back though was the thought of leaving my elderly dad behind. He was living in a sheltered block in Winchester, having moved from London to be near us, and was finding life as an old man alone quite difficult. We put to him the idea of relocating with us to France and he was up for the change as well.

Mr FF found out that his firm* would allow him to telework from France as long as one week out of four he put in an appearance in the UK. We got in touch with estate agents who had properties in both Normandy and Brittany. This was late autumn of 2002 and we eventually ended up with a shortlist of properties to view in December 2002. We told ourselves that we would spend a week seeing the planned viewings and also finding further places ourselves which were on the market.

Our criteria was simple - we needed a place with a ground floor bedroom, bathroom and loo for my dad and a second bathroom upstairs for us. This proved quite hard to find at the price we wanted to pay but, even so, we had about nine houses to see, beginning in Brittany and then moving on to Normandy mid-week.

The first house we saw was not promising, as the garden was overlooked by many houses and it was just not right for us. We followed the agent to the next house and the minute we pulled up outside and saw the view I thought - this is it. We were nudging each other with excitement as we went in. Even though the rooms were quite small it ticked our boxes and we tried to hide our excitement as we walked around with the agent. When we said goodbye to him and went off for a spot of lunch we could not stop thinking about this house. We talked for a long time about it and then decided we had to buy it.

We returned to the estate agency, signed all the documents, cancelled the rest of the week's viewings and then returned to the house - without the agent - to plan our future. Luckily it was vacant possession so we were able to wander around alone. We spent the next few days exploring our future town without knowing a thing about it. Some might say we were reckless to move to an area we knew nothing about but we didn't care. The house felt right for us and I'm pleased to say that when we made the move the following April, after not having seen it for 3 months, the minute we entered it still felt like we'd come home.

*that lasted a year - after that he formed his own company and works out of an office in the basement. It's a much better idea all round and only means that he has a few very short trips to the UK now


Anonymous said...

and five and a half years down the line I'd like to confirm that we still love and adore our house. The town has proved to be lovely and, even though other areas may have more going on and be closer to the sea, I love it where we are.

Ann said...

Beautiful house FF, it really is.
I am trying to find your Poppy story, and found this.
Anyway, what I would like to know please, did your dad come and live with you, I realise he is not here anymore, but would love to think he lived for a while in such a beautiful place.
It was my dream for dad to come and live with us in Ireland, but he died of cancer unfortunately, and he loved this place so much.

A Super Dilettante said...

Just read this delightful story about your dream house, FF. You're so considerate to think about your father. I often think about my parents too...what will happen when they get old etc. At least your father was brave enough to pluck a courage and moved to a new country. I doubt my parents would be that brave.

French Fancy said...

Hiya Ann - oh, how long have you been here? Sorry to have ignored you. Yes, my dad lived with us for 14 months and I think there are various posts about why I had to move him to a home back in the UK. It was lovely whilst it lasted but he got just too frail.

As for Poppy - there are things about her in the Bichons index - but this is her little story

Hello ASD - well, I was an only child and my parents were older than the average parents - so I knew it would always fall on my shoulders to do something when they got old. Yes, he was brave and I never thought he'd agree so readily.

Back to the slog now


Clarity said...


While a new post is to come I wanted to read through past posts which is what I do with good blogs - don't let it go to your head :)

I totally agree with this, when you know, you know I supppose and finding THE home is not something to dither about. I am pleased that you found eachother and a space to grow together.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Good for you and Mr. FF. to take the plunge. You both sound very happy.

I have a slight hang up about the French...not helped by working for a French Bank for three years.

Perhaps I would have to live there to conquer it. Mr.H. would happily live in France. I know that much for sure. Maybe we will do it one day but for now, we are happy where we are.

French Fancy said...

Hello Clarity - my, how long have you been here? My email notification by Blogger is very haphazard so sorry not to have replied. I also like finding the early posts in someone's blog.

I still love it here in Brittany but I do miss the excitement of London more than I used to.

Hadriana - how good to see you in the archives here. I know what you mean about the French - somedays I moan inwardly about them for hours - and somedays I am ecstatic to live somewhere so lovely and affordable. If we had bought a house like this in the UK - well, we never could have afforded one!

rallentanda said...

You are so lucky.I would love to live in France.I keep dreaming and looking at houses on the net...I'm going to get there somehow!

Angie Muresan said...

I've always wondered why. Perhaps someday we will stop by your town and meet up for coffee. Wouldn't that be fun?

Blu said...

And now you will be staying in your beautiful house a little longer.

French Fancy said...

Blu - thank you for leading me here to find not just your remark unacknowledged but also that of Rallentanda and Angie.

Even though a bit of me was very excited at the thought of moving nearer to Paris, when I began to look at the property prices and realised we would have to once again be stuck with a mortgage to help finance the move, well it didn't seem so appealing.

One vow I have made however is to take a bit more time out to go and explore - I did get into a bit of a rut really out here and losing some weight has made me feel that I've got to get out of the house more.

Rallentanda - hello and welcome to the blog. I do hope you realise your dream of moving out here and there are a lot of bargains to be snapped up. Prices have come down a lot with so many Brits moving back due to the poor exchange rate between the English pound and the Euro

Angie - I would love to meet up with you and if you ever decide to take the family to explore Europe then you will of course see the sights of Paris.One of those sights will be you and I meeting at last.

日月神教-向左使 said...