A Dream Come True
She’d never even been to France but Australian Annette Charlton had always dreamt of buying a holiday home there, and the reality is even better than she imagined. (French Property News)
Well, its been about twelve months since our story was published in the UK International ‘French Property News’ Magazine and with so many new readers joining us over at A French Collection I thought it might be worth a share this week. A sincere thanks to every one of you who have either recently joined or been a loyal reader for some time. I love each and every day that I see new readers joining us … can you believe it … that’s right each and every day!
I am so happy that we can help so many others to learn and enjoy France + All Things French
So sit back and read the article below…
You know when something is going to be perfect don’t you! You know that deep confident feeling that it will be ‘just right’. Well, as I expected France has lived up to my expectations for our family. Ask me to explain exactly why I needed to buy a holiday house in France when I had not even set foot in the country, and I live on the other side of the globe, and I can’t give you a straight answer. I do know however, that when we are in France we relax and know we’re where we belong.
Our purchase fulfilled a dream of mine that had been secretly bubbling away as I read books about others relocating to France; watched British reality TV showing others renovating châteaux or rebuilding piles of rubble into barns; cooked French cuisine for my family and learned French at a nearby college. I couldn’t get enough of French music and films; all the while dreaming of what it would be like owning a small home in France.
After deciding that if others could do this then so could I, my thoughts turned into action and I got down to the business side of things. I searched property sites on the internet, read property magazines, talked to international mortgage brokers, questioned my accountant and found a translator.
My property research enabled me to create a wish list. The property needed to be relatively close to both Heathrow and Challes de Guille Airports for easy access, not have a huge garden to maintain, not require major renovations (this would not be possible on holiday trips with three young children in tow) and have an attractive price tag as our Australian assets would not be taken into account by our mortgage broker. I also wanted a rural village setting with at least a local Tabac as I believe a thriving Tabac or café keeps a village dynamic and alive. It also ensures you never run out of the essentials, fresh baguettes, cheese and cold wine.
So with my husband agreeing (albeit still a bit skeptical) to at least have a look at the homes I had short listed with various immobiliers (french real estate agents), finance approved and one child in tow we headed over to France. We decided to spend a few days in Paris and this is where disaster first struck. My husband’s wallet was stolen on a metro station on the first day leaving us with a mess to fix up with our banks and no cash. This did not bode well for me as my husband preferred to buy in the south of England and was accompanying us more to see my research through than to definitely buy a house. I was sure this theft had done it, and we’d never convince him this was ‘the place for us’!
Anyway with matters sorted after lengthy international phone calls made while sitting in the place de Notre Dame, Ile de Cite, we continued on with our plans. We admired Paris, then drove all over the countryside from a quirky quaint family hotel at Loudéac looking at lots of homes and eventually choosing the last one we were shown. Our last agent cleverly kept the best of his to last and we fell for it – hook, line and sinker, or maybe chimney, garden and village! This three storey stone home only needed a little work in the attic but otherwise fulfilled all my essential criteria and the village was pretty and vibrant. It is nestled amongst rolling hills and numerous chicken, cow and wheat farms.
After a very lengthy process we stepped over the threshold of our cira 1889 stone cottage. This was a welcome achievement as family and friends had all committed to a huge Christmas holiday with us and we only settled three days prior to all of us all boarding our flights from Sydney International Airport. Whew, talk about stressful. I was dreading the possibility of a huge hotel bill from accommodating all our guests because we had not completed the purchase in time and they had committed to their travel.
Our local villagers have readily and warmly accepted us as part of their tight knit community always eager to learn more about Australia and our way of life. They still cannot believe that we chose their nondescript village above all others as our ideal location, and this makes them feel very proud.
Our Mairie (town mayor) immediately took us under his wing introducing us to the local farmers and residents after coming to check out the new residents of his village when he saw us pulling down the “vendre’ sign (for sale sign). In the generous spirit of the French he also took us to a huge soccor game at his home team’s stadium as his VIP guests while his wife feed and babysat our young children. We have remained firm friends with our Mairie and his extended family, managing to catch up over a drink or meal each time we visit.
We know however every now and again our very public mishaps and mistakes are secretly giggled about; and graciously excused away, with a ‘oh, that’s okay, its just those crazy Australians”. Just like everytime we do the gardening in 0°C; or when our chimney caught fire and burned for the next two days, requiring major work; the time we invited the local drunk into our home (forever trying to be hospitable) who promptly entered our lounge room, ogled our beautiful daughter then fell asleep on the lounge. As we could not wake him or shift him we had to enlist help from the barman and one of his customers (no doubt hoping for a quiet drink) to escort him home and away from our daughter for the night.
We announce our arrival every holiday by hanging either a Christmas or home decoration on our front door for all to see. This usually brings a flood of visitors to welcome us back, often bearing gifts of warm fresh goat’s cheese, farm eggs or freshly picked flowers. This generosity always overwhelms us. For our part we support our village Tabac, local butcher and café as much as possible. We also have purchased all our house furniture, whitegoods and home décor, garden items and clothing from local shopping areas. We feel so thankful for being able to experience all the amazing cultural, historical, natural and gastronomic wonders of France we try and reciprocate where we can.
It is with sheer pleasure we walk the surrounding countryside picking wild flowers, complain about the vast number of flies that want to share our outdoor summer meal, admire our elderly neighbor who still tends to her vegetable patch in the winter snow and enjoy our family meal times eating all the fresh produce France is famous for. And it is with admiration that we watch the hard working farmers rumble down the narrow main street, with only inches to spare, on their huge harvesters and tractors late into the still quiet summer nights.
I wish my adventurous Romanian grandmother was alive to share some of our experiences. She would have delighted to see us travel the globe, offer amazing learning experiences to our children and fulfill our dream, regardless of how inappropriate or unlikely It seemed to others at the time.
So that’s how our Australian family ended up buying a holiday home in rural Brittany and filling our days in France with adventure and experiences and our days in Australia working to keep our dream alive and growing together as a family.
I encourage you to follow your dreams big or small because
‘For A Dream To Come True You Must First Dream It’
À See you here again shortly … Annette xx
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