Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Un petit histoire about our French roots

Something funny happened at the apartment today, and it made me realise just how much we will miss it once it's sold. Then I thought, really it has been so instrumental in our move to France that I should share a bit of the history with you and perhaps finish off with the funny bit.

In 2003, feeling a bit flush and as usual, the money burning a hole in our pockets, we decided the time was right to buy a holiday home. We had looked at Marbella four years earlier but the horrific multi-lane motorway that passes within inches of the coastline and which necessitates walking to the beach through underground tunnels not dissimilar to the Bullring at Waterloo put us off. Then we bought a beautiful 400year old Grade 2 listed cottage in Herts which needed major renovation so all second home plans were shelved indefinitely.

Eight years ago, we resumed our search and ended up putting an offer in on a beautiful but bijou and very overpriced fisherman's cottage in Padstow (or Padstein, as Rick's burgeoning business empire has led to it being renamed.) By the time we drove from Cornwall to our friend's house in Devon, and realised that the entire house would comfortably fit in their kitchen, we had withdrawn our offer and it was back to the drawing board.

We had a simple conversation...where we would chose to go at least half a dozen times a year and never get bored (or have to endure insufferable rainy weather?) The answer was the South of France, a shorter hop by plane than the five hour drive to the West Country and within three months, we were the proud owners of a beautiful off-plan budget-busting apartment with spectacular views, as you can see above, of the bay of Cannes and the Esterel hills.

We spent so many holidays there in and out of season, made friends both French and English, and not once did we ever feel ready to go home. Not even after spending a very rainy cold Christmas and Boxing Day holed up watching French TV and taking it in turns to oversee the girls riding their new scooters around the underground car park. And the best bit, the bit we hadn't even known about as we signed on the dotted line, was that when it rains in Mandelieu in winter, it's likely to be snowing in the ski resorts a 90-minute drive away, so no reason to ever feel depressed about rain again.

Fast forward seven crazy years, and the apartment and the fun we had there was in no small way responsible for us selling up and upping sticks to move here permanently in 2008. A decision none of us have ever regretted, although the girls do now make the mistake of thinking that the streets of London are paved with gold rather than dog poo, litter and fag butts.

Now that the time has come to sell, mainly because we live half an hour away therefore making holidays there a bit redundant, we have decided to max it out whenever possible and spent last weekend there, walking the dogs on the beach, admiring the view and enjoying the fact that there is no internet so we actually have to make conversation and go out instead of working.

Unfortunately the hot water tank was on the blink and after the bath I so looked forward to ended up being a lukewarm puddle, we made a rendezvous with Savelys for this afternoon. The guy arrived and said it was probably best to service the boiler and give it a good clean. I was busy writing a feature when he mentioned that he had found a DVD on top of the boiler. He left it on the side face down and dusty while I carried on working obliviously.

An hour later, the problem was cured and I signed off the work and said goodbye. As I was clearing up the dust I noticed the DVD sitting there, and flicked it over expecting it to be one of Issy's Legally Blonde movies. I was 50% was Des Blacks et Des Blondes and in case you are in any doubt about the content, there was a busty blonde pouting on the front wearing very little in the way of clothes. And it wasn't Reece Witherspoon.

I rang Handyman in a state of shock crossed with hysterical laughter..I am so glad I didn't realise while the engineer was still there, imagine trying to react to that in French! He feigned surprise and begged me to bring it home...naturally it ended up in the bin...and the only reason he is off the hook is because the title was in French (although I guess the dialogue is the last thing on anyone's mind.)

My lovely friend Jess sent me a message yesterday telling me about her great friend who has just moved to Nice for the next few years, and who knows no-one here. I rememember when I arrived here and didn't speak to a soul outside of our house for the first three months. It's so horrible and you think you'll never make friends so I urged her to pass on my details so we can meet for a coffee. Her name is Mrs Goblet (actually it is much more glamorous than that but Goblet is definitely in there) and I somehow think we are going to get on famously. Ellie, if you're reading this, get in touch!