The Tale of a P-O Love Affair
By Chris Parker
Many readers will know the names of Tim and Chris Parker from our series on Walk the Region, to which they have contributed walks over the past 5 years or so.
This is an account of their love affair with the region over the past 17 years.
Part I – Househunting
It is October 2002. “Your walking holiday to Tenerife is cancelled”, they said – “not enough people have booked”. Oh – OK – well not OK – but what do you do when you have booked a week off work and you love France? I know – you have a bit of money from hubby’s early retirement package – why not go to France and look for a house to buy! —-and that’s how it started!
We had brought our children to the area in the past – Eurocamping, so we knew that the P-O area was just the ticket! – Mountains, sea, history, culture, the village lifestyle – what more could you wish for!
“We would like 3 bedrooms, a garage, a garden and room for a pool if there isn’t already a pool, please”. So the agent brings us to see a 3 bed, 3 storey, renovated old village house with a street at the front, a street at the back, a roof terrace and no garage or parking, no garden!! Ah well – but we like the village of Saint Nazaire very much so we return later for a walk around.
This is a really clean and well kept village, a nice place near the Mairie – oh and “look at the park over there” I say, pointing. “Bonjour – je peux vous aider?” A lady is walking up the street towards us and thinks we are wanting to speak with her – that we want to know something. So we explain in our best French that we are looking to buy a holiday home and really like the village. She does not speak English.
Come with me to my house – I know a house for sale, just behind mine. I can give you the owner’s contact details. So off we go to make a note of the phone number. “My friends recently moved to Perpignan” says the lady’s daughter – “they are selling their house too.” Once more we make a note of the contact details.
We phone the first people – no reply. We take a look at the house – it doesn’t seem to be “our” sort of place. We phone the other people – yes of course you can see the house this evening – we can come over after work. People seemed to be bending over backwards to help us! So we take a look at the second house during the evening – but it is rather bashed around by the family after 15 years of bringing up children there and seemingly not doing a lot of repairing. No – we will give that a miss.
Next morning we return to the lady we met in the street – who is now a firm friend! She happens to work at the Mairie – and rings up to find out what is for sale in the village. We give her our budget – and bingo – there is a house for sale not far away – we walk straight there with our friend!
When we ring the bell a young woman comes to the gate with her 3 year old daughter. Our friend says, “I understand your house is for sale?” – for there is no sign up anywhere. “well yes” she says (How did you know???) “but my husband is not here”. “These English people are looking for a house in the village – they don’t have a lot of time as they are returning to England tomorrow. Can they just have a look round please?”
So in we go – gardens on 3 sides – rather wild with lots of weeds – but a garden big enough for a pool. The house has 4 bedrooms – fine for visiting family. In fact it is just the ticket!
We discover that the husband is not due home until evening so we arrange to return at 9pm after he has returned home and had a meal.
“Now listen,” says our friend, “if you really like the house and want to buy it you will need an appointment with a notaire. My dad died a few months ago and I am going to see my notaire this afternoon. Come with me and we will see if we can arrange an appointment to prepare the compromis tomorrow morning”
Our friend gives us lunch then takes us into Perpignan. Bingo – an appointment for 9.30am next morning. So there we are at 9.30pm in the evening, having looked round the house again, decided to make an offer and asking the owner “Er – can you be at the notaire at 9.30 in the morning?!!!!) “No worries” he says “I am working in Perpignan at the moment.
The next day we are all at the notaire’s at 9.30am. Monsieur is looking smart in this best bib and tucker. We are just wearing our usual comfortable clothes and we are so excited we don’t care what we look like.
The notaire doesn’t speak English but fortunately one of us can get by in French. The notaire says that a friend of his tried to teach him English but gave up. “Il m’a abandonné!” Before we left England we had spoken to a lender re arrangements for part of the cost of a house. It was called “Egg”. The notaire is taken aback – “Oeuf” he exclaims, “Oeuf!!!”
By 10.30am the compromis is signed – we collect our car from the car park and drive straight to the airport to catch our flight back to England in the afternoon.
Talk about breathless! And we have never had a moment’s regret!