Just Do It!

(Note: This story was originally published on April 20, 2016.)


A magnificent home for sale in France – just the kind we had always dreamed of, with enough rooms for visitors, a bit of land for eating al fresco and gardening, a swimming pool…
Sometimes we have dreams for years and years, but don’t know if we’ll ever realize those dreams…it is hope and faith that keeps us dreaming. Jack and I have had a dream of owning a charming house (a maison de caractère) in France for as long as we’ve been together (and for me, since I lived in Nice in 1977-8). A couple of years ago, I came to the realization that the dream itself was so much fun, it might be okay if we never actually got the house, but just kept thinking about it, about how we would live there, decorate, cook, entertain family and friends…
A shaded terrace in Provence, on another realtor’s site – the perfect place for a leisurely lunch

Through it all, though, we (especially Jack) kept looking at real estate in France, via the internet. And every time we have visited France, our semi-joking catchphrase has been, “C’est à vendre?” (“Is that for sale?”) While Jack found so many amazing places for sale – old water mills, barns that would be perfect as renovated art studios, gardens and swimming pools overlooking hilly vistas, outdoor and indoor stone bread/pizza ovens to bake in…so many incredible choices – these all still seemed to be just dreams.

One day last Fall, we decided to go to a basic French real estate site (not one with glamorous properties for foreigners) and start at the bottom of the price scale. Working my way up from completely rundown places with no possibility of water and electricity, to abodes that seemed to offer a few possibilities, I finally got to some places with real potential (although Jack had his doubts about most of them…)


Then one day, it appeared – newly listed, a house that was absolutely charming, in Montagnac (in the Languedoc, just west of Provence), the area of France we wanted to live…and at a nice price. I just happened to be going to Marseille for several days to meet a needlepoint customer from the States, so we booked a ticket for Jack to come too, and made an appointment with the realtor to look at the house the following week.

Everything that happened in the next two weeks flew by like we were in fast forward, but yet it all seemed to be happening just as it should. I don’t believe in fate, but I do believe in opportunity, and when an opportunity that feels so right presents itself, one has to be able to jump right in and “just do it”. That’s what we did.

A combination of luck, passion and “just-do-it” mentality led us to this house and to our new, dear friends in Montagnac. Having made our appointment to see the house, we had to change course for the week I had planned in Provence (turns out my Texas customer was unable to make it to Marseille, anyway), and so we ended up booking a single night at the Domaine des Augustins, a bed & breakfast in the Montagnac that we found on Booking.com. Our thinking was that we would like to get to the town, explore a bit and find the house on our own before meeting with the realtor the following morning. Little did we know that we would fall in love with the wonderful proprietors of the Domaine – Muriel & Olivier Fury – and that they would so happily help us with all of the events that quickly took place in the week to come.

Muriel et Olivier Fury, at the Domaine des Augustins, Montagnac
Magnificent entrance to Le Domaine des Augustins

At breakfast the next morning, Olivier, who has done lots of renovations on several old homes they have owned (including their current home, an 18th c. former Augustinian wine-making monastery and its attached church dating to the 15th c. – more on that gem in another post), generously suggested he would be happy to come with us to see the house, since as Americans, we know very little about stone buildings from the Middle Ages (!)

It was love a first sight. We felt that the house was meant for us, as soon as we walked through the front door.

Looking at our front door from the Rue des Amours (Street of Loves)
 The events that followed literally happened within three days, while we continued to stay at the Domaine des Augustins, enjoying dinner every night and breakfast each morning with our lovely new friends. We made an offer on the house; our offer was accepted; Muriel called her friend, Marie-Juliette, who is manager of the local branch of a French bank, and immediately we had an appointment to meet her and open our own French bank account; Olivier called their local notaire (similar to a lawyer in France, for handling transactions like buying a house) and made an appointment for us to go there; we met with the notaire, Anne-Catherine, and she drew up a purchase & sale agreement, which we later signed; we discussed renovation ideas with Olivier and spoke with our realtor, a friendly Dutch man named Reinier, about local insurance providers, etc.; we had a couple of follow-up inspections to double-check some questions we had, and found that all had gone well.
I cannot stress enough how friendly and efficient everyone was!!! The process happened so quickly, and yet we were totally confident that everything was moving along just as it should, and with less red tape than one would normally encounter in the United States. Our trust in the people and institutions we were dealing with was not misplaced. Everything did work out just as it should, with no problems other than the former owners of the house stalling for several months (no, they were not French).
Our street – the Rue du Commerce, so-named because many of the houses on it were built and owned by the merchants who lived and sold their wares here in the 15th century
That all was last November and the house literally became ours, officially, the day before we were planning to leave for France again, to spend the next five weeks in our new house – March 28, 2016.
We have named the house “Le Bijou”, meaning the little gem. While this house, situated as it is right in the middle of a small town, is not the house we had always dreamed of (in the countryside, but near a town) it somehow felt like the perfect French house for us right now. Follow our adventures in my next posts, as we have been making this old house our own.

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