Sunday, 16 September 2012

Four days in France

So I dropped Daughter at Heathrow on Tuesday afternoon for her flight to India.  In her usual confident manner, she strided off through security with not a single glance back at her fretting dad!  She is not back until December 2nd which is the longest time she has ever been away from home.  For the next 10 days or so she is touring North India - Delhi, Jaipur, the Taj Mahal, Varanasi, etc, then starts her work in Jodphur for the following 10 weeks.

Exciting stuff, but also the negative of not seeing her for so long


A test of our new plan for travelling to France is a big success.  The overnight ferry to St Malo disembarks around 8:30 and after a decent enough drive I arrived in St Jean d'Angely around 1:00, in time for some lunch before meeting Dave and Gill. 

This afternoon's goal was to open a bank account at the local branck of BNP Paribas.  Dave had arranged the appointment and had warned me that the lady in the bank was surprisingly aggressive about it.  So I am armed with Gill to act as interpretor.  The meeting goes OK but I do not have everything they seem to require for me to open an account, so that wil have to wait.  Odd when you think that the same bank is supposed to be lending me E160,000 to buy the property, yet seems reluctant to let me open a bank account so I can pay them back!

Will French banking bureaucracy let me open an account here?

I am staying at Gill's for the next three nights - her town house in St Jean.  This gives me three evenings to try local restaurants and tonights choice is La Scallion - widely considered to be the best in town.  I had the E23 daily menu and it was very good.  Rather oddly, the table next to me was occupied by 10 Scottish ladies, who seemed to be having a good time

The extremely pleasant La Scallion restaurant in St Jean


Breakfast of local melon and out by 9:30 to meet Dave for a full day of stuff.

Firstly, to the house.  Lots more photos to take, details to find out about the water heating, etc, but mainly to negociate to buy some furniture from the vendors as they are moving to a much smaller house.  I had sent a wish list to Dave a week or so ago, and the vendors were happy to sell us quite a lot of this.  But we did go round the house again in detail and suggest some other items.  It is pretty odd going round someone's house pointing at things to see if they'd sell them.  But in the end we have a long list of items we have agreed to buy for a total of E3,000, including an antique cupboard for E400. 

Hopefully this is worth E400, but then again, we did get lots of other stuff very cheaply

Our hamlet - our house is hidden by the trees on the left

After staying a few hours at the house, it was back to St Jean for a bite to eat and then round to a local insurance company to get a building / contents insurance quote.  This eventually came in at about half the quote I'd previously received from a UK company, so providing the cover is adequate, I shall be going with AXA locally.

Then Dave suggested we could go for a drive down to Saintes and he could show me where the major shopping chains had their huge stores.  On the way, we discovered that Dave and I share very similar tastes in music - so rare that I find someone who has heard the collaboration album by the Acid Mothers Temple and Gong!

Dinner tonight is at Le Cabanon, near the famous clock tower in St Jean.  I am pretty sure they served me the wrong main course, but it was nice all the same.


I have time for a quick wander round town this morning and have found a fishing tackle shop.  The owner spoke no English but I was able to discover the cost of an annual fishing permit and obtain a booklet full of maps showing good spots.  Chub grow to 4kg here apparently

Met Dave again at 9:30 in the local cafe in the centre of St Jean - I am nearly a regular there now!  Our first meeting this morning is with the Notaire.  He is a yound guy in his late 20s and seems sure we can do everything in two months, which would give the third week of November for completion and would suit me fine.  We also have to arrange for it to be just me who signs the final contract, as Wife can't attend - so the Notaite will act for her once even more bureaucracy has been dealt with.

Then it is back to the Annexe restaurant where Dave and I had lunch with a guy who runs a local property management company.  This firm will clean our house and pool next summer when the property is let out.  The service they provide is really excellent and I am really pleased to have found them.  We stay there for nearly three hours having a long and wide ranging discussion of all sorts of things, such as Dave's time as a road manager for the Grateful Dead in the late 1980s!

I could get used to Foie Gras followed by chocolate mousse from here.

After three days of quite intensive meetings, I was actually rather worn out tonight and was very grateful for Gill's suggestion that she would go and get btakeaway pizzas for dinner tonight.  But that is still investigating local restaurants, so that's ok.  I had been tempted by the local Indian restaurant at one point (!) but will leave that for next time.

For some reason I always fine it odd to discover an Indian restaurant lurking in somewhere like rural France


It is market day in St Jean and my last bit of local research on this trip consists of a detailed go round this.  I bought three Charantese melons and Oz Clarke's Wine Atlas of the World.  A surprisingly large number of oyster sellers I thought.

The boulangerie does a roaring trade on market day

Lots of seafood - the town is about 45km from the coast

Oysters for sale

The clock tower in the centre of town

Then off back to Cherbourg - a six hour drive.  A very good few days and the French Project looks in good shape.

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