Friday, January 20, 2012

Deciding on the property

 Weighing up the options

So having decided we want to stay in Labretonie, our lovely tiny village here in the Lot-te-Garonne department of France, we had to find a property. At our age the most sensible move would be to buy one of the small plots of land for sale on the main road running through the village and have a new house built. We did consider this - but not for long - to be honest the idea just bored us rigid. We thought of building on part of our land too but I wasn't too keen on driving past Peyrenègre every day when someone else lived there and in the end our outline planning demand was refused so that settled that.

There was an empty old house not far from Peyrenègre. The previous occupant had lived there all his life but had now died and the house (Frénaula) was for sale. We gave this a lot of serious thought as it shared the same fantastic view as Peyrenègre and had some land with it. The picture below was taken just by Frénaula on our Christmas day walk so you can see the stunning view.

The view from Frenaula
 Then we heard of another property for sale.

Going back 10 years

When we came here 10 years ago another couple had just arrived in the village. They had moved from a small apartment in Paris and had bought a small property with a good piece of land.  Both couples were looking for a change of lifestyle and we had a lot in common with them as we set up vegetable plots, got our own chickens and learned the mysteries of charcuterie from a shared neighbour. We spent very happy evenings on their terrace eating our home produced goodies and discussing everything under the sun as the sun set over their lovely little plot. We were busy renovating our own house but were willing to lend them a hand whenever we could and when a surprise little baby came along (they were both over 40 at this stage) we child minded her for a while.

As time went by

Sadly the rural life didn't seem to fit them so well after all and little by little they let things go - first the animals, then the potager, and any plans for work on the house until eventually they parted and the house had to be sold. It was all very ,very sad. However knowing we were looking for a house and that we loved their property, they gave us 'first refusal' and in January 2011 we became second home owners. 
Champage on the terrace the day we signed
In the heart of the village but still with land and fields around us

Monday, January 16, 2012

Time to Change

It's just a year ago that we decided that one day we would really have to retire! We love our home here and we love running our two gîtes and meeting the lovely people who come to share our little bit of France with us  - but we do need to start preparing for the next, perhaps the last, chapter of our lives.

Our lovely shady terrace at Peyrenègre

So where to next?

Before we left the UK we though we might like to try another region of France for our retirement or even a different country, but when we started to really face up to the passing years we realised that we just don't want to live anywhere else.

So why do we love it here so much?

The weather

Even though I am writing this on a  cold January day the weather really does suit us here. These cold winter days don't last too long and we like the change of seasons. Cosy winter evenings in front of a log fire are appreciated as much as long summer evenings - we just like more of the latter than the former! Even in the depths of winter there is just more light here and days with low grey skies that linger all day are rare. Spring comes early and suddenly and from April through to October we live mostly on the terrace  - there is a field which we look out to from the terrace which has wheat and sunflowers grown in alternate years. I love watching that field through the seasons changing from chocolaty brown to golden or bright yellow and back again. Although summers are long and hot they aren't unbearably so and the swimming pool becomes the star of the show for everyone (I will have been swimming daily from April). So into Autumn when the weather is ideal for long walks again after the heat of the summer - this climate suits us perfectly.

Surrounded by farmland

Friends and Neighbours

This little village with just under 200 inhabitants has been so welcoming. We are very involved in village activities and we have made many friends here. The village is small but is active and the Comité des Fêtes organises events throughout the year. A group of us walk most Friday afternoons and there are weekly gym clubs. We have made good personal friends too and we really can't think that we would have better friends or neighbours if we moved away from here.

One of many  happy meals on our terrace

The pace of life

We love the slower pace of life in the countryside and we have grown used to growing our own ad this is something we want to continue into retirement and perhaps extend our self sufficiency activities! I don't think I ever want to be without my own hens - there's nothing to compare with a truly fresh, orange yolked egg for breakfast - and I love making home made jams and preserves.

Making redcurrant jelly

So where next? - why stay here in the village we love of course  - and to that end we have purchased another property in the village which will one day be our retirement home. The house doesn't have a place name as it is in the village limit and so is just 'Au Bourg' = in the village - we call it 'Kebourg ' (Kevin and Enid au bourg) and it is the story of this property and how we mean to develop it and live in it that this blog is about.

We hope you'll enjoy sharing the journey with us.

A la prochaine!