August 4- 6 2006
Having eventually agreed on a price for the property, the next step was to sign a compromis de vente. This is a binding document which sets out the conditions of the sale, including things like a get-out clause in case finance or building permission falls through. Once the is signed however, you can't be gazumped.
One suspects that the sudden burst of activity around agreeing a price wore the agent out, because despite regular emails from us, they appeared to be having a nice lie down and couldn't respond. We suggested a date for signing, which passed, and we wrote saying that we needed agreement on a date at least two weeks in advance because of the cost of travelling increasing. This eventually produced a response. (I'm still not sure that the agent doesn't think that we're still living in Australia and were travelling to France from there). Eventually we agreed a date, and then I booked our tickets. I also emailed Credit Agricole in Tours (because that is where their English speaking branch is) to arrange an appointment to open an account.
Because the agent had left it too late for us to do otherwise, we could only get flights in through Charles de Gaulle. Again. This time, after consulting Tripadvisor, I decided we would try the Francillien, route N104/ A104, which although it was designed by the authorities to do just the trip we wanted, refuses to appear on any of the routefinders. I also showed I had learned from previous mistakes by booking a Formule 1 (motel) in Blois.
Also, because the agents had been so tardy responding to our questions about the amount we had to pay as a deposit, we were unable to organise a bank cheque in euros (it takes 3 days). This meant I had to travel to our bank in Central London (no hardship, as it was almost on the way to the airport) and pick up euros in cash. A lot of cash...........
On the Underground to Heathrow I had a worrying though - that I had left the back door not not only unlocked but open. Unfortunately, I then spent the whole weekend worrying. (I hadn't, it must be an old man thing). The whole trip went amazingly well, however, as we ate at the airport before leaving London, thus removing the pressure of finding somewhere to eat after all the restaurants along the Motorway had closed. Even the traffic was not too bad on the new route, it appears to go mainly through countryside. We didn't even miss any direction signs.
We arrived in Preuilly about 10.00am Saturday, but the market looked a bit poor. This may be because there was the annual Preuilly Brocante Vide-Greniers (literally; attic clearance sale) and everyone was elsewhere. If it isn't the case, it means we will have to travel to Loches market, which will be no hardship at all.
Our first port of call was the bank, where we had our appointment to open an account. Our first contact with people we will have to deal with for the rest of our lives - and already I fear they may have marked my cards as "suspicious". The problem lies with the French desire to collect documents. We had only just managed to communicate the fact that I am self employed and no-one audits me therefore not being able prove my income to their satisfaction (and therefore obviously a freeloader, or worse) when I produced a bag full of cash. One wonders what they think...............
The Brocante Vide-Greniers was pretty dire - so much stuff, so little of it attractive, useful, or working. Everybody did appear to be enjoying their lunch, however. We, on the other hand, had bought a baguette, some ham and various salad bits and had a picnic by the river. Susan was delighted to see that the insect life there was buzzing (there's a pun there somewhere, I can't be bothered looking for it though).
As we had plenty of time to spare (we weren't meeting the agent until 5.00pm) we went for a drive around the immediate area. How lucky are we to have all this on our doorstep?
We hurried back to Preuilly, to find that the immobilier was not at the office. We sat and waited in the Post Office car park (quite nice, actually) a while, then I rang her. The answering machine was on. Then we started to wonder if we were meant to be meeting at the Notaire's, so I drove there to check. It was closed. When I returned, the Immobilier had arrived and was going through documents with Susan. Apparently no comment or apology had been made for her lack of punctuality. I guess being on time is very Anglo and therefore something we will have to work on changing. 30 Minutes later, cash was exchanged and Susan is one step closer to owning French property.
For dinner that evening Susan took me to our local Michelin star restaurant, la Promenade. owned and run by Jacky Dallais (you can read the reviews here). What a brilliant evening. Just over 100€ for a meal that stretched time (and waistbands) in a beautifully refined environment. Although we will not be going there often, we will be returning, there is no doubt. Quite a perfect gift.
The next morning I was up early to photograph every shop in Preuilly. This was less on artistic grounds than just wanting a visual reminder of what the shops are - and where they are. The upshot is that my Google Earth has every shop marked, together with a photo and contact details.
We had decided we would go to La réserve de la Haute-Touche, an open zoo run by the French museum service and located at Azay-le-Ferron, a mere 11km (7 miles) from Preuilly. We had a couple of hours before it opened so we recommenced our exploration of the local area by car, visiting Yzeures-sur-Creuse (where our nearest large supermarket is), La Roche-Posay, where we had coffee at a cafe overlooking a very busy market square, and the chateaux of Rouvray and La Guerche. I think being so close to la Roche-Posay could be really useful. It has a very famous health spa, and consequently is a more cosmopolitan town than Preuilly (but a lot busier and noisier) with cafe's, cinema, casino and a racetrack. It isn't somewhere I would want to live, but as it's only 15km (9 miles) away, close enough to visit regularly if we need a little big city feeling.
The zoo at Azay-le-Ferron is really interesting - a section you drive through with various (mainly European) animals, and then a series of walks radiating out from the carpark. We ate at the restaurant, then wandered off to see the wolves. On the way we saw our first European Pond Tortoise, a native of the Brenne, Also lions, various tigers and lemurs. On the way out was passed a field with a Poitou donkey and it's foal. All together now: awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww cute.
We left the zoo at 3.45, giving us 6 hours to make the airport. We lost a bit of time driving around Chateauroux looking for fuel (rather than filling up on the motorway). Because we don't have any French credit or bank cards, none of the fuel pumps we found would work for us. I was starting to panic by the time we hit Paris, because time was marching on, and we appeared to be moving backwards. We arrived at the desk 2 minutes after check-in had closed, causing panic and consternation. Luckily the combination of not shouting at the man, being frequent fliers and having no checked luggage meant that he was able to open the gate, enabling us to run and catch the plane. As we were on the last fight of the day, the fact that he was so understanding saved us an awful lot of bother. It is, however, definitely the last time we fly via Paris.
We were seated separately on the plane, being the last two to check in on a full flight. When we arrived at Heathrow there was no gate for us, and a bus had to be provided to carry us the last 100 metres. As Susan was near the front of the plane she was on the first bus. As I was near the back, I had to wait almost 20 minutes before another bus arrived. Luckily, we made train connections OK, and caught a cab from Dagenham East Station to be home by 1.00am.