Our First Month in France

I’ve had a little bit of a social detox this past month for a number of reasons. One of the main ones, is that we have now spent our first month in France! Four weeks ago today we were saying good bye to our house, having lunch in a local café with our friends and heading to the airport after picking up the kids from school.

I was going to write a regular update on how we were getting on. But, it hasn’t been as straightforward as we hoped. In fact we are having to jiggle our plans around a little, keeping the end goal in sight, but having to take a little detour.

You see, just two hours after we put in an offer on a French house we love, our buyers withdrew from the sale of our Bristol home…

The Sale Process in France

The Sale Process in France is different to the one in the UK. Whereas in the UK, there is no commitment to buy until you exchange, usually quite far down the line, in France, when you put in an offer, you then need to sign a document “Compromis de Vente” to confirm your intention to buy. You pay the deposit at this point, so very early on. There is then a period of time for searches to be carried out. If within this set-out period of time, you decide to pull out, you can do so and get your deposit back. If the buyer changes their mind, they will need to pay you a sum in compensation. The idea is that once you’ve placed an offer on an house, you are then committed to buy the house and tied into the contract.

In the UK, you can pull out right until the very end, at no cost.

We can’t really blame our buyers. There were patient and told us on many occasions if exchange and completion didn’t take place soon they would be forced to look elsewhere. We place the blame on our solicitors, and have since lodged a complaint with them. Being former laywers ourselves, this is not something we have done lightly. Unfortunately, we feel that if things had been dealt with differently, we wouldn’t have lost our buyers and would have completed months ago.

All I would say at this point, is that if you do work on your property that means the deeds need updating, as much as you might be told it will be a simple, straightforward administrative matter, make sure you get sorted out asap, rather than wait until you decide to sell the house.

We’re still at a loss as to why this isn’t sorted as of today, but remain hopeful it will be before long.

The Children

The kids started school in the local village three weeks ago. We met with the Director on the Friday, and they started on the Monday. They have settled in beautifully, and we could not have wished for a better welcome for their first French school.

Siena is in CE1 and Hugo in Moyenne Section. Siena has loved every minute of it, running through the gates in the morning and excited about three course meals at lunch and being able to have seconds! However she doesn’t think it’s fair for the kids not to have school on the Wednesday afternoon… funny child!

Hugo has enjoyed being back in an environment where he can play and even has a nap/relaxation time every afternoon complete with his own cushion and blanket.

They have settled in so well, we’re really proud of them. It’s been a great thing to see how happy they’ve been in their new environment.

They have also adored the gite we’re staying at: Maison Tournesol Gites. From the incredible owners Alison and Rob, their dog Charley and of course their stunning house, gites and garden, we found ourselves a right little haven in Charente. I have posted lots of photos on Instagram if you want to have a look 😉

Where we’re at

It has been a very frustrating few weeks following the loss of our buyers. When we heard the news, Barry and I spent the evening quietly, each one dealing with it in our own ways and trying to figure out the next steps.

You see the longer it takes to secure a permanent address, the longer it will be until we can set up our own business(es). If we can’t work, we don’t get income. If I don’t find work, I can’t apply for a Carte Vitale to benefit from the French Health system, which considering Hugo’s asthma has been particularly bad this past month, is fairly urgent.

All in all, we feel we’re back in a position similar to the one we were in in Bristol: waiting. Albeit in a beautiful setting and surrounded by French food and wine (been loving the local Pineau de Charentes!). So it’s not all bad.

Next Steps

A few days ago, my mum called me, and said to me that perhaps it would be better if we went to stay with them until we sold our house in the UK. The kids can go to school in the village (where we got married). I can work in the area. Barry could work as a gardener and if we have our belongings delivered to their house he would then have all his tools too.

Everything about this, made 100% sense, and I couldn’t argue with any of it. Yet for some reason, as Barry and I agreed it was the right course of action to take, I found myself feeling incredibly sad and upset. I’m not one to cry easily but found myself crying my eyes out… and it got worse! As I spoke to the Director of the school the following morning, and then Hugo’s teacher, I cried again… a lot!  And then again on the way home.

But I have to say, I do have an incredibly family and friends, as well as husband. Throughout my dramatic messages and my sadness, they picked me right up, and helped me reframe my mind.

I also think I had a lot of emotions from the last six months, so it all came pouring out! I do feel better having let it all out though, so perhaps it needed to come out once and for all, as ugly as it was at the time!

So, although in an ideal world, we would be staying in Charente and getting on with it, we are going to be going back to the Alps for the next few months until our Bristol house gets sold. Spending a few months with mum and dad in a region we love will be a new, unplanned but still very exciting step to our adventure.

In the meantime, we’ll pray to the gods of law to guide our solicitors into sorting out our case once and for all so that we can sell the house quickly and smoothly!

For now, we’re grateful for an amazing first month in France, where we have met some amazing people, fallen in love with the Charente stone and countryside…. If anything, our first month in France has made it 100% clear that this is where we want to be, and going back to the UK is no longer an option.

I’m off to sit in the garden before the school’s Burger Party tonight…

Have you had to take a sidestep into a big plan? How did you feel at the time? How do you reframe your mind when things don’t go as initially planned? I’d love to hear from you 🙂


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