Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dreams of Owning a Tiny House in France

I am not alone, I think, in having the dream of someday owning a house in France. A small "pile of stones" that I can call my own.  Ah, yes, with a deux-chevaux parked outside, and morning baguettes from the local boulangerie.

a bergerie
Part one:  the history

My first infatuation with the notion of living in a small stone house in France came when I spent the summer between high school and college on Île de Ré.  The main house of the compound was a larger residence, but within the walls of "Les Bergeries" were many small stone outbuildings, which each of the grown siblings had adapted for individual families' summer living.  I was hooked.

A year or two later, I experienced the life of a young Frenchman's "second home" in Brittany, complete with the 2 CV. Primitive, but certainly doable.  And cheap!

Since then,  I have come so close -- SO close! -- more times than you can imagine,  to owning a small place in France.  First was the house in Theneuil, during a summer spent in the Touraine in the early 1990s.  I was within a hair's breadth of purchasing the crumbling small rectory next to this church, complete with outbuildings and gorgeous stone courtyard.  After lengthy discussions with the mayor of the village, I was not certain of the fate of  the property's ancient stone wall, possibly to be torn down for a road widening. I sadly, ultimately, backed down from making an offer.  The price at the time was 70,000 FF, about $14,000 at the time. Awful end of story:  I bought a used Saab instead.  To this day, of course, this missed opportunity will always be referred to as my "Saab story."

The Maison de Poupee in St Enogat
In 2006, I fell in love with another tiny house, in Dinard.  I was staying with my dear friends Isa and Jacques; and since I was always the early riser in the house, I would go on my habitual hour-long morning walks through the town just after dawn, and return with baguettes and croissants for the family breakfast.  One morning on my perambulations, I wandered through the area of Dinard called St. Enogat.  That particular day, a woman leaned out of her second floor window and remarked cheerily, "Vous etes matinale!"  ("You're up early!").  I waved and smiled and continued on my way. Shortly thereafter, I stumbled across a small side street with the charming name of Passage du Beausoleil. Ah. If I could ever find a place to live on a street like this, it would be perfect, I thought.  And 20 paces later, behold:  a For Sale sign on a perfect little house.  This time I meant business.  I was living in Paris and was looking for a permanent residence in France to own and call home.  I called the agent.  I viewed the maisonette.  I took Isa and Jacques to visit and offer their opinion.  I made an offer. Signed the papers.

I became known among the local friends as "the woman who went out for baguettes and came home with a house."  My kind of fame!

The view from the little house in St. Enogat
Well, a long story made short:  the owner died, the unhappy and unwilling tenant flaunted a scary machete in the kitchen.  The sale never took place. Expensive lesson learned:  purchasing real estate in France is not even vaguely similar to purchasing real estate in the U.S.  Even if you speak French fluently.  Even if you have friends in the neighborhood.

And yet the dream lives on.  Whenever I tootle around the back-roads of France I always experience real estate envy.

Part two:  real estate envy.

Sshhh.  Some of my friends call it real estate porn.  It is just as addictive, so, well, yeah.  Dreaming of that sexy place that isn't yours, well, not yours now, but maybe someday, or in your dreams, or.. . well, okay kind of that.  If you have that kind of real estate fixation in the U.S., for example, you know what sites you go to for your fix. If you have French real estate yearning, for a small pile of stones in the luscious French countryside, you know where to go, right?

Oh, you don't ?

Well, let me tell you:  you go to Explorimmo.  That's the simple part. Then you need to know some French and some French geography.  You need to pick a region that you are interested in.  And if you want a tiny house, enter an amount such as 100 m2 in the square meters part. Well, it's complicated.  But, trust me,  it's pure French real-estate gratification, right on the screen.  Does it for me every time!

Part three: driving around.

There is nothing I would rather spend my leisure hours doing than exploring the routes départementales, the windy back roads, in France, and then from there even the smaller back roads.   Sheer bliss.  Because if you use GPS and always get where you're going, you can often miss some of the most fabulous buildings around.  Driving around Provence, I spotted this wonderful place in a horse paddock in a field in a town not far from Salon de Provence.

This is my new object of desire, the tiny house that I would love to live in in France.

I want to live in this house, or I want to replicate it exactly.  No more, no less.  My dream.

End of story. Mine, at least.  Where would you like to live your small-house fantasy in France?

8 comments:

Ksam said...

Oh, I do this all the time! I spend about two weeks a month crisscrossing France and one of my favorite things to do when I'm en déplacement is to look at ads in the agences immobilières windows. There are so many beautiful places in France, and it always makes me dream about how much more we could have for our money than in Paris...but than I remember how much happier I am in Paris than in the countryside. It doesn't stop me from continuing on with my window-licking though. You know, just in case I win the French lottery some day! ;)

François Roland said...

Hey, why would I dream of a Tiny house in France, when I already have a big one? :) Mine is set in "Le Perche", region which is just south of Normandie. It's really pretty, and have the big advantage (for the Parisian I am) to be only 1hour and half from Paris in car. Let me give you a little impression of it with 3 links on my blog:
http://chatlibre.blog.lemonde.fr/2012/04/29/quand-la-france-ressemble-a-la-toscane/
http://chatlibre.blog.lemonde.fr/2011/09/23/premier-jour-dautombe-dans-ma-verte-campagne/
http://chatlibre.blog.lemonde.fr/2011/08/30/biche-o-ma-biche/

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Sam, I keep buying those Loto tickets too. You never know! And I often feel that I'd rather invest my real estate $$ where it can buy more per square meter, and rent in the city. But half of the fun is the dream - the fantasy -- right?

Francois - so is your house for sale? I love Le Perche. But I really do dream of a tiny house. Less to clean and organize.

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

I also recommend seloger.com. Both it and explorimmo have iPhone applications!

But they're so much more depressing to use when you're looking for a real, not dream, apartment in the Paris region, and not some cute little house where real estate is actually affordable... sigh!

I dream of a house in the Gers, but honestly, I think I don't truly want a second home. I'd have to go there all the time instead of exploring new places! No, I'd rather have lots of *friends* with second homes.

The Bold Soul said...

Ever since Georges told me that HIS dream, for when (not "if") I write a major best-seller or two, is to own a real chateau in the country (complete with wine cave, large library, billiard room, and a few people to take care of it for us), I've been regularly picking up copies of http://www.proprietesdefrance.com/ where you can check out every big, pricey pile of stones in France. Being American, I'm utterly fascinated with the idea that, given enough money, it is actually POSSIBLE to own a real honest-to-goodness castle in France. Now, I'm just obsessed. I don't want a Chambord but I could totally go for a mas in Provence or something with a small turret in the north somewhere. Now all I need to do is WRITE WRITE WRITE! :)

Parisbreakfasts said...

Read any of Karen Wheeler's books (3) on doing exactly that thing in a gawd forsaken Poitou-Charante village.
Maybe you're not impulsive enough or the wrong house(machete-ugh)
How to make a dream a realite?

François Roland said...

No, it's not for sale! :) There is one to sale just near mine but its not a tiny one either :)
And you're right sometimes when I see all what it ask just to avoid that the park around becomes a jungle, I see that I could really have choose something tinier ! :)

auto devis said...

With the economy the way it right now in France, the dream to have a house there could come to fruition.

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