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?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Darling, je vous aime beaucoup

"Darling, je vous aime beaucoup" was a song which I associate with one of my favorite crooners ever, Nat King Cole.

I'd always assumed it was written for Nat in the 50's, but it turns out it was written for a cabaret singer named Hildegarde in the 30s.

Then, 50 years ago, Dean Martin, looking rather silly,  donned a beret and chomped a cigarette holder and produced this album, "French Style," which included "Darling" and a variety of other French-ish tunes.

My question is: why?  Was America's francophilia at such a fever pitch in the early 60's that any popular singer could cash in just by making a French album?

I've often pondered over the influence of francophilia in American culture and its ebbs and flows over the course of the decades.  From Dean to Soeur Sourire the Beatles' "Michelle, Ma Belle," to Morticia and Gomez to Freedom Fries to French Women Don't Get Fat.  It's a socio-cultural roller coaster ride.  I'm in it for the long haul.

How about you?

image via wikipedia

Thursday, September 20, 2012

French Vanity Fair

This is big news.

Condé Nast has announced that it will launch a French version of Vanity Fair.  Michel Denisot, of Le Grand Journal, will be editorial director.

90% of the content will be original to France.

A vos plumes!

image via wikipedia

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Je suis amoureux

I am in love. With Je suis amoureux, a sweet short film that is so adorable and so French. A perfect Paris love story.  Two minutes and fifteen seconds. I think you'll love it too.

I'M IN LOVE (Je suis amoureux) from DRÔLE DE TRIP on Vimeo.

Merci to PerfectlyParis for the tip!
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