Most of the time, I tend to broadly sum up all the good times living in France as:
"This is what I came to France for".
I sort of seem to blurt it out. It's hard not to when you pass by the such quintessential beauty of the countryside each day.
But recently, in our tiny rural village, things haven't been so picture perfect. I always knew life here was going to be a crazy roller coaster ride, but lately things haven't been faring so well. I've turned the page to that part in the fairytale, where Snow White is just about to bite into the poison apple and Dorothy's calling out "theres no place like home"!
To keep a long story short:
1. The architect slipped the 'bill' from the Historic Monuments under the door on Christmas Eve. This was the first time we had ever even heard about a fee! By a fee, I mean, 1 years annual salary for the person working on the project. Thinking of it, I'm trying to breath normally as I type...
2. I had to complete a 3 day 'diploma' to obtain liquor/cafe license for the Château... and it was in French! I had to sit a written exam, and I passed only because I had written everything down from the powerpoint presentation and google translated it later. Plus, it was open book.
3. I lodged my diploma with the local village Mayor and all went well, until he mentioned a future neighbour was waiting outside to talk to me. So, I introduced myself to the neighbour and we walked to his plot of land, where he is planning to build a new home. Two of the Château's stone walls border his land.
When we arrived the Monsieur said in French "I have already rebuilt one of the Château's stone walls and am now ready to start on the next wall, which I would like to reduce the height of as the wall is currently dangerous".
I knew already that he had rebuilt the first wall, and reduced its height as well. With both walls at a reduced height this would give him perfect views over the Château and its parc.
He followed this by saying that "the Chateau trees needed to be removed, as they are too old, and if they fall onto my new home you will have an insurance problem." And that "in France, old trees are only good for firewood."
After hearing this, I immediately said "Monsieur, California Redwoods live a long time. I think they have another 1500 years left in them!"
But the story doesn't finish there... it gets even better!
He then declared that the horses were causing the wall to lean onto his property!
Suddenly, feeling feisty, my French improved rapidly. I said "So, Monsieur, you are building a home, and you want both my walls to be reduced in height, so your views are uninterrupted over the Château and its land, and, not only that, but you also want the trees removed and the horses gone?"
My neighbour was left quite speechless, so I marched back to the Mayors office and told him what I thought of this.
After a short time, I had a feeling that my neighbour was listening outside the door, with his ear pressed firmly. So I opened the door quickly, and, not to my surprise, he almost fell sideways into the office! Unbelievable! This isn't what I thought would happen in a small village like ours.
4. I know it's obvious that Chateau is synomous with cher (not 'Cher', but the other one meaning french for expensive) but somehow every time someone walks through the gates to give a quote on work, the price goes through the roof. Anyone with Artisen (aka the next Michelangelo) or Patrimonie on their business card must now be avoided at all costs. To give you an example, a quote for digging a trench on the property, ranged from 18,000 euros to 62,000 euros. So, in this is a region where unemployment is at it's highest in France, I drove down to the local hire place and found a digger for just 50 euros a day.
5. Next, when we bought the Château, it was meant to come with some tax breaks being a Historic Monument. Nevertheless, we had to start paying 20% (rather than the usual 10%) goods and services tax on all the work, as the restoration was deemed a 'new build'. Then, this week, I have found out that the tax office has deemed that all work done on the Château is now non claimable, as they have now decided to classify it as a 'ruin'. I have decided their decision seems to depend on which way the wind blows...
6. We found out late last year that the Tour de France was coming through the region - wonderful! But, after that, the accommodation doubled for July even though we had booked six months before the dates were even released! Wonderful...
7. Number 7 isn't a complaint, only an observation of French systems. When my family was here with me in December and January, we decided to buy a car. We have been hiring up to now, as we weren't too sure how to launch into the car market. However, my son found a second hand car at a car yard, and we ended up buying it the same day. But, when I say that we bought it the same day, in France, that doesn't mean drive away. We had to wait four weeks to pick it up! Plus, I had to scan in 5 years of insurance premiums and almost sell the kids! To be fair, the sales guy was fantastic. I can't even imagine what could have happened if we had chosen to buy a car from a private seller!
8. I'm going back to Australia this month to see my family. I didn't tell you earlier but my husband broke his leg when he was here skiing, plus tore two knee ligaments! At least he's still smiling.