Monday, 28 June 2010

No such thing as a free lunch?

One of the occupational hazards of my job as a property finder is that I spend a lot of time in cars with strange men. Not the clients, I hasten to add, but estate agents. So far, the only time I have been scared is by the way some of them drive, but last week I was nervous for a different reason.

There is a nice old man who lives opposite me in the ground floor apartment. He has a large terrace and he spends much of his time tending to his many potted plants. From an initial ‘waving’ and ‘calling out greetings’ acquaintance we are now at the stage where we occasionally invite each other over for coffee. Although the chances of him reading this are slim (as he does not speak a word of English or possess a computer), to avoid embarrassment (mainly mine!) I shall refer to him only as JC.

Soon after noon last Friday JC telephoned to ask, if I hadn’t already started my ‘preparations’, would I like to join him for lunch? As my ‘preparations’ had only so far extended to getting a rock-hard slab of Brie out of the fridge that didn’t show any signs of being soft enough to eat that day I replied that I would be delighted to join him. He then informed me that we would be going in the car and we agreed to meet outside the garage entrance at 1pm. To be honest I was quite pleased at the thought that we were going to a restaurant as he didn’t strike me as being a gourmet cook!

When we set off I asked where we were going and JC replied ‘La Boucherie’. My heart sank – we were obviously going to choose the food, take it back to his apartment, he was then going to cook and it was going to be a long afternoon! I then wondered (to myself) why we were driving to the butcher’s when there were so many in our own locality. JC continued to chatter about his family, his heart condition, Sarkozy etc. etc. as we drove and I watched where we were going and worked out that it was probably to Porte d’Espagne (on the outskirts of Perpignan) where there was a large shopping mall that stayed open all day. But no, we turned left at the island and ended up on the ring road leading westwards towards Spain! I was beginning to quietly panic by now - how could I have been so stupid, this man was obviously not a friendly old pensioner but a psychotic killer, bits of my dismembered body would be found scattered over the Pyrenees, I would never see my family again, nobody knew where I was etc. etc.

I was brought back to reality by JC tapping my arm and pointing to the left where to my great relief I could see what was at that moment the most beautiful sight in the world – it was a building with enormous model chickens, cows & pigs on the roof, and best of all, a large sign in front of it saying “Restaurant – La Boucherie”!

....and by the way, despite the outside decor, the food was delicious!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

And the Winner is - Ryanair!

After my very smug blog in March about how to beat Ryanair and get the best prices I am ashamed to say that they have won the battle. A few weeks ago I was looking into flights from Carcassonne to East Midlands and found one at a pretty reasonable 19 euros including taxes etc. As it had a notice saying ‘last seat available at this price’ I clicked and booked it. Today I was just browsing their site wondering whether my daughter could come out for a few days and then fly back with me on the same flight and find the price is now just 9 euros! Grrrr!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Whoops – nearly three weeks since my last post. My excuse is that I’ve been working very hard (which was never part of my game plan!) (And the picture shows the view of Mt. Canigou that I saw every morning on my way to pick up the clients so I can hardly complain). Some clients were over to view the properties that I had been searching for on their behalf over the past few weeks and as usual it has been a packed and busy schedule for all of us.

Drawing up a Viewing Schedule is sometimes the hardest part about property-finding: ideally I like to show 4 properties per day as any more can cause information overload for the clients, I then have to decide whether to show my personal favourites at the beginning or the end, and then I like to make sure that the viewings are in a sensible order and that we are not zig-zagging up and down the region too much. These idealistic plans would be marvellous if it wasn’t for the fact that apart from having to work around the weekly public holidays and daily two hour lunch breaks you have to throw estate agents and vendors into the equation. I cannot count the number of times that I have met an agent outside a house and we cannot get in because he has forgotten the keys (luckily only twice with clients), and as for vendors, I think it would be nice if they would put out their cigarettes, turn the television off and lock up their enormous dogs (and small children!) before allowing visitors into their houses. Have they never seen ‘House Doctor’!

Luckily last week’s viewings seemed to run fairly smoothly – the weather was glorious, the clients were lovely, only one vendor was out and none of the agents had to chase a tow-truck up a street in an attempt to rescue his car (as I witnessed last year)! The only time I felt things were not going so well was on the very first day and was entirely my fault – we had stopped for lunch in a little square and the clients chose salad and I chose to have prawns. It was only after the meal when my plate was littered with heads and tails that they told me they were vegetarian....!