Sunday, 20 March 2011

A storm in a teacup

The Languedoc is one of the sunniest places in France with over 300 (or 320 depending on whose website you read) days of sunshine every year. We can sit out and enjoy al fresco lunches in December, in January while the UK is experiencing the grey, post Christmas depressive weather we can go for long walks on the beach, in February we can drive through the vineyards and admire the blossom on the fruit trees in the orchards.

But not last week. Last week it rained solidly for 5 days. The streets were deserted apart from the occasional intrepid shopper seen scurrying along clutching a soggy baguette; the pavements were a nightmare as, for some reason, all drainpipes spill out over the tarmac rather than into drains; and all the bars & cafes were filled with sodden customers sharing stories about which roads were closed.

The bitter irony for me was that I was facing a deadline to finish a magazine article entitled ‘Why I Love Perpignan’!

Obviously the recent weather/geographical-related disasters that have happened around the world in recent weeks put life very much in perspective and makes us all realise that this is just a very minor storm in a tea-cup.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Trials & Tribulations of Property Finding - Part 1 of many!

I have had two terrible house viewings today. There was nothing wrong with the actual properties – it was the owners! The first house was owned by a gentleman who had designed and built the house himself and was naturally extremely proud of it and insisted on showing me every last detail, including the original blueprints. The house was on nine ‘levels’ which I actually found quite dangerous – imagine carrying a tray of drinks and having to remember that there is one step down to the living room, two steps up to the tv corner, and seven steps up to a mini-mezzanine level. (And also imagine remembering all that on the way back to the kitchen, having drunk the contents of the tray of drinks…) We looked in every single cupboard – although I would dispute the fact that there is a tiny step down to ‘Le Dressing’ counts as one of the levels. I left the house thinking that bungalows were a fantastic idea!

The second visit was twice as bad because there were two of them! A really sweet elderly couple for whom our visit was obviously the highlight of their week – they had even laid out a tray of coffee & cakes. Luckily the house was fantastic but it was very hard to see as they preceded us into every room (even the tiny toilets) so it was difficult to take my usual realistic photographs – even my picture of the ‘spectacular sea view’ has Madame’s tightly permed head in the corner! The worst thing was that Monsieur had obviously had little else to do since his retirement than to invent ways of ‘improving’ the house. He was delighted to show me the special light-system in the entrance hall which showed whether the garage door had been closed or not, the electrically-operated sunshades on the 3 terraces (all of which were extended to 10cm and then closed to prove that they worked), and the recycling system for rainwater which was somehow involved the sprinkler system and the pool filtration unit. There was absolutely nothing that hadn’t been thought of. Even the ‘Summer Kitchen’ had electric shutters to protect the barbecue from the winter weather. We watched in sarcastic awe as he pressed a button and the shutters went up and down, and then he explained that he had found a solution to a problem that we hadn’t even thought of – what if there was a power cut and you couldn’t open the shutters? This would obviously be une catastrophe! But no, he smiled, and produced a special key which allowed one to open the shutters manually!

This house is definitely on my list of recommendations for my clients to view BUT only when I find out when the owners are on holiday and the agent has the keys!