Terry’s Tale of Renovating in the Limousin
It was thirty odd years ago as a married couple with a mortgage, little money and a very young family and after spending many years camping in England, we decided to take what was then a massive decision, to give the continent a try. Since France was the nearest country and of course two years of French lessons under my belt (nearly 25 years earlier) off we went with tent, travellers cheques, confidence and loads of excitement. We immediately fell in love with the people, the country, the weather, and the culture. Many glorious years of camping and then the luxury of caravanning followed with an occasional bed and breakfast. Then the great twenty year holiday void followed due to firstly renovating a farmhouse in the country and more recently a huge project restoring a Victorian mansion.
It suddenly dawned upon us, after watching endless programmes on TV, changing rooms, home and abroad, house in the country etc. that we had not taken a proper holiday in two decades. We decided that what was needed was a holiday, even better a house in France, and because cash was still in short supply, you guessed it, it would be have to be a renovation project. The P.C. was fired up and search engines put on overtime, after not to much searching we came across a beatiful little cottage that needed lots of tlc, but was within our budget. The property was located deep within the beautiful Limousin. A ferry was booked,routes planned, euros purchased and off we went, sans enfants for the first time in twenty two years to meet the estate agents.
With memories of France still fresh in our minds and only school boy french, we docked at Dieppe and were amazed at how friendly and clean the country still was. More surprises followed as we headed south down deserted motorways, punctuated every 20 miles, with well tended and clean rest areas and then busy service stations. After an overnight stay in Orleans, at a hotel with an amazing variety of breakfast foods and drink and an even more amazingly low price, we hurtled onwards to our rendezvous in the medieval town of Bourganeuf. A stunning town complete with a twin towered chateau and ancient market square.
The sun shone brightly, the temperature soared and the land was green, hilly, forested and extremely pleasant. It was true to say we were nervous at buying property in a foreign land, we had heard all of the horror stories, but the appointed hour of 4 pm was soon upon us. The estate agent was sat waiting at the cafe sipping an ice cold beer and smiling as we appoached. Karen was English which made things so much easier, after a cold beer we headed off to view our chosen cottage, as well as three others in the same price bracket of £20,000. The journey between houses was incredible, we had no idea how beautiful the Creuse area of the Limousin was, and how much space there was. We viewed our chosen property first and weren’t dissapointed, but went on to view the three others. As nice as they were, they were no match in our eyes for the little house at Cluptat. It was agreed to meet the next day to give our decision. Catherine and I went off to spend the night in a 16th century coaching house complete with gourmet menu at a very reasonable cost. The next day was as warm and sunny as the one before, and armed with the keys and a map, we went for the second viewing. In the cold light of day, we could be more objective, we saw the mammoth amount of work needed to bring a 200 hundred year old cottage into the 21st century. We new of the pitfalls and the ever spiraling costs involved in renovation having already completed similar projects back in the U.K. But undauted and encouraged by the lovely sleepy village and our new neighbours to be, who immediately extended their hands in friendship, we met Karen under the 14th century chateau, and signed the paperwork.
Next episode – the buying process, a real in depth look at the work needed, and exploring the area.
Terry Ferdinand lives with his wife Catherine in the north east of England where he hosts a radio show. You can find out more about Terry’s radio show here: Bishop fm