France – closed for August

“Sorry to call you so early…but were you under the impression, as I was, that you were due to sign the compromis for the mill next week?”  My heart sank as I listened to our agent telling me that he had been trying to talk to the notaire that morning, but that she and her PA had both gone off on holiday for two weeks. We only had a week of our stay left in France and it looked like everything was going pear-shaped. I confirmed that Maître G had said she was going away but that she had given me her PA’s email address to send some documents to, in her absence – and now it looked like the PA had disappeared too.

France is notorious for shutting down completely during August. It’s one of those love/hate things for us. The French have their priorities right when it comes to work-life balance. They have strict rules for when they work and nothing gets in the way of their family and leisure time when they’re not working. But with my British hat on, it seems crazy that everyone goes off on an extended summer vacation just as the the busiest time of year starts in the summer. Restaurants and bars will close for their congés annuels, annual holidays, just as the tourists flock in. We’ve been stuck, waiting for several weeks in the past, for a spare part for the car,because the factory has shut down for August, just to be told with a gallic shrug – C’est les congés annuels. 

We rather anxiously spent the day waiting for the agent’s next call. “Leave it with me”, he’d said as he hung up, but we were still worried. We had decided that it would be a good idea to go back and walk round the village where ‘our’ mill was, just to check out the local amenities and acquaint ourselves a bit more with the area! It was really nice to see the place again, if only from the outside – especially as the weather had at last changed for the better and we could appreciate the beautiful setting in gorgeous sunshine.

Our agent was as good as his word and phoned back later to say that the agent for the mill was now back off his holidays and had been sent all the necessary paperwork by the notaire, so we could go ahead with the signing on Tuesday, as planned. Phew!

It’s been a busy few days, with a flying visit down to the Corbière region to see Colin’s sister and her partner who live down there. The amazing mountains and forests of the area and the peace and tranquillity of their isolated home was a complete change from the green rolling farmland of our area in the Sarthe. It was like being in a different country and made a lovely break.

Back ‘home’ in Avoise today, we’ve been visited by our neighbours from up the road,  who popped by to say hello, as well as their daughter and her friends visiting from Houston, who admired our 16th century house. After a lovely lazy lunch over at the home of Marianne and Jean-Paul who live in the next village and have been such good friends to us over the years, we decided that packing could wait until tomorrow and sat in the garden, reading and soaking up the sun. We’ve been really touched by our neighbours’ sadness to see us go (even if we are only moving 15 kilometres away!). Even the young guy from next door, who moved in relatively recently, and who we barely know, came over the other evening to say he had heard we were leaving and how he would miss us! It’s taken a while to build these relationships, especially as we are here for such a short time each year, but the warmth and generosity of the Avoisiens has made our time here really special.

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