Fridays are market days in Montrichard, so this morning, before our friends Sophia and Mo arrived from Paris to spend the day with us, we put on our rain jackets and made the five-minute walk to town. (More like 15 minutes when you've got a geriatric dog in tow.)
Because it's a small town, I expected a market to match its diminutive proportions, but what we walked into--beginning at Mairie and continuing up the road for roughly two small-town blocks--was a rather grand and interesting marché with a wide variety of vendors.
Sure, there were the typical things you find at most outdoor markets throughout France, namely fruits and vegetables, but there were also vendors selling organic locally made soaps, regional wines, olives and other cured things (looking at you, lupini beans!), plant starts, mushrooms galore, fresh Italian pastas, rustic loaves of organic bread, and fried potato pancakes that were *almost* vegan (we might have to beg them to find an egg replacer so we can eat them, too).
There were several stalls that we were particularly excited about, including the tiny two-woman bread stand and the woman selling herbs, grains, olive oil, tamari, and other items in bulk. And then we stumbled on the bike fix-it guy!
One of the big draws to this area was the cycling; not exactly the kind that Jeff likes to do (crazy downhill mountain biking), but the kind I prefer: lazy rolling paved paths that allow you to feel safe while enjoying the scenery, and make stops for picnics and wine drinking. This area is cram-jam full of bike paths throughout both the Cher and Loire river valleys, so it makes sense that there would be a mobile mechanic out here. We didn't introduce ourselves but plan to do that the next time.
We ended up buying a ton of mushrooms, wine, green beans, and spinach, which we feasted on for the next few days before our Monday departure back to Paris. We weren't able to get through all the green beans, so we packed them to go, thinking that we'd add them to Fanny's homemade dog food. Turns out they went into a pot of soup last night, and—almost a week later—they were still crisp and flavorful.
I think we're going to love it here!
Buying a house is a pretty big deal all on its own, but buying a place sight-unseen, during a pandemic, in another country is next-level real-estate adventure. (Or insanity. Call it what you will!)
When this place first popped into my inbox, I was immediately struck by its potential. It just seemed sturdy and solid, and even though it isn't the prettiest thing ever, I liked its French-country homeliness. The price was pretty damn good, too! (Around the price of a new Prius.). And then there were the wooden beams, the fireplace, the cute little yard, and its location, a mere five-minute walk to the historic center Montrichard, France and a 90-minute train ride to Paris.
My friends in France knew I was on a perpetual hunt or something pas trop cher, and pas trop loin de Paris, so when I told my friend Jenny about this place, she offered to take the train down from Paris to scope it out on my behalf. I felt like I'd won the French real estate lotto! Someone I trusted to be my eyes (and nose--I did NOT want a weird-smelling house) and offer an objective, honest opinion. Now, we're getting somewhere!
So, last July—as the pandemic raged on--Jenny trekked down to Montrichard and met with the realtor at l'Addresse. The realtor picked her up at the train station and drove her to the house, and Jenny took me on a WhatsApp virtual tour of the space. The real-time visuals reinforced my initial impressions: funky, with potential. And potential doesn't come cheap. There would be much work involved (and €€€) to make the place cute and cozy and functional. I needed to think it over.
Having written a few books on how to move to France, I knew a little bit about the house-buying process. I knew it would be complicated (because EVERYTHING in France is complicated) and that a pandemic wasn't going to make it an easier. But after giving it some thought and with encouragement from my closest Parisian friends, I decided to make an offer.
It was rejected.
More on that and what happened next in my next post!
I've been obsessed with the idea of buying my own house in France for--literally—more than two decades. I may have still been in my twenties when I made my first real-estate-scouting trip, traveling from San Francisco to rendezvous with realtors in rural Brittany and Normandy, when real estate was REALLY cheap and the prices were still in Francs. I'm glad I didn't take the plunge then, because I wouldn't have wanted to live in Brittany, even part-time, so it clearly wasn't meant to be. In the intervening years, I zeroed in on Paris (too expensive) and Nice (less expensive, but still too expensive), and then drew up some criteria to help me keep the fantasy alive.
My ideal place in France, if not in a big city or a gorgeous sun-splashed Mediterranean village, had to be within reach of a big city. That means a train station is a must. I also wanted to be around water, and, in a truly perfect world, there'd be something vegan happening nearby. Oh, and some diversity in the population would be a HUGE bonus.
I set search parameters on French real estate sites like SeLoger and LogicImmo, and every now and again, something would pop up in a town called Montrichard. On the surface, it seemed to have a lot of potential: an historic town center (which I read as "tourists" and "things to do"), perfectly positioned on a scenic river (the Cher) with its own swimming beach, just 90 minutes by train from Paris (it sometimes takes that long to get across town in traffic!) and—now this was really important—it had its own Biocoop in town AND a weekly open-air market!
Other things about this town appealed to me, including the fact that cycling is big here, and that aquacenter with indoor and outdoor pools, saunas and hot tubs, and a hammam, right across the river? SELLING POINTS GALORE!
I didn't know much about the town other than what I read online, which wasn't much—or so I thought. Turns out I'd been to Montrichard once before, about seven or so yeas ago, when I went to visit my friend Terresa who was staying in Pontlevoy, one town up the road! And you know why we came here? To go to the Biocoop! I think that's what you call going full-circle.
Of course, I had to fall in love with a particular house right as covid started. And so began the adventure of buying a house in another country that I'd only ever seen online. Crazy, right? More on that in my next post!