Yes, this site has been silent, because I’ve been in France. Between Tami and I the entire experience is well documented on Facebook. But for those who may not like Facebook’s attitude(s), here is a recap on a site (mine) that will never, ever ask for more than your email address.
We decided maybe eight years ago, more or less, that we’d like to live in the European Union (EU) so that we could travel around Europe the way we’ve travelled around the USA. Honest, there were no political considerations. If you’ve followed me at all you know my opinions on things political, but this isn’t about that. We visited the UK (lovely,) Germany (very nice and friendly,) and Portugal (beautiful country, but not to Tami’s taste) before deciding upon France, for a good reason or two.
First, France is a free country. Tom Jefferson was involved in the writing of “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen” by Lafayette, during the French Revolution of 1789. He was our envoy to France during those heady times. Lafayette, as you may recall, aided and abetted our own revolution. There are differences between attitudes about some things between France and the USA, but underneath them lurks the same set of principles.
Second, France has a reciprocal tax treaty with the USA which means that each country credits taxes paid to the other in calculating what is owed in income tax. (Okay, this is maybe the biggest one.)
Third, France has what is ranked as the world’s best healthcare system. It is universal. Nobody ever goes broke due to a health condition. It isn’t free, but the copays are modest. Fees are listed upfront in each doctor’s office. There is private insurance available, for when you’re new there, or if you want to cover the copays as well. Medical care is private, but price controlled. Medical school, though, is affordable for all, so doctors don’t have to charge exorbitant fees to pay off huge bills. Their outcomes are excellent, making France a good place in which to retire in terms of health care.
Living in France, or anywhere, requires having a place to live. FEY, Steven, France is a bit too vague to use for an address. So, we began, about three years ago, researching France. We joined Expat and other French Facebook groups. We began, almost two years ago, learning French. I can now state with honestly that I do speak French. Poorly. But, I do speak it. We were concerned with climate, medical facilities, nearby stores and shops, airports, and, yes, the political leanings of the neighborhood. France’s political parties range from Far Right to Communist, with every shade in between. I find it interesting to visit a country where Communism doesn’t scare people. That party elects almost nobody beyond a few municipal council seats, which gives you an idea of how popular it is if you just leave it alone. (No, I am not a Communist. Never was, never will be. I’m just not taken in the the fake Red Scare nonsense still being put forth by some.) After much consideration we settled on Nouvelle Aquitaine (New Aquitaine,) probably the more northerly portion thereof.
We visited France two-and-a-half years ago to see how we’d tolerate the place. (We had been previously, but only as tourists with no agenda.) It worked out okay. As I’ve known for a long time, French people are extremely friendly and helpful. If you find them impolite and brusque, that’s exactly how you look to them. This isn’t the place to go into it, but you need to learn how to be polite in France. I told you, there are differences.
Two years ago we went in a more focused mode, stayed in Angouleme, principal city of the Department (think County) of Cherante, and looked at some houses. We found one that we would loved to have moved into right then, but there was no attached yard (garden, if you’re using English) so our dogs would have not had anyplace to, you know, go. It hurt to turn it down, but we did enjoy our visit. We determined to return in the Spring of 2020 to actually buy a place, but that didn’t work out. Sigh. But, as of October 30th of this year, we returned to France. We stayed this time in a B&B on the outskirts of the village of Agudelle, not far outside of the town of Jonzac. We were there for two-and-a-half weeks, and we spent most of our time looking at properties. For several days we didn’t see anything that spoke to us, until one day, in the Village of Lizant, which is in Vienne, literally on the border with Cherante, one spoke. Now we had one on our list.
Our first weekend we were tourists. We went to La Rochelle and toured the Bunker where the German officers had their officers’ club during World War Two.
This place is a stark reminder of just how bad off the French were in the war. There was a major siege by Free French forces after D-Day, the fifth one La Rochelle has endured. The German Admiral in charge and the local Mayor became good friends. The Admiral’s entire family had been killed in a bombing raid. I don’t think either of those gentlemen had anything good to say about war. From the Allied perspective, World War Two was an example of Ragnarok. It cost almost everything, but evil was defeated. (Ragnarok is not the end of the world. That’s an over simplification. But it is very, very bad.)
Also during that first week we were invited for an Apero by a British couple, and to another by our hosts, who lived next door. (An Apero is a sort of evening with drinks and light noshes. Catherine, our landlady, makes some darned fine light noshes.) Catherine researched Tami, and wrote an article for the local paper about the writers from America and the Apero with some nice people, including another writer.
Amazingly, we do now know a few people in France. The other writer is American but spends three months a year in Paris. We also met a couple consisting of a French woman and an Englishwoman. Altogether an outstanding evening. Our hosts were the nicest landlords imaginable. Gerard built the wooden house we stayed in, and while we were there he added a chicken house, and he was working on a outdoor kitchen when we left. If I had his ambition and energy I’d own the world! We took them out to a restaurant of their choosing later on to thank them. I wouldn’t mind visiting Agudelle again someday, in fact. We also, as we found the chances, visited a number of Brocants, or antique/garage sale stores. We need to know what it’s going to cost to buy things in France, after all.
A couple more days of house hunting, involving driving on a number of interesting French roads, didn’t yield anything to add to “the list.”
We saw a house for sale by the owners that was in a very nice village with a grocery and bakery and other facilities, all on one floor, walk-in basement, and we put it on the list. And on our last day of looking we saw a property with a house, and existing gite (you might call it a casita or mother-in-law house in the States,) plus a barn or two and an option to buy another house. This house had three floors including an attic and we actually put in an offer on it. But . . .
Tami sent regrets to everyone who had represented all of the properties we’d seen, and the agent for that first house on the list came back with “What price would you pay?” or words to that effect. Tami gave her what seemed like a ridiculous offer, which, with a little back and forth, was accepted. They’re leaving most of the furnishings, including the full kitchen. Nervous? Me? Shhhh, yeah! But, someday, this awl will be ours. Something like that. I do mean someday. It takes three months at a minimum to buy a house, even if you have cash. It can take as long as nine months. So, if nothing happens to mess it up, by next summer we’ll own this place. We plan to convert the former restaurant to a gite, as gites make more money than restaurants. Gee, I hope this all works out.
Besides that, we went a couple of times to an aquatic center in Jonzac, Antilles de Jonzac. We ate at a great many French restaurants, and one McDonalds (McDo.) The fries were cold. The Big Mac was fine. I think the best food we had was near the Bordeaux airport, in Merignac, at a place called Buffalo Grill. That’s a chain, and it was authentic, for real, honest American barbeque. I know, French food, lovingly prepared, delicately flavoured, all that. Yes, but let’s just say that I’m taking my Cholula with me when I move. Chicken wings, pork riblets, corn on the cob, barbecue sauce, yum.
And then we came home to Las Vegas. Turned out that the need for a negative antibody test had been added to the requirements for entering the United States, so we had to rearrange our flights, get a negative test (22 Euros a piece, but right in the airport,) and didn’t get home until a bit after eleven PM. We got up that last morning at 4:15 to make a 7am flight. Our flight left at 10. I’m lucky, I can sleep almost anywhere, and did on the flights home. Tami not so much, but she’s recovering too. And that, mes copains, is mon histoire.