This morning we returned from a hectic three weeks in Verteuil-sur-Charente in mid-south-west France, in the Poitou-Charente region of France. The purpose of this whirlwind trip was to furnish a little house, and make it habitable and comfortable. We want to use it next year, but also, we had some groups of friends and colleagues planning to stay at our house in Verteuil, the first couple in just two weeks from now.
It has been a hectic, busy and fun experience over the last three weeks making final preparations for making our little stone terrace house habitable. We met the lady who owns the house next door the evening before we left the village. She comes every evening to attend to them - we were wondering who feeds and waters the 10 chickens in the back plot. When I confirmed with her that she doesn't actually live there, she gasped and cried "mais non, it is not habitable!!"
Our house is now almost all furnished, but still some work to be completed in the next two weeks before some friends arrive to stay for a week.
Allan will be painting the outdoor patio area and the ceiling of the ground floor. Plus his son will be revarnishing the outside shutters at the front of the house.
Andy the plumber will be putting in a new toilet on his third visit here.
Paul the electrician will be installing new light fittings, and trying to fix the stove top and oven.
And we still need to take delivery of the bed (we have been sleeping on mattresses on the floor this week); plus a convertible sofa for downstairs; and a replacement glass cabinet that was damaged during its first delivery.
Plus a little bit of landscaping by Andy the gardener, which will be a work in progress over the next couple of years.
The last day in Verteuil consisted of rest, coffee and pineau by the river, a few internal house photos to post on the house's web site, a quick trip into Ruffec to buy a toilet roll holder (so glad we are getting rid of the current pink toilet and roll holder!), and then drive into Angoulême to catch the TGV to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.
Where did this adventure begin? .... While Don and I were in Europe last year, not only did we walk the 800 km pilgrimage of the camino de Santiago de Compostela (from St Jean Pieds de Port in France to Santiago in Spain), but we also managed to pick up this cute little stone house in France. This was very exciting and has been a dream of mine for a number of years. The buying process was a very long and very French experience! And we thought stamina was needed to finish the camino!!
Our house is a small 18th century stone terrace house in the beautiful little village of Verteuil-sur-Charente, or Verteuil (pronounced “Ver-toy”). Verteuil is set on the Charente river just under three hours south of Paris by TGV. The village has a lovely, quaint character and its magnificent château, or castle, is just down the street! Verteuil is surrounded by sunflower fields and dozens of other historic villages and hamlets. It’s a great area, and we love it!!
When I first saw the advertisement for this little house back in Australia in late 2013/early 2014, I popped it in my “favourites”, revisited it a couple of times, and then it promptly took place along with a number of others in the back of my mind and deep in the memory banks of my computer. I had been receiving a number of weekly listings of French houses for sale for about 5 years, an on-going hobby. Looking primarily around the south western regions of Poitou-Charente, Aquitaine and Limousin, there was plenty of stock!
During our second week in France of a five month séjourn in Europe in 2014, and after a few emails to and from Joan the real estate agent, we had a look at this tiny house in Verteuil. It piqued our interest straight away. Verteuil was already a favourite village from previous trips – a quaint little village nestled into the lovely Charente river, a classic château, a nice selection of shops and cafés, and close to the town of Ruffec (5 km) and the regional city of Angoûleme. A week later, at the end of our first week walking the camino de Compostela, we made an offer over the phone, and that put in train the long, bureaucratic and phenomenally frustrating, but exciting and rather exotic process of buying a property in France. It finally became ours in November 2014, and we spent our first night in the house (sleeping on the floor) on 9 July 2015.
Mum, Don and I descended on Verteuil in June/July this year to help furnish and fit out the house. Over the coming years we would love to share this little piece of France with family and friends. If you are planning to visit Europe in the future, don’t just set your sights on Paris. Think about an experience in regional France to experience a slice of the real France - la France Profonde!
Jim lives in Brisbane, Australia, works at The University of Queensland, and enjoys visiting, reading and learning about France.