Monday, March 10, 2014

An almost at the crossroads

Today's "almost" is hidden away in the French countryside in a corner of the Languedoc not terribly far from Arles and yet completely unknown to us.

So, you know the drill. We put the puppers in the car, rolled down the windows to let in fresh air and off we went. Upon arrival, we were both pleasantly surprised by the charming village and the outer appearance of the house we were to visit. It is pretty, isn't it?

It has an imposing facade, one a bit of une femme d'un certain age posing to show off her best angle...

...and it looked positively huge...melting into the former barn (see the black line) that was in the process of being renovated into a separate, private property. 

After having met the real estate - who kindly offered that we bring Ben and Kipling along instead of leaving them in the back of the Range Rover and rushing through the visit - we entered into a very large walled in courtyard...with an ailing palm...

...and a mysterious tree that curved around the house protectively like a cupped hand. What a haven this could be! 

There are two options for entering the house, either by the main staircase...

...or by the charming side entrance. We chose the latter.

There is a pretty hall that could have made a nice space for me to work in...

...that leads onto a small guest room and bath that also looks out onto the garden. It could be sweet (Persian carpets, paint and books), save for the spider the size of an electric socket on the wall. He would have to go.

Upstairs is a series of rooms leading off of the main entry hall.  A dining room area...

...looks into the kitchen... *cough, cough*...

...and into a living area with a pretty fireplace...

...that has been bizarrely cut in two to form separate rooms. I would have torn down absolutely all of these walls to create one fantastic, light-filled living space. Amazing. I actually kind of liked the red tomettes but the ensemble (and certainly the wack stone flooring in the dining and kitchen) would look lovely with parquet. Take the far wall back to the stone, add a lime-wash to set, hang a chandelier and wow would it be pretty.

Beh, the two small bedrooms would need more...imagination...

...although Ben seemed to be enjoying himself (only in France would a dog be allowed off-leash during a home visit, right?).

The bathroom would also need a total do-over but all of this stuff is just cosmetic and look at the light!

Plus there is a really expansive...laundry room? Storage space? I have been told (a-hem) that I have a lot of clothes. So this could also be a great dressing...

...and there is also - for the deep of pockets and brave of will - the possibility to do a master suite in the attic. Somehow.

Most of the ground floor is taken up with the world's biggest garage. Truly perplexing until Remi suggested that they probably used to park tractors in there. Needless to say, it would work for us.

So...there is work but there is also mega potential. It is a huge, practical house with a private garden (big enough to put in a bassin style pool if we someday had the money) and very reasonably priced.

"Uh, huh..." I hear you thinking. Because you are no fool by now, having figured out that I only post about the houses that are definite "no's." "What gives?" you might be asking (or with whatever is the current slang for such a question).

At one point during the tour, Kipling started whining (apparently even he found it surprising that dogs were allowed on real estate visits) so I took him outside. After getting comfy on one of the ancient stone benches in the garden, I did a little video.

See below:

Now, did you hear those cars that started rolling by at the end? You can't tell in the video but they were really, really loud (and don't judge me because you can't hear it, judging isn't attractive, just trust me). And no wonder, as there is nothing separating the house from the road. Nothing. And there is another smaller road on the left hand side as well, basically giving the property a road hug. Do you remember the train track house

Well, we asked around and even though it is in the country, this house is on one of the main transport routes of the area, so that means big-wheeler trucks pass too. Apparently, the local citizens have been petitioning to get a new road built that doesn't cut through the heart of their otherwise charming village but to no avail. So, yes, for once I am not exaggerating. It is "a situation." And folks, I am not moving out of the heart of Arles where the noise level is slowly driving me gaga minus the Lady to live in the middle of nowhere where the street traffic will finally finish the job. Even the real estate agent (and trust me, in these parts they are not exactly known as bastions of honesty) admitted, "Well, if you are looking for quiet, then this is not the house for you." Et voooooillaaaa. Dude, is anyone not looking for quiet in the country?

The day was not wasted, however. We rewarded our very patient puppers with a stroll through the surrounding vineyards...

...where we were rewarded ourselves with technicolor harbingers of the everlasting Spring.

Which makes it time for a peppy Frenchy tune that I heard on the amazing fip radio today:

I responded to it because the chorus translates roughly to: "With time, everything will work out."

And it will. 

We are getting closer. I can feel it.

Would you like some proof?

Click here to read the "news"...


  1. I noticed the road right away and figured it was a NO GO!Too bad……as the potential was there.
    BUT OH MY NEXT MONTHS ISSUE………………HOW EXCITING FOR YOU AND REMI!I will definitely BUY IT!The ITALIAN husband came home from the grocery store just two weeks ago with an issue…….HE LOVES THAT MAGAZINE!!!!FANTASTIC………WONDERFUL………….This will lead to other things for CERTAIN!.

  2. What a pity. You could have turned that house into a cosy haven. What exciting news. Hope things continue to 'look up'.

  3. Congrats to Remi! Too bad about the road and noise. It could be a charming place. Tant pis!

  4. Thanks for this tour and the link to the train track house. I had somehow missed that one. And congratulations! Can't wait to find the April issue in the magazine stalls!

  5. Congratulations Remi... Can't wait to see... As devoted NG fans... we will be hanging out for this issue...
    Not the house for you... but there will be others, mopre perfect... soon... :) xv

  6. I have loooved these real estate walks -- I do want you to be able to find a place, but I am perfectly content to see houses on this website :)

  7. Congratulations, Remi..."National Geographic" is so fortunate to have the honor of showing your work! We have reserved three April issues for parents and adult children, and we will explore your piece together when we gather later this month!

    And Heather, your photograph of the flowering branch in today's post is magnificent. Are the blooms from a crabapple tree?

    I think you two are very wise to have resisted the allure of this property because of the noise and absence of a boundary between the property and the two roads adjoining it. Your patience is inspiring! Leslie in Portland, Oregon

    1. Yes! I am pretty sure that is what they are Leslie.
      And I think I am losing my patience... :o

  8. Goodness, NatGeo is wonderful! This is totally awesome. Big congrats to Remi.
    Personally, I think you guys should just come to Houston (with the puppers) and stay with us for about a year.

    House hunting, I know, is so very subjective. But. The "right" home will appear, don't settle for anything that doesn't include a good area for Ben and Kipling.

    1. Hi there!

      this is what I would do! Go right to Texas and to you! (it is the truth; I would!)

      Marsha would take me in......and those warm Texas women!
      I have only been to Dallas! But warmer women I have never met anywhere in the world!


  9. Sorry the garage can't go with you, magnificent space. The road signs in the first picture are a clue this house isn't the one. The "next" page doesn't load, no connection. I'm hoping next is your new home.
    I still see the place with the tall windows, and the one with the overgrown atrium. Dreams need nourishment.

  10. Sorry the garage can't go with you, magnificent space. The road signs in the first picture are a clue this house isn't the one. The "next" page doesn't load, no connection. I'm hoping next is your new home.
    I still see the place with the tall windows, and the one with the overgrown atrium. Dreams need nourishment.

  11. How exciting about Remi's feature in the April NG. With time things do work out. Sometimes it takes 2000 years plus 28 months, though, which may not be ideal for house hunting ;)

  12. So cool I must get the issue but the hunt continues...courage courage Heather!

  13. Just listen to La Contessa! She is right about everything! I am not exaggerating! Her heart; her values, her vision!

    SHE KNOWS!! And floor plan is key!

    I know you will find it soon!


  14. Dear Heather!
    I loooooooove your blog and your wonderful style to write and tell ...
    I wish you very good luck to find your dream house.
    I know the problem good.
    We are searching for years to find a dreamy place to live ( in Bavaria/Germany).
    No chance to live in the beautiful Provence for us.
    But for you and your husband and your cute dogs!
    Happy week!
    With love,

    1. Thank you so much Geli and welcome!! It is wonderful having you here and Good Luck on your search too. :)

  15. Look forward to next NG, a win - win for them and Remi.

  16. Dear Heather, It looked like the perfect place but then I thought about the puppers not having free range while living in the country. Those main roads are much too dangerous for them. You would always worry just as I worry about our dogs falling through the ice in winter even though our pond is beautiful.
    Congratulations to Remi, what an honor and so deserved.

    1. Good point, Gina! That is the second time you have voted in the dog's favor... :)

  17. I almost missed "the news!" How fantastic! I hope I can find a copy around here. These house posts, though this one looks amazing from the outside, totally blow away my image of French interiors. Reality is scary sometimes -- especially some of those kitchens. But I agree that 'with time, everything will work out.' Stay strong, my friend!

    1. Ahhhh...the reality of what the average French home looks like is very different than the fancy houses that we seen in the magazines...think red walls and oversize posters of New York City!

  18. Not so sweet, sweet, and sweetest.
    Congratulations Remi.
    I will lokk for the April issue.

  19. soooo close, but road noise is a definite deal breaker. BIG congratulations to Remi, such exciting news!

  20. Dear Heather,
    Following your house hunting a little bit....having some experience from the time when I was helping friends who had an Estate Agency here. I've certainly visited over 100 houses.

    One of the top rules: POSITION - POSITION - POSITION!!! One can change the inside of a house nearly entirely but one cannot change the outside, the neighborhood, the roads......
    The house in your post - of course NO. Don't even consider of any house situated directly next to a main road. Never ever! Then that tree touching the house, what a problem! Never, never have a tree planted like this one, it's only a question of time when it will damage the house.
    And the inside - too many tiled floors, cost and time expensive to get them out.
    A few tips for old house hunting:
    Inspect the roof, inspect the substance/condition of the walls. The heating system, the electricity. This is essential. And - if their has to be done any kind of restoration which is almost always the case, add between 50 and 100 percent on top of any estimates, then you are on the safe side.

    What a pity that you're not looking for a nice house in our region, there are plenty for sale and probably lower in price than in the Provence. And I could help you! All of us here live in more/less restored/converted old houses, houses which are mainly over 200 years old, so I'm pretty familiar with any kind of problems or difficulties which can come up in an old house when not proper restored.

    I wish you all the very best to find YOUR house. Lots of courage! Keep in mind that it already exist - somewhere - just waiting for you to move in. GOOD LUCK!
    Tres amicalement,

    Congratulation to Remi!

    1. Karin, thank you so much for all of your amazing advice and point of view, it is very, very much appreciated. We will keep it all in mind...

  21. Rats! I kept wondering as I read what the catch was, Heather. Zut alors! It had sooo much potential and I found myself nodding along to all your ideas for updates. Oh well, another not-quite-right. I keep thinking of all the bad dates I to go on - not to mention not-quite-Mr right relationships - before I met Mr. H. House hunting is kind of like that, right? Hope you find "the one" soon! XOXO

    1. A perfect metaphor Jeanne...but as with men, there are compromises to consider too!

  22. It's kind of like dating a guy with a toe fungus AND an annoying mother. BTW, my darling James *loves* to take out walls and the twins are good painters, so when you do find your home, keep us in mind as a free workforce. We have simple needs, a place for Elmo to sleep at night and (gluten free) baguettes.

    1. Believe it or not you can now get gluten-free baguettes here! It is what we eat. :) And I will keep your generous offer in never know. Put those twins to work!

  23. Congratulations! There is so much going on in this post. Technicolor harbingers, everlasting spring, cupped arboreal hands, long-awaited announcements ... joy overload!

  24. Road noise! Don't let anyone tell you it sounds like ocean waves breaking on the shore, which I heard from realtors waaaaay to much when I was house hunting in LA. Beautiful house though, and am loving the photo tour! xox, V

  25. I love voyeuristic real estate hunting and this tour was no exception. I admire you for knowing when to say no! I am a champion of indecision. But I think the right house is just around the corner, I can FEEL it!

  26. Yeah, that first photo with the road gave me pause - nothing more frustrating than street noise. Persevere! And in the meantime, I will enjoy living vicariously through your house hunt!

  27. Oh what a shame! The place looks like it has such wonderful potential. Oh well, not meant to be. The perfect home is out there just waiting for you!

    Clare x


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