In a few words, we have found many interesting shops and services in Dinan, Lamballe, St Brieuc and Rennes. St Brieuc has the best “home depot” like supply for building materials on quantity, selection and price. Lamballe has a lovely little “Salon de The” which we think we will grow to like almost as much as Starbucks.
We have managed to secure a car, a trailer, a serious weed trimmer, a chainsaw, a few extra pieces of furniture (there is an IKEA in Rennes), phone and internet connections, a temporary kitchenette (two hot plates, a sink and a small fridge all in one unit), running water and electricity along with a few yard tools.
I found a car magazine in the shop in town which happened to be the annual “used” car rating issue – or “occasion”. They seemed to like the Peugots and Citroens. So, we toured around a bit, kicked a few tires and ended up with a 2005 diesel 6 cylinder Citroen C4. All negotiations were handled by Elizabeth as it was all totally in French. She managed to get a good chunk of money off the price and a free installation of a trailer hitch and light package. It was somewhat funny with the sales guy, because anytime he tried to explain something to me he motioned for Elizabeth to come over. She was watching the kids in another area. Hey, just show me where to sign. Aside from the French, buying a car in France is somewhat simple – just a passport and proof of residence. According to the consulate in Toronto, I can at my option apply for a French driver’s license, but guess what is needed – a ton of paper work, or is that tonne.
By the way, actually gave in and bought a metric tape measure the other day – too much math involved in buying simple things like tarps and 2X4’s.
Our interaction with artisans (trades) has so far contradicted what we’ve read in all the books. I really think the French do these things on purpose to the British just to piss them off – much like the folks at Revenue Canada who fake the foreign accents because they know it pisses us Canadians off. Let me explain. Our water was not working. We went across the street to see the plombier, electromanager and chauffage guy (plumbing, electrical and heating) on Wednesday morning. He made an appointment to see us at the house on Friday afternoon, but he said it would be 5:30 or later. He showed up at 5:45. While waiting for him, we discovered a notice in the dust from the water folks (SAUR) saying they had shut the water off in September 2009 due to non-payment. He pulled out his cell phone, made a call and said we would have water by Monday, Tuesday at the latest. We had running water by Monday afternoon on our return from being out all day. We then bought a washing machine from him and asked if he could deliver and hook it up as well as hook up our temporary kitchenette for us. We ordered the washing machine on Tuesday, he said he would deliver before noon on Thursday. Thursday at 11:30 he showed up with the washer. He didn’t have some of the necessary parts to do the kitchenette, but called his other guy (he has three trucks on the road) and said that this other fellow would be here at 2. And of course, at 2 the other guy showed up and hooked up the sink – it took him an hour and a half. So, there you have it, this guy is on top of his game (I also think he would really like me to have him do the work necessary in this house). And just so you know, all this was done in french, so Elizabeth handled most of the conversation. He did laugh at a few of my wise cracks, so he can’t be all that bad and does know a little English – I will have this whole town greeting everybody with “How’s it goin, Eh?” within the month.
I also called a contractor referred to us by the agent who sold us the house. I called on Friday, this guy answered his phone. I explained I had a large project and would think it best for him to look at it rather than try and discuss on the phone. He agreed and said he would be over to see me Monday at 11. He showed up Monday at 11. Nice guy too. He also answered the critical question correctly when I asked him where would he like to start the nickel tour. He said he likes to start in the basement. Correct answer in my books, everything starts with a good foundation.
It was really good for me to meet this gentleman as he is very experienced in old house restoration. He confirmed to me a few of the problem spots that I knew of but also confirmed that the house is in great shape and has good “bones”. Anyway, we are waiting for a quote from him to build out the attic for us.
Andrew and Arabella have spent the last three weeks walking back and forth from the gite to the house. It is a short 100 yard walk with lots of interesting things to look at along the way – flowers, stones, the firehall and our mailbox. They just love it. They also gather the recycling and walk it down to the recycling center just behind the gite. Apparently there is no pick up for recycling but the short 2 minute walk has become an enjoyable event for us. One evening we were confronted by a small black lab. This dog sniffed us up and down, took a wide path around us and continued on his way – I think we were standing in his normal route. As we were walking back to the gite, he passed us with a huge bone in his mouth – he had obviously been to see the butcher at the back door (there is one in town by the way – butcher that is). So, sure enough every day at noon and at dinner time this dog passes by the house all by himself, crosses the street, continues on down through the park and sure enough a few minutes later returns with his “treat”. He either belongs to the butcher or there is some family near us that never has to buy dog food – oh, and one happy, plump black doggie. Bella gets a kick out of him and watches for him all the time – her sweet little voice from the window, “there goes the goggie!!”
While mowing down the orchard one day, I discovered a small set of steps through the wall and down into the little river that runs through our property. It has become A & A’s secret stairwell. They like to go down and stomp about in the river as it is rather shallow at the bottom of the stairs (at least at this time of year). There is also a little dam we can cross to get to the other side of our property. Andrew loves this spot as the sound of the water is cool and there are lots of rocks to search for dinosaur bones and fossils.
I have managed to salvage a really neat little desk and have set up shop in the upper hallway. I actually did some work for the companies in Whitby and Sudbury. It was nice to get this organized and moving along just to prove it possible to do.
Our container is still on its way and we are all eagerly awaiting its arrival – Andrew and Arabella for their toys, me for my tools and E for her tools and supplies. It also has our bed in it – our most supreme comfortable mattress. Anyway, soon enough.
The weather here has been fabulous – mostly sunny, not too hot and cool clear nights. The streetlights shut off around 10 and the stars in the sky are awesome as there is very little light pollution. Standing on the road looking north towards our house from the gite, it looks like the big dipper is right above our roof.
My French is improving as well as Elizabeth’s too. I can actually pick out bits and pieces of conversation. However, I still can’t formulate more than a one or two word response along with the cordialities of the day.
That’s it for now, on to week 4!!!