Pumpjack & Piddlewick have moved! Nope, not the website sort of move, but the physical, moving house, new home sort of move. Our Dream in coming to France has been focused on wine making (underway), setting up our own businesses (*details at bottom), improving our French (could be better, but getting there and this move will help) and buying our own house in France. Tick, tick, tick and now TICK!
A Burgundy by any other colour
We chose the Burgundy (Bourgogne to you French speakers) area to begin our life in France, because it’s Pumpjack’s favourite region, for, you guessed it – the wine.
We started our French adventure by taking on a Gardienship / caretaker role of a small Chateau near Chablis. This gave us the opportunity to get to know France, its people and culture. We also had the time to determine the best area for us. We knew we wanted to stay in Burgundy, but the question was – where?
New Home Tick List
The past year plus has been spent looking in different areas and winnowing down our list of criteria for our new home. Each time one of us visited an area or a village the criteria tightened and the list shrunk.
The final list read: a house we could put our stamp on (read: renovation project). Has to have a garden big enough for our animals to roam, and ideally space to plant a veg garden. Must be in a village that felt alive, even with the shutters closed. It had to have shops, a cafe or restaurant and all the necessities within walking distance of our new home (or if not, had to be available by public transport). As ex-pats, with family living elsewhere, we wanted to be within reasonable access of transport to Paris and internationally. And, the most important criteria of all, it had to be near vines, with greater opportunity of grapes, juice and even wine for Pumpjack to buy as part of his negociant business.
Location, Location, Location
The list narrowed our area to the west of Beaune and Chalon sur Soane and south west of Macon, in the northern Beaujolais area. The latter had a more Mediterranean feel, whilst west of Beaune a more English countryside feel (You know where this is leading.)
The Beaujolais area was also more ‘done up’ so villages were a bit prettier, a bit more touristy. And, quite a bit more expensive.
You get what you pay for
Houses in France are ‘cheap’ compared to many other countries, particularly the UK and USA. But I put cheap in inverted commas for a reason, as there is a reason they come cheap. They are very, very expensive to do up in France. Unless, you can do it yourself. Labour in France definitely comes at a price, probably quite a fair price, but a price none-the-less.
And by cheap houses, I am definitely referring to old houses, houses that need a bit more loving, may be a restoration project or even a complete conversion. As a general rule, and I am generalising here, the French don’t buy old. Give them a new home anytime. I suspect again it comes down to cost.
‘New Home’ Cost
A good 3 bedroom, new home (built in last 20 to 30 years) in (our area of) France will cost you around 100K, give or take. Much depends on the amount of land, etc. of course, and condition. The lovely thing about a new house is it is done and requires basic maintenance and no hiring contractors to do work. The cost is the cost.
Whilst a refurbishment or renovation, we have seen from as little as 14K upwards. The price, of course, definitely depends on size of house and amount of land, but also particularly how much work will be involved to make it habitable. If you don’t do the work yourself, it would be easy to spend 50K to 100K, the latter being more the ballpark, to do up a place.
Overall the French are not really into DIY (Do It Yourself), when it comes to houses. They are much more about maintenance. (DIY is definitely a native English speaker thing.) So why, when they have the choice, wouldn’t they spend 100K on a new home rather than 40K on a similar sized but crumbling old house plus another 100K to make it into a home? All of which is time and worry until done. The smart money goes on the new house.
But we are not French.
A Doer Upper
We found our new home in an old village (Roman roads, 12th century château, Knights Templar type old). The area, village and house ticked all the boxes. The house isn’t that old, by the villages standards. No one is quite sure, but the information seems to lean to late 1800s. However, the roof beams make us think earlier.
It is more a refurbishment project than full renovation. But, as it came with a barn we would like to turn into a house eventually, a renovation may be in the cards, given permission. And we will do it all ourselves. At least that’s the plan. (Though we may call on willing family, friends and HelpX if we find ourselves struggling.)
Moving Day – A Tail to Tell
Lengthy purchase time frames undertaken, many trees felled for the signing of French paperwork, and we finally reached moving day. We actually had the opportunity to move in stages, taking car loads down over a few weeks, but the day we moved the animals will forever more be thought of as The Moving Day.
With so much to do, as we were still managing the Château and its garden, it took until early evening before we were ready to load all the animals in our car. We took out the back seats to make space. Then with their toys, bedding, food, and any other animal related detritus loaded into the very back, we added in our feathered and fur flock. All 11 of them: 3 cats, 6 ducks, a disabled chicken and a standard sized (rather heavy) dachshund. And us. And a full trailer in tow. It was going to be a long drive.
The cats had a cat carrier each. Each pair of ducks went in a cat carrier. All 6 cat carriers went in the back seat passenger area, more or less facing each other so there could be companionship and conversation. Pumpjack duly drove, whilst Poule Noir, our unable to walk chicken, nestled in Chewie’s bed between my feet as Chewie (our dog) decided he was best placed on my lap to watch proceedings out the window.
We left as the sun went down. Probably a blessing as only the cats were nocturnal. But they did all take the opportunity, well except for Poule Noir, to tell us what they thought of this change in their routines. We let them get on with complaining to each other until one by one, as darkness settled in, they started to quiet. Then someone farted. I mean really, really let one go. We suspected a duck. Or, given the smell, two. That started everyone up again. Complaining, I mean. But finally, after a couple hours, only Sir Studly (duck) kept informing us he was still there. The cats slowed down in their constant complaints as time wore on and finally, after 3 hours, just before 1am, they quieted completely. 5 minutes later we arrived at our new home.
*Please do shop with us:
Pumpjack & Piddlewick Shop – selling vintage Fab Finds from France
French Silk Scarf – we found such amazing scarves we decided they needed a shop of their own
Taking Time To – our slow burner (get it?) focusing on writing, creating and journaling (free printables available)
Terroir-au-Verre – showcasing our wine (available for purchase in France and the UK)