Sharing France with you
Every week you'll find new stories, local and national events, comments, recipes and advice on this page. Click on the Archive button to see previous posts full of interesting information and links.
Is Europe's ghostliest train station about to rise again?
It was one of the world's most opulent railway stations, sitting imposingly on the French-Spanish border - but then it fell into disrepair. Now, writes Chris Bockman, the building is showing new signs of life.
When they built the station at Canfranc, it was on a grand scale and with no expense spared. It had to be bold and modern - an architect's dream come true, built in iron and glass, complete with a hospital, restaurant and living quarters for customs officers from both France and Spain.
At the time it was nicknamed the "Titanic of the Mountains".
To give you an idea of its size - there are 365 windows, one for each day of the year; hundreds of doors; and the platforms are more than 200m long. The question is, how did such an extravagant station, high up on a mountainside in a village with a population of just 500 people, ever see the light of day?Read more ...
Meet the agent - Steve Clemo
You were an estate agent in the UK; tell us a bit about that.
My first experience in Estate Agency was from 1977 until 1979 in Braintree, North Essex working for an independent operator. Thanks to the internet and companies like Rightmove, I was able to re-enter the business without the huge start-up expense of an office etc and from 2006 until 2014 I owned and operated my own Estate Agency from my home in Bracknell, Berkshire. We offered all the services you would expect from an agent.
When did you move to France, and why?
Full time in 2014. I had just turned 60 and thought that was a good time to ‘retire’. Little did I know what awaited me.
How was your experience as a property hunter?
Very good. Although the research I did beforehand made it easier for the agent to find me a suitable property. I knew roughly where I wanted to be and what I wanted to pay and my budget was flexible
What did you buy?
An old farmhouse which needed considerable renovation, with a large barn also requiring work, situated on a 2 hectare plot with views.
Describe your new life…
I’m ‘living the dream’. Very little stress if any. Every day I wake up happy and appreciate where I am. Workwise, I support my girlfriend Kate who works full time for Beaux Villages Immobilier and I provide b&b and gite hire to some of her buyers and the general public.
Did you always plan to work in France?
No, I hadn’t intended to get back into Estate Agency but I met my girlfriend Kate at a party and when she described to me how Estate Agency worked in France compared to the UK, it rekindled my interest.
What are the main differences between the job you do now and the one you did in the UK?
There’s a world of difference. Being an agent in France is far more interesting. Briefly, agents in France have to work much harder to earn their commission. One example, time!! Time spent speaking to both buyers and vendors trying hopefully to create a relationship so they only buy from us and eventually sell with us in the future. Time spent travelling taking buyers to and from viewings, time spent on the phone to UK buyers, chasing vendors to return their mandats, time to attend meetings with Notaires, time doing final meter readings, time spent marketing yourself as an agent and the company etc etc etc. But in my opinion
Have Your Say
A survey about UK estate agents found that sellers are almost evenly split in their experiences of estate agents, with 48% having had no problems, but 47% having had at least one issue.
Which? has come up with the finding after surveying just over 2,000 homeowners but has not yet detailed what the issues typically are.
It has, however, now issued new advice to sellers about choosing an estate agent.Read more ...
Sunsets and Windmills
Living and working in the French countryside is always full of wonderment.
On my way from our office in Aubeterre to my home near Jonzac I turned a corner to see this!
I stopped the car and just stood..... taking in the beautiful view and the peace and quiet as the sun gently went down.
Another perfect day coming to a close.
Your Overseas Home: Property Exhibition
Our intrepid team of property consultants descended on the Hammersmith Novotel to represent Affordable France, The Spanish Estate Agent and Beaux Villages Immobilier at the Your Overseas Home Property Exhibition this weekend.
The team flew in from Malaga, Bordeaux, Amsterdam and Bergerac.
Ironically, our 'local' team from the south west of England couldn't get there!
Pictured, Karen Mathers, our call team manager, caught in a flurry of snow on Hammersmith Bridge.
All best wishes to our clients who battled the elements to attend this great ticket-only event.
Get Your House in Order!
You are putting your house in France on the market and hoping for a quick sale. Well then, let’s get that house in shape.
- All those little DIY jobs that you have been ignoring - get them done. Your potential buyers will spot any little snag...a crack in the plasterwork, broken window, flaking paint on the doors.
- Declutter! I know it’s a bore but get rid of stuff you don’t need or haven’t used in ages. Start packing some of the things you will take with you. Take the opportunity to perhaps have a “Vide Maison” one weekend. Believe it or not this can be great fun and make you some extra cash.
There are buds on the quince tree (a quince is un coing, the tree un cognassier).
I’ll need to eek out the delicious quince cheese (fruit paste) made by a friend from our autumn crop - see the recipe below.
It goes particularly well with a strong hard cheese such as Cantal or Comte.
Or if you are visiting Lot-et-Garonne search out Templais Fleuron for a rare treat. A gum-tingler!Read more ...
What have the Romans ever done for us?
It feels like ‘the best kept secret’ by the locals.
We’d been told ‘roughly’ where the aqueduct was, shown on a map even but in all our 8 years of living within 20km, it eluded us.
The aqueduct has withstood the test of time, honouring the skill of Roman engineering. It courses for 170m in the Agly valley.
The setting is tranquil with the trickling of water through the aqueduct and along the river source.Read more ...
A Day in the Life of a Trainer
We left home in the Lot et Garonne, Nouvelle Aquitaine and passed through the neighbouring Department of Tarn et Garonne and down into the Tarn, both part of the new region of Occitanie (previously Midi-Pyrenees).
A wonderful easy drive through, amongst other delights, the Aveyron gorges (which are in the Tarn; The Tarn gorges are in …… the Aveyron)
And so we conducted a training module at the BVI shop in the foothills of the Beaux Village of Cordes-sur-Ciel, refreshing the local team on all matters legal with regard to estate agency. A full house and rapt attention! All the better to serve our clients.Read more ...
Competition time: Is this a small squirrel or a large nut?
Helen Stothard, senior property consultant with the highly successful BVI Jonzac team, is able to boast a family of red squirrels in her garden on the borders of the Charente/Charente Maritime in south west France.
This picture was taken from a distance of a metre.
For your chance to have a red squirrel as a neighbour, click here to see a list of exceptional properties for sale....
Let your inner author loose! If you have an experience to share about moving to, living in or simply visiting France then we'd like to hear about it. Write a maximum of 300 words, attach a photo and we'll publish the best here.
Latest Blog Items
Making dreams come true
Meet the agent - Ali Feeney
Brexit and Exchange Rates
All eyes on your bird table!
President Macron's 'Big National Debate' under way
Heart-stopping rescue in the French Alps
The name's Grimshaw...
New Year in France
Gatwick Airport: Majority stake sold to French firm
So French! A dessert-lover’s dream
Frenchman voyages across the Atlantic
The delights of the butcher's counter
Secure your right to reside in France
Maison France 5 showcases the Quercy
Happy BVI buyers 3
There's something about Eymet
It's Truffle time!
What's in a name?
France Income Tax 2018
Autumnal awe in Aubeterre
Rocking Horse House
Happy BVI buyers 2