One year ago today, I fell in love……
Actually lets go back a little further, it was fourteen years ago Paul and I fell in love with an area of France. Introduced by friends, nous somes tombé amoureax avec L’Herault en Languedoc France, we haven’t missed a year since, sometimes visiting four or five times and I have been bringing painters on holiday here for almost as long.
We had had a dream of buying a house in the area, but pushed it aside and carried on with life, then property prices dropped here and we started dreaming again. The first house we found in Caux fell through for various reasons, we learnt a lot about the purchasing system here and didn’t loose anything, apart from the house.
In August last year we decided to come and look again, we had a number of houses lined up to see, one had really caught my eye. It was a nosey view, I had no intention of buying but loved the way it was decorated.
All the houses we had looked at, we didn’t want a project, had been renovated with white walls and bits of exposed rock. This was very different, colour painted walls to fit the era in which the house was built, 1830, full of antiques and chandeliers in each room, trés different, trés chic.
I had made a map on line of the area in which we wanted to buy, Autignac was just on the edge of the if we must area and the wrong side of the N909 (my shoulder number when I was in the Met).
10 August 2107, we were meeting the estate agent at their office in Magalas at 2pm. we assumed she was having a long lunch as she was late. A man (English) came and said she was at a showing and the viewers had put an offer in she would be with asap.
Louise arrived and brought us to Autignac, she showed us another house, that was a project, it wasn’t what we wanted. She then brought us to La Liberté……..
The first room we walked into was the garage, if you can call a garage a room. Immediately I saw a studio, a very large studio, 85㎡, with an amazing ceiling. I’m hoping to finish putting up the plasterboard today.
Walking a round the house we could see it had been lovingly restored, Lousie told us it had been empty and locked up for 50 years before the current owners bought it and worked on it.
When we got to the attics Paul said this is mine, a room of his own to paint his models, for his board games and a gaming table to be left out. That was the important things sorted now for the rest of the house.
Our intention has always been if we bought somewhere, it would be open house for my painting friends to come and paint, Paul’s gaming friends to come to play tournaments and for me to run painting holidays from the house for a limited number of weeks a year.
La Liberté was perfect each bedroom having it’s own bathroom,
in the dining room Paul said to Louise I always wanted a red room – he also wanted wood panelling and walls lined with books, we haven’t quite got that yet !!
The kitchen, also important to me, those of you that know me know cooking and feeding other people is one of my biggest loves, the kitchen still has a traditional Languedocian chimney hood.
La Liberté is a house of rooms with high ceilings, but the rooms are not so big they can’t be cosy. Friends have been to stay and fallen in love too, I felt and still feel very much it is a friendly house.
Whilst we were standing in the dining room, Louise said to Paul “Do you want to still see the other two houses?”, Paul didn’t even look at me he replied “I don’t think so”. I was being quietly overwhelmed, really moved by the house, but trying to keep a lid on it, we had lost the last one.
We discussed offers, told her our budget and Louise said there was probably some wriggle room with the owners.
We left and went to our favourite place, Marseillan Port for ice cream sundaes, we know how to live!
La Liberté was being run by the owners as a Chambres d’Hôtes so I looked at their website. On the back page was a picture of the owners, shocked I said to Paul “She owns it!”, he didn’t believe me, I showed him the photograph. A bit perplexed I texted Louise “We’ve been on La Liberté website, we’re still interested !!😜”
She rang me back and said, “I told Paddy (her boss) I’d got ot tell you!”. We’ve thought about it since and it was actually better that we didn’t know, at the viewing, Louise owned La Liberté, she saw our natural reactions to the house and realised how much we loved it and the work she and Micheal had done to bring it back to life – she knew we weren’t going to rip out the love they had put into it. Though we now know why she knew such intimate details about the plumbing and electrics. We could have booked our viewing with any other agent, we just happened to book it with Artaxa and Louise was on duty then.
It took Louise and Micheal two months to empty the house, because we had the earlier house that fell through, we only had to update our details with the bank and we were good to go.
We signed for the house on 10 November 2017, exactly three months after the first viewing. Hiring a van in the UK and drove down with the essentials to be able to live comfortably in La Lberté. stayed one night in the Ibis in Beziers, two nights in the house and drove back to the UK.
One of the items we brought from the UK was a rug that had been my parents, Dad had difficulty walking and kept tripping so they had given us a the rug. We unrolled it in the Salle de Jour and in went perfectly, with the walls the floor tiles and the feel of the room, serendipity.
A year since first viewing La Liberté not everything in life has been roses, with the house yes it’s lovely and we’ve been made welcome in Autignac. We knew this would be a year of transition, when we bought a house in France we thought we would split our lives between here and the UK. We have now decided it will be two years of transition as we move our lives to France.
We won’t be abandoning the UK completely I will still be working with painting demonstrations, workshops and holidays in Norfolk and around the UK, travel expenses to parts of the UK are probably cheaper from here than the mileage from Norfolk ,and we both still have family in the UK of course.
Brexit will be a challenge and it is one factor of many that has made us decide this is where we want to be. La Liberté is a home that needs living in, so many Autignacois have said to us “It is so good the house is living again”, and we feel alive here too.
If you would like to know more about painting at La Liberté please go to my web site: broadskiesgallery.co.uk to see dates for holidays with tuition next year.
We can also arrange bespoke painting breaks for groups minimum three people, contact me via the website for information.