Category Archives: La Maison des Deux Clochers

The Grape Years – La Maison des Deux Clochers

This is an excerpt from my first book project about our adventures buying, renovating, and renting out our four homes in Burgundy. I’m currently searching for a publisher and / or agent, so if anyone knows of anyone who would be a good fit s.v.p. send them vers moi!

This excerpt of “The Grape Years – La Maison des Deux Clochers” picks up as Franck and I think we have found the perfect house in Burgundy – an absolute steal.  After hiding out in the village washing house (so the other villagers won’t see us) the realtor finally arrives and we begin the tour…

 

Magny-Les-Villers, Burgundy, France

 

As we approached the black Citroen that had pulled up in front of the gate, a sweaty man stumbled out of the driver’s seat. A flurry of papers slid out of a file he clutched in his hand and scattered over the dusty ground. Franck collected them swiftly, passed them back to the realtor, and herded us towards the shady patch in front of the house gate.

Once we were safely away from the village’s main thoroughfare, Franck stuck out his hand. “Bonjour.”

The real estate agent was still muttering vague mercis and merdes and fais-chiers but managed to shake it.

Vous êtes Franck Germain?”

Oui. And this is ma femme, Laura.”

Being introduced as Franck’s wife was only a year old and still gave me a shiver of delight. There was a cave-man possessiveness about the word “wife” in French; “femme” meant both “my wife” and “my woman” at the same time.

The agent clasped my hand briefly in his moist paw and then began to forage in his pocket for the key to the front gate.

Franck was quivering with the need to get us out of the villagers’ sight. He sighed in relief when the realtor finally extracted the key and opened the creaking barrier.

“So you’re from Châlon,” Franck said, his voice low as we walked into the grassy yard between the two houses. “This is a bit far away for you. Do you represent a lot of sellers in this area?”

The agent shook his head. “Almost never. Completely out of my secteur, this is, but it is being sold by some old ladies who are friends of my mothers. I’m doing it as a favour but to tell you the truth it’s become excessively inconvenient.”

He led us, or rather was hustled onwards by Franck, into the first house that ran low-slung across the back of the yard.

I stepped inside and looked down. My feet stood on huge flagstones – perfectly polished with time and wear. The room was beautifully cool. From what I knew of these old Burgundian houses, the walls were made with stones equally as thick and massive. The kitchen was sparse and simple but I loved everything about it; the scratched wooden cabinets, the huge double sink, even the spiral fly tape that was dotted with several large and expired victims. The back of my neck prickled; I swear I could almost feel the sweet breath of Franck’s guardian angels behind us.

We continued on to the other rooms. The house was small but oozing with potential. There was the fabulous kitchen, bien sûr, and then a bedroom graced with wooden floors with deep patina. I looked right on past the mustard and green velvet wallpaper, the cross complete with an impaled Jesus over the headboard, and the dried and very dusty bridal bouquet under an even dustier glass dome on the bedside table. Take all that away and this room would ooze with charm. Next to the bedroom was a small WC with a sink but no other bathroom (I wondered where the previous occupants had washed – in the well?). Next was a separate living area with more glorious flagstones and a massive stone fireplace.

Franck didn’t say a word but from the flash of his hazel eyes I knew he wasn’t missing a thing.

 

A suivre…

The Grape Years – La Maison des Deux Clochers

This is an excerpt from my first book project about our adventures buying, renovating, and renting out our four homes in Burgundy.  I’m currently searching for a publisher and / or agent, so if anyone knows of anyone who would be a good fit  s.v.p. send them vers moi!

This excerpt of “The Grape Years – La Maison des Deux Clochers” picks up after Franck and I have arrived back at his family home in Burgundy to try and recover from two exhausting years in Oxford where I worked day and night completing my law degree.  I’m teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown which isn’t helped by the fact that we’re still in limbo – awaiting my final exam marks which will dictate our future.  After I receive a small and unexpected inheritance from my grandfather we try to distract ourselves by looking for a little pied-à-terre of our own near Franck’s village…

 

 

If an amazing property for sale at a bargain price in the charming village where Franck and I were married was a sign, what was the meaning of a wasp getting stuck in my sandal?

We visited the property in Marey-les-Fussey the next morning.  The realtor was driving in from Châlon-sur-Saone, about half an hour South, and the only free slot he could give us was eleven o’clock.  Right away would have suited us much better, but we reminded ourselves that it wouldn’t do to appear desperate.

We walked to Marey-les-Fussey, only a leisurely ten minute stroll through the vineyards from Villers-la-Faye.  We arrived half and hour early, of course, and there was no chance of getting lost.  We had only driven by the sprawling property about a dozen times or so the day before.

I crossed the street and walked right up to the front gate of the property.  It looked deserted.  The agent had told Franck that the sellers, two elderly sisters, had already moved into a nursing home.  The red tiled roofs and the old stone well in the courtyard beckoned.  Franck tugged at my arm and pulled me back into the shadows on the other side of the street.

“Everyone in the village will be watching,” he hissed.  I surveyed the empty cobblestone thoroughfare.  A vineyard tractor rumbled in the far off distance, but that was the only sign of human life.

“In here!” Franck ducked under the thick stone walls of the village washing house and pulled me in behind him.

“What’s wrong with just walking around the yard of the house?” I asked, blinking as my eyes adjusted to the dark.  “Nobody’s there.”

“We mustn’t be seen,” he answered in a furtive whisper.  “Or overheard.”

There was a little round window looking out to the street.  I stood on my tiptoes and peered out.  Still no sign of life except a few chickens clucking their merry way around a grassy patch two houses down.

“There’s nobody out there,” I said.  “Unless you’re worried the chickens are spying on us.”

“They’re there even if you can’t see them.”

“Who?”

“The villagers.  They’ll be watching us.  That’s how it is in ces villages.”

Franck was always full of tales of the mysterious workings of ces villages, but I was skeptical.

I looked out the window again.  It was just past ten thirty, but the day was already so hot that waves of heat shimmered over the cobblestones and seemed to slide down the slopes of the vineyards which dropped from the village on either side.  There were worse places to wait than under the cool of the ancient lavoir, to be sure, but I still couldn’t believe there was any real need for the cloak and dagger furtiveness.

“Even if the villagers are watching us,” I countered, though I was far from convinced, “Surely we’re allowed to visit a house that’s for sale, aren’t we?  Or is there a law against that that I wasn’t aware of?”

He reached over and pulled me to him.  “It’s not that.” He nipped my earlobe.  “The fact is that if they see us visiting the property they will start to think they  should take more interest in it.  They’ll steal it from under our noses.”

“Why would they want another huge property when they all own a house in the village already?”

“To keep an outsider from buying in their village.”

“An outsider? You’re from one village over.”

Franck’s teeth flashed in the dim light.  “I might as well be from outer Siberia.  Don’t forget that I also married an etrangère.”

The roar of a car engine drowned out the chickens’ clucks.  Franck used one strong arm to pin me against the wall while he peeked out.  Cool humidity seeped through my T-shirt and a pointed rock edge poked into my back.

“It’s him,”  Franck informed me and let me free.  We emerged from our hiding spot and tried to walk as nonchalantly as we could across the blistering road.

 

A suivre…