Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Grape Years – La Maison des Deux Clochers

Laura and Franck’s notary finally shows his true colours…could their mistake cost them their dream house in France?



“Do you mind if we confer in private for a moment with our notary?” Franck asked the realtor, who nodded obsequiously and remembered a pressing need to fetch something from his car.

Alors?” Franck asked Le Maitre as soon as the realtor was out of earshot. “Do you see any problems?”

“Not problems exactement,” Maitre Ange smoothed his hair. “The renovation costs will be extensive. I know for a fact that buyers, particularly first time buyers, tend to grossly underestimate them.”

Franck and I were nothing if not novices, but this wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I felt an old, almost forgotten, tenacity stirring.

“I understand what you mean about the high renovation costs,” I said. “But look at all that property down the hill. If we needed extra money we could subdivide and sell off one or two parcels of land.”

Le Maitre’s eyes turned on me with such a patent look of dislike that I took a step backwards. French professionals such as notaries and doctors were not fans of having their revered judgment questioned. Still, I knew what I had just said wasn’t ridiculous. We were beginners but we weren’t idiots. I watched, my stomach sinking, as Le Maitre struggled to replace his expression of disgust with one of mere exasperation. There was someone completely different behind that shiny façade – someone that wouldn’t be inspecting the property for us out of the goodness of his heart.

“I’ll have to speak to the agent about that,” he said. “You know, find out about the zoning in this village and so forth.” He made his way quickly over to the agent, who was still rummaging around the bowels of his car. Le Maitre slung his arm around him and pivoted the agent so they moved away from us, towards the washing house.

“What’s he doing?” I hissed to Franck.

“I don’t know, but I don’t like it.”

A suivre…


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!  If you are enjoying the story, please feel free to share… 

Fête de la Musique

Tonight (June 21st) is the “Fête de la Musique” all over France.  To celebrate la musique and the longest day of the year almost every town and small village in France has some sort of free public musical event on offer – we’ll be heading to Beaune to listen to the notes under a soft June sky.  

The Grape Years – La Maison des Deux Clochers

This week’s excerpt has the heaven-sent notary inspecting the Marey property for Laura and Franck. The man seems like an angel, but is he really a Judas?



The next day, Franck and I found ourselves scuttling back to our hiding spot under the washhouse in Marey. We peered through the round window for a glimpse of either Maitre Ange or the realtor.

This time I didn’t roll my eyes or complain. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone interfering with us buying the property. In bed that morning Franck and I had already decided that if we saw signs that our Maitre Ange approved of the place we would make an offer on the spot to the realtor. I pressed my hot forehead against the cool stone. It was all happening so fast.

Soon Maitre Ange arrived in a majestic silver Mercedes that somehow seemed to repel the dust that billowed up from the dry country road. I checked my watch – he was actually on time – inconceivable for a French Notary.

Franck and I covertly slid out from the washhouse and crossed the road to greet him. His blue eyes roved over the property. “Alors, this the place?”

Oui,” Franck said. “The two houses you see here and the two granges further down the hill as well as all the land – it goes all the way down to the vineyards.
The Maitre merely raised his eyebrows and began to walk towards the gate. He unwound the knot of chain, opened it up, and walked right in as though he owned the place.

“The agent hasn’t arrived yet,” Franck clarified. “Perhaps we should-“

“I seem to remember you mentioning that the owners had already moved out.” Le Maitre smiled at us winningly.

“They have,” Franck said. “Still…I’m not sure if we have the right-“.

“They wouldn’t mind prospective buyers such as us looking around, now would they?”

Franck’s eyes questioned me and I shrugged. I had argued pretty much the same thing when we first visited the property. Still, it felt more like trespassing when it wasn’t my idea.

The Maitre Ange didn’t wait around for us to agree or disagree. He strode into the yard as if he owned it, his shining head of silver hair tilted up so he could take in the vast expanse of stone and roof.

Franck and I both waited for a sign from him, what did he think of the place? Nothing seemed to escape his scrutiny. He himself , however, remained inscrutable.

A shrill honk came from behind us. Franck and I whipped around, guiltily. Le Maitre turned slowly, majestically, with one eyebrow cocked to detect the identity of the culprit who dared interrupt his inspection. The agent lurched out of his dusty car, shedding stray pieces of paper and expostulating excuses all the way across the lawn to where we stood.
Franck made the introductions. The real estate agent, taking in the gleaming personage of our Notary, was struck speechless.

Le Maitre rubbed his fingers distastefully after shaking hands with the realtor. The realtor blushed, apologetic rather than offended. “I take it you don’t sell a lot of properties around here?” Maitre Ange demanded.

Non. This is quite out of my secteur. Quite an unusual set of circumstances, actually-“

Très bien,” Le Maitre said, neatly nipping what was surely going to be a tedious story in the bud. “I would like to be shown around the property, s’il vous plait.”

Trembling, the realtor led us over to the low house first. Even though I was keeping my eye trained on Maitre Ange, I couldn’t help noticing things that I hadn’t noticed before; the huge keyhole in the thick wooden door that led into the kitchen, the marvelous, heavy key to unlock it hanging on the wall by the stove, the smoothness of the wooden banister in the tall house that ran under my palm like silk…and then there was the wild purple clematis growing up towards my little garret up in the far outbuilding. Each new and perfect detail drove home an undeniable fact – my future happiness depended on owning this place.

Maitre Ange remained silent during the entire tour, much to our frustration as well as that of the realtor who became more obsequious and nervous with every minute.

Surely Maitre Ange didn’t disapprove, I told myself. How could he possibly object to such a marvelous property at such a bargain price?


A suivre…

The Grape Years – La Maison des Deux Clochers

The hunt is on for an honest, non-alcoholic notary to help decide if the Marey house is a steal or a money pit.   If you want to catch up you can go back to the first excerpt.



There were almost as many notaries in Beaune as there were winemakers I realized as I flipped through the yellow pages.

We hopped into André’s little red car, drove down through the vineyards, past the medieval walls surrounding Beaune, and found a parking spot in the shadow of the Nôtre- Dame church.

We emerged from the car and began to wander towards the rue Paradis towards the Place du Marché. Before we could take more than ten steps we spotted a shiny gold notary seal hanging outside a pair of sleek looking glass doors.

“Look at that!” I said to Franck, who looked as thunderstruck as I felt. A Notary’s office, and a lovely looking one, right here beside where we had parked our car? I had walked around Nôtre-Dame hundreds of times and I had never noticed it before. It was like this notary office had materialized out of the ether just for us.

Franck and I hurried over to read the fine print under the golden plaque.

Notaires Associés – Maitre Ange et Maitre Dupont.

“Maitre Ange? Maitre Angel? You’ve got to be kidding me,” I muttered to the sky after a few moments of stunned silence.

Franck took a step towards the door. It slid open to allow us to enter.

The inner sanctum was just as perfect as the outside. At the reception desk sat an impeccably turned out secretary with a gravity-defying chignon. Franck, who had that French gift for charming secretaries, went up to her and explained our dilemma in regards to the property. We knew we loved it and we wanted to put an offer on it, but we really felt we needed someone like a notary to assure us we weren’t making a gigantic mistake.

Bien sûr,” she nodded. “That is most prudent. I’m sure Maitre Ange will be available to assist you in a few moments.”

Franck and I exchanged glances. The waiting room – this was surely the place where the fairy tale ended. At Maitre Lefabre’s every visit necessitated a tortuous wait in the purgatory of his stuffy waiting room filled with sticky, ripped plastic chairs and dog-eared issues of Paris Match from the 1980s. The waits seemed to be meticulously timed to test human endurance. Maitre Lefabre’s clients were always called in to the inner sanctum of his office just milli-seconds before they were about to give up and leave, not a minute before.

We edged our way towards the sleek chairs and glossy magazines that sat opposite the reception but before we could even sit down a door to the left of the secretary opened. A man with a head of silver hair and a sharply cut suit ushered us in, shaking our hands warmly and introducing himself as the Maitre Ange.

“Pleased to meet you,” Franck and I mumbled, both a bit dazed. To be able to see a notary without waiting…this was a completely novel experience…

Franck quickly gathered his wits about him and after we had sat down outlined the problem admirably to Maitre Ange.

“And what, may I ask, is the selling price?” Le Maitre asked after Franck had given a full description of the property.

Franck and I exchanged a worried glance. Was this the moment of truth when the Maitre would snort and say we had just escaped being horrifically ripped off, or that we were idiots not to have bought it for that price already?

“Two hundred and fifty thousand francs,” Franck answered. I watched Le Maitre, but his composed face revealed nothing. He merely rolled his Mont Blanc between his thumb and his forefinger.

“It does seem perhaps a tad on the high side,” he said, non-committal. “Then again, after a long period of stagnation there is renewed interest in these villages and there are a limited amount of properties for sale. I believe I must see it before I am able to give you my professional opinion.”

Franck winked at me. This is exactly what we had wanted to happen.

“How would you like to be… ah…remunerated…for your time?” Franck asked delicately.

Le Maitre clicked the top of his Mont Blanc pen and bestowed a warm smile on us. “Don’t worry about that. We can figure that out later, depending on whether I am able to assist you or not. Now, when shall we arrange for a viewing? I have some availability tomorrow.”

Fifteen minutes later the viewing had been set up and we floated out of the Notary’s office, feeling divinely protected now that we had the Angel Maitre on our team.

If only life unfolded like this all the time, faith would be a snap.


A suivre…