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…