Cow sheds and cow dung!

Apologies, it’s been 8 months since my last post. Let’s get you up to speed:
So I left you last time wondering what greeted us when we returned to the cowshed in Abondance, full of excitement and trepidation and ready to put in a final bid on the barn that was to be our new home in France. For the weeks leading up to this trip and for the past 8 hours in the car, we had talked endlessly about the potential of the building, who did we think would visit us ( well, more importantly, who did we think would come and help!), how long would it take, how much would it cost, what would our neighbors be like, should I get green or red Hunter wellies?
The weather was a bit overcast and drizzly, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. You could see the barn from the road, but had to approach it from the side along a little track. As we drove down the track we noticed rather a lot of cow dung outside the entrance. No worries, the building had been used as a cowshed until quite recently and was on the land of a working farm, we’d have to get used to it.
As I jumped out of the car I detected the distinct aroma of said cow dung. No worries, it is a farm, that’s part of the charm, surely?
Marianne, the estate agent, was waiting at the side door and I waded through the natural fertilizer to greet her. After the customary kiss on both cheeks, she announced ” the seller will only accept €105k, that is what you must pay” . We hadn’t even passed over the threshold! Our previous “final” offer had been €100k, so this was news to us. Lez and I exchanged despondent looks then followed her into the barn.
Now, was it my imagination or was it a lot darker inside than I remembered? It looked smaller, yet the amount of work overwhelmed me. I soldiered on. Upstairs, in the hayloft, I felt a little reassured. The space was as I remembered, I could imagine the kitchen, the living room, the space for the dining table. Buoyed up with returning enthusiasm, I opened the door into the makeshift balcony and cast my eyes over the road to the fields and mountains beyond. Abondance is a beautiful village: cute chalets, picturesque flower boxes adorning every balcony, pastures filled with fat healthy dairy cows, bells around their necks and wild flowers at their feet. Life here would be a far cry from our UK lives. I breathed in the fresh mountain air ( albeit tinged with the pungent aroma of cows dodos).

The pretty alpine cows, smelly vision not available!

That’s when I noticed the large sign across the road in the field opposite. It was a municipal sign, announcing something, something important looking.
I called over Marianne to ask her about the sign, and she shrugged her slim shoulders in the way that the French do. ” It is nothing, just a small local building for treating water, it will be built this year. Do you accept the price?”
Now we had been so excited about the project, so enthusiastic about this barn that I can’t say why we didn’t agree there and then to paying the extra €5k, only an additional £4K in the grand scheme of things, but something held us back.
“We’re sure that’s fine” I said, as usual unable to give a direct answer, “but we’ll have to do our sums again, we’ll get back to you”
Back in the car and on our way to Les Gets for our holiday, I realized that I had been completely underwhelmed by this visit. Quite simply, the barn had lost its appeal.
We agreed that we would make contact with a couple of other agents in the area while we were here to see what else was available.
Needless to say, over the next couple of days we talked ourselves out of buying the barn in Abondance. Looking back we had a lucky escape: that “building for treating water” turned out to be exactly that: a sewerage plant serving the whole area. The farmyard smells would have been delightful in comparison!
However, it was on that trip that we met the wonderful Nicky , estate agent for Leggetts, who was not only to find us a building that we would instantly fall in love with, but who would become a close friend and future landlord when we finally moved to France to start the renovations on our project.
The building Nicky found us was a centuries old mill in the village of Le Biot. It stole our hearts, and later our finances and sanity. But for now, and the next two years, it was definitely The One!

Le Biot, French Alps

Next post I’ll tell you about our trials and tribulations of buying a French renovation project from 12 inheritors who can’t agree on what day of the week it is, French planning restrictions and how to lose a small fortune without even trying!
Thank you for reading xx

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