Saturday, February 4, 2012



Needless to say we were keen for the next four weeks to pass quickly. 

We were due to return to Saint Malo for a 5 night stay just prior to Christmas taking the last ferry back to the UK returning on the morning of Christmas Eve.  We had a lot planned for those five days as this was going to be the big ‘move in’,  although the question of how we were actually going to get there, particularly with the ever growing pile of flat packs (and a fridge) from Ikea and Argos dominating our dining room, had not really being discussed.

Fortunately on hearing our dilemma a very kind work colleague offered to loan us her large Toyota people carrier.  With the seats taken out, as they had often done themselves, the vehicle was positively van like in size so our problem was solved –better still, on the ferry the vehicle was still classed as a car so we did not have to worry about the crossing costing any more than usual.  We were all set.

We exchanged cars in the office car park and then went home to load up!  We had arranged to leave Alfie (our Springer spaniel) with Darren’s Mum for the trip – he still hadn’t qualified for his passport yet so we set off for Poole the following morning to drop him off.  All went well until we reached the edge of the New Forest.  I hadn’t really been overly concerned about the slight burning smell that I had first noticed around Winchester – different car, different smells I thought.  But when the temperature gauge went off the scale and flames coming out of the exhaust pipe were seen in the rear view mirror it was clear that there was a problem.

We stopped long enough for everything to cool down – we are no car experts so we weren’t really sure how long that should be and then limped the mile and a half needed to get to a service station that we knew was close.  Stress wasn’t the word – with Alfie panicking in the car and the very real prospect of having to postpone our crossing the air turned a distinct shade of blue!

I dug out an old AA membership card that was tucked away in the back of my wallet not knowing if it was still valid or not.  After several minutes of trying to remember every postcode we had lived at in the last 7 years (and it was a few) we were told that we were still covered – I had never cancelled my annual direct debit – praise the lord – and we could expect a mechanic out in the next two hours.

Eventually the little yellow van arrived.  Sadly the mechanic was not able to assist, muttering ‘your big ends gone’ amidst much sharp in-taking of breath.  It seemed we could not be sent on our way and we would have to wait for a tow truck to get us to Poole.  Another two hours later and our rescuer arrived.  It wasn’t long before the patient was loaded and we headed for our destination.

We hadn’t given up hope on making our ferry that evening and after several calls to various van hire companies and checking that I had the appropriate documentation, we secured a vehicle for the crossing.  Of course this meant that we couldn’t avoid a higher fare on the ferry but we would still be able to get to Saint Malo.

Short on time we collected the van, transferred the flat pack cargo from the now dead people carrier, said a swift farewell to Alfie and headed for the ferry.  We did eventually relax but it took several glasses of cider.

In our cabin we slept well …..

Of course the next day brought its own challenges – 22 flat packs to be carried up the four flights of stairs to the apartment not being the least, but with brave hearts and stout legs we finished the job in less than an hour!  Although the place looked more like a warehouse than a home we set too sorting the boxes into various rooms and planning our attack. 

We had agreed that we would paint the kitchen together first,  to allow Darren to begin going wild with the screwdriver and alum key set - I would then paint the bedroom – all in the usual white of course.  We made swift work of the kitchen and by late afternoon the boxes began to be opened. 

Ikea had proved very effective and with several pieces of free standing solid pine kitchen furniture purchased we should soon have a workable kitchen.  Darren began.  Now I must say at this point that I have learnt to leave well alone when Darren is putting together furniture – it’s never easy for anyone but I have come to dread what I call the ‘OH’ moment.  Things rapidly take shape and then at a critical moment it is discovered that a piece has been put in the wrong way round or a vital component has been used for the wrong purpose ‘OH …….’ – I shall leave it to your imagination as to what happens next!

But with all that said by late evening we had all cabinets constructed and in position – well at least their first position, we moved them round several times before we were happy with the final result.  With that achievement under his belt Darren called a halt to the day’s proceedings and requested a visit to L’equinoxial and a bite to eat.  I didn’t argue.

After an unusually early start, the next day proved very productive and by the evening the bedroom had been painted (white) and all but two flat packs had been constructed – everything was starting to take shape. 


We spent the next couple of days continuing the equipping of the apartment. We bought a table top baby Belling type cooker to replace the death trap, and then another identical one swiftly afterwards when we realised that expecting the oven and the two electric rings to work at the same time was in fact expecting just too much and various pots, pans and kitchen necessities.  Curtains went up and pictures were hung to complete the job.

Dining Room



Shower Room

Darren's "Tintin" Toilet 

We allowed ourselves the final day to relax and enjoy what we had achieved in what was a relatively short space of time and then locked up again and headed back to the UK for a restful Christmas.

What had I bought Darren for Christmas but forgotten to take to France ………… an electric screwdriver set – he wasn’t amused!

At a Party over Christmas in the UK my cousin an interior designer said to Darren "you really need a few pieces distressed rustic French furniture to complete the look" to which Darren replied "believe me we have plenty of very distressed Swedish furniture.....!"


Thursday, February 2, 2012

It’s official – Brittany has warmer winters!

Just a quick one – check out the temperatures snapped on the Iphone this morning at 10.30am.  Saint Malo is a good 2 degrees warmer than Bournemouth (UK)- microclimate?.  But guess what,  we are also considerably warmer than Poitiers, Cognac and Bergerac much further south – What a result!!!

The girl’s now French!

Probably the one thing we were dreading most in our move to France was the re-registering of our car.  From all of the research I had done on the internet the process seemed to be intolerably arduous, time consuming and very frustrating.  It also seemed that in order to achieve the final goal there was a need to destroy a small forest of trees to provide the copies of the pertinent documentation required.

First step – request a certificate of conformity from KIA in the UK, not a promising start as that took 6 weeks and several chase up calls to arrive.

Next – or what we thought was next – changing the headlamps to European beam - according to all research a critical step!  There is No Kia dealership in Saint Malo, the nearest being Rennes 60KM away, so we approached a local garage who said they would do it for us – they just needed to speak to Kia for price and availability of parts! – we left our number but heard nothing!

Next – get a temporary insurance policy based on a documented commitment to register the car in France - this seemed to be relatively easily achieved through an agent recommended by our Notaire.  The agent was non English speaking though so some of the finer points were difficult to understand (there was much resorting to visiting the car park to point at various aspects of his car to see if we wanted cover!)  This temporary cover would become permanent once we were in possession of the prized Carte Grise – Certificate of Registration.

We had all the documentation we needed for the insurance apart from the document confirming our commitment to register the car in France – so we hot footed it to the Prefecture to make the application.  Of course after the first failed attempt – french lunchtime closures thwarting us – we sat in front of the appropriate official.  Very helpful indeed and we are grateful that we made this application when we did because he explained that it was not neccessary to change the headlamps immediately and that that would only be a potential requirement at the cars first ‘controle technique’ (MOT) when it was 4 years old.  Our girl was only just over three so a reprieve!

Next – the acquisition of a Quitas Fiscale – basically an import certificate which declares that appropriate tax was paid at the time of purchasing the car.  We had the original invoice so that was easy to prove.  All reports suggested that there would be a requirement to take 5 copies of all documentation required so on the allotted day I spent a happy couple of hours photocopying passports, proof of residence, log book and original invoice etc – (we have no printer ink left now!)

In the afternoon we visited the local Centre des Impots (tax office) and made our application.  All in all the process took about 3 minutes and no copies were required!  But at last we had everything we needed.

So finally back to the Prefecture where we patiently waited our turn to sit infront of the official again.  Eventually all happened well and despite a 870 euro tax payment for the life of the car it was relatively painless.  We were in posession of a provisional Carte Grise and a new registration number CA-591-SE.

A quick visit to the French version of Halfords and 54 euros later the girl was french!!!!

So benefits of registering car in France:

Fully comprehensive insurance with exactly the same cover as in the UK, 450 euros (approx £387) as opposed to the £795 we were paying in the UK!

Road tax for the life of the car 870 euros (approx £750) as opposed to £275 per year for potentially the next 5 or 6 years!

We’re in France – what else needs to be said!


Monday, January 30, 2012

Its going to be a promising year for overseas buyers looking to buy in France!

We have just read a report published this month indicating that predictions from both Century 21 and FNAIM for the domestic property market in France are gloomy.  Both organisations offered the results of   independent research which clearly indicate that the market will experience a lull this year with the number of transactions dropping by as much as 10%. 

As in most European countries there has been a tightening of lending criteria by the banks,  the French Government are about to make a signicant change to capital gains taxation for French Nationals and of course, we are experiencing a very normal ‘lets wait and see’ attitude prior to a presidential election due in May.

But this is fantastic news for overseas buyers as this predicted  ‘lull’ in the market means there will be more choice available and certainly more bargains to be had!  Add to that what has been a much appreciated strengthening of Sterling and other non European currencies against the Euro and the well recognised benefits of living in a country with what is regarded as one of the most enviable lifestyles in Europe,  it seems that there has never been a better time to buy in France.

For those in the UK of course,  France is still the only European country that you can drive to ........ How accessible does that make it!

Having experienced it ourselves though the process of buying abroad can be difficult.  Not only logistically in trying to find the right property and arrange effective viewings with agents whilst not living in the country  but also with potential language barriers and the navigation around differences in the legality of the process.  It makes sense to take advantage of the services of professional property finders, people on your side who will be where you need them to be when you need them to be there. Allies who through their local knowledge and inside information have the ability not only to negotiate the best price for you but will ‘hold your hand’ through the process and introduce you to people who will make the process far easier.

So if you have always dreamt of a holiday home in France or if you want to make a more permanent move perhaps now is the time to stop dreaming and start searching?  Check out our website if you think we might be able to help!