Friday, April 6, 2012

Un vie de repos!

Although ‘Good Friday’ is not generally a National holiday here in St Malo everyone is certainly gearing up for the long Easter weekend – the start of the season. 

Hotels, restaurants, cafes and shops are preparing themselves for what will hopefully be the busiest weekend of the year so far and the street terraces, removed for winter, are back in place. The Mairie and his team have done us proud with jetwashed streets and pavements and the freshly planted displays of spring flowers that seem to be just everywhere.

This is an important weekend for the town -and having visited most of the hotels this week delivering stocks of brochures for Brittany Gems, expectations are high.  If the number of GB plate cars arriving on the ferry this morning is anything to go by business should be booming!

There will of course be plenty of time for relaxation and socialising though, both national pastimes enjoyed by everyone including the pets owned by many of the ‘commercants’ of the town.

Happy Easter to everyone – enjoy the longweekend and take the opportunity for a little ‘vie de repos’

Monday, April 2, 2012

Community spirit – working together to get things done .......

The last couple of mornings have been a little difficult with aching limbs, stiff muscles and uncomfortable movement!

No we haven’t taken up a gym membership again – perish the thought – but instead made a rash offer to help our neighbour who lived in the 5th floor appartment of our block move to her new abode intra muros.  The new apartment was a mere 3 minute walk away and vans had been arranged but the 5th floor – AND NO LIFT – Quelle Horreur!

This is one of the things we love about living here though.  An appeal had gone out to the community a few weeks before and at the alotted hour 9am (9am on a Saturday morning) a grand total of 15 strapping folk arrived to get the job done.  The spirit that ensued during the mornings labours seemed to help us all make light work of the 10 flights of narrow stairs both up and down not to mention the regular cans of chilled beer and bottled cider that were being provided – and we soon gathered that there was also a promise of lunch!

Whilst the navigation of the stairs was arduous and difficult with certain pieces of furniture causing some interesting problems the old appartment was soon emptied.  The new appartment was on the first floor and newly renovated in a block with wide staircases and large doors so the installation of our neighbour was much easier but with everyone working together the whole job was complete by 1pm.

As the last few boxes were delivered to the new appartment there was serious counting of heads and making of phone calls which we later understood to be the arrangements for lunch.  Now we might have expected a vast supply of sandwiches for the numbers involved but no not here in France.  With the door securely locked we were all directed to the appartment of the cousin of our neighbour who had spent the morning preparing a delicious lunch (the counting of heads being required to decide the number of chairs to be borrowed from other neighbours).

What transpired was a very jolly and convivial 3 hour lunch of excellent pate, cornichons and salads, the most delicious slow braised chicken with a bacon and herb sauce, cheese and fuit and several boxes of both red and white wine.

Of course once the wine had worn off the aching started but we were really happy to help and to be involved in such a commuinty spirited day.

We think we have secured our place in the community here and built some strong connections with people we hadn’t known before and we wish Marie-Annick every happiness in her new home
but please ..........

........ someone pass the deep heat!!!!!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The benefits of a long life when you sell ‘en viager’ in France - buyer most definately beware!

Whilst the concept of equity release is fairly new in France and the option is only just becoming  more widely available, property owners here have always been able to sell ‘en viager’

Selling a property ‘en viager‘  basically means that you transfer ownership of your property to a buyer (like an ordinary sale and purchase) but instead of paying the full price, the buyer simply pays an agreed annual rent to the seller while they remain in the property for the remainder of their life.  On the death of the seller the buyer takes posession of the property and of course benefits from its increased value.

In much the same way as an equity release scheme in the UK ‘en viager’ allows people, usually elderly to enjoy an additional income at a time when they may need it most.

Of course being France the process is highly contractual and the calculation of the agreed rent (in its most basic form - value of house divided by average life expectancy of the seller less any upfront capital payment agreed) is overseen by an appointed notaire and involves the obligatory forest of trees in terms of paperwork.

Of course for the buyer this scheme is primarily an investment  gamble and in the case of a premature death could turn out to be an incredible bargain. 

But of course the premis ‘buyer beware’ must be at its most relevant here ably demonstrated by the much publicised case of Jeanne Calment.  Mme Calment was a French woman credited with the longest recorded life span dying at the ripe old age of 122.  Of course such longevity is usually a cause for great celebration but not perhaps for the notaire who bought her appartment ‘en viager’ in 1965. Sadly he died two years before Mme Calment and ended up paying nearly twice the value of the property in the contracted agreed annual rent.

Some you win and some you lose!!!