When you’re greeted at the mairie by crossed arms, you know you’re off to a bad start. And when local officials use the word ‘non’ more often than General de Gaulle, it’s probably time to rethink your plans.
That’s how we felt a couple of weeks ago when we were property hunting in south-west France.
To say we were disappointed would be an understatement. The final property we viewed on our trip has lots of potential.
Firstly, and most importantly, it is on the medieval high street of a busy, beautiful village. Unlike so many French villages, this isn’t a street of abandoned, boarded-up shops punctuated by a pharmacie, a hairdresser’s and an insurance agency.
Instead, every property is a functioning business.
Except this one, which had been operating as a haberdashery-cum-gift shop. That unusual combination stopped pulling in the punters a while back.
Mind you, I reckon any customers would have been hard-pressed to squeeze through the front door.
We would want to replace the front window with some bifold doors and turn what is currently the shop into an inside-outside seating area. We would have some tables out the front too, of course.
The room directly behind it, which the current owner has been using as her salon, would become the shop and preparation area.
Upstairs, there are four bedrooms. We would turn one into a space to run food experience breaks, working with guests to make dishes using ingredients they had bought in the market.
As you can see, ahem, no work is needed in any of the bedrooms…
The attitude of the staff at the mairie meant we scrubbed this property off our list.
However, when the estate agent told the owner about our experience there, she stepped in. Having lived in the village for 40 years, she knows the mayor and officials well and has been able to intervene.
Suddenly, the alcohol licence they told me we couldn’t have seems to have become a possibility after all. And replacing that shop window with bifold doors? No problem.
“This property is now back in the running and is one of two very strong contenders”
So, in short, this property, which we dismissed, is now back in the running and is one of two very strong contenders. Although the building itself isn’t as well set out as the one I wrote about last week, it has an advantage in terms of location.
Now we have to decide between a great space and a great place. What would you do?