House buying fees

As you would expect, the location of a property that you want to buy has a great impact on the selling price. That 100 square meter (1076 square feet) apartment in Paris with a minimum selling price of 1 to 2 million euros would probably cost you one tenth that price in one of the most affordable places to buy in France, Saint-Étienne, about an hour outside of Lyon. The newspaper Le Figero has compiled a list (pdf link at the bottom of this post) of cities with a population of at least 50,000 people that they have called, “The cities where the price of real estate is the most affordable.” While this chart will give you a good idea about the sales price of the home itself, it doesn’t include any of the accompanying fees, most of which fall under a category called frais de notaire that will easily be thousands of euros. So, how do you estimate that and are there other costs too?

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Narrow dog to Carcassonne

Walking along the canal in Carcassonne

A few years ago when we were playing the Who-What-Where-When-Why retirement game, I thought that there was only one of those Ws unanswered. After all, it was just us making the decisions and we already had a timeline so the one thing left to do was to finalize the location of our next house. By that point we were pretty sure that we wanted to live in Carcassonne so we started reading everything that we could find about this medieval city. There were travel guides, history books, bicycle routes, photo pictorials, and a best-selling historical thriller trilogy by Kate Mosse. Then at the library I saw the book Narrow Dog to Carcassonne by Terry Darlington with the tagline, “Two Foolish People, One Odd Dog, an English Canal Boat..and the Adventure of a Lifetime.” Hmm, that kind of fit our situation since we were two people and one dog about to move to another country 4000 miles away. All that we were missing was that canal boat so it was time to investigate what life onboard might be like.

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Two castles and an aqueduct

Since Nîmes is less than a 2-hour train ride from Carcassonne, we’d been there on a day trip and now we were staying a few nights to explore some of the surrounding sites. On previous rail journeys through the area we had spotted two castles across from each other on the Rhône river in the towns of Beaucaire and Tarascon so we wanted to see those up close. Before that, however, was a visit to the  UNESCO World Heritage site connected to last week’s blog post about Uzès. The word “connected” is especially fitting since it’s the 2000-year-old Pont du Gard aqueduct that formed part of the link that brought water from its source in Uzès to Nîmes, 50 kilometers (31 miles) away.

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Keeping your house above water

Years ago when we told our friends who live in the north of France that we were considering moving to the south of their beautiful country, the first thing they said was, “Watch out for the floods!” They were understandably concerned since there had been 14 major inondations involving overflowing rivers in the previous 15 years in this part of the country. We knew that Carcassonne itself had risks since we’d seen numerous high water marks beside the 14th century bridge that crosses the Aude river (featured photo above) that brings us drinking water daily and destruction occasionally. Luckily we’d also seen the flood zone map prepared by the local newspaper so that we knew in advance where to concentrate our house hunt, or more accurately where to avoid. But what if you’re looking elsewhere in France; is there a national database to access?

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Brittany spears

It’s asparagus time! We can always tell what’s in season by the abundance of a fruit or vegetable at the Saturday market. Our area produces lots of kiwis so when it seems as if all of the vendors have those on display we know it’s winter even if the cold temperatures didn’t tell us that already. Since we live so close to Spain, those local fruits are joined by an abundance of lemons, oranges, and other citrus that ripen at the same time south of the border. Sometimes Mother Nature is so generous that in addition to the regular fruit and vegetable stalls that we see every week there will be pop-up displays of farmers selling just one product as was the case this week. Everyone had asparagus: green, white, purple; as thick as your finger or as thin as spaghetti; gathered wild (featured photo above) or from carefully tended fields; mostly local, some from Spain, but none from the French region of Bretagne that we know in English as Brittany. No Brittany spears.

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Arcachon in 1 day

When a city consistently makes it to the top of an annually published list of where French people say that they would like to retire, it makes you curious why this one place is so attractive. We’d been to Bordeaux several times but had never taken the train less than an hour further west right to the Atlantic coast to visit Arcachon. Adding that 53 minutes to the trip would only cost an additional 5 € so we thought that this would be a good time to see for ourselves why everyone wants to move there. This was a wintertime excursion to a summer beach resort, it seemed, so we didn’t have our hopes too high. To our pleasant surprise we found a lively town with plenty of pleasant walks, shops to peruse, and restaurants to enjoy and it didn’t hurt that our hotel room had a great view of the sea!

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Wine and delights

When we moved to Carcassonne 6 years ago it seemed as if we didn’t have a free weekend. There was always something to do. Naturally there was the city itself to discover but also food and wine fairs, art shows, craft sales, concerts, exhibits, tours, and walks all right on our doorstep to enjoy. As we developed friendships the invitations came for drinks, dinners, and outings of all sorts. That continued for the next few years until Covid arrived and as in the rest of the world everything stopped. During the first of the 3 lockdowns that France went through, even our outdoor fresh fruits and vegetables market was closed. Fortunately most of the restrictions have recently been lifted and the Lions Club Carcassonne Remparts took advantage last weekend of our newfound freedom to hold a Salon de Vins et Délices (Wine & Delights Show) with 20 exhibitors split evenly between wineries and artisanal food vendors. We went three times!

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