Building a House in Provence
So, we had found our property. Now we had to find an architect, which involved looking at more houses to find a house we liked. We settled on a larger, more established company hoping that this would protect us from the builderâ€™s going bankrupt. This had happened to me twice (years before in the States), and I was surprised when it happened to us in Paris when the little company renovating our place went bankrupt, too. The plans, when we finally got them, were then submitted to the mayor of our little village and had to be approved by the Luberon Park officials as well as city officials in Pertuis, the largest town in the area. I expected the whole thing to fall through at any minute, knowing the way French officials work, but it didn’t. Of course there were delays and roadblocks–this is France, after all. But we finally got our house plans approved. We were committed.
Right after we had put a deposit down on our property we went into our village and met the Mayor. He turned out to be a friendly guy, and I think that Mauriceâ€™s talking to him helped us get our plan approved, but the Mayor had something he wanted done before he approved anything. There was already an established road and sewer line running along side the property. He wanted the sewer line changed and moved across our property, coming out on the other side. We found out later that the property the sewer line came out on happened to be his! He wasn’t able to get the line changed, but it was an eye-opener for me. I think the mayor had a little jealousy thing going with the property owners, too. He owned a piece of land below us, planted with olive trees, and told us that every year he took his olives down to the local olive oil commune and had them made into over 300 liters of olive oil.
I saw a photo in his office of the village covered in what looked like 3 feet of snow and I asked when the photo was taken. He said that it had been taken 2 years earlier when they’d had a very unusual snowstorm. I had been in Provence the winter before and it was very cold, with a hard frost on the ground every morning. But, snow! What was it going to be like in the winter in Provence when the warm days went away, along with a lot of the people, tourists and locals alike, leaving us alone? I still had my doubts about living here.
One day we came back to our property just to look at it after it had recently been cleared. I was surprised at how large it was. It had looked smaller with all of the bushes and trees on it. Flies buzzed everywhere, another worry I had. I hate flies. I could see that we would have to have screens on our windows. I heard a donkey bray a little way down the road, possibly the source of the flies, but a rooster crowed from up above our property and I guess flies liked them, too. A hound dog barked the whole time we were walking around. Hmm. Could I really do it, this life in the country?
We went down to another small village for lunch, Peypin d’Aigues. I saw the word Aigues a lot around this area and it turned out to be ProvenÃ§al for water. After a nice lunch under some trees we walked around to see what was there. We came upon a man renovating a house that happened to be owned by an American citizen who was Irish, named Finn, and his wife, who was from New Zealand. He was very friendly and told us all about the area and the fact that there were many English- speaking people around as well as a club in Aix for Americans and English. Somehow this helped me feel better about living in the area. Few French people I had spoken to spoke English, and I knew I was going to have to dedicate myself to learning French better than the very shallow way I knew it now. But knowing I could find someone to speak with in English helped my attitude and helped me to feel less isolated.
I have to admit that I still have some negative feelings about leaving Paris, but I’m feeling more positive as I think about the possibilities. I do love gardening and I think having olive trees will be interesting. I’m even thinking of having a beehive, such as the ones I’ve seen around the countryside, and harvesting my own honey. Maybe I can learn to bake our bread. If I looked at it from the right light, I realized that this could be the adventure I never dreamed I’d have.