We are Janelle Cummins and John Fitzpatrick. For 40 years we have been visiting France, always dreaming of owning a house there. We have a love of a lot of things French….wine, food, fashion, cars, music, art. We’d probably love the literature too if we could speak and read better French!
In 2012 all the signs were in favour of us at last realising our dream…..the French real estate market was down, the Melbourne real estate market (where we had an investment property ) was flat and looked to us like staying that way for some time and the Aussie dollar was sky high against the Euro. So Janelle started trawling French real estate sites on the Web. But France is as big as NSW and we needed to make a threshold decision about where we wanted our house to be.
John is a vintage car tragic. About ten years ago he did a rally in Provence, which included a lunch stop in Uzes (“oo-zez”), a town he had never heard of. ” We parked in the main street, went to a cafe and sat outside having a beer. Something clicked…it just felt right”. When I got home I mentioned to Janelle how nice Uzes was. As you do, I had a look in the Uzes real estate agents’ windows when I was there and thought how reasonably priced properties seemed to be compared with the other side of Avignon-the Provence side. So when we started our search the Uzes area was high on the list.”
Was for the house to be in a small, quiet village near a major market town. The village had to have a boulangerie for the breakfast baguette and croissant and a cafe/bar for the other essentials. We were after something quiet and private and secure.
After a lot of searching Janelle found a house which looked interesting. Numerous attempts to contact the agent by email and phone failed. We found this to be typical. It beats us why they advertise on the Web! Finally we made contact and to cut a long story short, we bought the house.
History of the First House.
We bought the house from a Swiss couple. They bought it as a “ruin” in 1980 and carried out a beautiful and sympathetic restoration. On the ” certificate of title” it has a most irregular footprint. The different levels and ceiling styles make us think that it is an amalgam of at least two smaller houses,maybe four. It was clearly many hundreds of years old. In the main bedroom is an old fireplace which is evidence of silk production….silkworm cocoons were boiled over a fire to release the silk threads..
The house had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two lounges, two kitchens and a wonderful courtyard and outdoor area.
The (First) Village
The house was in the village of Sanilhac (“sany-yac”),about 6 k from Uzes. Sanilhac is surrounded by vineyards, orchards, farms and National Park. It is a popular base for walkers . There is a cafe/bar and a boulangerie.
Life in Sanilhac.
We spent 3 very happy years in the Sanilhac house and would probably still be there except that , almost simultaneously last year ,we discovered the nearby village of Vers Pont du Gard and received an offer to buy the Sanilhac house and contents from one of our guests- an offer too good to refuse!
Vers Pont du Gard.
Vers Pont du Gard is situated between Uzes and Avignon,about 3 k from the fantastic World Heritage listed 2000 year old Pont du Gard. Much of the stone used to build it came from in and around the village.
The village is beautiful and buzzy.
It has the obligatory boulangerie and bars ,but also mairie , post office , tabac , pharmacy , hairdressers ,laundry , doctors and a dentist.
On saturday there’s a lovely small market in the village square. The natives are very friendly.
Our ( second ) French house
A friend told us about this house. He said he looked through it and thought of us! The house is a ‘maison du village’ in the center of the village. It is hundreds of years old and ,like our Sanilhac house , appears to be an amalgamation of a number of smaller houses.
It comprises 3 separate terraces,lounge ,dining room,kitchen ,3 bedrooms ,2 bathrooms ,4 (yes4) cellars , 2 private courtyards and a substantial garage and workshop. Nirvana!
It has central heating and an open fire for the colder months . No pool , which suits us just fine.
Janelle has decorated it beautifully. We just love it!
It’s a 100 metre walk to the CBD and the boulangerie or a 20 metre walk to Amy’s cafe/ bar- la Grange.
So ,what’s the new house like?
It’s a “maison du village”- stone ,semi- detached ,in a lovely village and just 3 k from World Heritage listed Pont du Gard. Like so many village houses it is hundreds of years old and no doubt not in its original form. We think we can see traces of at least two previous houses.Our vendors owned it for about 20 years. Before that it was owned by a couple from Paris and we are told that they carried out an extensive restoration.
It’s L shaped. The front of the house is one away from a corner. So there’s a house each side. Our house wraps around the corner house ,with our garage ( whoopee!) opening onto the side street. Garages in villages are few and far between and highly prized.
Like our previous house ,pretty well all you see from the street is a high stone wall and a pair of wooden gates. Through the gates is a courtyard with two doors in the facing stone wall. Behind these doors ,to our amazement ,are two mangers where animals were once kept. They are virtually untouched and still have stone troughs for food and water and stalls for the animals. Perfect cellars I thought when I first saw them.
To the right when you enter the courtyard is a set of steps leading up to a terrace across the front of the house. At the far side of the terrace is an area big enough for a table and chairs- just the spot for one’s evening cocktail ,looking across village walls and roofs. The railing of the terrace has been laced with a beautiful and bounteous grape vine.
Off the terrace is the front door which leads into the dining room. Welcome to our new home!
The house faces south and the windows are comparatively large ,so most of the rooms are light. Off the dining room is the lounge ,the kitchen and a set of stairs leading to the bedrooms upstairs. The lounge and dining room are sort of one big room., so it feels quite open and roomy. The lounge has a really beautiful old fireplace and beside it a “parterre” where the hot water and stockpot would have sat. The floors are tiled. The house is centrally heated.
Off the dining room is the kitchen. It isn’t huge ,but it works well and we think is very attractive ,with its provencal furniture.
There are two doors off the kitchen. One takes you outside to a courtyard. The other leads to a bathroom / laundry. Very convenient compared to our previous house ,where the bathrooms were upstairs. The courtyard puzzles me ,because it is one storey above ground level. Why?
Anyway,resuming the tour ,we walk through the courtyard and up a few steps to a wonderful outdoor room. The outdoor room has a huge old fireplace ( for cooking those fiorentinas). We’re told that this area is great in summer. It looks back at the courtyard and the stone walls of the house. It is covered and stays cool . Lovely old tiled floor. Off the outdoor room on one side is a bedroom which Janelle and I have appropriated. There is a room above our bedroom which is not used.To access it at the moment you need to climb a ladder. We’re a touch beyond that ,but it would be great for kids ,or storage.
On the far side of the outdoor room is a doorway beyond which is a walkway to a small terrace onthe far side of which is a room above the garage. It’s an old granary with a big opening onto the side street through which bags of grain would have been winched. It could be a terrific one room apartment. Parallel to the walkway is a staircase down to the garage level. On this level is the garage ,a workshop area and two huge vaulted stone cellars ! Every boy’s dream!
But let’s return to the dining room. Off it is a set of stairs which lead to two upstairs bedrooms , a bathroom and a very private terrace ,which overlooks the courtyard. The bedrooms are generous and overlook the front of the house and the village.
That’s it! That’s our new French house , in our new village. Hope you enjoyed the tour. There are photos elsewhere on the site.
Uzes is about 10 minutes drive from our house. It is an extraordinarily interesting and beautiful place. Its history as a settlement goes back over 100,000 years. In 1960 Uzes was neglected and unrecognised. Leading Uzes citizens approached Andre Malraux, who was De Gaulle’s Culture Minister and as a result Uzes was declared ” a city of arts and history”. This triggered a huge recovery and the creation of the beautiful and vibrant town it is today.
Uzes is a myriad of small crooked streets and squares . It’s medieval centre is dominated by four superb towers ,the earliest of which dates from the 11th century. There is a medieval garden.
There are over twenty restaurants in Uzes and many more in the surrounding area. Each Wednesday and Saturday there are markets in Uzes based at the Place aux Herbes. On Friday there is a market in neighbouring St. Quentin la Poterie.
Vers Pont Du Gard is about 30 minutes drive from Avignon, 20 minutes drive from Nimes, an hour from Montpellier, 3-4 hours drive from Nice or 7-8 hours drive from Paris.
Probably the easiest way to get there is to fly to Paris and get the TGV to Avignon, picking up a taxi or hire car at the station. The TGV goes from the Gare De Lyon or Terminal 2 at Charles de Gaulle. If you haven’t done it, the TGV is a fabulous way to travel. Paris to Avignon in two and a half hours.( If you are planning to use the TGV have a look at the comments in my blog on this site about booking your tickets. It could save you a lot.)
You can also fly from London to Avignon, Nimes or Montpellier by Ryanair or Easyjet. If you are thinking of doing this, carefully check the luggage allowance situation.
Please note that we do not host children in the house… There is too much potential for injury. And the house is strictly non smoking.
The cost to rent our house is AUD $1,950 per week or $250 per day for shorter stays (Minimum stay is 3 days). As an example a week is Friday afternoon until the following Friday morning. We make no additional charges for heating cleaning or laundry.
Payment and Deposit Policy
To secure a booking we require a 20% deposit. The balance is payable 30 days before your stay. We accept most credit cards, paypal and bank transfers.
If you cancel more than 30 days before your intended booking we will refund your deposit in full. Thereafter there are no refunds unless we are able to relet our house for the period which had been booked.
Arrival and Departure
Our manager Celine will meet you at the house, give you the keys, run you through how it all works and give you a copy of our ” Book of the House”. She will also give you with our compliments a Survival Kit to get you through the first little time until you can do some marketing,
When you leave, Celine will come and check the house and accept the return of the keys.