Monthly Archives: February 2013

Fabulous France…….the wrap up ( until next time!)

We’ve been home for a bit over a week. Minimal jetlag ,thank goodness. We find jetlag unpredictable…sometimes we suffer it and sometimes not. I guess it is just one of the prices we pay for living in a country at the bottom of the world.

As we locked up and readied ourselves for the trip home I said to Janelle that I am really looking forward to coming over to the house for a holiday.  On this last trip the time we spent there was quite stressful and we were pretty much tied to the house.

In a way that didn’t matter because we both love to cook and each night after dinner we watched French TV for a couple of hours in the hope it might improve our comprehension a bit. Our problem with improving our French is that at our ages you don’t seem to retain much new stuff. But we battle on. As I have said before the phone is the killer. When someone speaks to us one the phone in French we are just lost… There’s no reference to work from unless you can pick up a word or two. Just as you need a guru to refer to when you are wrestling with computers , so you need a bilingual guru nearby to help you through the French day ( and night ,je pense).

Somewhat along these lines is a problem I think that big French organisations are missing. There are an awful lot of people living in France who do not speak good French. Yet the Oranges and Credit Agricoles of this world do not fully accept this. Orange has a number you can ring if you are an English speaker and you get to speak to an English speaker ,but all their written material is in French. Similarly ,Credit Agricole has an entire department in Nimes set up to service English speakers but all the material they send us is in French. Welcome to France!

On the whole I think we can be pleased that we got done what we wanted to. In 8 weeks we settled on the purchase of Chez Fitz , installed two bathrooms and a kitchen ,unloaded a container and set the house up. And did it all over the Xmas/ New Year period.

All the local people we dealt with showed us great goodwill and were unfailingly pleasant. But , as Olivier said to us a few times ,a lot of the tradesmen are ” not serious”.

In both Sanilhac and Uzes we found the locals pleasant and helpful .and English is widely spoken, particularly in the larger places like Uzes.

We were really surprised at the problems that we and our friend Reg experienced in trying to get things delivered .There is also a problem in many stores with stock levels. Reg wanted some wall lights from M Bricolage. Only one in stock. He ordered the number he wanted, pre paid and they took three weeks longer to arrive than he had been quoted. Locals said that this is typical.

Our friend Hugh ,who has lived in Provence for over 15 years told me that tradesmen tended to be pretty casual about sending bills , sometimes taking months.. We told our tradesmen when we were leaving and that we wanted to settle up before we came home. We still haven’t had a bill from the electrician.

We had a few days in Paris on the way back .As always, it was great. We went to Retromobile, which is probably the best event on the planet if you are into cars.  Some friends had us for dinner at the three star Michelin restaurant at the Bristol Hotel. One of the best meals of our lives. If you like food and haven’t had the full Michelin experience, don’t die wondering.

In Paris we stayed at the Travellers Club which is at 25 Champs Elysees. It has reciprocal arrangements with The RACV and most of the other motoring clubs. Try it if you can. It was built by a banker for his Russian mistress and is just magnificent. Not expensive.

I’ll do another blog on Paris I think, because we have found quite a few good spots over the years and no trip to France is complete without some time spent in Paris

Since we got home we have been working on getting the website sorted out. We have loaded the photos of the house and are in the process of loading a video walkthrough of the house .

I have written and Janelle has typed, a Book of the House explaining how the house works and how the surrounding area works. We will put parts of this up on the website too. I am also going to do a little video of Uzes and of the Sanilhac Truffle Festival.

The reaction to this blog has amazed me and has encouraged me to keep going. So watch out for a Paris blog shortly.







Fulminating in France. Weeks 8 and 9

In which truth , justice and the American way prevail over the forces of darkness.

The house

Well, it’s all over. We now have two functioning, non leaking, tiled bathrooms with shower screens and a new and beautiful summer kitchen.  Mario the plumber has been terrific. He arrives on time, does beautiful work and charges a fraction of what we would expect to pay in Oz.  And he cleans up after himself!  he brought a tiler around who said he would come Wednesday.

Through Thierry ,who owns a cafe in Uzes ,we got onto an electrician who arrived with a Chuppa Chup stick poking out of his mouth, had a look around ,made some notes in his phone, said nothing was a problem and by the way our circuit breaker setup was illegal and needed a master circuit breaker. He said he could do it Friday.  I think ‘laconic’ sums him up.  Parfait.  I used my copious free time to strip a table which the Vogts had left and which is intended for the summer kitchen.
So…..the tiler came with two assistants on Wednesday, but only after trying to put it off until Friday.  Lucia came to the rescue here with a perfectly timed phone call. She does not take prisoners, particularly French tradesmen.
Then on Friday we had the electrician and the plumber both going at it hard and it was all over by lunchtime. Except that we still needed an approach tunnel constructing through a built in cupboard in a bedroom to access a bathroom. We had had this job looked at by a local carpenter who failed to give us a price estimate when he said he would and then said he was sick and couldn’t do it. So I decided to do it myself. It is finished and i am quite pleased with it.
So it’s taken 8 weeks instead of 4 ,but it hasn’t cost more than we thought it would.   And we are thrilled with the result. In fact we can’t wait to come back here for a holiday! Francois Rosenblatt came around yesterday and photographed the house and the result is great.


The Livebox seems to be doing its thing, the phone works as long as I go out into the street and a card for the Decoder turned up.
On the social front we have been twice for lunch to the Bistrot du Paradou.  It’s an hour’s drive from here and operates on a simple formula of serving a no choice meal and wine for a fixed price.  Each day the main course changes.  The first day we went the main was cassoulet and on the second occasion it was a lamb rack. So you get salad, main, cheese, dessert and a good cotes du rhone (as much as you dare to drink)7for 45 euros. The building is beautiful and the staff are great. A top place.
On Saturday we were invited by Frederic to his birthday party in his apartment. There were about 30 people there . To our amazement virtually everyone smoked. It was like Australia 20 years ago. Smoking is banned in restaurants and cafes and the cigarette packets are covered in gruesome photos and warnings but they don’t seem to care. Very sad.

So , having got the house the way we want it we are starting to pack up to head home via Retromobile in Paris later this week.  We love the house and are very pleased that we bought it in the area we are in.
(This is a paid advertisement) the house is going to be available for rent about 8 months a year for about the cost of a deluxe motel room (with spa) at a Best Western in Dimboola.  If you or anyone you know is planning a European odyssey think about a short, or long sojourn at Chez Fitz in sunny Sanilhac Sagries.
Have a look at us on   The movie will be up shortly, just as soon as Mark and I can get it edited.
From now on I expect the blog to take on a more motoring flavour. I will report from Paris and then do a weekly blog from even sunnier Bunyip. This has been great fun to do and a good pressure relief valve.

Over and out.
John Fitz