Tag Archives: super

The next steps are always less easy.

So…you say YES, and then what? It’s almost like the first steps in learning to walk: we didn’t have a clue! What to do next, where to start, who to call. We did know that 1) it was the first house we’d ever bought, 2) it was in France, 3) it needed a lot of renovation, and 4) we didn’t speak a word of French besides bonjour and merci.

We were stitched to the floor when we heard that we’d bought the house. We said YES to the original amount and they said OK. C’est simple.

WOW.

Now it’s for real. We need financing, signatures, papers, insurance, mortgage, the whole thing. In our earlier search for property we met Mr. Creme. He was our agent at Commercy. The man is extremely pleasant to work with. He’s honest, open, and direct, plus he speaks fluent English. Even thought it was not his region (it’s about 4 hours’ drive away) he was willing to help us with the contract, checking the bank stuff, talking to the mayor et cetera, et cetera, et cetera and so on.

And we did need him because there were some ‘small’ issues; knowing this was a water mill we knew the chances were good there was a water issue. And there was, BIG TIME! the mill was flooded once in the past 30 years…at least that was the story told by the seller.

But days after our wedding, we found an approximately 4000-square-meter section of our land to be a lake. The sweet little stream in the middle of the valley happened to have a winter offspring running through our property, creating a sweet little lake right at the place where we planned to put the pool. This was not a good sign.

Winter Pool

Winter Pool

We knew that we had nettles, wild blackberries and other unwanted herbs in this part of the garden, but we had no idea it turned into wetlands during winter. And worse: nobody told us.

We really needed our French contact to help us get some money off the price we had agreed upon. This made everybody involved quite nervous. Even the mayor told us not to have friends asking around about the land and its wet history. We can tell you this much: In France one does not start a discussion about a price once there’s an agreement. 🙂

All of a sudden they found papers on dyke construction works, and promises by the government to raise our land as protection. Even the attorney said it would all be ok. Yeah right: bien! Sure, they held back serious information, and we wanted our money back! This is not going to be fine AT ALL unless we had some additional money to raise this part of the field so we could create that pool. Anyway…

Wouldn’t you fight for it?

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The first step to a Super Gite

On September 30, 2008, we received a call from our Dutch / French agent. He’d seen an old water mill that was about to go on the market, and he guessed correctly that we’d be eager to see it. He knew the real estate agent and said we could have the first look as bidders. Four hours later we drove up the small path and saw the mill for the first time.

The silence was deafening. The location at the bottom of a ridge was superb. The village was only 10 meters uphill. The view was absolutely spectacular!

We knew instantly that this was a Super Gîte to be!

The price was set at an affordable level, but it went up the same day. Luckily we had already expressed our sincere interest. After doing some calculations and drawings that evening, we called the next day to give it a GO.

Then the real story began…

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The Start of a Dream

Entrance

How  do dreams start, you wonder? Well, this one started at the ancient monastery of Belval Bois des Dames in the heart of the Lorraine. As we walked through the half-demolished house, all kind of visions passed through our minds. We were completely fascinated by the atmosphere of the ancient building and the peaceful green valley. Hidden in a dark forest surrounded by fields of cows owned by the only farmer of the valley–who also happened to be the mayor of Belval (population: 80).

Priory and Chapel The monastery used to be much bigger than the current barn (left), priory (center) and chapel (right). The priory is 16th century, the chapel dating a few centuries older. The whole complex was protected by large wall of which you can still see the foundations in the field around the buildings.

From the outside the house looks more or less undamaged. It still has its proud, religious stature. The symmetric facade of the priory carved in the yellow sand stone is magnificent. The chapel to the right had been in use until the late ’50s. The mayor even went there for ceremonies.

First floorThe inside is a different story. Everything was torn down, with rubbish and debris everywhere. Yet this is where the dream started! We were drawing a picture of these rooms in minimal design with just a few local wooden artifacts that matched the exterior. You don’t need much if the building has this feel: a simple Hästens bed, good light design, a rain-style shower, stone walls with limestone floors, a wooden cross or a statue of some saint. Perfect. The old abbey would live again for people who are looking for tranquility with quality.

And so it happened. The Super Gite concept was born.

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