FLASHBACK - OCTOBER 2006
Having chosen the triangular search area between Perigueux, Bergerac and Sarlat, we booked a two-week holiday. Something I've never done in all my freelance years. But once you've made the decision to leave the country, everything becomes easier. And when you're planning to cash-in your house to pay for your new life, it becomes very easy indeed.
After much browsing, umming and ahhing, we booked two gites. One just South of our search area, with a kids' play area, swimming pool, hot tub, satellite TV and all that. And one just to the North, with a wood-burning stove.
For me and the kids, the crossing from Newhaven to Dieppe was very pleasant. For Clare, with her violent travel sickness and, now, detailed knowledge of the inside of a toilet cubicle near the play area, it was less so. Good job we'd booked a cabin for the way back then. Maybe.
We spent the night in a fantastic B&B from Alastair Sawday's book and website, and made it to the all-mod-cons gite the following evening. Already beginning to realise that two weeks of driving around looking for land, in an old Renault, might be a bit much to ask of our two kids.
COINCIDENCE WATCH: On the morning of day one, we went into nearby Beaumont to find an estate agent. The first one we saw was an Orpi. Inside was Nicolas, who spoke English, went to school in Brighton and knew the road we live in. Having said our land requirements would be difficult to fulfil, he phoned his brother, who said something exactly matching our brief had come on the market the night before. He then pulled a few more properties off the printer and away we went.
To the land(s)!
The first place was almost entirely wooded. But there was a caravan, with paving already laid - and a kind of lean-to thing. I thought this was pretty great, but I'm easily pleased and Clare needed to see more.
The second place (the one that had only just come on the market) had a steep zig-zag-zig road leading down to a freshly mown field of a few acres, surrounded on both sides by woodland. It, too, had a caravan with a small paved area.
The third place, which I had seen on the InterWeb and emailed another branch of Orpi about, was densely wooded and right in the middle of nowhere. Unusually, it did not have a caravan - it had two - although it was impossible to see how they got there.
Because Clare was feeding our youngest (something I am not biologically equipped to do), she hadn't seen the second place. But my description was enough to prompt a second viewing, which we did the following day. Apart from the facts that it was a bit expensive and not quite expansive enough, it was perfect. Even in the rain. Especially as it was only a few hundred yards from the Dordogne and a beautiful 13th Century bastide town.
Before we had time to voice our concerns to Nicolas, he said he was very sorry, but the price he had given us was too high and the land included an extra couple of fields and some more woodland.
As we all walked the boundaries together, which took considerably longer than the few seconds it takes to walk between the front and back doors of this house, we decided to buy. The ten and a half acres of heaven, in the heart of the Dordogne, with one field already perfect for our yurts and polytunnel, and another already perfect for our guests was just 45,000 of your Earth Pounds. Five grand under budget.
And we were only a few days into our two-week break, which meant we could have a holiday, too.
Looking back, it's possible we could have found our new home a bit quicker. The clue is in the name of the bastide town on the other side of the river: Lalinde. Pronounced as you would with a broad English accent: "La Land".