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THE LONGEST SUMMER

We left off at the moment when we decided to buy our house. That was almost a year ago. As I mentioned, it takes a very long time to close on a real estate transaction in France. Especially when you encounter August... because absolutely nothing happens in the month of August. If you tried to do anything (other than going away) during this month, you know.



Our "demenagement" was not powered by horses! I found this chippy shabby charming painting at the Lyon flea market of course.

I will digress - when we moved to France in 2018, we purchased a bed. We were told it will take about 6 weeks to be delivered. So far so good, we thought. We were still in our Air B&B we rented for our first weeks in Lyon, so in six weeks time our bed could be delivered to our more permanent rental apartment we have just found. We overlapped the two rentals to be sure we have a nicely furnished apartment to move into. How wrong we were! It took six weeks PLUS the month of August for the bed to come to us. We had to leave our temporary rental, and ended up sleeping on the floor (albeit a beautiful "parquet" hardwood floor) for over a week. We got a call that the delivery is ready on September 1st. Live and learn!


Now back to where we left off.


Summer of 2023 was a busy one. While the skies of Lyon were oozing heat at historic heights, I was arranging for movers estimates, searching for an English speaking notary who could help us with this real estate transaction, and calling around to find an architect willing to take on our renovation project. I will not go into the details of the French real estate transaction process unless asked. We did have an excellent bilingual notary, thanks to a friend who knows absolutely everyone in Lyon, and helped us out many times. Even if you think your French is very good, I strongly urge you to employ an English speaking notary, or have a bilingual friend help you out with all the documents and communication.



Packing my collections took care and time. I hope to have enough space to have everything at hand in our new house!


We asked around for moving companies recommendations. Attention, we are entering another saga! In France, when you live in an apartment building on a higher floor, it is very common that your possessions enter and exit your apartment through a window. A big truck with a lift parks below, and all the furniture, boxes, etc. get transported to, or from your window. This is the way it worked when we moved in.


Two years after our move-in the city of Lyon started transforming a lot of streets in the center of town into pedestrian only zones. The street below our windows was under way of becoming a no traffic zone... The "mairie" (town hall) categorically refused issuing a permit to park a truck in the street, or block it while we were moving. We were looking at extra costs to have our possessions moved by workers in a teeny tiny elevator and the narrow stairway of our building.


At that time I narrowed my search down to two moving companies. The first one was more expensive, and the lady who visited to give us an estimate wore huge Dior glasses (kind of intimidating) and had a mannerism of a "gendarme". I was willing to forgive her bossing me around, but her estimate was almost double the estimate of the company we chose at the end. And she didn't seem to be able to tell us anything about how to go around the "no parking" situation. For her it was a "fait accompli", this is the way it is, she wouldn't try to help us fight "the city hall"!


The movers we decided to hire were local (Fontaine Demenagement), and knew the city like the back of their hand. Their representative was professional, straightforward, and it looked like he knew what he was talking about. But the same problem remained - we still needed the permission of the "mairie" to block the street for the lift and the moving truck. The company rep was shaking his head. It looked hopeless. However I was not giving up. And neither did he! "Monsieur" - I asked him - "when we were moving in, all our possessions, including the furniture, came in through our window. The boxes can go out via stairs, but I doubt that my furniture would fit. Could you present it to the powers that be at the "mairie" in this way?".

This argument seemed to work, and we got our permit, provided that we moved out on a Wednesday morning. This I could work with.

Sometimes when you get a "no', you need to ask and ask again till you get to a "maybe", and then a "yes".



Our belongings traveling down on the lift to the truck below

You may remember that we were buying a house that needed renovations. Seriously. It was habitable, but it needed some work. In some areas the work was cosmetic, in some we were looking at the task of moving walls, installing canalization, putting down new flooring. We needed an architect.

In France you don't have to hire an architect for every home improvement project. But we decided from the start that the only way for us would be to work with one. We needed someone specifically to be also a "maitre d'oeuvre", that is a project manager.

One can hire an architect to draw the plans, and that's it, the rest is up to you. You can hire your own "equipe" (crew), or you can work on the project yourself. For a myriad of reasons this solution wouldn't be for us. We needed someone to help us with the project from A to Z. We needed a French speaking professional who could communicate with the crews, and represent our interests.


We had a couple of names of architectural firms from a friend who recently finished renovating their house. But these firms were too far from our village. They recommended we look closer to where we were going to be.

So not only I had to comb the web for someone closer to our zip code, but I needed to make sure that they specialize in what we were looking for. While speaking French of course!

I spent many hours on the internet looking at websites, completed projects that would represent the aesthetics of the firm, calling around. After a few weeks (right before France shut down to go on vacation, see my digression regarding the month of August above), I managed to find two agencies who were interested in our house restoration project, and were willing to meet with us.


August came, a sweaty summer in the city continued. We continued packing the boxes, getting things organized. The weeks of summer vacation slipped by - the vacation was for the rest of the world it seemed, but not for us. But finally the last week of the month came, bringing with it more open businesses, school kids coming back from vacation, the restaurants reopening, and tourists slowly leaving the city.




We lived among the towers of boxes

The very hot summer was nearing an end. We were living surrounded by towers of boxes. Many evenings were spent with friends who were happy that we found a place to call home, but sad that we were leaving Lyon. Some of them couldn't understand why we were leaving the city life. Some of them were concerned. But mostly they tried to share our excitement for the chapter that we were just about to start.


A swan family on La Saone saying Au Revoir!

And finally having a home. Not a rental apartment, but a place that we could make our own. After over five years of living in France we still had boxes that were never unpacked. I haven't seen my art collection in years, Jim wanted to set up a woodworking workshop, I wanted to garden. Above all we yearned for some tranquility. If we wanted the city life, we would come to it.


To be continued....


Thank you for following along!


xoxo

Joanna





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