Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Renovation project - Living the dream when the money runs out!

Renovation project - Living the dream when the money runs out!

Well this is the blog post that may shock/surprise/upset family and friends, which is why I have left it to be a retrospective post. I have always been optimistic and you will find out just how optimistic that sentence was when I say, just before we opened we were almost out of money!

This is not one of those TV programs 'out of money' but hey we just found an emergency 50,000 Euros, this was a complete, Holy S**T, there's hardly any money left!

Now don't get me wrong we were not on the food bank stage but we were only a few months off.
There is nothing quite as horrible as looking at your bank account and wondering how long will this last us, how far can we make it spread and how thinly?

There were times when we panicked, when we argued, when we just sat quietly, which is probably the worst thing you can do, because if you start to dwell, you can start to regret and suddenly look
back on your old life with rose tinted glasses,

There were times when all I could think about was the fact that we had left behind our children and now our baby grandchildren for our new life and now we were in a situation that may become much more difficult than any life we had before, yes work was becoming scarcer in the UK, but it was still there, there are emergency systems in place in the UK such as benefits, which we are not entitled to here, and suddenly there were lots of stories about people who had come to France and left with nothing, are we going to become one of those sad statistics.

This is also the stage when you can start to blame each other, this we never did, you have to keep your spirits high, we were doing this for a reason and we were going to be successful!
it's easy to forget why you came to a new country when it is not going well or to plan, but you came for a reason and that old adage is very true, what doesn't kill you can only make you stronger.

There will be times when it is a struggle and having no money in a country that isn't your own means that you are not entitled to any help, there is no emergency payments, you can't call round to family plus you really don't want them to know that you are struggling and so far away

We were living the dream, we had bought the derelict house, we had almost finished renovating, we were going to open as a B&B, but should we now be concentrating on selling up and trying something new?

We had done everything correctly, we had budgeted, we knew what we had spent, we had kept all the receipts (admittedly they were just dumped in a box and never looked at again, but we had kept them as we had been advised!)

We had been on an 8 week tour of Europe, but what is the point of having a great new life if you don't get to enjoy it?

We had visited family regularly in the UK, and without this, I definitely would not have been able to stay here, France was for a better life not to lose touch with those that are really important. This is one of the biggest dilemmas about moving to a new country, can you see your loved ones often enough?

Could we possibly have done more to preserve our funds, maybe, but would we have been as happy, no definitely not!

Now this is where our optimism (or is that naive stupidity? No I prefer optimism) came in, we are both achievers, we get what we set our minds too so we decide to go ahead and concentrate on the B&B.

We have it decorated as we wanted it, we have all the little luxuries in the rooms, there is the option of cutting corners here, but that would be shooting yourself in the foot, it is a little B&B competing against established providers, we needed to set ourselves apart, we were going to be luxurious.

We have opening night with champagne, we are in France after all and even with little money there is always enough to buy some champagne, again that question of preserving funds comes to mind but as you can buy (not official) champagne (but something that tastes as good) for 2 Euro’s let’s push the boat out!

We have our first summer and we are full from June to mid September, we have made money, far more than we had ever hoped for, it was a roaring success.

We are now so pleased that we kept our heads and our optimism, it worked for us, the food banks are now a distant nightmare, we are here for another year.

Were we just lucky where so many others were not, I don't think so, we had a plan, not set in stone, as we adapted it on a regular basis, we knew how much money we had and spent it wisely (well 90% of it any way).

We did not need to employ anybody and this kept our costs down, we didn't gold plate anything but made sure that luxury was there at an affordable price to us, we lived with no electric, no heating, no floors or doors and without most basic necessities,

And most importantly we did the essentials first, our bedroom was not finished until after the end of the season. It didn't really matter how we lived until we knew there was enough money for it.

This is where so many people do go wrong, why install a pool, luxury owners master suite etc. until you are up and running and making money. You have lived on a building site your luxury can wait.

The basics have to be completed first, we wore lots of jumpers and ran too bed fully clothed as it was not worth putting heating in until all the holes in the walls were filled. We read about one family that spent a fortune on oil trying to heat a house with holes and draughts, this is pointless and will use money that can be better spent

But we we are here, it was a success, we have met some amazing friends

Would we do it again? yes most definitely

Would we change anything? Probably not.

Do we have any advice for anybody doing the same thing? Yes bucket loads of advice, feel free to e-mail and ask

But our top tips are
  • If you are not doing the work yourself. Have a clear budget and decide if it is financially worth it, (sometimes it is cheaper to buy a completed property rather than have the costs of renovation)
  • keep within your budget and don't be afraid to call it a day before you have finished, it's not failing it's being realistic
  • do not put gold trimmings on, shop around you will be amazed at the bargains you can find
  • have a clear plan, but be adaptable
  • learn the language in case you need to take on a 2nd job to supplement your income
  • it's not always a bed of roses, there are good days and bad days, just make sure the good days outnumber the bad days.
  • Talk to each other and don't let negative feelings take over
  • And the biggest piece of advise we received was not to have a plan B, because if you have a plan B the only thing guaranteed to succeed will be the plan B!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

French Entree Photography competition - Top 10 photo finalists

French Entrée Announces Top 10 Photos That Capture Essence of France  
From the horsemen of St-Rémy to the grandeur of Versailles, submissions reveal the vibrancy and majesty of modern France
Bath, 8th December 2014: Horsemen cantering through ancient streets of Provence, the mythical  landscape of St-Paul-de-Vence, and brooding pictures of Paris at night-time, are just some of the images shortlisted by French Entrée in its quest to find the photograph that sums up the essence of France in 2014.
Images from the UK, and across Europe, including Norway, Germany, and even from French nationals themselves, flooded into the travel and property specialist after it announced its 10th anniversary photography competition last month. The shortlist is published online, with a number featuring in the January/February print edition due out on 18th December.
The standard of photographs, which capture the heritage, countryside, not to mention the vibrant cities of the country, was incredibly high, according to Justin Postlethwaite editor of French Entrée, the online and print magazine for those interested in the culture and lifestyle of France.  
He says, “It has been extremely difficult to whittle down the entries because of the very high calibre of submissions, with a number not looking out of place in a professional gallery.  It has been an enjoyable and a slightly painful process because all of the images expressed a real love for France.
“Those that made it to the top 10 are both beautiful and technically very accomplished, having that certain je ne sais quoiwe were looking for on our new-look website, which is increasingly being accessed by readers using a tablet or smartphone.”
The shortlisted images are:
  • Promenade du Paillon, Nice, Summer 2014, Pia Jakobsen
  • St Paul de Vence, December 2012, Pia Jakobsen
  • Château Malbrey, southeast of Paris, 2014, Mike Rhodes
  • Louvre, Paris, September 2014, Lorraine Cosgrove
  • Confolens bridge at night, Laura Payne
  • Paris, August 2014, Frank Meitzke
  • Horsemen of St-Rémy de Provence, Brian Muir
  • Palace of Versailles, August 2014, Andy Lowe
  • Champs-Elysées, Anaïs Soury
  • Eiffel Tower, Anaïs Soury

 Visitors to French Entrée are being encouraged to comment on the shortlist, with the winner,  announced in the New Year, receiving an Olympus SH travel camera.  The winning image will be published in the March/April edition of French Entrée, which goes on sale in February.

All shortlisted images will also be publicised via French Entrée’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

For more information, or to use any  shortlisted images (with accreditation), contact Sarah Chidgey via 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Renovation project - Where has the time gone?

Renovation project - Where has the time gone?

I have just realised I have not blogged in a long time, I had meant to keep it going but somehow life took over, this was not meant to happen, we came here for the easier life and that is where we are going to get back too.

I was sat working this morning and had to make a telephone call, I still freak at the idea of doing this as it is so much more difficult to speak on the telephone than it is in person, but I did it and as I sat back feeling rather smug I suddenly stated to think how far I had come in the last 2 and a half years.

If somebody had told me when we first moved here I would be working and speaking on the telephone in French I would've laughed at them, but here I am, working and speaking on the telephone in French!

Now what has happened since I last blogged, well there is so much I will try to blog retrospectively but here is a taster:

  • We have finished the house
  • We have had a really successful first season in the B&B
  • We have sold a house
  • We have lost the sale on a house
  • We have had a hard time from the local estate agents
  • We have had a great time with all the people we have met
  • We have met some amazing guests that now stay in touch on face book
  • I have had a fall out with my daughter (which nearly killed me and sent me back to the UK)
  • I have made up with my daughter and feel that my life is once again blessed 
  • We have almost ran out of money (and couldn't afford to run back to the UK)
  • We have made some amazing new friends, and learnt all there is to know about bringing animals to France
  • I have met with French people and conversed in person and on the telephone.
  • I have directed people to our B&B in French (and those that know me, know I can't do that in English!!!!)
  • I have been on holiday to Spain
  • We have been back to the UK for a funeral
  • we have done more work on the B&B
  • I have lost a s!*t load of weight!!!!!

We have had the most roller coaster of a year possible and have now made a major decision, which I will keep for when I am blogging regularly again.

So now I have so much to write about and have just realised that I have family arriving today, so my good intentions may once again go out of the window, but hopefully not.

I look forward to speaking with every body again, and just in case you have forgotten who we are (and because I wanted to prove I have lost a s!*t load of weight), Here is our new photo

Huelgoat, Finistere, Brittany, France Jenny and John in France

A bientot