The plan was to visit apartments in the morning and the barn in the afternoon. I met my real estate agent, Franck, at his office in the center of town. I got lost (big shock) but I place the blame squarely on Franck’s shoulders since the numbers on the building didn’t match what he told me. There is a very small possibility (tiny actually) that I mistranslated the address. But why take the blame when I can throw Franck under the bus instead?
It had been drizzling all day but I didn’t care. I was excited. We walked to his car in the garage and he explained to me that we would be seeing two apartments. It was when we arrived at apartment #1 that my halted French became a real liability. As with any real estate transaction, there are standard questions that need to be answered. The problem is that these words tend to be very technical and not in normal conversational French. I had been communicating back and forth with Franck via email prior to my arrival but with email I had time to google translate everything I wanted to say. In person, it was a whole other ballgame.
The first place was an adorable little apartment on the 3rd floor. It had 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a balcony and plenty of space for the cats to run around. A big concern for me was how they would adjust to city life. They had never been out of their backyard. My house in NY sits on a cul-de-sac with no traffic and they spent most of their days outside. This move would take them from the only home they ever knew, plant them into a completely foreign environment and then force them to become indoor cats overnight. To say I was concerned about the transition was a huge understatement but not bringing them with me was out of the question.
The second property was a cute little house with a completely enclosed courtyard that would be safe for the cats. It was an option that until that moment I hadn’t thought was possible. I easily preferred the first apartment. It was more modern, bigger, it had a security system and it was in a better part of town. But there were my fur babies to consider.
I don’t have children. My animals are my family. I would sacrifice for them in a heartbeat so when Franck asked me which one I preferred, I told him the little house behind door #2. I wasn’t planning to move for at least 5 or 6 months so it was very unlikely that this exact property would still be available but it did give me a really good idea of the possibilities.
Franck, explained the different costs and then we came to the elephant in the room, my salary. In most circumstances, it’s as simple as showing a pay stub but of course this wasn’t the case with me. I own my own business so I don’t have pay stubs. The irony being that if I had a regular job I wouldn’t be able to move to France in the first place.
I studied French a million years ago in grade school just long enough to get the basics. None of this prepared me for a conversation in legalese. I’ve since come to realize that there are some people whose French I understand better than others. I suspect part of it is the speed at which that person speaks but much of it is the words they choose to use. Franck fell into the later category. I understood maybe 30% of what he said at any given time and I think it was the same for him. It wasn’t a great way to communicate and this was much too important to screw up so at this point, I rang Dominique for help.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am fiercely independent and take pride in my ability to handle just about any situation. But my true strength lies in knowing when I’m in over my head. This was definitely one of those moments. Franck was not a patient person. In fact, he was one of the least patient people I’ve met since I’ve been in France. He had no personality and was apparently annoyed that he couldn’t speak at his normal pace because I couldn’t understand him. It wasn’t rocket science and yet I had to say ‘trop vite’ (too fast) every few seconds. It was beginning to piss me off so Dominique’s intervention came none too soon.
After fifteen or twenty minutes of trying to explain my work situation, I gave up and phoned Dominique. I told him what was going on and asked him to please translate to Franck so I could find out what was needed from me. Dominique could easily have said no. I was interrupting him at work and he had known me for all of one day. But he was more than willing to help and I felt extremely grateful especially since I knew no one else in Chartres who spoke English. The decision to stay with locals was paying off in ways I couldn’t begin to imagine.
Dominique’s conversation with Franck lasted at least 15 minutes and the entire time all I could think of was how much I disliked Franck. This was a problem because I would need him to help me navigate the waters not only with the rental but with everything else when I moved and Franck didn’t seem like the helping type. I was already thinking about trading in this model for a new one but that was putting the cart before the horse. I still had another city to visit. Chartres might not be where I ultimately landed so no point in making waves.
After finally getting the details ironed out, I left with a folder of requirements and headed back to my car. The next stop was finding a barn for Bandit.
Bandit was always what I called “The Linchpin”. Moving a horse to another country is an extremely complicated and expensive proposition. I didn’t have the first clue as to where to start or if it was even feasible. So I did what I always do, I took one step at a time and delayed making a decision until the absolutely last moment humanly possible.
I own my animals for life, horses included, so the idea that I might have to leave him behind had the potential of derailing everything and I needed to move. My sanity depended on it. So I repressed any and all negative outcomes and plodded ahead. Denial can be wonderful. It’s how I’ve survived more things than I care to admit.
The barn was beautiful. Equestrian activities are big in France so there are lots of stables all over the place but this one was especially nice. I met with the manager and she walked me around. It was full of light and laughter. I could totally see Bandit there.
After the barn, I went back to the house to clean up, have some dinner and prepare to leave the next day. I was heading to Lyon which was 5 hours from Chartres. I don’t like driving more than an hour in NY so I figured a five hour drive in a foreign country wasn’t such a hot idea. I was returning the rental car at the airport the next morning and catching the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse or high-speed train) which would get me into Lyon in just under two hours. I wasn’t thrilled about leaving the convenience of the car behind but I figured I could take a taxi to anyplace that was too far to walk. I was traveling on one of the biggest holidays in France and everything was going to be shut down. Transportation included. If nothing else, it promised to be an adventure.