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Coup de Cœur – Part One: Let’s start at the very beginning

Actually, Julie Andrews, let’s not.  Start at the very beginning that is.  The fact is that this particular serial .. Oh! I feel the need to digress – I LOVE a serial!  All those wonderful adaptations that the British do so well – from The Forsytes, through The Pallisers, much Jane Austen, many Thomas Hardy’s and no doubt a glut of Dickens whose great works were written as episodes for a variety of journals, only later being published in book form.  This explains two things – firstly, why he serialises SO successfully on television and secondly the minute detail in his descriptives which can be the finish of many a secondary school student’s tolerance of his work …. his narrative can feel achingly slow to the modern reader  but gathers pace and impact on the screen.  Not so for everyone but I have carefully explained to four teenaged daughters and many attendant friends that he should not be dismissed as boring without giving the films and series a whirl first.  And it is not just a British phenomena – for instance Alexander Dumas serialised The Three Musketeers (Three Musky Queers as my first husband irreverantly and, quite possibly these days  illegally, always referred to them) in 139 episodes in Le Constititutionnel.

Back on piste … I do love a serial and this will be one.  But I can’t quite start at the very beginning for the simple reason that the story of finding and buying this place is currently my novel in progress.  Based in the factual, it is a work of fiction with all players and places concealed and touched up with the clay and paint that an Author has the licence to apply at will.

So here it is.  We bought a village house that needs renovating in France.  Other’s do that too.  And they blog – I follow one in particular because she captivates me.  You can too, if you want to – just here.  So that’s not unique.  Where we bought it as English people is unique:  Marcolès: newly recognised as ‘Une Petite Cité de Caractère’  In fact only three villages in the entire Auvergne region currently hold this accolade and the award  was made to the three as recently as May this year.  But most important is what it is.

Looking at the picture you would be forgiven for thinking – nice but so what?  It’s a nice little town house.  In a village.  Somewhere in France.  What makes it special, if you will, is that it is a Monument Historique de France … gosh, wowy zowy.  Boom!!  But take a closer look and ask the question beloved of toddlers and indeed, I think,  the smartest people throughout their lives …. why?

The thing with this little baby is that it was originally built as the City Watchtower.  It is a tour medieval  – this is what it would once have looked like in 1203 when it is  first accurately recorded:

As a point of interest, all of these examples are within 50 km of our own village

Sadly the community of Marcolès was less caring then than it is now.  Or more accurately, I am sure, had other vital criteria for survival.  The tower fell into ruin and the stone was pillaged for other buildings.  However.  For reasons unrecorded (but we intend to do our darndest to trace and clarify), the village or perhaps just one villager, decided to rebuild it from what was left (and some other stone they found lying around).  And the result …la Maison Carrée.  For non French speakers, that means ‘The Square House’.  Which it is. It is also the only house within the city walls to stand entirely on it’s own.  Detached.  Reliant on no other.  As the locals charmingly put it – you can walk right around it.  Completed in 1830 it has been  inhabited by a variety of people including a very tall Russian lady who the present Mayor (Marcolèsian born, raised, elected and something of a saviour) remembers vaguely from boyhood.  I’m very tall and I love Russia and all things Russian (shoot me – I know its not de rigeur just now) … I rather hope I’m remembered too.  As someone who DID something for the Commune.  Gave something back, if you will.  My HB² of a Spouse feels just the same.

So here we are.  We have the house.  Without giving anything away we signed the papers for the purchase in March 2014 exactly a year from the start of the purchase …  but we didn’t get the keys til Christmas 2014.  Stick with me – Part Two is all about le vider.  No!  NOT the la vida loca! though translated as ‘Living a Crazy Life’ it could be apt in this instance. Vider means ‘to empty’.  You also use it when referring to gutting something prior to cooking.  Which is about right in this case.  It’s a whole story in itself.

À très bientôt

DSCF2219PS:  I’ve called this series Coup de Cœur because it is the expression that French Immobiliers – those are Estate Agents to my UK readers, Realtors to those in the US (and apologies to everyone else) – use.   Coup de Cœur means a favourite thought that doesn’t cover it, really it is more something that pulls at one’s heart strings.  Immobiliers generally use it to imply an  irrisistible attraction to a house.  That overwhelming almost lusting for a place the moment you lay eyes on it, much less walk inside.  A feeling which doesn’t necessarily have either foot in the common sense field ….  which in this case, fits perfectly!

100 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi Osyth…Wonderful post! Enjoyed…Hope you are having a great week…

    Like

    July 14, 2015
    • Thank you so much Philip! You are far too kind … I am having a fantastic week – its Bastille Day today which is the equivalent of July 4th in the US … so we are all about celebrations 🙂 I wish you a great week too!

      Like

      July 14, 2015
  2. Exciting! I’m curious what the book will be like then, because this sounds intruiging 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    July 14, 2015
    • I’m hoping the book will be published before Christmas … it’s a long long process and a new departure for me – the last book was really a simple journal (Russians Love Their Children Too) but this is fictionalising facts ….. stick with me and all will be revealed!!

      Liked by 2 people

      July 14, 2015
  3. Well good luck with the renovation. I have always admired people who have the courage to buy an old house and renovate it patiently…seems like a nice house full of characters. (Suzanne)

    Like

    July 14, 2015
    • Thank you Suzanne … for courage substitute folly 😉 There is much more beneath the skin of this place now which I will share over time …

      Like

      July 14, 2015
  4. It’s wonderful, please tell me you are going to live in it?

    Liked by 1 person

    July 14, 2015
    • It’ll be our Maison Secondaire and a bit of income for retirement too. I’m SO glad you like it … it really is a love affair for us (and it’s been a 2 1/2 year journey just to where we
      are now which I know you will understand!!)

      Liked by 1 person

      July 14, 2015
  5. Looking forward to reading more…and to reading the book!

    Liked by 1 person

    July 14, 2015
    • Thank you Helen … I’m hoping the book will be ready and pressed before Christmas. Meanwhile, I’ll keep you amused with the overhalling via this medium 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      July 14, 2015
  6. Great post Osyth. Look forward to the book. The house looks irresistible. As to the “three musky queers” – made my day 🙂 Happy quatorzième juillet

    Like

    July 14, 2015
    • Thank you! The book is making … as an artist you will understand the process of creation. Glad you liked the quote … I have a feeling you will never feel about Dumas’ characters quite the same way ever again. I know I haven’t!

      Liked by 1 person

      July 14, 2015
  7. Jenny Adams #

    Spooky or what…I was just about to send you a message asking for an update on the restoration of La Maison Carré! I await the next instalment with bated breath!

    Liked by 1 person

    July 14, 2015
    • I’m happy to say that it HAS improved since you were there with me, Jenny! Not a lot, but it HAS got better 😀

      Like

      July 14, 2015
  8. Arby #

    I love it, can’t wait for the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

    July 15, 2015
    • Thank you Arby! The rest follows and I hope you will enjoy each installment just as much 🙂

      Like

      July 15, 2015
  9. long story, short and direct: I love all your coups de coeur… ❤ why? because they're more long-lasting than les coups de foudre… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    July 15, 2015
    • Very true lovely M …. an expert in such matters, you are 😉

      Like

      July 15, 2015
  10. Amazeballs!
    Looks bloody magnificent.
    Well Jel Trunch!

    Like

    July 15, 2015
  11. What a beauty! Exciting times ahead 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    July 26, 2015
    • Yes, she is …. it’s a fun ride and part two follows tomorrow 🙂

      Like

      July 26, 2015
  12. it is a beautiful piece. I was educated in French, so it is nice for me to read the blending of the French and English literature. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

    July 29, 2015
    • So glad you enjoyed it! French and English are such different languages – I find French far more elegant and pleasing on the ear but it is not the easiest language to learn!

      Liked by 1 person

      July 29, 2015
  13. I’m back on track, now. Got to admit, I love this square house! (Even though I read part deux first and know what’s coming.) onward……….

    Liked by 1 person

    October 10, 2015
    • I know it can be, will be beautiful … it’s a labour of love but it’s so good to know that others can see it too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      October 10, 2015
  14. We’re soon to be embarking on this kind of thing, but not in the Cantal. I might blog about it if it isn’t too soul destroying.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 17, 2016
    • Oh Jane, do tell where … it’s not really soul-destroying at all but requires a robust sense of humour. I do hope you will write about it and I am just about to take a look at your bloggedy blog and I expect I will follow you follow because if I’ve struck a chord with you, the chances are the chord will be struck in return 🙂

      Like

      January 18, 2016
      • We’re creatures of the warm south west living in Bordeaux. To find the kind of place we want we’re having to cast the net wider and wider and the best house so far is almost at Agen. If we end up going for this place, I’ll certainly let everyone know. I’ve never lived in the depths of the country before and the prospect is beginning to feel just a bit scary 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        January 18, 2016
      • It’s quite a nightmare finding a house (the Maison Carree was bought as a Maison Secondaire and then things changed ….we are keeping it, will always keep it and we feel this compulsion to breath life back into it – heaven knows why) but we are a la recherche for the Maison Familiale and have so far been looking for 3 years (nearly bought one and pulled out https://osyth.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/vendre-dit-vendredi-part-1-sorry-but-im-gonna-have-to-pass/ – and reluctantly decided we had to cast our net wider. I am a bumpkin and a natural hermit at some level so it suits me to be in the middle of no-where-land but it can take a little adjustment. Agen is pretty lovely though ….

        Like

        January 18, 2016
      • We’ve already done it a couple of times and have developed a healthy distrust of anyone remotely involved in immobilier or notarial work. We’re in no hurry so can afford to be relaxed about the whole business. We’ve been tempted too by medieval piles, but our budget doesn’t run to renovated medieval piles, and common sense has always drawn us back from the brink. You were lucky to get out of that compromis. Legally they can ask for 10% of the agreed sale price if you retract. Good luck with your search!

        Liked by 1 person

        January 18, 2016
      • We hadn’t signed the comprimis – we bailed when we saw it which is why Mr European Trousers now has a contract on our heads!

        Like

        January 18, 2016
      • Phew! He must have been so angry! It’s true that the whole process here is long and painful. There’s plenty of time between committing yourself and actually signing the acte de vente to have serious second thoughts. Not for the fainthearted.

        Liked by 1 person

        January 19, 2016
      • It’s not for the fainthearted, that’s for sure but maybe you have to be a teeny bit foolhardy to get anywhere 🙂

        Like

        January 19, 2016
      • You don’t want to end up in a medieval time bomb though 🙂 There are risks and risks..

        Liked by 1 person

        January 19, 2016
      • Very true …. and the other thing to bear in mind is really finding out about the commune before you move to it …. in rural France there are only two levels of acceptance – total or nil – if it’s the latter you are signing your own treaty of surrender before you start. Bejeezus its a minefield and a half!

        Like

        January 19, 2016
      • Dead right! Even French citydwellers balk at going to live in the country because of the anti-outsider attitudes. In some places you’re foreign if you come from the other side of the mountain/river/departement. I don’t mind people not inviting me to their weddings or their grandchildren’s birthday parties, but I don’t want to get fire bombed!

        Liked by 1 person

        January 19, 2016
      • Tout a fait!

        Liked by 1 person

        January 19, 2016
  15. Aww – I´m in love!! 🙂 What a magnificent house and tower! I can understand why it´s called a coup de coeur! I can imagine myself sitting in front of it and paint! Nibble at a or two croissant whilst doing so 😉 xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    March 10, 2017
    • The village (or city as it is correctly despite being so tiny) is a little gem. You would certainly enjoy painting there. Actually you would enjoy the Street Festival ‘Lezarts dans la rue’ … we have a rather louche lizard as the mascot because Lezarts is a play on the word Lézard 🦎- I love it. Plus Marcolès has a very arty community – several artists live there. So when we are finished (and don’t hold your breath … it’s still a way away) you must come and visit! Xxx

      Liked by 1 person

      March 10, 2017
      • Oh, that festival sounds like great fun!! It doesn´t surprise me at all that there are living lots of artists, such surroundings are a perfect source for inspiration. I would definitely love to come and visit Marcolès and your beautiful medieval tower! Maybe I can bring some squirrels with me to live there with you, they like it lofty 😉 xxx

        Liked by 1 person

        March 10, 2017
      • We discovered evidence of squirrels in the attics so I’m sure yours would be in good company and since they all speak squirrel and they all have the same lovely long tufted ears there should be no problem with squirrel wars! xxx

        Liked by 1 person

        March 10, 2017
      • I´m sure my squirrels will fall in love with your squirrels French accent! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        March 11, 2017
  16. Reblogged this on Half Baked In Paradise and commented:

    An occasional series chronicling the tale of the renovation of a former medieval watch-tower in southern France ….. here begins the six-day retrospective of the first six installments which will land us gracefully next Monday whence we will pick up the story joyously as a start-of-the-week-day series – the excitement I am generating, is positively crackling, non?

    Liked by 3 people

    December 12, 2017
  17. Pan #

    As an eager reader of this tale 😕 how did I miss the 1st installment ? I know I must have because I hadn’t hit the like button nor commented, both remedied now.. But I’m also confused because I would’ve remembered that interesting fact about Dickens had I read this, though I seem to remember reading and smiling over HB2’s title of the 3 musketeers, before today.. False memory ? No matter, this refresher course is good for the soul to read and it highlights well, what much of today’s various entertainment venues are lacking.. The build-up that brings richness and substance that brings to life any tale to be savored.. The pictures, you know I love the pictures too 💛
    I’m going to resist going back into your archives to read the next installment (of which I hope I’ve read before but now not sure if I have), so I can savor each post as you re-present them this week..

    Like

    December 12, 2017
  18. A lovely start to the story. I know I’ve read this before but wasn’t following your blog back then – my aging memory tells me I caught up with all the episodes in one fell swoop and was probably a little lazy and remiss in only commenting on the last part. In five days’ time I’ll know if that’s right! And I’ve hit the ‘like’ button this time too! xx

    Like

    December 12, 2017
  19. The villagers back in the day didn’t “pillage” the stones…they RECYCLED them. A crumbling, empty building would have been viewed as a great stock of salvageable materials, already within easy transport distance.
    Can’t wait to read the next part. Unlike Pan, I am going to peek in advance.

    Liked by 2 people

    December 12, 2017
    • This is entirely true. What is not true though is the history I have outlined in this piece. I decided to leave it unadulterated but there will be an updated history post (or possibly more than one) in due course which I hope you will agree is much more interesting than what we had been led to believe in 2015 when this post was written. You are not alone …. Judi Castille is frantically reading them all in one go – I’m flattered, ladies, very flattered!

      Liked by 1 person

      December 12, 2017
  20. What a fascinating history. Could you imagine having the watchtower with the home as well? I imagine a cozy reading nook at the top of it (with a fridge for all my goodies, because clearly once I am up there, I would not want to be going down very often).

    Liked by 1 person

    December 12, 2017
    • I have a Rapunzel complex so I would absolutely love to own that place …. there are quite a few intact towers scattered around the area – who knows one day and then you can come and oversee the conversion to ensure properly appointed snug at the top!

      Liked by 1 person

      December 12, 2017
  21. Dang — where is that LOVE button when I need it! I love this. Really — I LOVE this!!

    With my terribly rusty French back from one year of study back in the mid ’70s, I would have translated “Coup de Cœur” as a “blow to the heart” — which I suppose it really is. It’s a building that steals one’s heart, with its history and its unique character. I CANNOT wait to read more in this series.

    (Plus, as an aside, I felt immeasurable sadness at your post about moving. I read it quickly when it first came out. I meant to go back and read it again so I could comment on it, but I’m a person with oak tree-type roots that go deep, deep down. The very thought of uprooting and moving overwhelms me.)

    Liked by 1 person

    December 12, 2017
    • You get the award for my favourite comment of probably the month or even year. That is beyond lovely. Thank you so much. Not only for the lovely remarks about our frankly insane project (we have no money, darling … I know let’s buy a house because we think it needs to be rescued and then wonder how on earth we are going to renovate it with our collective bare hands from a great distance. Great idea!) but also for what you say about m moving post. It was hard to write, as I know you understand but it has proved hugely therapeutic and I am much more buoyant now than I was two weeks ago when I really did feel as though I was sinking in quicksand. There is another big move and then one more ahead …. I am not relishing it but I will be fine and I know I am a very fortunate lady not least because I have met wonderful people. You are one of those.)

      Like

      December 12, 2017
  22. Ali #

    Love, love this. I have read part of this before also. We have a newish home which we had/help build, from the design to the laying of tiles. It is our sanctuary. I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum from you. In one hundred years, what will have changed, will the new owners laugh at my choices and complain bitterly at what I thought were cutting edge ideas. Will my beautiful garden be paved over for more parking? It boggles the mind.

    Love your way with words, on your own blog and comments on other blogs.

    Ali

    Like

    December 12, 2017
  23. An enticing cliffhanger

    Liked by 1 person

    December 12, 2017
  24. I can’t wait to read more about and I enjoy the short trip back to Europe.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 12, 2017
    • This could be endless so don’t count on short! There are 6 previous episodes this week and I reckon at least 8 possibly 12 to take us up to date … just hope you won’t get bored!

      Liked by 1 person

      December 12, 2017
  25. Looks FAB. We are quite excited as we have just confirmed a housesit in Espalais, France. This is an area we have not seen. Looking forward to exploring around the small villages which are not far from where we will be for 2 weeks, then back to Spain for a couple more weeks!!

    Like

    December 12, 2017
    • Well that puts you in the Tarn et Garonne which is the smallest (in area) department of France. You might like to check out
      https://vanessafrance.wordpress.com ‘Life Dans la Lune’ … Nessa lives in the department and is a Historian who I merit and a good source of things to check out in the area. You will be about 5.5 hours West of me …. #justsaying 😃

      Like

      December 12, 2017
      • Oh thanks for the link, I will definitely go and have a read. Yes, I know 🙂 we may have to sort something out. We are on a tight schedule, as we need to be back in Spain on the 1st Feb. Anyway, shall we keep in touch and see how things work out?

        Liked by 1 person

        December 12, 2017
      • In any event I will be heading home via Paris something around the 20th so it will probably be a no go but one should always think the impossible can happen!

        Liked by 1 person

        December 12, 2017
      • It’s always lovely to think we will meet some of our blogging community. In reality it may never happen. We move around and have plans to do so for the next few years. I have a philosophy if something is meant to happen it will do 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        December 12, 2017
      • Tout a fait, c’est comme ça 😊

        Liked by 1 person

        December 12, 2017
      • 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        December 12, 2017
      • By way of explanation, I used to run terrestrial networking groups across the SE of England – I guess I never got over the habit of linking up :). In reality I have only ever met one blogger and am likely to miss the French blog meet I have been helping to Organise in March because, guess what, I’l be on the move!!!

        Liked by 1 person

        December 12, 2017
      • No need for explanation, I was excited to get the housesit and I was sharing. In reality, we are short on time, we had to go to France or Portugal or else we would have been over our 3 months. This linking up is all very new to me and as of yet, I have not met any bloggers, though I do hope to meet one or two that I enjoy easy banter with.

        Liked by 1 person

        December 12, 2017
      • I always think that things happen in their right time if they are meant to 🙂

        Like

        December 13, 2017
  26. Ok good, I have been struggling to keep up in your contemporary posts with all the references to different houses, so I hope to keep up now we’re on the straight and narrow path of organised catch-up! Beautiful house, and I know how much time, money, work and energy it will require not to mention the love you will invest in it. I get easily bamboozled whe people start renovating: my neighbours at the back have gutted and transformed their Edwardian terraced house over the past 18 years and 3 children, and I still can’t work out how they turned the three storey staircase around!

    Liked by 1 person

    December 12, 2017
    • I may need to meet your neighbours – down the line there will be much talk of the staircases 😉 I confuse myself a lot of the time so it is entirely forgivable that you have found it hard to keep up. La Maison Carrée will always be part of our lives and one day she will be restored to her former glory. For now, I am living in Grenoble for practical reasons. It could be so much worse!

      Liked by 1 person

      December 13, 2017
  27. I have to ask, is that a rose bush climbing on the side wall and did you plant it? It completes the picture so perfectly.
    Your writing, as always, is captivating.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 12, 2017
    • It is a rose bush …. had patience – as it happens it takes centre state in tomorrow’s episode 😉 🌹

      Liked by 1 person

      December 13, 2017
  28. I knew about the house but I missed the bit about writing a novel. So much excitement and ambition! Bravo, madame.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 12, 2017
    • I left that line in the repost as a reminder to myself that I must pick it up again and finish. I started it nearly three years ago and it got lost along the way and superseded by two other ideas in formation. But actually, I do need to finish it – good, bad, indifferent or downright diabolical it needs finishing.

      Liked by 1 person

      December 13, 2017
  29. Irresistible in the extreme—definitely a Coup de Cœur.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 12, 2017
    • She’s quite a gal, la Maison Carrée – the sort that is contrary, knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to let her feelings felt, needs talking to softly or she spits at you but when you gain her trust she lets you know you are a lifer, and I love her to pieces!!

      Liked by 1 person

      December 13, 2017
      • I rather like being contrary sometimes. Perhaps la Maison Carrée and I can meet someday.

        Liked by 1 person

        December 13, 2017
      • I do hope you will meet, Peggy. When she is finished (and we hope to have the Mayor cut a ribbon outside and invite the village in to celebrate her rebirth before the next election which will be in Spring 2020 … its a goal) we want many people to come and stay and enjoy whether we are there or not. But in your case I think I might demand that I was there …. such fun we will have!

        Liked by 1 person

        December 13, 2017
      • Adding to my calendar. Keep us posted.

        Liked by 1 person

        December 13, 2017
      • Try and stop me!

        Liked by 1 person

        December 13, 2017
  30. I’m rapt. Cannot wait for the next part! How exciting.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 12, 2017
    • So I’m re-running an episode a day this week and will then write fresh posts every day. Hopefully no-one will get bored!

      Liked by 2 people

      December 13, 2017
  31. Wonderful! This is just up my street, as you know. I need to find out more about these watch towers. We don’t have them around here.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 13, 2017
    • They are amazing …. I will dig out the locations of the ones I have photographed. You are exactly the girl to get the scoop! In fact they refer to ours as a ‘tour seigneurial’ and it was built even before the first Church. At one point there were two churches apparently and the city was built around the tower.

      Liked by 1 person

      December 14, 2017
      • Oh yes, please. Next time I’m up in that area I must make a point of visiting them. I love the Cantal churches as well with their squat bell-towers.

        Liked by 1 person

        December 14, 2017
      • My too … I adore the tours à peigne particularly. I promise I won’t forget to find the locations – they were probably just across one or other border into the Lot or Aveyron but there are examples in Cantal as well. It’s a major difference between the North and South of the Département in fact

        Liked by 1 person

        December 14, 2017
  32. Thanks for catching us “newbies” up on the details. So intrigued am I! On the part two!

    Liked by 1 person

    December 15, 2017
    • I really thought anyone coming in late would be entirely bewildered … as an I much of the time!

      Like

      December 15, 2017
  33. I can see why you both fell in love with such a beautiful building. You are definitely very patient! I love reading transformation stories and I know I will enjoy these posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 10, 2018
    • I so hope you will … they are not the voice of any sort of expert, more intended to be lighthearted but with both feet firmly in the truth of what has turned into a seemingly endless project!

      Liked by 1 person

      January 10, 2018

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Vendre dit vendredi: Part 1 – Sorry but I’m gonna have to pass! | Half Baked In Paradise
  2. Coup de Coeur – Part Two: Therefore is wing’d cupid painted blind! | Half Baked In Paradise
  3. Coup de Coeur – Part Three: I beg your pardon … | Half Baked In Paradise
  4. Coup de Coeur – Part Four: Whistle While You Work | Half Baked In Paradise

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