The Wreck-O-Rama has begun. Real estate in a foreign country is not for the faint of heart. We are now smack in the middle of making our lives complicated again. For about 3 months I was blissfully light, few possessions but most importantly mortgage free. This is about to change. We are at the application stage for a French mortgage which takes, you guessed it, time. About 45 days. In Canada we would have finances arranged in about 45 minutes. Again, just rolling with it.

It’s pretty loosey goosey here. We have yet to lay out a cent for this house, no deposit, no nothing but onward ho. We met with a bunch of artisans and had our first project meeting about a week ago. Excel spread sheets of estimates called devis have been created and are neatly tucked away in the Big Binder with our name on it.

Now these devis are apparently incredibly detailed down to the last dollar for each and every piece of work that will be carried out. This is quite a difference from my experience with Canadian contractors who come, take a look, offer you a 3 line description of a whole house renovation and the ever annoying phrase “we’ll look after you”. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that one, well I’d have enough money to pay for the Wreck outright. It drove me bananas.

One particular artisan has taken my fancy quite a bit. Christian is a fine carpenter or menuisier who will be making our front door as well as our staircase.

He looks more like a professor than a labourer. Silver hair, glasses perched on the end of his nose. I had no idea who he was as he was greeting me with his sing song bonjour madame carrying a weathered leather briefcase, maybe an architect or town official. But then I felt his hand in mine. A thick, callused paw covered by a lifetime of sawdust. I liked him immediately.

He began measuring with his laser tool and within minutes presented me with a detailed drawing of a front door that was in keeping with the history of the town. He’s one of those people who inspires instant confidence.

In fact every single artisan we met gave me the same feeling. They were very professional and sounded so smart and competent about their crafts. Of course what the hell do I know?  I couldn’t understand a word they were saying.

A few days later we visited Christian’s workshop, a vast hall filled with handmade windows and doors that are so exquisite, so beautifully crafted with incredible attention to detail. I have never seen anything like it. He was very proud to show us his work and was clearly happy that we were so impressed. No language was required.

We have now seen the final drawings for the front door and the sketches alone make me wonder if this guy is related to Monet. It got me to thinking about all the things we have in our homes that come from god knows where made by people we will never meet or even pause to consider, how disconnected we are from the process of where and how things are made.

It would be much cheaper to go to a big box store for these things (and we will for many other things) but I really like the idea of knowing that every time I open the door to my little cottage I will think of Christian and his skilled hands. How he chose the wood, how he carved and shaped and sanded it into something magnificent. If that’s not worth a few extra dollars I don’t know what is.

At any rate, a very good start. Our project manager is fantastic, a bilingual dynamo of a woman to be reckoned with and she is obviously excited by the project. Confidence is high.

All that remains is that pesky financing issue. Anyone know the translation of amortization schedule and total debt service ratio?

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