We’ve had a busy week but it’s been filled with things that don’t lend themselves to photos – being invited round for a meal, editing work, going to the cinema. So we thought we’d post some photos taken from three walks in the same area, all in the valley of the river Argens.
One of the interesting things about the landscape round here is that it is full of little valleys that are very easy to overlook. In the last week or two, we have discovered a rather charming winding valley not very far from us. It runs along the Argens, which is one of nature’s more circuitous rivers, rising well to the north-west of us and taking for ever to reach the sea. Parts of it have been dammed and are sluggish and uninteresting but elsewhere it’s a lively river which still maintains a healthy flow of water even after our dry winter. There are numerous little walks along it on quiet roads, tracks or footpaths and a virtue of its tendency to curve this way and that is that you get constantly changing views. In the last month we have managed in the course of three separate short walks to explore the Argens west of Lorgues.
One minor problem is that there is a shortage of bridges, which means that you either take one side or the other.
It’s a tranquil area that is not heavily populated — the winding roads make it a difficult place to commute from — but there are some very individualistic buildings which with stone walls and red tiled roofs are delightful. In one quiet little hamlet, separated from the river by the obligatory vineyard, we came across the utterly charming stone house for sale pictured below. A quick check on the internet revealed that for this part of the world it was very reasonably priced.
As they say “What’s not to like?”. Now it’s doubtless a delightful house — we are happy where we are and had no interest in investigating further — but it does raise what we now see as the great peril of house-hunting in France. This is quite simply the danger of buying with the heart and not the head. It all too easy on a warm day with the sun beaming down on some centuries old stone cottage enveloped in creepers and surrounded by butterflies, with a view of a glittering stream and rolling countryside stretching to the horizon, to be struck by what the French call a coup de coeur, literally, a ‘blow to the heart’, or more prosaically, ‘falling in love’.
With Valentine’s Day only just behind us, it’s a little churlish to say that you need to be careful about falling in love with French properties. Yet life is made of realities not dreams. Winter rains flowing through the kitchen, hunters who rampage over your garden, the fact that the nearest shop is thirty minutes away and that, never mind fibre-optic, you can’t even get a decent phone signal, can all turn the dream into a stressful nightmare. We have heard enough horror stories and read enough tales of woe to know what can happens when you buy without thinking. “Caveat emptor,” said the ancients — buyer beware — and it was never more true than with French dream cottages. There are minor aspects to our house in Taradeau that we wish we could change and it will never win any prize for looks or charm. But then neither will it turn in any tales of woe that begin “What we didn’t realise was….”