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What we do in the Charente
How we searched for homes in France, potato churros and more
For this second newsletter I delve into how we landed on the region we’re in, as well as how we approached our house hunt in France.
Our love for the Charente is two-fold. My manperson has been coming here for most of his life. And if you play your cards right, you can end up living close to the Dordogne, Limousine, and Perigord, a beautifully lush and green conservation area with ample opportunity for eating (me) and mountain biking (him).
It helps that the Charente is also relatively affordable compared to other areas of France and reasonably accessible from the Netherlands. So this part of our decision making process was a no-brainer.
The house hunt
Once we decided we were really going for it, we started by looking at listings on Leggett (a French real estate agency focusing on foreigners and British people in particular - no spon, we paid them lol). We browsed their website daily, so we could see what was available for which kind of budget and figure out which non-negotiables we both had to try and find some middle ground for our dream home.
Our dream home list ended up as follows:
A separate kitchen, as this is also a workspace for me
Separate work studios for myself and my manperson, since we are both fairly private people (fun fact: we didn’t live together or with anyone else in a good long while until December)
A large enough garden for relaxing and growing things to eat, preferably in a more wooded area to stay cool
Preferably close to a train station or airport, for easy access
Preferably on the edge of a small village with some neighbors
Preferably with an additional space that we could let out as a writer’s retreat for additional, fairly passive income
Then we just started making lists and lists and more lists of endless houses and homes. We whittled it down by veto (if either us disliked a house it was a no-go) and budget restrictions.
If we both liked a house it would go on a permanent watch list and we’d try and find more information online.
In France, a seller can list their house through multiple real estate agents. Whoever sells it gets the commission. This means real estate agents often take the listing photos themselves or have the seller do it (in both cases, in our budget range, generally poorly) and no exact addresses are ever mentioned, so competitors can’t try and also list the property. The only way to find out the exact location of a house is by booking a viewing or going ham on Google Maps and Street View. For smaller towns we were often be able to locate the property because there weren’t that many for sale to begin with and then we could use the photos from other listings to get a more complete view of a home. If we were really lucky the listing came with a floorplan and we could try and find the location that way.
In our case, we ended up finding our now home listed on AirBnB. I’ll tell you how finding and purchasing our dream home in my next newsletter. So if you haven’t already…
This week we’re gardening
This week while we’re waiting for paperwork to clear, we mostly dove into our garden. I cleared one of the beds closest to the kitchen, left the cardoons, chives and thyme and added flat leaf and curly parsley, as well as coriander, oregano, mint and basil. We maybe overloaded our car with gravel and still didn’t get enough. And we resurrected a rosehip that had fallen over during a storm at some point in the last ? years.
Now that a lot of stuff is starting to blossom I’ve also been able to identify goose berries, black currant and a pear tree with the aid of PlantNet. Our garden holds many (edible) mysteries but I’ll save the full story on that for another day.
This week’s eatening
I actually wrote this email a week ahead of time, as I have this week off. But the week PRIOR to sending this email I ate:
Budget Bytes hardy black bean quesadillas, easily veganized with vegan cheddar, a rare occasion where you should not up the garlic because it remains quite raw (or sweat it out with the onion op front). I learned the very bad breath way
Spicy xi’an fully loaded silken tofu, seriously: add this to your hot summer days menu RIGHT NOW. I added coriander and minced meat because I could, the coriander was especially an exciting and welcome addition
Potato churros, fun to shoot, not great to eat
My own beetroot tarte tatin, because savory tart tatin’s never say die
This week’s readening
This week I read the legendary White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler. This ring bound cookbook was originally released in the mid-80’s, to critical acclaim from the likes of Harper Lee. I think I first heard about the book when I read this essay about Mickler, but I didn’t realise you could still buy copies until a few weeks ago. It’s an incredibly heart warming, often funny, often delicious sometimes ‘thanks I’ll pass’ sounding book with some stellar documentary photography of the US South in the mid-80’s mixed in for good measure. Get it if you’re into food history in particular.
Researching places to eat in Bordeaux I bumped in a bazillion French tacos places and was bewildered until Alicia shared this New Yorker article with me about French tacos. Well worth the read if you are interested in how new food mash-ups come into being and the state of French snacking culture right now. I should note Ulysses Eats confirmed the accuracy of the article for me, as European things can be disturbingly misrepresented in US media at times.
I make a brief cameo in this Cathy Erway Taste article on sprinkles.
This week watchening
I watched Bad Vegan on Netflix and whew… I have feelings and opinions but just watch it yourself and read Alicia Kennedy’s oral history of the restaurant.
If anyone can tell me what to do with cardoons and borage, as there is plenty around in the garden, please let me know in the comments.