Wednesday 20 February 2019

Watch out... There's a Banker About!!

Buy a House in Brittany or Normandy - Definitely! But...
Don’t do a Dave!
Buying Abroad? Got a minute? Read this...
It could save you thousands!

A woeful tale about a client who thought he had it all sewn up because he was sticking with his bank when he exchanged funds for the purchase of his house in Brittany.

As we have so often said… Watch out, there’s a banker about!

Dave Simmonds and his wife, Megan (It's a true story, but the names have been changed to cover any possible embarrassment - alright ‘Dave’?) were both very, very excited after finding their ideal home in the heart of the Cotes d’Armor. It was everything they could ever wish for…  Early retirement with a very reasonably priced 5 Bedroomed Farmhouse on five acres plus three gites. Enough space for the horse that Megan could never have dreamt of owning back in Guildford.  A good potential income from holiday lettings...And all for just 360,000€ plus Notaire’s fees! I know, barmy prices!

Anyway…during one of our conversations on the phone discussing the next steps after making the decision to buy and the offer etc., I mentioned to Dave that, if he wished, we could introduce him to a very reliable currency exchange house who would ensure that he could get the best deal on his currency exchange (Sterling to Euros). Sometimes it’s easy to understand that people might feel guarded, proud even, of their own abilities to sort out their own arrangements. “Oh no, that’s OK” he said, “I’ll be sorting things out through my bank”.  
“You know,” I said, “that banks make charges and offer rates that push up your costs because of their involvement... way above that of a registered and recognised FX company. Their rates are just not as competitive.  These guys are very professional…What is it that worries you about checking out the market?”
“It’s just that I have had my account with the same branch since I left college and everything’s in their hands… current account, deposit account, mortgage, insurance business - you name it… the lot! I’ve always been happy with the way things have gone. So if you don’t mind… I've already had a word with my branch manager and he didn’t seem phased by helping us out”… I dropped it. Dave was intent on doing things his way!

Our network always ensures that the commercial agent, or Immobiliere concerned, accompanies our clients and leads the way through the act finale document, where the Notaire, assisted by the agent, leads the buyer through the compiled document, ensuring that the purchaser understands any potentially unclear elements of the transaction. It’s worth noting here that the system of property purchase in France is different from that which  exists in the UK and (unless the purchaser is well versed in the language) the agent’s presence is regarded as essential to assist progress, observing that all requirements of the transaction have been observed and to witness the purchaser’s signature(s), that their approval and full understanding is secured. It’s all so much more simple that way and a lot less harrowing. It's a bit like a police statement (but don't ask me how I know!)

It was after all of this had been achieved and, following the elation of Dave and Megan becoming the owners of their new house, that Dave looked at the paperwork and files on his computer and felt somewhat pinched at his final figure by way of the Bank’s involvement in the currency exchange… and, being shocked, only then did he compare his bank’s performance with that of our FX associates. Dave's exchange with his bank had in fact cost him £9,000 more than it would have done via the best performing currency exchange house. When we spoke he told me of his anger and almost disbelief that this could have happened and at such an amazing difference (Dave's house was 360,000€! so that'll be three times the illustrated figure shown below - ouch!). He told me that he intended to sue his bank! I had to persuade him to maintain calm and to realise that he had signed to approve the exchange via his bank and that protesting would be fruitless since he walked into the arrangement with eyes wide open. Dave’s experience came too late for him...
If he had let me show him this comparison and not been insistent that his bank would 'see him right' I'm sure it would have been a NO Brainer! Moral: Don't Do A Dave! (sorry Dave).

Click below to visit the Currencies Direct website (they regularly feature at the top of the league tables for FX)... So - Sign up today and be ready for the BIG DAY!... Not a 'Banker' in sight!

 CurrenciesDirect - It couldn't be easier...

Monday 30 July 2018

Tintagell, Snowdonia, Cadbury Camp, Broceliande - So who really 'owns' Arthur & Merlin?

For a bloke who was restricted to travel on horseback or, at best, but probably a whole lot slower, by Palanquin (look it up... I had to) King Arthur and his retinue (Lancelot, Guinevere, The Lady Vivien, Sir Girwain, Merlin - et al)... well, they sure did get around. Although, if you believe the other places that legend would have us believe he made an appearance - as I mention in the title... Tintagel, Snowdonia, and Cadbury Camp, then he was probably good at levitation and teleportation too... He probably landed just up the road from here having been guided in by the standing stones at Carnac. And don't get me going on "was God an astronaut!?"
We're getting on with our exploration of Brittany (picking up again nicely thanks) in between renovating our modest money pit in the Cotes d'Armor... Well, we recently had a look at the forest of Broceliande... and the Brittany end of the Arthurian legend.
 I have to say that, with regard to this part of ancient history, the Bretons aren't known for over-egging their potential tourist attractions. In fact it's quite a task linking together all aspects of the legend in this Celtic toehold within France... because they are fairly laid back about the whole thing over here. It's a patchy and not heavily patronised tourist trail. It's a bit like being interested in International Grand Prix motor racing or the World Cup... better, most would say, in documentary film form or viewed on TV rather than traveling to each venue in real time bearing in mind the expense and time invested in actally 'being there'. The Bretons play it very low key. Good on 'em!
Paimpont, being probably the biggest community in the area, has a street of mainly tasteful commercial premises, caf├ęs and gift shops where only some have a touch of the mysterious about them. The street presents a relatively calm environment, neatly tucked away, but accessed via an ancient arch off the main road that runs straight through the town. This in turn leads to a very handsome Abbey church... Parking is free and plentiful and the Abbey sits next to a large lake... Yes, probably... the one of which there is... a lady and, on the shores of which there is the rumour of a sword in a stone!
Having seen all that Paimpont seemed to have to offer we had lunch of Moules and Frites and headed off in search of evidence of Merlin. The low key approach that Breton local authorities attach to this kind of thing (OK there are road signs and we knew that all was to be found here within the Forest of Broceliande) is very low profile. After a few wrong turnings (I always blame it on the satnav) we saw, just ahead of us a lay-by with maybe 6 or so vehicles parked up... Across the lane was a dusty track leading into the woods. A sign board illustrated with a wizardly theme and multi lingual descriptions of what was to come... Excited? Expectant at least! Quite a few people (there must be another car park) were in front and behind us on the well trodden path... Stopping and politely waiting for each clutch of legend seekers to read the information board which might sit in front of what on a better day (today was parched in July with beige grass) had once been green and offered no trace of water in the culverts which might on other days have gushed, bubbling, toward the 'font' which we discovered further down the track... The actual 'Merlin's Tomb' consisted of three large rocks buried in the earth down a side track to the right and the only thing that distinguished them from other rocks that we could have seen just as easily in the same area was that people had laid flowers and small piles of stones on this the 'real' tomb. Further down the path on left and right were more tributes of piles of stones and just as identifiable... the places from where these stones had been prised, dug or kicked from the sides of the path. The Fountain and what might well have been a secret pool were dried up but dignified by more piles of stones.
The walk back up the track revealed something which I'm ashamed to say I found a mite more interesting ... a piece19th Century rusting iron farm machinery (I'm not an expert) which was locked into the landscape by trees which have grown around the stranded vehicle. An antique combined harvester or was it a chariot of the Gods?... Anyway...frozen in time!...
Continuing our drive we came across other burial chambers, menhirs and dolmen just off to the sides of the road... some huge by comparison that would, if anyone had thought of being slightly dishonest about local heritage, could have proved much more interesting and intricate for the local Marie in days gone by to have decided..."OK, let's say this is Merlin's tomb! Much more plausible! OK... if you agree, let's put the signs up and lay out the car park!"

But, why mess with true heritage? We had a great day out. We've actually got a cluster of rocks behind the barns in our own Brittany garden - behind the 'money pit' (I jest of course) that rival Merlin's tomb for their size and intricacy and so I'm picking up a sheet of 8x4 marine ply and a couple of timber posts next week and will be advertising (discreetly of course) the secrets of middle earth... "Bury that hose pipe in the ground here we're going to need a water feature... Here we go...Welcome to the Grotto!"
Now this is a bit more like it - proper burial chamber as befits a wizard.
btw - NOT in our garden!

Tuesday 24 July 2018

At Last!... A Picking and a A Pickling We Will Go!

 I have wanted to do this for years! Picking Walnuts and then pickling them! Unless you have access to a Walnut tree in July you're a bit stuffed. I haven't ever seen unripe walnuts for sale in any shop. We haven't had any Walnut trees to call our own, although we have been given a very small sapling. It's planted in the garden now and, if I'm still alive when it bears fruit I shall regard myself as extremely lucky. 
On walks along the dried up canal just a couple of hundred metres up the hill from the house (the Rigole d'Hilvern)... turn to the left at the top of the lane where it crosses the canal and it's the first tree on the right. I don't know how we've managed to miss it... but, in our defence, it is well tucked into a beech tree and sits under its branches - quite well hidden. As soon as I realised we had one almost on our doorstep... I looked up a recipe and, having found it, went out and picked what I hoped would be 2kilos to match the recipes ingredients...
How to pickle walnuts
Ingredients for 2kg pickled walnuts
  • 225g salt
  • 1 litre malt vinegar
  • 500g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger

  • ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

  • 1. Prick the walnuts with a fork and cover with water and the salt - Stir to dissolve and create brine. I've cut the top and bottom off the walnuts I've used as I've noticed that in the shop bought ones I've eaten - I'm guessing this will help absorb the brine more readily. 
  • 2. Leave for a week, then drain and renew with a fresh brine solution for another week.
  • 3. Drain the walnuts and lay out on trays in a dry, airy place. After a few days they will have turned black.
  • 4. Combine the remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Bring them to the boil, add the walnuts and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool and spoon the nuts into large jars and cover with the liquid. They should last for years. I can't wait for the results!

I've only just started this process and so have a few weeks to wait for the next development... I'll add more photo's as I proceed. I have lifted this recipe from 'The Field', erstwhile solid and well respected publication, and have no hesitation in recommending it to whoever reads this... And I hope they don't do me for copyright infringement!

Tuesday 19 June 2018

12,000 Quid for this? Has it been worth it? Ask a silly Question!

I've been banging on for years about what a great bargain we stumbled across 19 years ago when we picked up our house in Brittany for just £12,000 plus fees - so about £16,000 in all. Obviously we have spent a few quid doing it up BUT it still hasn't cost us any more than around 80k in total including the purchase price. Of course it has been our 'holiday' home (sometimes anyone within an arm's length when they say "have a nice holiday" is in danger of a swipe... I'm thinking here of my wife rather than myself) and, because we don't live there year round, we have spent many times the cost of the house on ferry crossings... but "Has it been worth it?" 

You bet it has!! and sometimes spending most of one's time over there renovating is not everyone's idea of anything approaching a holiday! Saying this does sort the men out from the boys (in this day and age you're almost bound to upset some people with a choice of words when looking for the right way to explain a situation in an easy to understand way). 'To renovate yourself - or - buy in the skills?' You also, if not able or wanting to get involved can spend some money to improve your bargain via reliable artisans - or - a little of each.

New roof front and rear including dormer and Velux's
The astounding thing is that, comparatively, there are still such bargains to be had. Don't believe me?
Recently, OK, within the last 2 years, acquaintances - who have now become good friends bought two houses (so 5 bedrooms in all) on an exceptional courtyard with great outbuildings on land of 3,000m2 at the wetlands end of a 6km lake for just £100,000 all perfectly habitable. Sounds perfect n'est ce pas? As it happens, and the way their life is panning out, it coincides with them downsizing on their property in the UK as well as spending more time at their house in France, so it fits their requirements perfectly and is also very do-able financially. 
Not everyone has that amount of good fortune or the funds to juggle in what looks like such a trouble-free way. But no two life stories are the same. But by no means should you feel that this game is only for 'rich folks'... Far from it...We might live in Southern England but we ain't rich!... Just a bit nearer to the channel ports which do make this kind of thing more achievable and less hassle.
Whatever you might think about Brexit or the bouncing Exchange Rates there are still bargains aplenty... If you have an inkling about being interested in a Brittany (or Normandy) bargain
then you should begin your search at OR

Monday 18 June 2018

A Brittany Manor House with a twist or two!

Our time spent in Brittany, when it comes to RandR is spent alternating between two lakes which are pretty much equidistant from our place ... the biggest, proves to be quite a draw in the summer. Not surprisingly being 12 kilometres long, it has plenty to commend it. But - in a Breton way - it could never be called oversubscribed with those wishing to swim, scuba dive, walk, ramble, cycle, sail, water-ski, fish, windsurf, canoe, jet-ski or even enjoy a dinner cruise. All of these pastimes are there and all are used and indulged in but it's never 'full on'. It never gets so busy as to get anywhere near uncomfortable or crowded.

There's a lake a short walk from the end of the garden
The second lake about 6 kilometres long and a wee bit skinnier has far fewer amenities but somehow  is more attractive for us at least... more exclusive supporting open water swimming, canoeing, pedalos (the pizza restaurant at the southern end of the lake has boats for hire in summer months) and there is a man made beach. We have often taken Rudy for a walk there and often felt that unbeknown to us the world must have come to an end...and that we are the only ones left alive... whether it's driving in on the approach roads or walking around the lake through woodland walks or throwing sticks into the lake for the dog to retrieve from the beach... We'll most often be alone. And it is this lake which is just a stone's throw from a property we have just been asked to market...

... It's a Manor House on the fringes of the lake's wetland area... Not an ancient manor which many think the name suggests but one which does have some amazing features going for it... Such as owner's accommodation, three Gites and, also for rental the main Manor House section, with 5 ensuite bedrooms, and huge reception room which opens on to a terrace and pool area and, beyond that, two acres of parc and gardens. If home and income is what you're after - look no further. 
The whole property was built around 1985 and is therefore up to date in terms of electrical, heating and plumbing installations all being up to spec. A total of 15 bedrooms mean that there is great flexibility as regards the capacity Once new owners become used to their surroundings and the local market... they may realise the potential of another feature:- a giant marquee (stored in the full footprint basement) which also houses the banqueting tables and furnishings to enable weddings, receptions, seminars and family or business celebrations within the building as well as within the Manor's extensive grounds...

The house's proximity to the lake make this property a great potential money spinner for special interest groups of canoeists, kayak clubs, walkers and ramblers as well as family groups who will find exploring Central Brittany and the Emerald (north) coast which is less than 30 minutes drive away. All facilities:- shopping, restaurants, bars, banks and supermarkets are 15 minutes away at Quintin. If you enjoy to eat well on a budget (and who doesn't) a nearby village has two Routier (open menu) bar/restaurants where a blow-out including wine or cider will set you back just 11 Euros. That reminds me - we must go back there soon.

       If you haven't arrived at this page from our website...
then click here to see the full property details of the Manoir

If you wish to view this property then please in the first instance contact us at:- 
A House in Brittany Limited on 01903 202272 or e-mail us...

Brittany has so much to offer...
Alfresco Moules & Frites on the north coast...
right by the beach. 30 minutes away.
The Nantes/Brest Canal
Nearby walks on the Rigole d'Hilvern
Son et Lumiere events and recitals at the Abbey of Bon Repos.

Thursday 8 February 2018

Brittany Bound? A 3 generation family?... Or Gite letting's your thing?... then have a look!

Our satnav is not programmed to understand Breton. How very unPC! Tom-Tom are clearly not up to date (or should it be 'down' to date) with 15th century minority languages. However, once we had been lucky enough to encounter a native, local to the area, walking his dog, about a mile or so from - Berouan in the Morbihan - all became clear. There it was in full colour on our own dog-eared, hardly ever used and unfortunately small scale map (smaller communities are hardly ever marked are they?)... Anyway, we had almost made it without help because there was a shrug and perplexed look from our new acquaintance...(well he did wave a little later). 

 Turn right about a kilometre before you get to Caden from Malansac and there you are. The trouble is we had to drive into Caden to find out how far out one kilometre is before we could work out which would have been the right lane to turn down... None of the names on the signposts rang a bell. In any event the town's folk of Caden were getting to know us pretty well as we had now driven through the village four times, once in each direction, and so, people enjoying a Sunday lunchtime drink outside the bar or stragglers leaving church later, having stopped to chat in the sunshine, were beginning to point and wave as we passed by... what a friendly bunch! Suffice to say we were in the Morbihan down near to the Vannes and the Gulf of Morbihan with it’s hundreds of islands and islets creeks and inlets… a lovely area evocative of Devon and Cornwall.

We were here for a family birthday party with good friends... friends of many years standing from back in the UK. And we had found Berouan (aka Brohan... a rose by any other name... etc.,) on only the fourth 'pass' and so, needless to say, we were the last to arrive at the gathering, having passed through 4 or 5 sleepy hamlets since leaving the main road. Quite a party was already in full flow... at least twenty or so, already fitting very comfortably into the main living room cum kitchen. It was difficult to tell, as the more recent building work had been so well done, that this was in fact the newest part of the house. Tables bedecked and umbrellas shading the tables on patio areas were dotted around outside the house. The last time we had seen the newest part of the property it had been little more than an inner courtyard... a ruin that had been a house (in the days when the Hamlet was probably called Brohan) and it joined the main house at the front and to the barn at the rear. Now this section (finished 7 years ago) forms a two bedroomed house with huge living room being a lounge/diner/kitchen... with bedrooms and bathroom above. Even with 20 or so guests milling around chatting with drinks waiting for the word 'Go' on the buffet, there was still space aplenty.

The transformation of this house over 15 years has been amazing. Loving care, eye for detail, the sweat of many a brow and excellent planning is obvious. The exterior of this, the mid section, which has been rescued from a ruin is seamless with both the house to the left and the barn/workshop with, above, studio apartment to the right and it looks more like a well maintained 18th Century house rather than one just a few years old.
The house 'to the left' has it's main front door adjacent to the front of the former 'ruin' and also has patio doors to the 'green' in front of the farmhouse (the original purchase). This has a cosy living room/kitchen with wood-burner and open staircase leading to the first floor. But, still here on the ground floor, behind the kitchen/living room is a double bedroom, flanked by a shower room with basin and toilet. Upstairs are two more bedrooms and another bathroom.

Above all...(and I'm having a mooch around whilst they are putting the finishing touches to the finger food and stuff... oven required) this place has become three interconnecting dwellings on one plot (with a fourth developing as a further feature)... because when you include the barn and the studio above it (where you have a gite-ing opportunity) the whole property's use presents exceedingly flexible accommodation and umpteen choices and permutations whether for extended family or using two of the properties as letting opportunities at any one time according to preference. The fourth element is a small cottage to develop across the tarmac drive which has a concrete floor and wiring... The total usable living space (for those who can visualise this kind of thing) is 257 square metres.

"Come and have a look at the garden" I heard, filtering above the bubbling conversation... I decided to tag along because I had caught sight of snippets of the outside space from various windows and wanted to see how it was all getting along. There is a total of 6,248m2... An acre of woodland is down an adjacent lane and can be seen from the house and rear garden… a ‘live’ wood store. The immediate garden wraps around 3 sides of the house and, to the side - facing the lane is an area of common open, lawned land shared by 2 neighbouring properties. 

So, if you’re looking for a comfortable 3 generation house… totalling 5 bedrooms or just one owners’ section plus 2 gite opportunities (plus a small cottage to develope across the drive) all with taste and style aplenty, It’s here at Berouan! 

If you are interested in more details of this lovely property then have a look at its page on our website:

If you would like us to set up a viewing then send an e-mail to us at... and type "Trudy and David's House" in the title bar...We'll do the rest! Thanks

Plenty more photographs... on the website


Watch out... There's a Banker About!!

Buy a House in Brittany or Normandy - Definitely! But... Don’t do a Dave! Buying Abroad?  Got a minute? Read this... It could sa...