Archive for May, 2008

Last-minute homeowner

Posted in Journal, La France at 22:19

At 6:15pm, my notary phoned and said the money was in their account. That has to be one of the fastest French bank wires I’ve ever seen — which makes a few points scored by my bank’s regional office after my previous post. Since I’d taken the afternoon off already (having planned to sign), I was in Nice and able to reach the notary’s office in fifteen minutes, so they agreed to sign this evening.

At 7:30pm I finished signing the last paper (goodness there were several, and most of which I’d already seen via my real estate agent) and was given my keys. At 8pm I was in my new home! First homeowner impressions:
o “Oh my god if anything goes wrong I have to figure out how to fix it on my own.” Of course, I already knew this, and have been preparing methodically for it, so the thought didn’t actually take me by surprise. But it was the first thing I thought nonetheless!
o “Cool, the arches are neater than I remembered.” Just waiting for the electricity to be turned on in order to take photos with enough light to focus.
o “I need a ladder to open the bedroom window…” This is a small window in the “underground” part of the apartment, near the ceiling. With my height of 5’11″/1m80, standing on the tips of my toes and with my fully-extended arms only just reaching the bottom edge of the window, that’s saying a lot. High ceilings, yay!
o “The kitchen is bigger than I remembered!” It’s a really nice size and is well laid-out. I can hardly wait to start cooking in it.
o “It’s so quiet and cool… a nice breeze flows with the windows open.” It smelled a bit musty from having been closed for so long, but as soon as I opened the windows a lovely breeze aired it out in a few minutes. And it was noticeably cooler than the building entry, with loads of light from the patio.

Photos won’t be coming very soon, unfortunately, because my PC has been packed for moving tomorrow morning (I’m on my trusty old laptop) and I don’t know when internet will be set up in my new place. We’ll see!

Tick tock

Posted in Journal, La France, Nice at 16:20

Patio looking east

Apparently, setting today as a signing date was cutting it a bit too close. My bank only wired the notary this morning, and naturally, the notaries need to wait until the money is actually in their account before handing over the keys. Although everything has always gone smoothly and quickly with my banker in Nice, the bank’s regional loans department, which has actual control over the contracts and money, has been dragging its feet the whole time, and there’s nothing my local banker can do about it. I no longer count the times I’ve experienced this sort of disconnect between local representatives and regional or national offices, in all sorts of businesses here; it’s rather ordinary. C’est la hiérarchie.

Soupir. (Sigh.)

So here I am surrounded by boxes — some of which I’d hoped to bring to my new place this afternoon — unable to do anything. I had scheduled movers for tomorrow morning; luckily my real estate agent (the mature one, not the kêk*) lives in the same quartier as my new place and agreed to let in the movers and me tomorrow morning. But I can’t sign tomorrow, because right after moving I have a training session for work, so I still won’t be able to settle into my new home. Then there’s the annoyance of having to keep things at my current place in order to go to work the next day, which means I won’t be able to move everything at once tomorrow. Encore soupir.

Soon, soon, belle terrasse, you shall be mine! (And Malo’s!)

* Kêk: Pronounced similarly to the English word “cake”. Southeastern French/Provençal slang. A young man who thinks he’s God’s gift to women. Drives either a scooter or a souped-up Peugeot 205, wears slick hair and a grin. Has an inflated self-image.

Dining table of my dreams

Posted in La France at 15:55

Dining table

With the signature of my apartment scheduled for this upcoming Monday, I was finally able to go back to my favorite secondhand store and see if the solid oak dining table I’ve been coveting for more than a month was still for sale. The store doesn’t hold anything for more than five days, so I couldn’t get it until I knew when I would have the keys. On entering the store I made a beeline for where the table had been… and there it was, still unsold! This photo of it was taken in-store with my mobile phone camera, which explains the graininess. This table is like few I’ve ever seen throughout the years, and I can hardly believe no one else bought it. Especially since it had been marked down from its original 300 euros to 200! That said, it has two prominent, wide scratches near one corner, a few smaller ones elsewhere, and the oak has a rich, almost black patina from age, so I’m assuming no one looked beyond that. The scratches are only on the surface, with almost no depth, so I’ll sand away them and the patina, then refinish the wood.

Frequently browsing secondhand shops, with their eclectic and oft-changing selection, is a great way to learn what attracts you and what doesn’t, which helps immensely when you eventually need or want to buy. I’ve seen hundreds of tables in this store over the years, and discovered that I love herringbone patterns, especially when they’re bordered — I don’t like herringbone-patterned dining tables without a solid, straight border as much. Oval and rectangular shapes are my favorites for tables, but I don’t like squared edges because they strike me as “sharp”. Shaped, carved and turned legs are among my favorites, again because I prefer curves to straight edges. However, I don’t like excessively ornate furniture; I’ve grown to love pieces that have what I can only describe as a quiet, calm, gentle feel to them. Furniture you can see every day and appreciate for its beauty, but that doesn’t assault your eyes with too much decoration or too stark lines. I loved this table at first sight, and being able to describe why, as well as knowing from experience how uncommon its style is, helped me justify it to myself!

In that same spirit, I made a surprise find of a gorgeously simple leather reading chair. Clean lines, inviting curves and it is so very comfortable. Plus it’s a design that will be easy to re-upholster, although I do like that shade of green and the leather is in fine condition. I got a good deal on it too, “only” 104 euros instead of the original 180. It’s missing a few buttons, is all!

Sunny May photos

Posted in La France, Nice at 12:48

Olive flowers, closeup

It’s been drizzly the last couple of weeks, but the sun came out after a morning rain today, so I woke up early and took photos while walking to Cours Saleya. There’s too much sun for good pictures in the afternoon — as can be seen, the one above, taken at 9am, already has plenty. Olive trees are blooming now; this is a closeup of an olive branch on Place Masséna. Zoomed out a bit it looks like this.

I focused on architectural details that catch my eye in the city, and created a photoset of Nice’s architecture. There are several photos from today, as well as older ones. The set is kind-of-sort-of grouped by architectural style. A note on the sometimes crooked framing: streets are very narrow and there are cars everywhere in this city. Often, to get a full view of a place that doesn’t include a macro shot of the truck parked right in front of you, you have to stand aside a bit rather than being able to photograph straight on. (This photo shows what I mean to a certain extent.)

There are other photos as well:
o Fish at market, Cours Saleya
o Musical group on Cours Saleya
o A graphic example of copropriétés (same building, with different owners/copropriétés)
o My feet caught on camera… cameras…

Herbes de Provence

Posted in Gardening, La France at 13:59

Thym de Provence

I’ve had a hankering for baked potato with chives, which helped remind me that chives are easy to grow. Once again I walked to the Fiol gardening store, and once again I was tempted by other plants as well. On a tight budget now with my imminent move, I only fell for one: the thym de Provence shown here, which is also called farigoule in Provençal. It has a strong smell, sweet and tangy with a touch of mint, that makes the mouth water.

I now have tomatoes, basil, chives, thyme, lavender, myrtle, strawberries, and access to a wild rosemary plant that’s been growing out of my neighbor’s gutter for the last three years. Ah, the romance of living in southern France, where rosemary grows out of gutters… Rosemary can be grown from cuttings, so I’ll be taking a cutting along with me when I move. I photographed nearly all my plants to show how much I’ve been able to do with a small city balcony. Thyme and chives are perennials, so will always be around, and they were surprisingly cheap at three euros a plant. So for six euros I’ll have thyme and chives for as long as they’re alive!

La forêt de fraises

Posted in Gardening at 14:13

Strawberry plant

My neighbors across the quiet residential alley from my balcony probably wonder why I contort myself so strangely to take photos of plants: every once in a while I’ll spot someone staring at me oddly. Today I got on my back to see my first nearly-ripe strawberry at eye level. This photo shows how attractive a strawberry plant crown can be — the crown is the center of the plant just above the soil. I’ve been removing about half of the flowers, which you’re supposed to do with everbearing strawberry plants until June (it spares growing energy for the plant itself), wanting to leave others on just for the fun of watching them develop. Only three days ago, this little bunch of strawberries looked like so; they’re ripening quickly.

Cherry nighttable

Posted in Journal at 12:42

Favorite nighttable

This unique nighttable is another of my secondhand — which in France often translates to “antique” — finds. I bought it two years ago and promptly loaded it with books. With nearly everything packed for my move now, I took the opportunity to photograph it bare. It was love at first sight when I found it, and inexpensive since it has some minor damage and at the time was missing both knobs. It’s made of solid wild cherry!

Over the years I’ve found that it really pays off to visit secondhand shops and wait for coups de coeur (roughly translated, “loves at first sight”). They don’t happen often, but when they do it’s so much more fulfilling. Right now there’s a gorgeous dining table I want, but since the shop in question doesn’t hold items for more than five days, I have to wait until I know for certain when I’ll get the keys…! La date de signature hasn’t yet been set, though it should be soon.