It’s been an interesting few months, and I blame it all on Facebook.
During the summer of 2012, when we were running a B&B in Cornwall, we attended a musical event at Buckland Abbey, Devon, an event that we had heard about through the venue’s Facebook page. During the interval we bumped into a friend we hadn’t seen for ten years or so. Friend mentioned that an inn on the edge of Dartmoor that we knew well was on the market, for what seemed like not a great deal of money.
The idea of taking on a pub had been building in our minds for a few years, but we hadn’t acted upon the idea for a number of reasons, the principle one being the price of freeholds was prohibitive, and we didn’t really want to run just a pub.
This particular inn that Friend mentioned was different. It is a leasehold property ( low capital outlay ), is owned by the Church ( safe landlord ), it has letting rooms ( profitable ), and has a name for good food. It’s in a great location, is an attractive, Olde Worlde building. It was a Big Opportunity.
We spent a couple of weeks frantically doing sums. Everything looked right. However, just as we were about to submit an offer we were pipped to the post by a cash buyer.
A tiring couple of months followed, during which we viewed a number of places and generated many spreadsheets, and finally had an offer accepted on a pub not far from where we were living. Unfortunately, the purchase fell through at the last minute because of poor trading figures for that summer. It was ultimately too much of a risk for us.
However, now that the idea of selling our house to take on a new challenge had taken hold, the momentum took on a life of its own. Friends down the road had recently bought a property in Brittany to use as a summer let. One afternoon, out of curiosity, we sat down to take a look at some websites, to see what might be available in France.
That initial curiosity turned into an increasingly serious consideration over a very short period of time. Early November, having identified a few areas of interest, we booked a holiday and some viewings with agents, and headed over.
We spent a few days in the centre of France, looking at houses and taking stock of the region. None of the properties were quite right, and although at that point the country was starting to undulate and offer up something close to what we were looking for, it didn’t quite have ‘it’.
On the journey south, heading towards the holiday destination, we drove through a national park with the intention of trying to find a hotel in a town on the southern edge. While driving, we saw a sign for a small hotel that looked interesting, and so happily diverted from our route, sinking into that holiday head zone, where happy accidents are welcomed.
En route to the hotel, having passed through miles of nothing but trees and increasingly interesting hills, we came across a small hamlet. Dusk was turning to proper dark. We saw a perfect-looking small auberge that was just opening its doors. The menu was the most enticing we had seen for a few days; short, inexpensive, with a focus entirely on regional specialities.
The auberge didn’t offer accommodation, but the waiter managed to find us a room at a farm across the valley.
The kitchen fulfilled its promise. Simple food using quality ingredients found on the doorstep, cooked with skill and care. The small room, with a magically cosy barrel vaulted ceiling, sat maybe thirty people at most. Out of season, with winter in the air, it seemed like we were the only people there who weren’t known to the owners. We sat and absorbed the easy conviviality.
We slept well, rose early to drive the many more miles south to the holiday destination. The cloud was down, it was a little drizzly, so we couldn’t really make out much of the area that we had happened upon the previous evening. Even so, the odd glimpses that we saw through the mist seemed interesting.
We drove on. We holidayed. Further south, although the area is extraordinarily beautiful, the properties were way beyond our budget. We returned to Cornwall, plans for preparing for Christmas filling our heads.
A few days after returning, we found a new property website. On that site we found The One. We booked a ferry for the following week, and arranged to view a few other properties also.
None of the other properties were right, but then we knew that they wouldn’t be. We just needed to see some others before seeing The One, in order to make sure that it really was.
And it was. It was right the first time we saw it, and the second time the following morning. There is no way to describe that sensation. You will know this if you have been looking for something, not knowing quite what it is that you are looking for, coming close to thinking that you’ll never find it, only to have it present itself in its own time, in its own way.
The icing ? While exploring the surrounding area before heading back to Cornwall, we found that, quite by accident, we had returned to within a mile of the auberge that had enticed us to stop, that dusky evening two weeks previously.