Posted by: britgirl82 | August 9, 2010

7th January 2010 – The apartment

So….where does that leave us? Brit Girl is en France! Easy from here surely…obstacles of snow, planes and trains all over, it can only be bread, wine, cheese and l’amour going forwards?!?!

Well, the first full day in France started off easily, there was little do – the plans had all changed at 4am the day before. Brit Girl had no keys to the new apartment; if you remember, when Brit Girl was meant to be collecting the keys she was actually still somewhere in the middle of France on the TGV. There was little to be done, except visit the nearest supermarche for additional cleaning equipment -joy!

At this point, a word of warning, it is not just the British who are proud of their queues! Brit Girl found out that the French were too, after spending at least 20 minutes in a queue in the supermarche…no rhyme or reason, bar the general enjoyment of waiting, watching and waiting a little more.

The introduction to French bureaucracy and their love of paper was the next experience. A trip to the letting agent and in the region of 30 signatures later, the keys to Brit Girls new home were her’s. YES that is true, you have to sign every document to show you have read it; “lu et approve” if you will – with the odd additional signature on some pages and paragraphs. Lets also be honest – the French mantra appears to be, “why use one word when you can use seven” (perhaps BritGirl is more French than she care to admit looking at the length of this blog to date!) So there were contracts en francais and en anglais, swiftly followed by legal definitions and annexes to the contract, en francais bien sur….all to be “lu et approve”.

There were surveys – for flooding, lead in the paint alongside the likely risks of natural disasters (rest assured Brit Girl was safe from volcanoes in her flat….although if you read on, ironically a volcano caused disruption a little later in this adventure!)! And dont forget four copies – one for the tenants, the letting agent, the owner and anyone else who cared to be bored rigid!

Anyway, yes paperwork en France is special – hours later, with the keys in hand Brit Girl headed to the apartment – still no tears….the overwhelming fear would hit once she was in the flat…..then the hard work would really be upon her and the reality of the whole situation crystal clear.

But that is not it for bureaucracy, mais non! En France, there is further admin when it comes to renting a property – an independent contractor assesses the property in terms of damage, its state and any repairs required (an ‘entrance’)….in the UK this is probably a five minute tick box exercise….but en France -after two hours and two pages of tick boxes and notes Brit Girl knew every possible crack, flaw, mark and problem that the two bedroom apartment had.

It looked like a good apartment, but upon closer inspection there were clearly problems…leaking taps, a leaking and wobbly toilet, holes in the walls and plaster and the best yet…severe and growing cracks and damp in the bathroom….at this point, yes, this is the point when Brit Girl wanted to run – ANYWHERE. The daunting task of moving abroad had hit. How would this be resolved? Who would arrange it? What happened when things did not get repaired? (Brit Girl would soon learn all about the need for French patience). How would ANY of this be dealt with in her A Level francaise? It just wasn’t possible, was it?

The ‘entrance’ to the flat was harder than any 10 hour journey to France and harder than making the decision to leave home and move abroad….the complete unknown of what lay ahead suddenly became clear, the whole gigantic size of the task in hand. This was a country where Brit Girl knew no-one, well no-one local. She could not really speak the language and without a job felt entirely pointless….and yet there were all these problems already, on day one?!

So, with the ‘entrance’ done you would imagine that Brit Girl would find a bottle of wine, a corner and mope…..but no, Brit Girl had no time for this. The lack of time over the next week would prove to be the best thing that could have happened – no time for worry/fear or nerves, well no time for them to get in the way!

At 4pm on the 7th January, that all important White Van was opened and half emptied. That sounds simple doesnt it, but reader, let me fully explain the location of this brand new (allbeit problem invested) apartment – see photo. A quaint little French Rue, with cobbles and tall three storey buildings. A friend would later tell Brit Girl how lovely and Francais this road looked. Mais Oui, it is beautiful, but cobbles…cobbles and boxes, cobbles and heavy items, cobbles and a sack-barra do just NOT WORK! (Alas, neither do cobbles and high heels, but perhaps that is not important right now?!)

Before you can even worry about carrying items across cobbles, there is no parking! Oui, there is no room….nothing, nada…so the White Van was abandonned, it blocked garages and at times the road whilst Brit Girl’s life was unloaded.

But the biggest hurdle yet to be faced outweighs these maggot sized issues ten fold….cancelled flights – simple, hijack a white van across the channel, lack of parking- easy, you block garages, cobbles – manage them! The apartment was situated at the end of a narrow, dark and cold corridor which was randomly littered with a selection of France’s cycling history….old/new/irrepairable bikes taking up the majority of space. And then it was a climb up 3 flights of thin, winding, stone steps….having counted on the many trips up and down this staircase, Brit Girl can verify over 60 steps!

So after an hour of unpacking, Brit Girl could not feel her legs or arms……. wobbly does dont even begin to describe the feeling. But Brit Girl knew she could not stop, the van had to be unpacked and as a Girl who loves a challenge, this WOULD BE done in the least time possible.

So, over 60 steps, one way, with more than 30 boxes plus furniture and suitcases makes the fact that in 2 hours the White Van was half unpacked, a feat practically unimaginable.

Rue du Couvent

Shattered both emotionally and physically – perhaps more physically on this day than previously, Brit Girl and family managed a meal, wine (of course!) and sleep….

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