We have talked about setting up a guest house for some time, having stayed at various places on our travels around the world over the last 12 years. We had thoughts about either Paris or Nice, but Cape Town became our focus, as we had been visiting the area pretty much each year since 2005, and staying at the Cactus House run by our friend Simon. The relaxed nature and efficiency of the guest house was very much in line with how we visualised how we would run a place ourselves. After our last visit in December 2011 we came to the realisation that as lovely as it would be to move to Cape Town and open a business, it is a long way from Phill’s mother and father, who are still very much alive. Once back in the UK, our thoughts once again turned to France, specifically the Nice, Cannes, Eze area – being close to the Mediterranean Sea and a beach were a big consideration when it came to where we wanted to end up. Whilst the Côte d’Azur is a lovely place to visit, it is also very expensive to purchase there – at the time we were looking a five bedroom home with a pool would cost at least €1.5 million. It is also a very fur coat with matching dog and bad face lift area!
We took the Eurostar to Paris (two hours) and then the TGV to Montpellier (approx 3.5 hrs). The day we arrived (Saturday) was Gay Pride weekend, so we found a nice restaurant and had a long, leisurely lunch, whilst watching the parade as it went past us – not as spectacular as Paris Pride, but nonetheless enjoyable.
The next day we decided to go to the beach to see how long it would take to get to it. This was an interesting experience, as the directions in the guide-book were out-of-date and the new Metro-line that had been built to get you to the beach area was not mentioned at all. We managed to get as far as we could and then had to start asking for directions – interesting when one does not speak French very well! We found a young guy who spoke some English who pointed us in the right direction and we finally made it, whereby we had to take a bus to get to the actual beach area. It is several kilometres from Montpellier (approx 30-45 minutes), as there are lagoons between the land and spits of land on the actual coast. We arrived at a somewhat tired seaside town called Palavas-les-Flots, where we did actually enjoy a lovely seafood lunch, only to be interrupted every now and then by gusts of strong wind coming off the Mediterranean Sea – knocking over the umbrellas covering the tables – so we headed inside the restaurant. Due to the distance from Montpellier to the sea and beach we decided it was not where we wanted to live.
After looking at Google Maps we decided to return to the region to have a further look and found a gay guest house situated in Le Grau d’Agde called Villa Littoral and decided to stay there for a week. So, back to Paris and then on the TGV to the town of Agde, picked up by the guest house owner Jean and taken to the Villa. This was more our cup of tea – once again, relaxed atmosphere and run efficiently. The clothing optional situation around the pool did make Steve initially clasp his pearls – a residue of his mother’s upbringing! By day five he did take his swimming trunks off and the “Great White” (sleeveless top) did make an appearance. The most important thing was that it was within walking distance to a very long sandy beach and many lovely restaurants, particularly on the bank of the River Hérault. When we returned to London, we got excited about going back and exploring more of this area. Had we found our location in the sun?
Phill had been having many thoughts about the process to move to France and had “decided” that selling the London flat and buying a place in France at the same time would be a nightmare, so over a lunch at the local Thai restaurant on Saturday, 23 March, he floated the idea of selling the London flat sooner rather than later. Steve briefly clutched his pearls again and after much discussion it was decided to dip our toes in the property market – jut to see what could happen. We engaged a local estate agent Marsh and Parsons, received a valuation which was somewhat higher than we thought we could get and the flat was on the market – it was sold within two weeks for just under the asking price! Shit, now we have find a place to move to and pack up up 12 years of stuff…
The usual painful purchase process was under-way and we were now looking for a flat in the same area where we were currently living (Clapham). We had always fancied living in Clapham Old Town, which has a number of very good restaurants and is handy to the Tube and bus routes. We found a garden flat to rent just 400m (8 minutes) from the existing flat. As we were moving from a two bedroom flat to a one bedroom flat, we had to downsize somewhat – giving items away to friends, various items to charities etc. It was a cathartic experience. With a three week lead in time before completion of the sale, we did the move in two stages, larger items first, then smaller items second. We moved on Sunday, 16 June.
On 13 May Phill has reached the grand age of 55 and on 21 June Steve turned 50, so 105 year birthday celebrations were held on Saturday, 22 June, initially with drinks at the new pad, then on to Trinity restaurant for a slap up meal for 12. The last supper perhaps!
Phill then promptly fled the next day to Delhi, India on business for two weeks, leaving the balance of the move to Steve! Trust us when we say that when we move next time, everything will be shifted or stored at the same time.
The sale of the London flat was completed on Friday, 12 July. We immediately settled any debt we had and cancelled all but one of the credit cards. We were in the fortunate position of being debt free with cash in the bank! The inner peace that developed was very enlightening.