Saturday, January 11, 2014

An almost in St. Hilaire d'Ozilhan



Let the games begin!

One thing is certain for 2014...we are going to have to move out of our current apartment before the end of June. So that gives us six months to cast our net far and wide to find something. Should we rent or buy? How far away from Arles could we stray due to Remi's work projects? Both of these questions remain undecided but we know from experience that the best thing to do in such circumstances is to dive in and start swimming...


Remi came across a property in the tiny village (and I do mean tiny) of St. Hilaire d'Ozilhan, not far from Uzès. We both were surprised by the gorgeous Renaissance architecture present in many of the homes. Would that be the case for the house we were to visit?


Well, as the garage (which we would make a fantastic atelier for Remi) dates to 1725, we knew that things were off to a good start.


The charm of the spiraling staircase in the entry was undeniable.


The house hadn't been lived in for years, one of several properties that had been "collected" in the area by a foreign owner who was now selling off the lot. And so cobwebs drooped and the stone walls had sucked up a fair amount of humidity but nothing that a good airing out couldn't cure. And speaking of walls, well, look at all of the unusual curves crying out one of my very favorite words: patina.


And the vaulted ceiling in the kitchen! Pitterpat, pitterpat. Oh my. It is far more beautiful than my flash-crammed photos portray (our visit was rapid fire and that shows in the "photography"--my apologies!). But I think that you can imagine what it would look like with a little love and care...


...the same can be said for the small, walled in courtyard. Yes, that glass covered archway spans two floors. Could it have been part to a church? Read on...


The upper level consists of two connected rooms. In the first is an impressive fireplace and the floor is covered by the most ancient stone dallage that I have ever seen in a home, anywhere...


...plus some truly interesting built in "shelves" that must have been either doorways or windows at another period.


The second room has similar fascinating architectural details, such as this alcove made out of what appears to be a former bassin.


But the pièce de résistance is another, even more impressive fireplace. Take a look at the carved stone supports beneath the mantel. They most certainly look like the portals of a Romanesque church entryway to me! Incroyable.


Opposite, a very large glass window overlooks the courtyard.


Now, this photo has been provided by the real estate agent. Do you see the white square on the floor on the left? That is a trapdoor that leads up to the uppermost level from below. This entire floor has yet to be renovated, as you can tell!


From the outside, the house has a very sober appearance, belying little of what lies within.

The verdict? Well, if you remember the title, this goes into the "almost" category. It is not for us. As crazy as we both were for many of the details, one does not buy a house for details! And it really reminded us strongly of our previous apartment in the 17th century hôtel particulier in Arles. It too had  a walled-in garden that left us craning to search for the sun. As exceptional as it was, lack of light was the main reason why we left. The feeling here - a weighty boxed in one - is exactly the same. Plus, it just isn't practical for us. If we converted the upper floor into a bedroom and bath, that would still mean only one bedroom, which, while fine for us (given that the garage could have been Remi's office, a must), means that it would be impossible to resell.

So, voila! Now, I won't show you every house that we visit (I won't breathe a whisper about the two that we saw after this one) but this was too interesting, too original to resist. I can still never get over the layers of history that we live with in France. It is beautiful isn't it?


Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

And I also would just like to say thank you for sticking with me these past few weeks while I have been away. I really thought that I would have lost readers and I didn't. I most certainly appreciate your being here...un grand merci...


65 comments:

robin said...

We did miss you!!! But we were happy to give you a respite; our gift to you for your many beautiful gifts to us! Thank you for this peek; I for one would be happy to see all of the houses you look at!! Merci! Je t'aime!

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

Love a house tour especially ones like that! Thanks for taking the time to take pics. Am so curious to see what you will get! X

Heather Robinson said...

I love you too, Sister! But oof, I have a feeling we are going to look at a lot. I didn't even take any photos of the last one--it was too sad. But it is fun to be looking again, I have to admit.

Heather Robinson said...

You aren't the only one! ;) We might have to settle for a rental if we don't find something to buy soonish. Hope that your renovation is coming along...is it done?

Francine Gardner said...

I love house hunting, and in South of France …a dream. Enjoy the process and who knows, I may follow your path one day… as New York is less and less appealing

Jackie and Joel Smith said...

What a lovely tour - looking at homes that could be 'ours' one day has always been one of our favorite travel outings. You keep me inspired with the photos you show of those you visit - and the like Goldilocks, I am certain you will happen upon the one that is 'just right' one of these days. Happy New Year ~ hope it is filled with adventures.

Gina said...

All along, as I was reading, it occurred to me that although very unique and interesting, there was just not enough light in any of the rooms, especially the kitchen.
But how exciting to keep looking and how exciting that you will take us along. Gina

Gldiebr said...

House hunting in the south of France... what more could one ask for? Maybe house hunting in the south of France with Ben and Kipling? Thank you for the wonderful house tour, Heather!

Gldiebr said...
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Ann Mah said...

Ooh, house hunting! What a fun project! Love the charming antique details of this house -- but totally understand about the necessity for light! Happy hunting and good luck! :)

Laoch of Chicago said...

It looks drafty and hard to heat although it has a certain rustic beauty.

Cindy said...

We love this area as we have a home in Vers Pont du Gard. Our daughter has vineyards in Castillon and lives in St. Quentin la Poterie near Uzes LaGramiere.com It is a very active ar specially with the Pont du Gard within walking distance of our home. Vers also has a great art walk in July if you have never been. <http://www.coursetjardinsdesarts.com Explore this area as it is quite beautiful.

Suze said...

'But I think that you can imagine what it would look like with a little love and care...'

Yours? Yes.

Marsha Splenderosa said...

Heather, you could NOT make this place work at any price. Yep, tons of charm and if one had 3 years and buckets of $$ to "fix" it, maybe. But, June? Nooooooo. Good decision.

Shut Up and Cook | The Attainable Gourmet said...

These pictures are like something out of a storybook!

I'm currently living in Paris for January and February on a personal journey and culinary adventure and must confess I sometimes slow as I walk buy the storefronts listing flats for sale.

To actually live over here...I can't imagine...swoooon.

Good luck on your house hunt!

Judi of Little House said...

If I could live in a house that matches that mailbox, I would be in Heaven! Good luck with your search for just the right place - it looks like you will get to see some wonderful things, even if they don't end up being exactly for you and Remi.

Rowan said...

As several of the other readers have ventured, I think the property was absolutely stunning and full of marvellous architectural details and sense of history. But there's something depressing about living in a property with insufficient light and a feeling of being "trapped inside". I guess it would worry some people more than others, but I like big windows or better still, french doors and plenty of sunshine. What stories those walls could tell, though! The right place is waiting for you!
Cheers,
Deborah from Melbourne.

La Contessa said...

I was gasping for breath………….the courtyard and the glass windows……………the kitchen I was not crazy about BUT HEY…………..then all the way through I'm thinking did they GET IT??OMG……..its so GORGEOUS!YOu will find it………keep looking!WE LOVE THE HUNT!
XXXX

Silke Bauer said...

Really, I don't think you'd need to worry to loose any readers. It is just too interesting what you are offering. Weren't we all waiting for the first images of your housetour?

Well, and I would agree, you definitely need to stick to the idea of the light. And as long as you do not enlarge the windows there is just not enough of it. But what am I telling you? You are both photographers...(;

Of course it is hot in the summer but what about some rain periods? I get a shiver looking at the thick walls which will then be soacked of humidity.

Though the seductiveness of the place is undeniable. A strange place...fallen out of time and beyond the historical atmosphere it feels like being roughly carved out of a rock...interesting experience but nothing to live in.

Lee I said...

Can you tuck me in your pocket and take me house-hunting with you? I will be very quiet.

Unknown said...

Show us as many of the home possibilities as you have time for...we love looking at each place and reading your comments on how it would translate into a place for you four to live! We're very excited for you as you jump closer to this long-anticipated move. Greetings from the warm wet, Leslie in Portland, Oregon

edgarone2 said...

With your enthusiasm in looking for a new house I could remember Cheri’s excitement in looking for a new house In Napa Valley before we moved from Michigan with our 2 children.
She looked for a house alone 2 months before we moved and sent me photos. Of course we talked about the essentials and the amenities.

I liked how you described the aesthetics and the special places with the beautiful photos. The last one looked very interesting

When you find the “right “one, the house will be right one.

Heather Robinson said...

And the South of France is more and more accessible. Prices are going down...internet technology improving (well not in the Luberon)...and connections to international airports easier...something to think about Francine...I know that I would be thrilled to have you close by!

Heather Robinson said...

Adventures! What a wonderful wish and of course it is one that I am sending right back to you both--two of the most adventure-loving people out there. :) Happy trails...

Toula said...

Absolutely love the character of this place. However, the lack of light would make it feel quite depressing. Would love if you would share the details of every house you see with us. Nothing like a bit of house hunting porn to cheer up the day.

Heather Robinson said...

I can't wait to see what is ahead, Gina. I do love house-hunting!
Happy Sunday. :)

Heather Robinson said...

Why hello there!!! Oh, I need to show my shamed face at the GP. But please know that I am sending lots of Love and Health and Happiness to you and J for 2014...
xo
H

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you, Ann--I think that we are going to need it!

Heather Robinson said...

Very rustic, very "come have a whiskey by the fire" but definitely drafty--the joints on the glass door in the kitchen were practically non-existent!

Heather Robinson said...

Oh my gosh, Cindy, how amazing! And it is funny because we know the villages north of Uzes better than this area. I have NEVER been to Castillon despite its reputation for being lovely. We were quite impressed by the architecture in St Hilaire. We also visited a home in Sernhac and somehow that village was not my cup of tea but the rest? Yes, we will keep exploring...

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you friend.

Heather Robinson said...

Glad you agree Marsha!

Heather Robinson said...

Oh thank you and enjoy your sejourn in Paris! It is fun to look at the listings, isn't it? Even though in Paris, we could barely afford a tiny studio I think. My how the prices just rise and rise, it's crazy.

And it is good to dream but the reality of being an expat is not always rosy...just to put that out there too!

Heather Robinson said...

Judi, our budget is sooo limited if we buy that there isn't a ton to visit!! But wow are there some truly amazing opportunities right now for someone with a deeper pocket...

Heather Robinson said...

Merci Deborah! And somehow it doesn't surprise me, your love of sunshine--it comes through in how you express yourself in the comments you leave here. :) I need it too. I love old and charismatic but not if it makes me feel old and asthmatic!!

Heather Robinson said...

Hehehe I knew you would like this one!

Heather Robinson said...

So perfectly said, Silke. An amazing place (and I love the image of it being carved out of a rock!) but not a place to make a welcoming HOME. And especially as Remi and I both work from the house, we need a place that we feel really, really good in...
And thank you for your kind words! I have lost readers in the past when I have let my posting slip even a bit so I am glad folks are staying now. :)

Heather Robinson said...

That made me laugh out loud! It startled Ben! :)

Heather Robinson said...

I don't know what got into me that I erased the photos of the second home, Leslie (I didn't even take photos of the third, it was too sad). Now I know better! And thank you for your support and good wishes, they are much appreciated...

Heather Robinson said...

I agree with you Edgar. So we might have to move to another rental first before we find something to buy. We can't afford to make a "mistake"!

And what an adventure that must have been for Cheri...two months of searching! In Napa! I love it. :)

My memory is bad, so did I know that you were a Michigander?? My Mom and Sis are in Ann Arbor and I lived in Mason (just outside of Lansing) while growing up. I love Michigan. Hoping to get back there soon actually.

Heather Robinson said...

It's true, isn't it? Well, I have had a LOT of responses both in the comments section and via email, so I got the hint!! :) I even have one that I visited a few months back that I will pull out to share.

Anna said...

Yes, PLEASE show us your "finds" - good and bad! I think that natural light is my number one need. Light lifts my spirits (especially in the winter months) and adds so much interest to rooms. We are currently renting a North-facing apartment (in London) - NEVER again. Minimum daylight :-((

Anna said...
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Loree said...

There's nothing I love better than tours of old houses. So, please share with us. I love 'coming along'.

Michel said...

When we did our search for a house that ended in Sablet, one of the semi-finalist was a house in St. Hilaire d'Ozilhan. We like that area a lot. I recommend patience and don't jump till you find the perfect house. We checked out two hundred and visited more than 60, all in small villages.

Jo-Anne said...

Carry on the way you are. I can't tell you how incredibly lucky you all are, to have the opportunity to look for such a thing as a home in France. I know that whatever you choose will be so beautiful. You have such an artist's eye for all the right ingredients. I am a firm believer that there is a right place for everyone, hold out for yours. All the best in your search. And, please share all you can. It's heaven looking at your fabulous pictures. Love to you and your lovely family :)

simpleimages2 said...

Mason is not that far a separation from Jackson where the Cascades is located and where Mrs. Abstract and I and our family lived. We were neighbors once and knew it only now.Or we could have seen each other before.

Jeanne Henriques said...

Talk about fun! Thanks so much for taking us with you to explore these little treasures. I love your optimism and I imagine as you look through your photographs it will become clearer to you what you are looking for. I agree...it has so many charming details...with choices like this, you are bound to find the perfect spot. So glad you have six months to look. There is nothing worse than working on tight timing...you have room to breathe and explore. I am sure you and Remi will make the most of it.

Thank you for your lovely note and I am glad the card found you well. In regards to your questions...I am hoping for Paris in September...will keep you posted. Have a wonderful house hungint journey Heather...I am so looking forward to sharing it with you. xx

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

No it isn't - still vagrants - just posted about it in fact!

I Dream Of said...

It is beautiful! And so interesting, all those details got my heart beating a little faster, too. But I totally agree that light is sooo important, so I can see why it wouldn't be right for you. How exciting (although stressful) to be on the hunt for a new home. Glad you have such a good sense of what you need in a house. Can't wait to see where you land! XOXO

George Snyder said...

Such fun - I love house-hunting, even vicariously through others. Am so looking forward to seeing your part of the world ... soon.
Bises,
G

Mumbai said...

don't give up searching. We are in the same situation and arrived already in EU . Have seen some nice domiciles
already but as it should our last one?? we will consider carefully. As Jeanne said, you need a lot of optimism but
endurance and patience as well. Anyway the house you showed us is beautiful in architecture but not for day by day living. Good luck Heather .

Heather Robinson said...

Anna, that is what we said after living in the apartment that I mentioned---NEVER again. But oh I was a tiny bit tempted. ;)

Heather Robinson said...

I know that you love patina as much as I do, Loree!

Heather Robinson said...

Wow. That is a LOT. But I have probably visited about 150 here in Arles in total--from when we were moving down from Paris, to looking to buy or rent again or for friends.

And Remi sent me a listing for a rental (if we buy it would have to be soon as you know these things take at least three months) that is pricey but gorgeous and it is in...Sablet! Isn't that fun? I blithely told Remi "Oh, I have a blog friend there. It sounds lovely..." ;)

Heather Robinson said...

Oh thank you so much Jo-Anne, I'll take those beautiful well-wishes gratefully!!! And the kind compliment too. :) I promise to share more but so far we haven't visited anything else yet. I don't know how lucky we are yet...but we better be if we are going to find something on our budget! :à

Heather Robinson said...

Yowza! Will go see!!! Oh nooooooo....

Heather Robinson said...

Isn't that something??? I can never get over the Big World/Small World that we live in.

Heather Robinson said...

Oh, Paris in September...le sigh...I never understood why the song was "April in Paris" for September is Heaven. Will you please keep me posted? I have no idea what my finances will be like but to meet you is worth saving pennies for months! Or perhaps if Ms Archer is also in residence we can persuade you to hop on the TGV (only 2 1/2 hours) to come South??? I would spoil you rotten!

As for the house, our timing is actually a bit tight to buy as the process takes three months here. So we would need to find something before April and as our budget is so limited...well, this is Provence after all! We'll see...I just want us to be happy and have QUIET wherever we go...

Heather Robinson said...

Of course you like the details! You are the Queen of Details. :)

Heather Robinson said...

I am so excited...is it really happening??? Gosh. Will you let me know when? I can't wait to meet you George...

Heather Robinson said...

And to you, Mumbai. And to you!!! I hope you will let me know what you find...and I will let you know too...

Mumbai said...

Yes I keep you in the loop Heather, with pleasure.

Michel said...

If you come visit Sablet you will have to let me know. We will be there from February 28 to March 15.

Heather Robinson said...

I most certainly will, Michel! Although I am certain that we will meet one of these days. :)