I think the best way to tell you about why I became a French property finder is to tell you my story… I had just left school. I was 18+. I found myself in Paris in 1968 with the goal of mastering French. ‘Eric the Red’ and his student allies were intent on overthrowing the government.
The 1968 Spring Revolution, Paris, Photograph by Bruno Barbey and Ian Berry
Street battles raged up and down the Boulevard St. Michel. The Students built barricades in the streets around the Sorbonne. I was a student at the ‘Institut Brittanique’ just across the road.
Attending class was a mission. I risked arrest every day on the street just because I was a student. The CRS didn’t ask questions. They just beat you with their batons and threw you in the paddy wagon.
You will not be surprised to hear that I hardly ever attended class. That did not stop me from perfecting my spoken French. It developed fast in the clubs and bars of the ‘Quartier Latin’, by sheer necessity. If you wanted to make friends, French was a must.
‘Street’ French pays little attention to grammar so mine never was up to much but…
I went home to England when the money ran out. I hankered for the bright lights and another big city. So I went to London and got a job in an up market furniture retailer, Heals, on the Tottenham Court road. One thing led to another and, pretty soon, I was working for an interior designer on Sloane Street.
Only the best designers could afford the rents there. Our client list included one high end project after another. Many in the middle East. Some in London. Some in the home-counties. Others in Europe… Paris, Monaco and the Cote d’Azur, mostly.
I learned pretty quick that only the best would do. The best design. The best quality. The best service. Not to mention, an eye for every single detail on every single project.
Next stop Guernsey, Channel Islands
I opened the navy blue door of my own interior design business on the Bordage in St. Peter Port a few years later. Most of my clients were rich expats in Jersey a 15 minute flight south east in a twin engined Islander plane.
Jersey had had the royal warrant for knitting the king’s silk stockings back in the day. Guernsey, the warrant for knitting sweaters, Garnseys, for the King’s navy. That difference still holds good today. People who live in Guernsey are down to earth folk.
People who live in Jersey have a taste for the finer things in life. I made more money on the ‘other island’ than I ever did ‘on the rock’ but was happy to live there for 10 years.
Sitting Room for House & Garden Magazine
A Room at the British Interior Design Exhibition followed
I wangled a ‘room’ at the first British Interior Design Exhibition at Chelsea Town Hall in London. The organizer, Fleur, was a friend of a friend. I could only afford one of the smaller display spaces.
My next door neighbor was Sir David Hicks. He was married to Lord Mounbatten’s daughter, Lady Pamella. He was at the top of his game with a world wide reputation to boot.
I was a country clod by comparison.
I was taking a risk. I had to design a room that would stand up against the strong color combinations that made Sir David famous. The day that the exhibition opened, the crowds filled the old town hall to the brim.
My bold scheme more than stood its ground. It was a sensation, off the back of which I was able to transfer my business to London.
My ‘Quink ink blue dining room’ at the British Interior Design Exhibition
We arrived in south west France 20 years later by way of Paris again. This time I was the oldest student the Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute. A small price to pay for learning how to cook to Michelin Star standards. I spent a year there learning to make a ‘jus’ of the highest quality amongst other things.
When Lizi and I arrived in Bordeaux, I was keen to cook. And that is just what happened. The great wine chateaux often entertain clients over dinner. Excellent French food is a pre-requisiste.
The trouble is that not every one has an appropriate budget even a St. Emilion Grand Cru Chateau. And they were not prepared to pay for 5 star food. That is not to say that is not wanted they wanted on their table. They were just not prepared to pay for it.
Quail et son jus
And returned to my first passion. Fine Buildings with beautiful interiors. I became a French property finder. At home in south west France. Someone with a network of contacts across the south west. From Cahors to Coutras. From Perigueux to Pau.
Those same uncompromising standards are now at your disposal. Not to mention my eye for quality and value. There is nothing I like more than pre-visiting a property for a client.
I get to discover another gem. You get certainty. The certainty that is worth your time to fly over and see for yourself. Or not, as the case may be.
If you are a wealthy investor wishing to buy a second home in south west France, find out how you can work with me and what uncompromising service you get when you hire me. Click here
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