An Exhilarating Journey – A French Country Cottage

My stone cottage in France, La Petite Bijoux, was not always “The Little Jewel”.  In April of 2018 it was a stone wreck built in 1790 that had been neglected for a long time.  It was only two windows wide and one room deep with an attached barn now used as living space but it had potential as a venue for my “Learn, Eat, & Be Well -Southwest France“, a continuing education nutrition course that I had started in 2015.  I knew it would need complete renovation; the windowpanes were held in place with putty, it sported rusty metal shutters with dried red paint that had dripped down the exterior walls from the corners of the windows, giving it the appearance of bleeding eyes, and that was just the outside.  On the plus side, it sat on the prettiest little corner, next to a spring fed river, with a charming stone bridge, and was situated among similar little stone cottages giving the whole neighbourhood the look of a Thomas Kinkade painting.  So, my husband and I turned a blind eye to the work, and said, “Let’s buy it!”  The buyer’s remorse didn’t set in until we arrived to take possession three months later.


Fast forward three months to August of 2018; I am standing in the courtyard with an ancient key in my hand and the realtor is standing next to me.  He can see the look on my face that says; “What the F was I thinking!!!! ”  “Why did I buy this house?”  “How was this a good decision?”  “This is going to be my worst nightmare!”  The house needed much more work than I remembered and was not habitable.  To make things worse, recent circumstances forced me to close my business and I didn’t have any students to come to my “Learn, Eat, and Be Well” anymore.   The realtor, now my neighbour, Alain-Pierre, read my mind and politely said “Just let me know if you want to re-sell it.  No problem.  Bonne journée.”  He drove off and left me there struggling with the ancient skeleton key trying to open the door.


Thoughts raced through my mind as I stood in the living room.  “Why is the terracotta floor wet?”  “I didn’t see that before.” “How long will it take to renovate this beast and resell it?”  “We can’t do this.”  “Where are we going to stay while we are here?”  Then some positive self-talk says:  “OK Bianca, calm down, some quick and simple renovations will do the trick, then you can put it back on the market at the end of the month, and you can forget this ever happened.”


But one month later and the only work realized was the demolition of the interior.  There were still walls to rebuild, wiring to be redone, plumbing, insulating, new windows, kitchen, and bathrooms.  Unfortunately, it was already August 30th and we had to return to our farm in Northern Ontario, upon which I discovered my horse had died on the farm three days before our return.  It didn’t take me long to figure out we were in a dark night of the soul.  A journey that started in August of 2017 and would last until August of 2019.


In my next story, I will share how I dug deep, found my courage, and changed what I thought was the biggest mistake of my life into “La Petite Bijoux”.  A beautiful, quintessential French stone cottage and venue for my continuing education nutrition course “Learn, Eat, & Be Well – Southwest France”.  For a sneak peak at the finished stone cottage please go to my page “La Maison”.