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A fateful adventure in France

Moving to France. It’s a topic that has spawned countless stories, films, and books. Each one is filled with amusing, heart-warming, and just as often exasperating adventures of well-intentioned folks, like my wife and I, who threw caution to the wind and followed their dreams.

If you haven’t read it, the beginning of our story is posted can be read here. It was an unusual experience, because a stray cat took us directly past the 700-year-old home we would eventually buy in the historic village of Seillans. That cat had the right idea, but there’s a bit more to it. Our new home would unexpectedly connect our two worlds, Round Pond, Maine, and Seillans, France.

The first time we went to see the house, a beautifully restored medieval dwelling in the heart of the village, my wife, Kim, remembered that this was where the cat had taken us just a few days before. Later, as we walked through the house, Kim noticed a copy of The New Yorker magazine on a desk. The subscription label was for someone with an address in Maine, the same state we lived in. I said it was probably just a coincidence.

When Kim asked Eric, our real estate agent, about the name on the magazine, he confirmed that she was indeed the seller, and an American.

That reminded me that a good friend and neighbor back in Round Pond had once told me that his ex-wife’s aunt lived in the south of France, somewhere in or near Seillans. When I asked him about her name in an email, he said it was her.

Now Round Pond is a village of only 500 people, double that in summer. Seillans isn’t much bigger. What were the odds of finding a house in France with connections to our little village in Maine? When Kim told another friend in Round Pond who lives just across the river from us, she said that she also knew this woman. “Oh yes, I visited her in Seillans, even stayed there one night. It’s a lovely house.”

I had to tell our real estate agent about these connections, strange as they were. Eric just sat there, speechless (which is not normal in his case). All he could say, which he repeated several times, was, “Non, ce n’est pas possible!”

I couldn’t resist adding our earlier experience with the cat, and he just laughed. But his wife, who feeds many of the local strays outside their office every day, said it made perfect sense. “These cats are always trying to help us sell houses! C’est logique.”

“It’s strange, too,” said Eric. “Because she had given us the house to sell three years ago, then changed her mind and took it off the market. Then a few months later she called to put it back on the market, and then the next year took it off again because the economy was so bad. Well, it stayed that way until she decided to sell once again, calling us on the very day before you walked in to look at houses with me!”

And that’s the story of our house buying experience in France. Ce n’est pas possible ? Vraiment.

About the authors: A few weeks after closing on their home in Seillans, Kim and Mark Jespersen found eight love letters at a flea market in Nice. The letters, written in 1926, along with a handful of old photographs, led them on a 10-year journey in their old Renault Twingo to discover who wrote them and why. Their incredible story, an immersion into la France profonde, is now a book they hope to see published soon.

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