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DIY Milestones for expats in France

expats in france

Donna and Dave Faulkner moved to a house in Deux-Sevres. To say that it needed renovation is an understatement – the couple had no electricity, no water, no mains drainage and no septic tank – and the house itself was in an overgrown garden and could hardly be seen. Undaunted they took on the task of reloving this house with relish…

After a long and drawn out process when we had serious doubts of ever getting electricity to our house thanks to rules being changed and the most elusive electrician in the world, we finally, yes finally have our certificat de conformité.

At last we are there – woohoo!  As soon as it arrived in a timely fashion on a Friday afternoon clutched in Freddie’s (the electrician) hand, I took the certificat de conformité and rushed off to Séolis (electric board) and asked for them to connect us up. It was reasonably hard as it did test my French but I got there. “Wait a week and we will be there” they said as they were very busy. ‘A week?’ I thought – oh well, we’d waited for a year so another week won’t be too bad.

expats in franceI have to say it was a long week. On the appointed morning Freddie turned up and made the finishing touches and removed the old provisional electrical supply which had been switched off months and months ago. Then Séolis turned up and seemed to be asking a lot of questions – for a minute I was worried they would find a reason to refuse us permanent connection again but all went well. Phew.

So that is it – for the first time in 40 years this little house has a safe permanent electrical supply – yeah!

If that wasn’t enough, we finally have a working tap in the house with drinking quality water! We paid to be connected to the mains in January but didn’t have time while concentrating on work for the electrics to install a pipe from the mains in the road to the house – but now it is done. Just think, until January we had to buy in drinking water and use the well for everything else. Now this house has water connected for the first time in its history. At the moment it is just one cold tap as we need to do more work to have a permanent hot water tank in place and also get a micro station sorted out but it is still a vast improvement for us. Turning on a tap and water coming out, honestly, it’s a real luxury.

We’ve had visitors staying with us for a little while which was lovely – they were here for about 10 days and bought us boxes of goodies from home – strong cheddar cheese and brown sauce as well as some pork scratchings (yuk) which Dave loved.

expats in france

We basically acted like tourists for a few days and as Dave gets so little time off this was his first proper holiday since we moved here. We started with a visit to the beautiful island of Île de Ré, off the coast of La Rochelle. Île de Ré is a little island about 18 miles (30km) long and 3.12 miles (5 km) wide. A bridge connects it to La Rochelle and the view from the bridge is spectacular. When on the island you can stop at many of the little villages with seaside restaurants. There are also campsites, lots of beaches a couple of light houses and – to my surprise – a prison! But our favourite is the town of Saint-Martin-de-Ré which has a beautiful harbour surrounded by restaurants, antique and touristy shops.

Île de Ré  is such a lovely place, we’re planning to spend a weekend camping in the summer there so we can explore it properly. We drove back to mainland France and spent some time at La Rochelle which was great. The old harbour is so beautiful and almost exactly resembles  an oil painting of it that we have in our lounge.

expats in franceLater in the week we spent time at a local town called Vouvant which is famed for the amount of local artists that live there. One picture really caught my eye –  a lovely view of a boat by the river.

We decided to take our friends to a vide grenier (car boot) which is a must in France when visiting as you always find something wonderful and different to love there. We took them to a local charity shop called Emmaus and they were thrilled with two lovely old decanters they found in there. Emmaus is a charity that works for homeless people – they take in donations of all sorts of things, furniture, general house wares; they employ   homeless people who mend and recycle the goods ad them and the money is used to pay for adjacent housing. Seems like a great idea to me.

After our friends Jo and Trev left early on the Saturday morning, Dave and I started on the wood that we cut down last November. We basically had to clean out a copse of dead trees and section them up and take them away ready to burn this or next winter. We ended up having to work three weekends on this wood including one in the rain – but were happy as we got about 11 stere (11 cubic meters) of wood which is currently drying and should get us through this winter – it’s like having a 600 Euro bonus! Dave’s boss let us borrow the Manitou from work which was brilliant as it meant loading and unloading was much easier. He wouldn’t let me drive it though which was a pity as it looked fun!

A bientôt


Donna and Dave Faulkner moved from the Isle of Wight, UK to Deux-Sevres in France in 2012 and are known as “extreme DIYers” to their neighbours.

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