Saturday 26 July 2014

We were tired when we woke on the day of our return, but we still took the dog down to the river for one last swim. We had an hour and a half before 10.30 when the caretaker would come to the house for an inspection and handover of the keys.

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After saying goodbye to the river, we said goodbye to the house, and left it in the hands of the caretaker while we drove to the village of Montpezat. In the bright light of a new day our dreams of buying a hotel (see Day 7) seemed a little crazy, but we were still determined to visit the hotel. Except for delaying our return a little, it could not do any harm.

P1100902At the hotel we met with the owner, who explained her situation and asked her daughter to show us around. It was a cosy 2-star hotel, not luxurious but comfortable enough, with 9 double/twin rooms, all of them with adjoining bathrooms.  The kitchen had the basic necessities and the restaurant had space for 40 place settings. There was also an apartment for the owner and a cellar space to be used for events. The hotel was for sale for a mere 200.000 Euros, since it was basically going bankrupt. I forgot to take my camera but returned after the visit to snap a few shots of the exterior and the bar/restaurant. 

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During most of our journey home we discussed the pros and cons of buying the hotel:

Cons:

    • The hotel was going bankrupt, so it was a risky purchase.
    • The timing was not great. The hotel needed to be sold before December and we had several reasons to want to wait until autumn 2015:
      Our current rental contract went on until August 2015
      The apartment I owned, which I would sell to buy the hotel, had renters until mid-August 2015
      If it is necessary for the head chef of any restaurant in France to have completed his chef’s degree (as it is in Belgium) my boyfriend would need a year to complete the second half of his degree.
    • Buying the hotel in the autumn/winter would mean that we would have to wait for half a year before tourist season, meaning a long time with little income.

Pros:

      • The Hotel had no website, so it was no wonder it was going bankrupt. With a good website and some marketing it should be possible to turn the business around.
      • The price: 200,000 Eur is nothing for a 9-room hotel and restaurant. The price includes everything from walls to cutlery and linens.
      • It is not only the only hotel of Montpezat, but also the only Café/bar/restauarant. It is the sole place where locals can have a coffee or beer in their village.
      • Being the only business of its kind in the village one would expect that the Mairie would try to be helpful to anybody trying to turn the business around. Perhaps the red tape would not cause too much trouble?

The drive back to Brussels did not go perfectly. To begin with we entered the gas station at the same time as the circus, which delayed us somewhat. When we stopped for lunch after two hours of driving, a storm caught up with us. We were sitting on the terrace, to make sure we could keep Loki with us, as rain flew sideways into the covered terrace and our food. We finally gulfed down our food and retreated into the building when parasols began getting caught in the wind and pulling tables with them, glassware breaking with a mighty crash. For the next 15 minutes we stood in the doorway of the gas station complex, while the end of the world raged outside. The air turned white with sideways rain, through which kernels of hail fell to pepper the tarmac. Finally my boyfriend said we could wait no longer, we were late already, and we ran to the car. For the next few hours I was soaking wet with red marks on my arms from where I was struck by hail.

We did not make it further than Lyon before we got delayed again. Since our GPS was still on strike we were hoping for clear signs to guide us in the right direction. But the signs in Lyon were all for Paris. My boyfriend refused to go in the direction of Paris, where we got stuck in a traffic jam for several hours when driving to Spain last year. Finally, while we were stuck in a traffic jam on our way into the centre of Lyon, my boyfriend asked a Frenchman in the car next to our for directions towards Dijon and Nancy, and the man told us to exit in the direction of Paris. So we turned around and found our way out.

But our troubles were not over yet. After Dijon we missed the exit for the road that would have taken us towards Nancy and Luxembourg, and now we were heading westward instead. Since we had no map we did not know where we were going, or how to find our way to Brussels along this route. I finally performed a miracle and made the GPS work for long enough that we saw the general direction we were headig, and found out that if we could make it to Reims we should begin seeing signs for Brussels. 

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The sun set and we drove on. Things went smoothly until we reached the longed for Belgian border, and with it a major traffic jam. At the sign announcing 1 km until the border we stood still in an endless row of cars, many with children and some continuing all the way to the Netherlands. So, in comparison to some of our fellow drivers we were lucky. But standing still for almost one hour dashed our hopes of making it home before midnight.

When we finally arrived home we were exhausted, and although we had not eaten anything since our stormy lunch we went straight to bed. And so we fell asleep, as the real world began seeping back into our lives.

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