Friday, April 01, 2005

Viaduc du MillauI can't believe this is really happening.

I've just had a call. We are now the proud owners of a 17th century church (well, une église de 17ème siècle according to the blurb) and attached rectory in the village of Le Jouette in the Grands Causses National Park in the south of France.

I've just realised you'll all be clueless as to what I'm talking about. I hadn't mentioned this before because every was all still up in air. But now the sale has gone through, so it looks like it's happening, which means I probably better explain what's going on.

We've bought a church in a French village which we plan to convert into a fish restaurant and poissonerie. The rectory, which is where we will be living, until we convert into gites apartements (but that comes later), has a large garden with a river running through it. It already has one fish pond on it, and we plan to expand that and add more (see, this is where the biology background comes in).

Why that church? Why that village? The church is ideal. It's right on the square. It's got enough space in the nave for the dining area, bar, and shop counter at the front. Due to a petty squabble when it was built, the crypts are ridiculously tall, so we can get the kitchen and stores in there. But when we first saw it, we knew then that we wanted it. It's even a mosaic of fish in the hallway. It's ideal. The only problem is the name, which is something ridiculously French and unpronounceable, who we think was the patron saint of copper miners, and who seems to be on par with St Barnabus for sheer obscurity. We've nicknamed it San Serif, after the engraving on the west wall.

But why Le Jouette? Because it's in the middle of a national park which attracts large numbers of tourists. Because the new viaduc near Millau has really hauled the entire area into the consciousness of many people (and because we think we can played upon the fishbone-like design in our logo). Because in September it hosts the international boules competition from which it takes (and to which it gives) its name, which is when we plan to be open by. I think I'm about to get shot for calling it boules. Le Jouette [the game] is and offshoot of boules, but with different rules, and using a partially sloped pitch. Needless to say, I'm useless at it.

But also because the entire area is renowned for it's food, especially the bass, which they bring up from the coast, and then pack in salt. It sounds like they do it the wrong way round, but somehow it works. But then the locals are experts at packing things in salt, as every local food has selé in the name (and yes, that's with an e: regional quirk). They even have pruneaux selés, which bizarrely does work. They seem to like everything with slightly more than just a pinch of salt.

So in answer to your wondering about why I've been so worried and stressed recently, and why I have to sort out tax and national insurance thing: this is why.

And now I've started thinking about all the things I need to sort out. The number of bits of paper we need to sort out is formidable. It seems like the EU's efforts to cut down bureaucracy have only added another layer of forms in triplicate. About the only thing one doesn't need a permit for is spending money. But as that is what we'll be doing most of until September, it should give us plenty of time to sort out the rest.

But it'll be fun.

I hope.

M. Le Poisson.

April 1st? San Serif? Hasn't someone done that?
Possibly, hence the thing about number 5 in the next post. There were just a couple of other hints in there as well.
Well I was a bit unsure about pruneaux selés too - although stuffed with garlic and soaked in olive oil really does work.... Le Jouette had an air of the jibberish about it too, but the Poisson d'April completely passed me by.
Okay, I'll admit it, the first time I read the entry I thought, ooh, maybe he'll offer regular readers a discount on a gites when they're passing by...
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