Friday, April 16, 2010

St Tropez for lunch - why not?

I was recently contacted by someone wanting help to sell their house on the Gulf of St Tropez and this made me start dreaming of a visit as it has been several months since I was last there. St Tropez is a name that conjures up 50s glamour, jet-setters, and Brigitte Bardot, and it doesn't disappoint.
We hopped in the car early morning and arrived in time for the market and lunch. From Nice the drive is very straightforward down the motorway. Once you turn off the motorway, however, the road is a bit of a nightmare at the moment as they are widening it to accommodate the huge numbers who visit the area. You see why arriving by helicopter or boat is the preference of the rich and famous.
Home to the super-wealthy, property prices are high in this area and look likely to stay that way. But equally it is an area that will never lose its value or, surprisingly, its charm. Although this once sleepy fishing village has been transformed into a glitzy shopper's paradise, it still manages to keep a feel of authenticity, particularly when you go inland. The hill-top villages of Gassin and Ramatuelle are particularly beautiful.
So after a delicious seafood lunch, we headed for one of the vineyards near Gassin that my brother who was visiting from the UK had spied as being nearly 'bio' (organic) and very good. The beautiful vineyard Minuty is situated in the lush countryside of St Tropez and produces excellent wines. We had time to walk around the vineyard, sample and buy some wines (the prestige rose is particularly good), and be back in time for dinner in Nice.
And if anyone would like to buy a very nice small house in the area, please just contact me ...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Var wandering

I pride myself on going the extra mile for clients when looking for properties, but my most recent clients managed to make me go the extra miles and then some. And I'm very glad they did as I have now discovered the Var and have left my heart there. In the cold snap of March, we initially looked around the Nice area together, but with no luck. Nothing seemed right, the sun didn't shine, houses weren't 'the one'. My clients wanted a 'coup de coeur', and this is not something you can find easily or in a hurry. Oh well, sometimes this happens and you have to concede defeat.

However, my clients announced their plans to start a search in Sanary sur mer as they knew and loved this area (Bandol, famous for its wine, is next door). A small fishing port in the Var, Sanary is an idyllic spot near to Toulon. Thinking it was too far from my range and not knowing the area, I turned down their request at first to take on the search. But little by little I kept thinking about it and how I had such a good idea about what they were looking for. And thanks to a lucky meeting with a wonderful agent called Damian Tudor (Carlton International) who did know the area, I was convinced by all that we could work on this together. Three overnight trips later and many many pre-viewings of villas Iater, we had a short-list for my clients who flew out for two days last week.

First day was promising, and the second day we had booked a second visit for two houses. The next day we also had a visit to house in a sea-side location not well-known to those outside of the area. Called Tamaris, we had come across it by chance on our search and agreed it was Cap d'Antibes before Cap d'Antibes became unaffordable to most. The villa was new to us and not viewed before hand. We walked in and it was everything my clients had dreamed of. A beautiful turn of the century villa, still retaining all its grand charm, with sea views, only one street back from the sea. We knew we had to move quickly, so the offer was placed that day and agreed by the early evening. A boat was thrown in to the deal thanks to Damian's charm at negotiating.

So as well as feeling over the moon that we found the perfect place for our clients, it was for me a discovery of a new and wonderful part of the South of France. Prices are more reasonable, the area is more wild and rugged. I imagine it is a bit like St Tropez before the glitz took over.

So if anyone would like me to go that extra mile for a house, I'm ready to go back anytime...