Le Mazet, Couloustrine
We bought our French home in 1992, on impulse, during a week of indifferent weather. Browsing in the window of a local estate agent, Chris remarked that the prices of modest properties were almost achievable. So we went inside and said to the woman: “We are looking for something near le Vigan, not near too many other houses, with a view, near a river, and costing next to nothing.”
“Ah oui,” replied the woman, “il faut faire des compromis”. We agreed, there might have to be some compromises. After an aimable few days travelling round in her battered Citroen, viewing unsuitable properties, this was our first sight of what was to be our future home:
It seemed very remote – just a couple of houses opposite, with lovely views, some land, a river down the road and le Vigan some seven km away. All for 190,000 francs (not much more than £15,000 then). This seemed wonderful to us. There was only the one room, and a cave (cellar) underneath, but after years of tents, camping cars and small caravan, this seemed luxury. A stone tent.
What really sold it to us was the glorious aroma of herbs and wild flowers when we climbed up the old steps to the wilderness in front of the house. Actually it was not a house, but rather a mazet or clède, an old agricultural building.
So, we bought it! Well, at least, we went to the notaire (didn’t understand a word of his broad dialect) and started the process of buying it. Yves Colomb, the campsite proprietor and a former architect, drew up the plans for adding a couple of bedrooms and a bathroom, plus a few basic utilities like water and electricity, and arranged for a young friend, Guy Boissière, to do the building work.
Summer 1993. We arrived to find no running water, no electricity and no start to the extension work. So we spent the summer camping the one existing primitive room while we sought to sort out all the prelims. Just as well, as between us we made a major modification to the original plan:
Several people, including Guy, said this concave roof was a recipe for disaster, and Guy’s mate, Albert the plumber (quelle désastre) produced a modified plan:
All of this and more I recorded in a lengthy diary that summer.
Through the following winter Guy kept us posted on the building of our house and in the summer of 1994 we were rewarded with our first view of the finished house. Subsequent improvements include the trees planted by our friend, Arnard, and above all, the magnificent steps he built to the terrace above. (I had a railing added in 2013, in respect of the advancing years of many of my friends as well as me!).
Here are further photos of the Mazet.
In 2008, sadly three months after Chris died, I moved out of the Mazet, to the new house several terraces above. Our original home now serves as a guest house for friends and family and occasionally I let it as a gîte.