When I started looking for a house in SW France, it became clear to the agents that I was not a typical foreign househunter. Uninterested in swimming pools, period architecture, ensuite plumbing or stunning interiors. But insistent on direct frontage to a good stretch of navigable river, storage for boats and bikes, and a large interior space suitable for group training activity. Needless to say, there were very few properties around which could even begin to meet those criteria.
But when 15 Allée Beau Rivage appeared on the radar, it was obviously worth a close look. A superb location, for a start: one of the very few riverside properties in Bergerac to have uninterrupted access to the water, as most other sites have a road passing in front.
Access was via a quiet cul-de-sac, and there was a beautiful large garden sloping down to the water, with shade and privacy from a number of mature trees. Far enough from the centre to avoid parking or traffic problems, but close enough to walk into town .
There were a few problems, naturally. Built by the vendors in 1966 in the distinctive “contemporary” style of the period, the house had four bedrooms but only one bathroom. There was no large room suitable for group training. Because of planning restrictions it was not going to be possible to build a separate boathouse in the garden. And any kind of work whatever on the actual river bank required detailed permission from the relevant authority.
I and the helpful sales agent went to see a local architect to try and find solutions to these issues. If the design and bureaucratic hurdles could be overcome at an affordable cost, I said, I would be interested: otherwise not.
Cut to a year later, with me as owner of the house, watching anxiously as the builders start work. We are going to get a new roof, a new top floor, a new staircase, a new heating and hot water system, new bathrooms, new wiring and lighting, and an enlarged area of the basement to allow front-to-back storage for doubles as well as single sculls.
The result will look a bit different from the original, but it should remain consistent with the period look of the 50s/60s era, and hold its own against the Le Corbusier house two doors downstream.
And it will be just the kind of place which someone like me would want to come and spend some time with family and friends..