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This is the story of Yana and Rik, a Brazilian-Belgian couple on an adventure. It is a largely unwritten story with a timeline that will extend over four years, or longer, because we do not impose deadlines. It is a flight ahead, a vision of the future, a project.
There is a first time for everything. 10/09/2019
Week-4-00 This week was a bit of an in-between week. All kinds of new tasks were tried out. I have never replaced a slate roof, nor installed a gutter, chiseled out a natural stone wall or re-joined one. So everything was thought out and planned extensively, materials were purchased, tests were done and especially having a look at the houses of the neighbors at how things worked there. Because let's be clear, how things work in France is a little different than in Belgium.

The result is that I have become much wiser but little has been realized this week.

At the place where the scaffolding has been since day one, the natural stone wall was attacked. First a whole search for a product to remove the lichen. You start the search on the internet, yes the French internet and then you find a good product. The local construction trade didn't have this product of course but they delivered something else.

Those lichens turn out to be a persistent object, yet on walls where they have been able to go undisturbed for 100 years. With or without a product, it was ultimately the high-pressure cleaner at maximum capacity that got rid of the dirt and a large part of the lichen. The white and the yellow ones gave up the fight rather quickly. But that black boy, even a full minute at a distance of 1 cm, the cleaner at max pressure, they didn't want to go away. We gave in, after all, a 100-year-old house must not have brand new walls.

On the window and door frames where the black areas were a bit too obvious, we tackled them with a copper brush. In combination with the product, they still gave in. Ten minutes per stone, about 100 stones to do, next week we do the rest.

Task two, chiseling the existing joints. These are indeed from clay, but after 100 years they had solidified in some places. First I tried with an electric hammer but such a machine weighs six kilos. After ten minutes my arms had become ten centimeters longer, or at least, I had that feeling. Then the pneumatic chisel on the compressor, the kind for the body work. The device weighs barely a kilo but the compressor had to do its utmost to be able to follow this slight force.

Task three, flush the wall. My neighbor showed me a ready-made product. Correct color, called ton pierre, correct composition and consistency. A bag in four liters of water, put the mixer through and ready. The flushing took a little longer and it was mainly a question of having more mix in the joints than on the floor. Anyway, I learn quickly. Three hours later my mix was finished and the wall had become wonderful, yet that piece of 80x200cm.

Task four, placing a sinking gutter, also for the first time. The construction shop let me sort everything out myself, supports, end pieces, drainage pieces and of course the gutter itself, in pieces of four meters. Fortunately, you can drive 50 km per hour in the region without causing traffic jams, because a four-meter gutter is just a wobbling thing on the roof of the car. In the meantime, five supports have been placed, every half meter one with a drop of 1 cm/meter. I need to pick up the soldering device at home in Belgium and then we can continue next week.

Task five, how are natural slates placed? A YouTube video had already showed its first secrets and a test rig on the roof finally revealed that this is not difficult at all. It will be a bit fitting and measuring to lay the first line well and the rest is just routine. We will start next week. The construction shop supplies the new slates. About half of the old slates are still good. Instead of laying the roof on the garden side half new, half old, all new ones are laid on the garden side and then all the old ones on the street side. That side is less visible and, moreover, not the rainy side.

And so we are ready to apply in practice all the expertise gained next week.

Elle est saine, votre maison. 03/09/2019
Week-3-Front Your home has a healthy structure. This statement from the mouth of a third-generation French professional had to reassure us when we discovered a three-centimeter gap between the wall on the garden side and the vault. The beam also came three centimeters from the wall, this we found during a more thorough inspection.

The professional said this was due to the lack of a rain gutter, which had caused the splashing water to flush the wall below for decades. But he had seen worse and reassured us.

Well, assured or not, I went looking for wall anchors. You know, like the vertical irons you find in old farms. I thought: How can I find a blacksmith who can make those things for me? But a visit to a second-hand site immediately brought relief. I am now the lucky owner of five large wall anchors from some farm in the deep West Flanders, where the first worldwar made many wounds in bodies and landscape. The young gentleman who opened the door when I rang the doorbell showed me the anchors, asked me if he shouldn't help me load what he didn't do and when he got his fifty euros he turned around and went without even wishing a good day back inside,perhaps to his soup and patatoes because it was shortly after noon after all.

In the meantime the anchors have been stripped of all rust and now show a cool matte black finish, this after two layers of special anti-rust metal paint. Next week they go in, sain or not sain, I will feel a lot better afterwards.

The third generation professional actually came to make a quote for laying the natural slate again after we had removed it and placed a underroof screen. He immediately got to the point. The slats that I had used to fix the screen were not good. They must be 20 mm thick, he said, while I had received confirmation from the local construction trade that slats to fix a screen were always 18 mm. Well, he was going to put in his report that I had placed the slats, which immediately relieved him of the responsibility.

He also wondered whether the slats were placed "comme un billiards". This had to be done to be able to place the slates nicely afterwards. That I hadn't changed anything on the old beams where the slats were fixed on and that the roof was looking very flat before removing the slate, he said this was irrelevant. When he finally said that I had to wait three weeks for his quote, well, then I knew it. His prize would be one with many, too many, zeros. You know what, I do it myself, probably not billiards flat, but this, for me, is not necessary for a house from 1915.

We found that building year at the very top of the ridge, scratched in the plaster. Paix, justice, travaille et liberté, 12 aout 1915 were written. Right words for who built a home during the First World War. And so the circle is complete. The house will remain standing thanks to anchors from the region where the first world war was fought.

The roof 27/08/2019
Week-2-VKFront Last week we had some problems. After all, we hardly knew how we were going to tackle things. We also had to install our sleeping place, kitchen and bathroom, all at camping level of course. We took the earthen pots from the vault because we did not trust them. Large holes appeared in the wall on the garden side due to the lack of a gutter and the splashing water. They were rebuilt to a large extent.

This week the inevitable was discussed, the roof. It is a hellish job and completely new to us. We took six days and had no idea how things would work out. It is a roof with natural slates and in many places the slates started a race for the first down. The cause was known. The slates are held in place with iron brackets and they were tired after at least sixty years. The bracket rusts through and the slate starts its way towards the garden.

Opening a roof, you look skywards and hope for good weather. To hope? Are there no weather forecasts? Météo France was the solution. If you look six days ahead there is sun, if you look three days ahead after three days then there are clouds and if you look outside the same day when rain is predicted you will see sun. Conclusion, completely unreliable. My neighbor recommended Météo Ciel, the medium for farmers. Very detailed, per hour, per village, this had to be a trustable solution. The forecast for the next day was windless weather, also an important element if you have to struggle with a underroof screen at a height of seven meters. The next day there was a strong wind and yes, Météo Ciel had adjusted the forecast and there was wind forecasted. Well, that's how even I can predict the weather. Just look out the window.

First we conquered our house from the swallows who had been living there for decades. Then we fought with the bats that flew in and out our house in the evening. The last battle was with the wasps. The many slits in the roof, where the slates were missing, were the ideal fly in for these black-and-yellow friends, well, friends? They built not one, not two, not three but four litters. The local construction store brought relief. They deliver a can that sprays six meters away and kills the unwanted critters in five seconds. However, for so many years I have seen advertisements for toothpaste that promise you snow-white teeth that I was a little suspicious about that much power. The spray in the attack, the escape route carefully planned, a thick sweater, at 30 degrees, and a hood over the head. And yes, six meters was no exaggeration and after five seconds they just fell down dead at my feet. I fled anyway, for the product, not for the wasps.

So we had two days until the first rain. That meant that we only stripped the roof for half the slates. Our first capital error. Because if you then want to put the underroof screen, you will bump into some unbridgeable situations between the old and the new. But the rain was promised, so at full speed we closed the open part of the roof with the screen. At five in the evening we were so tired that we fell asleep in the shower. And the rain stayed off. But Météo France persisted in anger, and rain would fall predicting showers for the next day. But not a single drop fell. The weather forecasters website remained closed from now on.

On the third day, the second part of the roof was stripped of slates, including the dormer window, and that was a bit more work than expected, so we were also busy removing the slates on day four.

The weather did not give in yet. On day four the tap remained closed and the heating was switched on. A glowing sun tried to change our minds, but since we only had one day to close the roof, we went on with a rhythm of 15 minutes on the roof and 15 minutes down in the shade to recover from the violence. Later that day we heard what the neighbors said about us: "Ils sont fous ces Belges!" How could they know that we had no choice.

Above they also noticed that even a glowing sun and temperatures up to 31 degrees could not stop us and on day five they brought out their last weapon, gusts of wind. Météo Ciel, however, had predicted a breeze of 10 km per hour. And when I went to check if I might have looked wrong, the not predicted wind was there in the forecast. At those moments it is better not to have somebody around.

Anyway, the roof had to be closed, wind or no wind. At such moments a person should have four hands, one to hold on to himself, one to control the screen, one to position the screw and one to operate the screw machine. The advantage was that in terms of temperature it was more bearable. So that last day a large part of the roof was done, watertight and windproof ... until our supply of tile slats was used and we were forced to leave the last ten percent open.

And yes, on the day of our return journey, when we still had to take some measurements for the next session, the rain fell from the sky. And so we had everything, predicted rain that did not come, a glowing sun, strong squalls and finally the unpredicted rain.

Next week we will return, with the necessary slats and a new portion of patience. Météo France and Météo Ciel stay where they belong, unopened on our cell phone.

Some pictures about the works

The first working week 22/08/2019
Week-1-VK Finally we started. After three years of research, and after completing three months of papers and signatures, we are ready now with a hammer and a crowbar. Since we had to take some equipment with us and the recently purchased delivery van has not yet been delivered, we rented a large delivery van with an interior length of at least 280 cm. Enough space. At least we thought so.

At 6 o´clock I arrived at home with the rented van. All the material was ready. First 20 OSB plates, then all parts of our scaffolding, then everything else. The OSB sheets went well, including all parts of our scaffolding 258 cm wide, 105 cm deep and 700 cm high ... except for the last three pieces. The diagonals, to keep a stable scaffold, were 298 cm long. They were too long or the van too short. Eventually they entered, from the bottom left to the top right. You can imagine what that did with the rest of the cargo space, a space cut in half diagonally and in 3D.

At 10:30 pm, I asked my wife to unpack the last three boxes and repack them in supermarket bags. I put them in the van, filling all the remaining holes. At 11 pm, I slammed the last door, three times, each time a wilder attempt. Finally, the van was closed. The idea was to leave at 4am for Vassy. But after this effort, it became 9am the next morning.

It was 470 km of road with an overloaded truck. We have found a way to avoid Paris that we will not reveal here, because this road is still very quiet and we want it to stay that way. It costs us 40 minutes extra but the slightest congestion around Paris will cost you more time. Thursday, at 3 pm we arrived. My brother was texturing me: comfort you, unloading is always faster than loading. He was right, let alone because we left the 20 OSB plates in the van. But when leaving for the restaurant in the evening, each turn the plates danced from left to right and each departure back and forth. We took them out the next day.

This restaurant has become our usual place every night. The facade has a width of just under 4 meters and there are four tables inside and some on the terrace at the front. As the sun shone, we choose the terrace. The woman in the restaurant was actually not friendly, kind of surly model. And the cleanliness, well, if I removed my glasses, it was not so bad. We opted for the market menu at 11 euros. A pitcher of half-liter wine was 4.5 euros. Pretty cheap, we thought. After the dessert we thought: it´s impossibly cheap. I love pie, so I eat a lot of pie and I know how to correctly distinguish good from bad. Without reservation, I say here: the pie in this mini-restaurant is the best I have ever tasted. With crisp lettuce and some acetic pickles. My day ended well. The main course had an untranslatable name. It was a kind of veal blanquette. Tasty, nothing special, just tasty. Then came the cheese platter. Five, six types of cheese were placed on a large shelf on our table. At will. All to point, we ate until no longer able. And no, it was not over yet, a dessert arrived. The caramel custard in particular was appreciated.

After five visits to this restaurant, the volumes served on the plate doubled and the bad mood of the woman disappeared. The cheese platter now has ten varieties. And without making a reservation, we find a paper with "reserved" on our favorite table. We became regulars. The result after five days of hard physical work? We gained weight. It is the only restaurant in a region of 20km and it has four tables. So, we do not tell you where.

The next morning, the van disembarked and we went to work. First on the agenda, the bursting of the earthen pots above the oak beams. I do not know these pots, I do not trust them and, moreover, they were twisted and some loose. Three oak beams has to be replaced, this after 60 years of infiltration. Oak is resistant but 60 years is long. But since we want to build a staircase, we took out three beams. Perfect match. Not easy to attack those pots because, although they are twisted, they are closely related. Destroying the first row is the hardest, then it gets better. Twenty pots lined up, fifteen rows, three hundred pots of five kilos each. After two hours, the muscle groaned in the forearm. It´s easier to type on a computer keyboard. "Nie pleujen", they say in Ghent, do not give up.

The small house consists of two rooms with an attic above. The intention was to live in the first room, work in the second room and then change. This, of course, was beyond the reluctance of the dust. After the battle with the earthen pots, our kitchen was under a meter of dust. It was necessary to rethink some details.

However, everything was well thought out. This is necessary if you want to live and work in a small house of 60 m2 without running water, without electricity, a house that went on a holiday for 60 years. However, every day sleeping in a B&B is excluded. First, because there are hardly any rooms available in the season and because 65 euros a day is an attack on the budget.

So we arrived with a tent, a generator, an electric pump with an expansion tank, a propane boiler, two propane cylinders, a three-part gas fire and a chemical toilet. And of course pans, bags and glasses, in short, we emptied half of our house in Ghent. Not to forget, I also built a 1x1m shower enclosure, pure luxury.

But first, a front door had to be placed. The existing door was half rotten and we did not want to sleep without a door. The tent inside this room was preventing dust and insects, larger animals and/or people could just get in while we were sleeping and we wanted to avoid that anyway. During previous visits, I measured the door and two windows and I made them at home in my atelier. They were now placed and as I measured well, it did not even take an hour.

We knew there were two rain pits. By inquiring with the neighbors, it turned out that it was actually the manure pit of the old stables where all the rainwater had the mission to drive it. At least according to the explanation of the neighbor because I do not see the logic of this. And no other pipe is connected to the other well. Goodbye our shower, we thought. I found a small opening in the heavy concrete cover of the well without drainage pipes. I entered a garden hose and started the battle with the generator and the pump. And indeed, after several attempts, I got a first bucket of water, colorless, odorless, perfectly limpid, without any floating dirt. I did not discover a rain pit, but an old brick well that fills with groundwater. I did not open it yet, but I pushed a 5m hose in the well without feeling any resistance. I filled a bottle and it is sent to our pharmacist in Ghent for analysis. With a little luck, it´s drinking water. In a previous life, I also had such a well and every year we analyzed the water, which was always drinkable. Let´s hope now ...

Anyway, after this little water war, we got back to the agenda. We could already take a shower and after all the earthen pots were knocked down, the dust level was also brought down to acceptable standards.

Tired but happy we went back to our four-table restaurant. We always arrived around 18:30 and as the restaurant opens at 19:15, we went for a beer in a nearby cafe. Life can be beautiful and a cool beer after swallowing clouds of dust, there is no better in the world.

On the third day, some OSB plates were placed on the second floor so that we could subject the roof to a detailed inspection. And it was disappointing. In addition, it turned out that the back wall was not perpendicular. So we set aside our demolition and development plans and started working on maintenance. The little house has no gutter, never had. The water escaping from the roof and splashing the floor, thus presenting a continuous shower on the lower part of the wall, caused the erosion of the joints. The first brick detached from the wall, then another one and, after a few decades, a huge hole was formed in the base of the wall. So this space had to be filled. In French they call such a wall "pierres apparentes", visible stones, very beautiful and very rustic but restore such a wall is not obvious. There are no two identical stones, no thickness, no length and no height. Fortunately, next to this house, there is a collapsed house with large wall remains. So I had a source of stones. Even so it was a work of patience and puzzle.

So, easily we reached the end of our first work session during which we spent our last half-day buying all the equipment needed to attack the roof during the second session. It is a slate roof, natural slate, and despite the fact that the oak structure is virtually intact, the staples that hold the slates in place have rusted and now go in competition to get first below.

The second night, we were already invited by a neighbor for the "apero". A French couple, friendly people who once ran a bed and breakfast at home but now spend the winter in Portugal and live in Vassy only three months a year. They asked us about our projects and we received dozens of very useful tips. François knows more about building and renovating than me and that means something.

The last night we were invited for a coffee and cognac and they offered us a gift from heaven. In Vassy, the winters are cold and of course they already understood that our plan to sleep in our tent in the house during the winter was not very realistic. We had already understood this and decided once mid-October not to come back before spring and to make all the doors and windows of the entire site in my atelier at home. There are sixteen windows and six doors, I will know what to do. They suggested we use their home as a base during the winter months. A spacious room, a shower, use of the kitchen and in the living room the opportunity to watch TV and this for a very reasonable price. We did not know what we heard. In this way, we can further play with our house in winter. Thank you François and Francine.

Some pictures of the works and the wonderful evenings

Strange creatures in the landscape. 26/07/2019
Palha The notary had called us, we could come and sign the final deed of sale. Again 2x 500km for a signature.

We were there two weeks ago. In the blog "High summer" you could enjoy a golden landscape full of corn and oats. Now the landscape is populated by strange round creatures. In a science fiction film they would not be strange at all. The landscape is still golden yellow, but now a bit more cut and completely different again.

Enough palpated. Enjoy the beautiful pictures.

Quarry of Aubigny. 25/07/2019
Aubigny-41 Aubigny is a village barely 5 km from our house in the Yonne. In that village there had been a quarry for centuries where the limestone of Aubigny was extracted. Unfortunately, the exploitation has now stopped. Our house dating from the 19th century is entirely built in that limestone. We still have to find out the correct year of construction, but according to the son of the owner who bought the house in 1937, a year should have been engraved somewhere. But he couldn't say where. So we still have a small search ahead.

If you try to arrange administration in France, you will always have a few lost hours. We decided to visit the Carrière de Aubigny. We were surprised by the size, many hundreds of meters of walking in galleries of 25m high. Impressionant. We were also surprised by the cold. It was 42 degrees outside and you don't think of a sweater at such moments. We have suffered cold.

At the very back, we found a sign explaining the history of the stone extracted on the spot. We were very surprised when it turned out that the Carrière de Aubigny had supplied not only the stones for our house but also for the Paris city hall and opera. So we are in good company.

Click here for pictures of the quarry.

We started ! 20/07/2019
Ramen As already mentioned, we do everything ourselves, so we also make windows and doors ourselves.

The search for the right kind of timber has since been over. Nothing easy ! The timber trade in general and the Belgian timber trade in particular does not differ from the entered paths. This results in an offer of tropical woods such as Meranti, Padouk, Afzelia and others. Apart from the price, this is not an option for us.

For weeks I have been searching for Canadian Oregon, a wood from ecologically managed forests in the north of the American continent. Douglas, from the same tree but growing in France, is a bit less of a quality as usually the trees from Canada are older and grow slower due to the more extreme climate. And then there is still European Larix, a wood species that is also eligible but not or hardly offered as a separate species.

The wood, of course, had to be of good quality and sufficiently dry. The price also plays a role because after all, it is a renovation of a Grande Maison but with a not so Grand Budget. As always, the Dutch brought relief. Where you can count the Belgian timber merchants that sell online on one hand, there are dozens of Dutch timber websites including some that only focus on online sales and at very good prices.

Three days ago, a huge truck with a trailer came with two cubic meters of Douglas wood. Unloading went smoothly, finally we have a forklift available. Towards my workplace on the first floor dragging and then stacking with slats in between to be able to dry well further, did cost a little more blood, sweat and tears.

First we make one window, to build experience and allow errors. Then we go in series, first for the small house, then for the big house. As such we will be busy all winter and all window and door openings will be renewed early next year.

Next week we will sign the deed and unfortunately also pay. Then the house is ours. In the meantime our friend Guy is struggling with Enedis to get an electrical reconnection so that we can also work on the spot. Because without electricity there is very little we can do.

Carpenter Rik at work.

High summer. 07/07/2019
VassyZomer-01 We had fled the Dordogne. After fourteen days of continuous temperatures between 37 and 42 degrees, you get tired of it. In the morning at ten o'clock 31 degrees, in the evening at ten o'clock 31 degrees. It was only a little cooler at five in the morning, but then a normal person is in bed.

So it was with a certain relief that we drove north, towards Vassy. And of course with a happy face as we finally went to measure the whole house. We set aside two days for it, because I didn't want to come home to discover that we had forgotten to measure some details.

We arrived July 6th in the afternoon. High summer and 'only' 31 degrees. Moreover, a cool breeze. A relief after the hell of the south. We will save you the measurement, after all it is a meticulous and tedious job. But we do not want to deny you the high summer landscape. Enjoy the pictures.

Summer landscapes

A happy moment. 06/07/2019
Vendu The sign sold on the house. It is now our house.

Many faces. 18/06/2019
Yonne-154 The Yonne department has many faces, rural landscapes, vast forests, wine regions, a few historic towns and of course the river landscape around the Yonne and the Canal du Nivernais.

In the north of the department lies the city of Sens, with its large cathedral and a large beautiful square in front, full of terraces in the summer. It is a nice town where you can stroll.

The town of Auxerre, the capital of the department with a historic center and of course the majestic river Yonne that runs through it, is centrally located. More than worth a visit.

In the East lies Tonnerre, a smaller town in the wine region of the Yonne with the famous Chablis between Tonnerre and Auxerre to the west. There is not much to experience except if you like Burgundy wine of course.

In the south we finally find Avallon, the gateway to the Morvan, the nature reserve in the Nièvre department, just south of the Yonne. Avallon itself is still in the Yonne. It is a bit of a strange city built on a ridge with the valley all around.

Photos still tell more than words. The link below shows a mixed bag of images that we have collected over the years. Here and there you will find one of the Morvan but no one will blame me.

More photos from the Yonne department.

The first schedule. 15/06/2019
Roof We will be measuring at the beginning of July. Given the size of the project, we have set aside a full day for that. Until the last detail goes on paper, a gigantic job. And especially, afterwards at home 470km away, I don't want to be confronted with a forgotten size. And then a full technical drawing follows at home. Yes, we also make the construction plan ourselves.

We will also examine the state of the roofs in detail. Logically these must first be tackled although I see renovations around me where this part is forgotten. There is a roof and it is not raining inside is the reasoning, so the roof can wait a little longer. Error of course, but understandable.

A modern roof must have a shelter below, in foil, semi-hard or hard cladding, it doesn't matter that much but a shelter must be put. No roof, not with the most expensive tiles and certainly not with the natural slate roof of the small house, is completely watertight. The culprits are the wind that blows the rain through the smallest slits or drifting snow also motorized by the wind. A roof is resistant to vertical and sloping precipitation, not to horizontal precipitation. Whatever ends up under the pans, or in our case, under the natural slates, is then stopped by the shelter. That shelter must be watertight and vapor-permeable. If it is not vapor-permeable, any moisture cannot escape from the insulation layer and it will start to insulate less or even mold.

With a living surface of 750 m2 you have to set priorities. Here and there a job gets you nowhere. The entire site consists of a smaller house, a larger house and a large barn, all with floor or in the case of the barn, with sufficient height for one floor. So we start with the roof of the small house.

Since I am not cheering to climb roofs, I had first devised a system to replace the roof from the inside. It is possible, only the last half a meter would have to be replaced from the outside. But in the end I abandon this plan. With the right material and especially the right safety measures, it is feasible. And placing slate, no, never done. But with some thought and explanation work in advance this should work. Getting started is easy, seeing where you end up is a bit harder. Just be patient and you will receive a detailed description documented with photos within some months.

But for the time being it is all preparatory work, gathering knowledge, equipping tools with new saw blades and planers, buying a bit here and there some new tools, ladders, scaffolding, it will be a pretty long list.

To be continued.

A round around the site

The notary 06/06/2019
Notarishuisje The notary had invited us to sign the sales agreement. A 1000km round trip in one day seemed a bit too much to us and we left ourselves to the good care of a B&B manager who turned out to be a winegrower. Now we have another experience. The Yonne is also a wine region. Of course we wanted to taste and we bought a bottle of white Burgundy, made in-house and without a label. A good wine but not always served fresh as usual by wine connoisseurs. They think that there is more taste in it and that is true, but if I want taste I choose red. It had been 33 degrees that day and that wine might have been a little cooler. But it was a nice wine and with the risk of a hangover we went to sleep.

Another day to the Notary, a very nice office. Really a Yonne-sized office, no splendor, a modest interior, a computer that, as usual, could not get to work. A little anti-chambering was allowed, but that was rather due to the four brothers and one sister who kept the academic quarter alive. Five people, five completely different characters, a friendly, a grumbler, a curious, a coquette and a completely self-centered grouser. A glance from the latter was too much to ask, even a hand to his own brothers was difficult while the others happily kissed in quadruple form as it belongs to the French.

The notary, a woman, was the most friendly and after some hopeless murmur at the computer, she switched to the paper version. We had received it beforehand at home and the official French was not too bad, leaving a few monster words there. Everything was read in great detail, always looking at me to see if I understood. She knew about Yana that she did not understand and that the four brothers and sisters understood what they understood. To what extent this corresponded with reality is a mystery. Thirty-one pages continued that way. An eternity followed by another eternity, seven people who had to initial each page and put their signature on the last page.

After an hour and a half we were "liberalized" by the notary, mainly relieved of the discussion that became increasingly fierce between the brothers and sisters. Sold too cheaply, would be refurbished and sold again for a lot of money, the yellow vests, the housing tax that Macron said he would abolish and when I called “Vive Macron” I could not count on much support. Guaranteed, the brothers, a while back, could be found at some roundabout with a yellow vest on.

Immediately back home, the waiting work, the heat of the day before, the too heavy white wine, the stress of visiting a notary, it was all a bit too much and we mainly wanted to go home.

I also want to give this. To get to the Yonne, coming from where we live, you have to travel around Paris. A detour via Reims is really too many extra kilometers and too much time. My GPS always faithfully leads me to the Périphérique, what a wonderful word. But despite its many sections, it is always little moving. That's why I searched through Google Earth for a city just to the east of Paris: Meaux. And just in the south I was looking for another, Melun. My GPS was set on Meaux, then on Melun and without traffic jams, but with an extra 40 minutes, we came back on the highway past Paris. Returning, to be able to compare, I went to the Périphérique. And there I was in the file for 40 minutes. Both options are therefore still open.

Finally, a melancholy moment. In my twenties I did drive dozens of times south and always via the Paris ring road. At Charles de Gaulle airport, just before Paris, there was a huge pine tree, large and lonely in a sea of concrete. I started calling it "our tree." In my fifties I again went the same way several times and our tree had children. And those children were almost as tall as the old man, but much less fat. Our tree became less visible. Yesterday I saw him lying, ruthlessly sawn down, the trunk a meter and a half diameter, golden-brown saw cut. The old man had to give way to road safety. The road to Paris will never be the same again.

A few images of our short trip

The business plan 26/05/2019
Chambre With more than 750 m2 of living space you can already do something of course. And a 2000 m2 garden is also something. So enough place. Of course we do not want to focus on a single plan, but still want to make an overview of all options. We guarantee that we will come across a few obstacles that may still change our plans.

The site consists of the house with adjacent old stables and a bread oven. House and stables have a second floor. There is also a collapsed house. The intention is that this is rebuilt. In addition, a smaller house with a second floor. A large barn has been added to the first house in L-shape, high enough to build a second floor in it. And on the other side of the road there used to be a little house, now completely gone. But as a result, we do have a 100 m2 parking space in front of the door.

Of course we want to live there, eventually in the shed. Another doubt is living on the second floor and an atelier on the ground floor, or vice versa. I opt for living on the floor because of the fabulous view that this yields. My wife wants to be able to walk directly into the garden. So that is just going to be a small fight. Anyway, I already know how this ends.

The atelier, so above or below, becomes two-fold, a small wood workshop and a ceramic workshop. The timber workshop must allow the renovations to commence. The intention is to do everything ourself as much as possible. For example, it has already been decided that we do not buy windows but make windows. Handy Harry is capable of that, both in terms of design and construction.

The ceramics workshop then becomes the winter activity because in the summer we either want to start a B&B with dining or we make it easy to ourselves and install a few houses to rent. In terms of income, that first choice is better, but the workload is also considerably higher. The B&B can easily accommodate 5 couples in the large and small house, and the dining can take place in the now collapsed house.

Vassy, the middle of nowhere, pardon, heaven. 25/05/2019
Vassy-20 We are going to polarize here. Living in a community with fifteen houses, for one indeed heaven on earth, for the other an outright nightmare. I talked to Yana many times about it. Yana is from Rio de Janeiro. I also lived in this mega city for a number of years. Vassy and Rio de Janeiro, you can hardly imagine a bigger difference. I prefer Vassy. But of course my partner had to come too. Her answer was simple: Give me something to do and I will thrive. So drafting a business plan was the most logical next step.

But back to Vassy. Only retired farmers live there. Who then works on the immense fields around the village is still a mystery. And there are also a number of like-minded people living there. People who find living in complete peace a blessing. After all, Auxerre is only 30 km away and on the country roads of the Yonne this can be bridged by car in less time than crossing the center of Ghent where we live now. If the latter is of course possible, because the bicycle madness has also struck my city. Long live green, we go to green.

Auxerre, by the way, is a wonderful city, on the banks of the Yonne which has grown into a mighty river. We did not yet have the time to visit the city extensively. This is next, it’s promised.

An aerial photo of Vassy and Rio de Janeiro, some photos of Auxerre

Time for reality. 24/05/2019
Vassy-1 Keeping dreams and consulting could not continue and we planned a long weekend. The dream had to be tested against reality. And to get in the mood, we rented a Citroen 2CV. From the start it turned out to be a brake-free 2CV. Or maybe I was too spoiled by hydraulic assistance, I wouldn't know. But what I do know is that stopping that goat did require some attention and if the stopping place happened to be downhill, then it became completely hilarious. Anyway, we survived the trip.

80km to the destination in a modern car is a bit different than the same distance in a car of roughly 40 years old. Two hours later, and with the eggs whole on the back seat, the suspension was on and top 2CV, we arrived in Vassy. Find it on the map with a magnifying glass. Even almighty Google Earth failed. Only such an old-fashioned detailed Michelin map brought relief.

Vassy is not a village, because of no church and no Marie. It is a small concentration of about fifteen houses in a gentle curve of a "Departmental" and a few earthy roads. It belongs to Taingy, about three kilometers away. And apparently the fusion rage has also struck France. In 2017, Taingy was merged with Fontenailles and Molesmes and now continues life under the salutary name Les Hauts de Forterre. The three of them have a total of 531 inhabitants, later perhaps 533.

Nevertheless finding the farm was not difficult as, very illogical, this small route is showed in the Streetview of Google Earth. Our new home can therefore immediately be admired worldwide via the internet. We could not go inside, after all we were secretly visiting. Well, secretly, within five minutes the neighbors came by chance to walk in their garden. And on the houses without a garden we saw the curtains rocking. However, there was no wind.

The reality corresponded to the dream, our dream anyway. I can imagine that most of you only see a ruin. But for us the walls must be straight and the roof structure healthy. And that was the case. If you buy something in better condition, you still strip back to basics, so why not just buy a base right away. A base with charm, mainly due to the excessive use of local natural stone. But more about that later.

But the wow effect was the surrounding landscape. It will be a room with a view, what do I say, rooms with a view!

Show the farm

This is also the Yonne. 23/05/2019
Yonne-58 You normally expect views in the mountains or by the sea. Forests are wonderful but limit the visibility. For me the most beautiful landscapes can be found in a rolling agricultural area. Where nothing gets higher than your eyes, where every crop provides a different color, interspersed with pieces of forest, left over on pieces of less fertile soil or simply planted for the wood, where buildings are extremely rare and always concentrated in small living quarters, that landscape can be found in the Yonne.

In Belgian countryside, every view is ruined by electric wires, lost houses with a high hedge around it, ribbon development or just the road. There is always a disturbing element. And recently the windmills are also being added. The latter are also there in the Yonne, but because of the vastness of the landscape they are always far away from you.

In the Yonne you don't have to look for a stopping place to take a photo. You just stop on the road. Nobody comes anyway. The Yonne is a relief in these hectic times, at 1h45min from the metropolis of Paris.

Also show the other side of the Yonne

A forgotten department, the Yonne. 22/05/2019
Yonne-16 We have friends living in the Morvan, hello Guy and Caro. And so we regularly go there. The Morvan is a nature reserve in northern Burgundy. It looks a bit like the Belgian Ardennes but without the hordes of tourists. Already in July and August the roads and driveways also turn a bit of banana yellow. (of the Dutch number plates)

The Yonne department is a little more to the north, named after the river Yonne. It is a forgotten department. No tourist to be seen. Incomprehensible by the way. It is a beautiful region. 360° views become your part, interspersed with romantic scenes around the river Yonne and especially the Canal du Nivernais. The river and the canal run parallel for many tens of km, the river unhindered, the canal interrupted many dozens of times by the most picturesque locks in Europe. On a certain stretch there are even 16 locks on 3 km.

In the summer you can enjoy the many large and small pleasure and houseboats. Students have a nice additional income in opening and closing the dozens of locks, all manually operated by themselves. Out of season you have the area for you alone. You can walk and cycle for hours there.

The Yonne and the accompanying Canal du Nivernais run through very diverse landscapes. Forests alternate with infinite fields in a rich hue of colors, flat land changes with high rocks, nature changes in culture when the Yonne flows through the many towns and villages. We are never bored with it.

Show more photos of the Yonne

What preceded. 21/05/2019
File has been my friend for three years. For much longer than three years I think life in Flanders is becoming unbearable. I used to have my "Escapes to Brazil", but macroeconomic reasons ended my Brazilian empire. For the last ten years, I have been trapped in an over-regulated, over-built, over-populated and, in particular, a rushing part of Europe. You used to have the morning and evening rush hour, nowadays you have the rush hour all day long. For when the night rush hour? is a super fun French site where you can find everything for sale and also houses, farms and castles. The flower wallpaper is a constant. But you can scratch that off the wall. Leboncoin became my new "Escape". The hours that I daydreamed on that site cannot be counted.

Of course, daydreams cannot last for a rational person. Hundreds of "Ferme à rénover" were reviewed. All beautiful pieces of the French expired patrimony, victims of the large scale of agriculture where lands are merged and farms are abandoned and expired. The prices are correspondingly, for the price of a garage box in Belgium you buy a house or farm in France. It is not difficult to understand that it is full of Dutch people, and also some Belgians.

A year and a half ago, one particular farm caught my attention at Leboncoin. A week later the advertisement was gone. Not that difficult, I thought, such a beautiful gentleman's farm, although completely decayed, but with all the grandeur de l’époque. I had noted the website of the notary who had published this advertisement and a few weeks later I thought I might find something similar. Great was my surprise, on the website of the notary was still that farm for sale .... in the Yonne.