Last week I had lunch with a friend I hadn't seen for quite a while. She is 58 and she and her husband, although they are both French, were raised outside of France métropolitaine. They are some of the few well-off people I know here who have no country house.
"Luc will be retiring in two years," she told me. "We decided to buy a house in the south of France, because we miss the sun.
"So, last summer, we spent some time driving around the Midi, and we found an area we like very much, not far from Draguignan. And in the middle of September, we made some appointments there with real estate agents, booked a nice little hotel in the village we liked best, and took the TGV down there, all excited.
"We picked up our car, drove to the village, brought in our suitcases and unpacked. By then it was dinnertime, so we walked out looking for a nice little restaurant to eat dinner.
"Sédu, there was nothing! Not a single place in town. Just a seedy bar with the television blaring. So we got in our car and drove to the next village. It was completely dead. Not a single place open. Then the next village. Same story.
"Finally, we came to the fourth village and there, we found a lovely little place. We sat down and had a delicious meal. But when we looked around us, the average age of the other customers was at least 75. And they were speaking English, German, Dutch-- everything but French! We looked at each other and realized we could never buy there."
Now, she explained, they are looking in Normandy. "Luc complains there's no sun-- it's true. But it's easier to get to from Paris, and everyone can come visit us there. But you know, Sédu-- it was our dream, bursting into pieces."