The hunt for our Ariège house took place one afternoon in December 2014. That's right. We spent just one half day on something that involves a significant investment and a major decision - and in an area that we barely knew. But it's pretty hard to do something like this when you live on the other side of the world, so we just had to get on with it. We had arranged with an estate agent from Century 21 in Mirepoix to look at a few properties in a village called La Bastide sur l'Hers (no, we'd never been there before) and one apartment in Mirepoix itself. On the day itself, we spent the morning driving from Barcelona airport to La Bastide sur l'Hers, relying on sat nav to get there. The sat nav struggled with both the route and Spanish pronounciation, and its attempts at Spanish road names and numbers would dissolve into unhelpful mumbling dribble - rather like my own Spanish in fact! Nevertheless, after a few wrong turns, being led in true sat nav fashion to a "route barrée", and resorting at times to a traditional map, we arrived for our appointment with minutes to spare - nothing like doing things by the skin of your teeth! We had chosen La Bastide sur l'Hers principally because of its property prices and because it offered the opportunity to view a handful of properties in one place, thus minimising the need for any further tearing around in the car. Places tend not to look their best in winter and it was a cold, grey day but we were pleasantly surprised by the village and certainly not put off - it had a pretty river flowing through it and a few shops, surprising for a village with only around 700 inhabitants, 10% of whom, we were told, are English (which means a native English speaker).
The Hers River in La Bastide sur L'Hers
In the end, we most liked a village house that had been partly renovated (by Brits!) but still needed some, but not too much, work done on it. Or so we thought. Anyway, as dusk began to draw in and the air turned even chiller, our kind estate agent guided us to our overnight accommodation, Les Minotiers hotel in Mirepoix, where we were able to relax and reward ourselves with some of our French favourites - pastis, wine, calvados and good food - after a hard day's work.