Four (to a) bed maison

It is with mixed feelings that I must report the failure of my Norman invasion. On the one hand it is a little disappointing not to have found a bargain basement French property. On the other, however, I am relieved, along with my doctors and insurers, to have escaped the clutches of Monsieur Grand Ville, my Calvados-loving guide to the houses of Normandy.

Charming though his company was he became a little wearing, not least on my liver. I eventually persuaded him that I had to return early to England to have my blood checked to see if I was carrying a highly contagious and deadly virus. M Grand Ville was not inclined to accompany me but neither was he too concerned for his own well being. My guess is his doctors would be lucky to find any blood swimming around with the Calvados.

I moved swiftly away from his inland retreat and headed for the coast and a little place by the name of Houlgate, which I suspect is French for Harrogate or Margate. It is almost unique among Normandy beach resorts in that it does not end in "ville". There is Deauville, Trouville, Villerville, Blonville and braised veal. Then suddenly there is Houlgate. The beach has a certain charm which was retained despite the recent scares about an oil slick and the proximity of toxic nuclear waste. Put those alongside some tacky souvenir shops and greasy eateries and it was a real home from home.

While the French headed for the sea's healing waters, I headed for the nearest estate agency or immobilier as they appear to be called. The property gurus of Houlgate did not have M Grand Ville's charm, nor his taste for Calvados. Their leaflets bore thumbnail photographs of various sales executives, a habit I sincerely hope does not make its way across La Manche.

Their literature is prone to exactly the same breathless excitement we used to find at our own estate agents in the days when they had properties to sell. Not even the French language could mask an ugly intrusion into my sensibilities. Even for those whose skills in French are restricted to speaking slowly and loudly in English, the immobiliers left huge clues to imminent hyperbole by their overuse of the exclamation mark. A little photograph of the property in question would then be accompanied by words like "A SAISIR!" , "UNIQUE!", "NOTRE COUP DE FOUDRE!", "RARE!", "URGENT!", "A VOIR!" or "A DEUX PAS DE LA PLAGE!". Occasionally the exclamation mark would be replaced by a question mark as in "VOUS AIMEZ LE CALME?" but the capital letters are a give away.

Even in more detailed brochures the exclamation and question marks are regular visitors. One, extolling the virtues of what we would call holiday flats but which the French refer to as Un bon plan de vie!, was littered with them. Perhaps the exclamation mark has some hidden significance for the French as a sign of good fortune or good value. There again judging by these holiday flats, perhaps not. Houlgate is about a two-hour drive from Paris and was being marketed to weekend retreaters . Or was it? My French is a little rusty but it would seem that the brochure was suggesting that an entire French family could be crammed into a one-bedroom apartment for as much as four days a week. This kind of overcrowding would have the social services around in a flash over here but the French are clearly more flexible, which they would need to be if some of the family was to make its bed in the microwave oven.

I decided it would be uncharitable for me to deprive a family of eight of such a housing opportunity and retired empty handed to more familiar stomping grounds. I suspect more research is required or is that just an excuse for one last flagon of Calvados?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    **Primary Teachers Needed Urgently in Southport**

    £80 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: **Due to an increase in dema...

    SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

    £50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

    Nursery Assistant/Nurse all cheshire areas

    £7 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: We are a large and successful recrui...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    £50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

    Day In a Page

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London