It looks like we’re finally going to get to France this year and we’ve narrowed our search down to the areas around Mayenne, Niort and Angouleme. (All good value and good for my horses.) I wondered if anyone lives near or in these cities and if so, what you think of the area/city?
Not a resident of France, but I can speak to Mayenne though not the other areas. We have been visiting the area along the Mayenne river, staying in the countryside near Laval, twice a year. We go there to walk along the river, eat, and stay at one of our favorite B&Bs.
The Mayenne is a quieter departement than others nearby, which as visitors we appreciate but I think a potential resident might be looking for something more lively. The scenery is mostly lovely.
We’ve driven many of the back roads on both sides of the river. There are not that many villages that have much commerce, but you’d have everything you want in the cities of Mayenne and Laval. There are some beautiful villages (Chailland, Fontaine-Daniel, St Loup du Gast, and Juvigne are standouts) but they’re so tiny and quiet that they aren’t very appealing to me as an armchair home shopper. Lovely to visit for half an hour, but I wouldn’t want to live nearby.
Around Laval is the liveliest area.
The city of Mayenne has an excellent restaurant, a Michelin one-star which is quiet and welcoming and (L’eveil des sens).
Chateau-Gontier is my favorite town to visit because of its lively Thursday morning market and its many public gardens. It’s a 4-flower village in the Villes/Villages Fleuris scheme.
If you are looking for a chateau, and why not?, the Mayenne supposedly has the most privately owned chateaux of any departement in France. Room for your horses.
If I were to persuade the anchor to move to France, the Mayenne is one of the areas I know we would consider. Please keep me posted and if you need an unbiased second opinion in May, I’m available. Happy hunting.
From living near Angouleme for 15 years the main attraction of Angouleme is the centre part with restaurants and bars and which is lively, and nice to visit on fri/ sat evenings. The downside is they introduced paying for all car parking which has had the effect of slowing killing the small shops, before Xmas I counted 15 now closed on the main shopping street.
Away from the centre is very dirty with rubbish especially near the river and paper museum.
I’ve not visited the other places you asked about, but Limogé is a nice Place and a lot cleaner.
Angouleme is ok in the center but the rest isn’t anything special. It’s smaller than Limoges so difficult to compare but each has its own merits. Angouleme has a slightly milder climate and is more handy for the coast etc. Limoges has more happening and is more bustling. It’s more handy for all points n s e and west.
This is really interesting. We only visited Angouleme briefly on route between Ruffec and Bordeaux. I came away unimpressed but I’ve wondered since if I was being fair and whether it was grey or rainy that day - I can’t remember. I did wonder what difference too, the huge TGV investment had made as it’s now so accessible for Bordeaux and Paris. But all of the comments seem to reflect my own first impressions so I think I should trust my gut on this one. It’s a shame because there are some lovely, very well priced properties in that area, but perhaps that’s why they’re such good value. Niort and Laval are very much top of my list at the moment.
We have recently moved to Charente (16). According to our ‘helper’ its the worst department for any official dealings. Be it registering a car, sorting out a carte vitale, getting a business started.
If you like the property prices in the area though, try to go just over the ‘border’ into
Vienne, Limousin or Dordogne… a distance of roughly 50 km can make a vast difference in services.
Thanks Bettina. That’s the first time I’ve heard that. But, at the end of the day, it’s the people and location that matters more than degrees of bureaucracy. I’ve always found Charente such a friendly, welcoming area, as I’m sure you’ll find once you get past all the frustrations. (Having said that, some of the houses on our shortlist are actually just over the border in Vendee, and fate seems to definitely be pulling us in that direction.
Applying for a carte séjour went smoothly, though no reply for 11 months.
Angoulême is trying to update the town but they are making a hash of it, the road past the train station is confusing, behind the train station they are revamping but it’s not well coordinated, they would have been better making the car parks here for the station, instead they made a large library which looks like a huge shipping container.
Near the river is dirty with many derelict buildings, one is been demolished at the moment, but when they have a open area like near the paper muséum and BD museum they don’t use it for anything.
My experience of Charente officialdom has been the complete opposite to that of your “helper” .
I’ve have imported my car, obtained our carte vitales, sorted our tax returns out as well as our CdS without any problems at all. The officials have been punctual, courteous, and efficient. The biggest issue has been - without exception - them virtually insisting upon speaking English!
It is a very friendly area. We have been quickly welcomed by our french and english and american neighbors as well as a the mairie and life is good. Its the famed french bureaucracy that makes it more difficult. Angouleme has a not so good rep. compared to other departemental headquarters. We have not had a bad experience yet, but our translator/guide through officialdom often complains about their ‘pigheadedness and slow pace’. We have looked for a place for just over a year, and ended up in a corner of Charente, with Vienne, Limousin and Dordogne no more than 10km away. We actually are closer to Limoges than we are to Angouleme.
In the end - if you are bringing horses it will probably not really matter. You’ll end up homebodies as long as the paddocks are good and the lanes are wide.
Oh - we are working on all of that. So far we had no problems other than it seems to take ages…
Guess we should be a bit braver and try to do it without the helper. Just feel such a fool trying my school french. It’s OK person to person, but on the phone. I am missing words and by the time I remember the phone call is well over.