Best places to live in France

I notice that quite a few SFN members have moved away from where they originally settled...

Why and what were the motivating factors..?.

Best places to live in France ?

Yes I am thinking of moving in a way, this is research


Var is a nice country all year along

In winter, the sun is always shinning

Look the website (copy and stick the site):

Best regards


It is temperate, but of course last year was exceptionally hot and dry. It is not tobacco growing country like the Charente, but the fields are usually green and we have wonderful Charollais cattle. there is excellent wine close by and it is not too expensive. It is a prosperous area and quite international.

The Morvan in the north of Burgundy is not as well kept as the south, but cheaper and colder.

Charolles has had a lot spent on it and is a lovely town, the Clunysois has hills and valleys whereas the Brionnais is flatter.

Try Jonzac, smaller than Cognac, but with my two favourite cognac houses, Hine and Delamain.

Sounds good Liz,

I am planning a drive up to the area in a few weeks to The Vienne, so I will create a route that takes in part of the Charentes, take a look at Cognac. etc...

Any recommendations for towns not to miss ?

Hi Hilary, our local Charentaise market gardeners concentrate on bog standard veg and fruit. Exotics have a ready market and local small shops are open to suggestions. Small markets usually encourage suppliers to participate - we found one on the second Sunday of each month that offers wine from a very small, but good winery and an enterprising young fisherman and his wife who supply a limited amount of thoeir wn catch, ready prepared and complete with recipe selections. There is even a knife grinder who comes along to service chain saw blades and scissors!An English friend takes her wonderful innovative hand made cards (pop-up and 3D) to sell intriguing the French customers. These artisanal markets are a lot of fun.


I take onboard what you say re climate change....But I'm quite pleased that you say that you do get the occasional heatwave in the Charentes....I do enjoy real sun and would love to have my own pool.

I was worried that I would miss this characteristic of the Dordogne (where I get to use my lovely French neighbour's pool in the afternoons when it's really hot).. Sounds as though, with a good level of sunshine, more even distribution of rain throughout the year, the gardening, fruit growing side of things should be really good. Must find out much more about what is grown in this area.....I sense a market gardening opportunity, for a too big garden - exotic fruit maybe?

Hi Charlie. There is nothing wrong with the Charente and it offers lots of good value properties, however for us we have not settled and it is too busy in the area we are. Also living in France is very different to visiting for a few days. We had carried out three visits to France in the space of around 18 months looking at properties in the Haute Vienne, Dordogne, Vienne, and Charente. We were in a difficult situation in the UK and had been living with my girlfriend's Mum for over three years whilst saving money to move to France. I guess we made a mistake in buying the place we did, but we felt after looking at around 40 houses that we HAD to choose somewhere. We are in the north of the Charente near Verteuil Sur Charente with it's fairytale chateau. Ruffec is the main town and we find it to be pretty workaday.

There is lots to like about the Charente and it is a very sunny place, but for us the landscape is a bit bland and heavily agricultural. The beauty in the Charente is more in the detail of the landscape rather than overall. It is very pretty along the Charente river and the Nanteuil valley is also very attractive. I guess we have been spoilt by living in some spectacular landscapes in the UK, such as mid Wales, Snowdonia and the Cairngorms. Whenever we have headed east from the Charente into the Haute Vienne, to us the landscape has improved dramatically with a lot more forest and hills. I guess it is a matter of personal taste, but we would rather live somewhere more sparsely populated and with a greater sense of wilderness. We drove over to the part of the Haute Vienne north of Limoges at the weekend and the Monts de Ambazac are very beautiful and rugged and reminded us of mid Wales. To us the Charente is more like southern England landscape wise. We have yet to check out the Creuse and Aveyron but the idea of living in a wilder part of France really appeals. Having said that, many love the Charente as the climate is benign and property is relatively cheap. Plenty of Brits here too, if you want to be amongst expats! In our experience (we are in our late forties) it get's a bit funkier and younger as you get further south and east towards Angouleme and Cognac. Anyway good luck in your search. Our place will be for sale soon if you fancy a traditional Charentaise farmhouse with 4.5 acres!!

As for rain, January and February are always rainy months in Charente, but July 2015-December we were eating outside, even in December we had lunch a few times in hot sun shine, other people reported temps locally one day of 20C - In january we managed to eat outside for lunch for two days but having lived in Malaga n the 60s, we did manage to have our Christmas lunch on the beach but that was only one year, It was just as rainy and cold there too. Everywhere as Paul indicated is allegedly suffering from Climate Change affects although these things seem to go in three hundred year cycles according to a radical recent report by Havard...., but, as we came from Wild West wales where in 2014-2015 we had 327 days of rain... I would say we do really well. Charente Maritime seems to get a lot more "weather" than we do. Check out the weather channel on which us farming folk use daily and find it very accurate - you can put in any town in france to gauge the weather daily up to 14 days in advance. Usually very accurate to the hour.

The US, UK and AU have been having terrible, violent storms in the past month, I think the odd day when winds here reach a whopping 60 mph as the did today can be forgiven. We do get 94 days average of rain per annum, but this includes a light drizzle in the morning and evenings. (source French weather bureau) Further south does get more sun, but they also had temperatures exceeding 40 in July and August last year where we also had one or two days at 40-41, it was just one glorious summer, I used the pool daily from the beginning of July (when we arrived) until the beginning of October which is exactly the same amount of days I used one in PA, USA during the same period. (they do have very cold winters however and then go straight to summer, skipping spring). We aim to open the pool in April this year here. Put it this way, I still have my tan from last summer.

Hi Hilary

I think the other thing to consider is climate change! I would never have thought that we would experience the sort of weather we have been having today in the Charente in early February. It was around 12 degrees out there and blowing an absolute gale! Ile De Re recorded it's highest ever wind speed today! One of the main reasons we left North Wales (which is stunningly beautiful) was the deteriorating climate! We loved living there but the weather was awful for people who enjoy an outdoor life! We had no summer to speak of from 2005 to 2011..quite a run of duff summers!

I was expecting a better winter climate here in the Charente and winter 2014-2015 wasn't too bad with lots of sunny crisp days. This winter has been much worse with lots of rain and wind! I am a firm believer that our climate is changing rapidly so it bears thinking about because I don't think the long term averages for the various parts of France will be relevant soon. The long term average for the Charente shows highs around the high 20's in mid summer. yet last year we had many days in the high 30's and nudged 40 on several days!!

Food for thought!

Charente is not renowned for its English speakers among the French community, and, although most of us are hidden away among French neighbours, Brits are perhaps difficult to track down although the organisation CLE-France is an excellent socialising contact for those who need occasionally to let off some English steam. (involves coach trips, gourmet evenings and seasonal events from March-December). Sometimes it is like the UN here, with French, Italian, Dutch and Estonians plus a few Brits dropping in for a chat.

I would recommend anyone considering purchasing to do what we did, we rented a property for a year (you can get a good deal by paying the rent up front), so we would have real -in situ time- before making any decisions. It is ideally placed for searching in Aquitaine, Limousin, Dordogne, Vienne, Deux Sevres and Creuse (which we did) until we found one on our doorstep that ticked all our boxes. We used the opportunity to get to know our neighbours, the mayors (wonderful people if they are on your side), the rules and regulations and worked on the most important aspect of life here, and no,

We have used this interim opportunity to get to know our neighbours and the mayors and meet and chose a doctor, learn the "rules and regulations" and worked on the most important aspect of life here, and no, its not language, it is partly patience and partly respect. You cannot enter a shop without the daily greetings:- "Bonjour?" " Ca va?" and wait patiently for each customer to go through an introductory conversation before you are served. One bakery we know actually ignored an English customer as they barged in and said "I want two baguettes". A Mortal sin. One cafe in Nice actually fines customers who do not enquire into how the owners day is going. €9 euros for a cup of coffee from impolite customers, €2 euros for those that obey the ritual. Even in a supermarket, it is common to greet the cashier before she starts ringing up, thank her for her time and then hope she has a pleasant rest of the day before saying goodbye. These small things make each other's lives a little happier, Yes, you might have to wait longer in shops, etc. But, it is a small price to pay. We were at one of our favourite restaurants enjoying the discussion about the menu as always with the waiter, when three ladies (Australia) rushed up and interrupted with "Have you got anything we can eat quickly?", (no "excuse me", or "Bonjour" preface). He regarded the ladies coldly and said "Madame, this is a restaurant, if you do not have two hours at least to sit and enjoy our food, then I suggest you use the sandwich shop opposite!" (in perfect English), they rushed out mortally offended. However, it is important to understand that waiting staff actually (for the most part) enjoy their job and it is socialising to them to explain the various concoctions of the day. Unfortunately, a French couple sitting a little way from us chose to remark "Bah! Les Anglaises" in a very derogatory tone that classed us all in the same boat., as rhey cannot distiinguish the accents... This happens and you do have to prove your worth.

Everyone here seems to appreciate an effort to speak at least a few words in French. They understand as you struggle for the odd word and will help and advise. My husband's osteopath has advised him that henceforth he will conduct his sessions in English during one appointment and French the next and marked it in his diary.

I was lucky to have learned French a long time ago, but my husband focussed on other languages necessary for his work and French is new to him, but after 7 months he understands almost everything and is able to hold his own in most conversations. He did not have to but he felt as if he was missing out as I rabbited on in French with friends and neighbours, so has really applied himself to learning a little more every day. Honestly, the people here have been truly wonderful. The mayor insisted we attend a commune event only two weeks after we arrived. As it happened in the throng of 200 people we were the only Brits. We had a wonderful evening of food, drink, dancing and did not make it home until 3:00 am.... Everyone there had a really good time from 18 months to 93 years. We were made to feel part of a community and so many people wanted to buy us drinks, we had to switch to soft drinks an hour after we arrived. Ever since we attended this and another three similar events and helped out at the Children's christmas party, everyone seems to know us and passing through our nearby village to shop, we are constantly being greeted and receiving "les bises" from one and all, even the children, including teenagers (who are wonderfully behaved).

I am so glad we managed to find a wonderful property very near to where we now are (note: this will probably be for rent from July). I appreciate that charente is not everyone's cup of tea. We know several couples who have up sticks and left but the reasons seem unclear! Everyone has their reasons but some seemed just nomadic not really settling anywhere. The main thing is TRY before you BUY, that way you can ensure as much as possible you have made a sensible choice.

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Designer.....Knightsbridge......Just a thought...... you weren't responsible for any of those fantastic window displays in Harvey Nichols, were you ?

They were so good artistically, that we would mention them to the pupils as a 'must visit' and one year we drove the minibus up at xmas time, to show them.

By way of comparison, (for any fellow 'pluit-o-phobes')

SW London & Surrey have an average of 164 days of rain per annum !

Yes, I know it's a nice area and I have seen one or two beautiful characterful old properties, in pretty good condition, at very good prices....

How do you find the climate, Jane ?

Hi Paul & Liz,

Thanks for your imput....

Climate being a big consideration as far as I am concerned, my research has found this simplified, but I think useful link...

I think I can put up with 'significant rainfall' (as is reported, to my dismay, in areas of Poitou Charentes, which also does not have any dry months), as long as it doesn't fall on more than a third of the available days per year......

So this table tells us that Bordeaux (which is not far from my area of Bergerac) receives 124 days of rain per annum...whereas, Poitiers in the Vienne can look forward to just 109 days.......Phew, that's a relief.....more than two thirds of the year will be dry....and being the Charentes, very likely sunny...

The Dordogne can suffer up to 3 months in the Summer with virtually no rain....which obviously causes garden watering problems...

Just out of interest Paul, what is it you dislike about Charente? We are looking at area's to buy and ultimately move to and like quite a few places we have visited in the area. As you say depends what you are after. However, Is it just the area you have moved to that doesn't suit or is there something more specific with the Charente region?

Hi Elizabeth. We came to the Lot from the Var & I agree that the bottom dropping out of the plum industry can be evident. We’ve gone for a rural location near a thriving town which seems to suit us very well. I think it depends on age, interests etc but we aren’t in any way deprived. We get subsidised French lessons, have joined in when offered and enjoy the countryside and the bang for buck aspect. I must add that I’m a real country bumpkin!
It’s low stress but not suitable in my opinion for anyone wanting bustle and a city life. We found the Var truly dead in winter because they rely so completely on tourists. It’s interesting to hear the different views here because it’s impossible to look everywhere.

Shame if it is too pricey for you, as I can’t recommend the area highly enough. It is flat though, but that just makes cycling even better! Hadn’t been on a bike for nearly 50 years before we moved here ! Good luck

We looked at Lot et G about three years ago and although house prices were enticing, we felt that the economy was very depressed and a lot of the little villages were run down with closed shops etc. in the end the lure of the Bassin was too strong. It is a possibility that we will move in land when we are older.

Hi Hilary Jane, you already know that we live in the Clunysois of Southern Burgundy. We chose it because we had a holiday here before we decided to come to France. It is absolutely beautiful with green hills and valleys and we have had the most wonderful welcome.

we are only half an hour from the A6 autoroute, so a straight drive to Calais. We have an international mix of people in the vicinity, not too many Brits.