Hi again, Adrian. We live in the South of France, in the Aude département. Summers can get hot here and last winter, it dropped to -15C - however, the sun shone every day, and the cold snap (which made the news) only lasted about two weeks. The sunshine average is 300 days per year. We chose this area having made many, many visits to France over the last 20 years. Top of my list originally was Aix-en-Provence, and then we took a holiday on the Canal du Midi, and re-thought everything.
We sold up in Dublin and are here in our little village (roughly half-way between Carcassonne and Narbonne) since March 2011. My husband is an artist (for more than 40 years) - however my legal qualifications are useless here, so I trained as a TEFL teacher. We run weekly courses here, painting and/or English. If we've no-one booked in for a weekly course, we will do B&B. Our village is small (last census = 650) but we have a Tourist office, boulangerie, pharmacie, hairdresser, 7 restaurants and a pizza place, tabac/newsagent, two wine shops, two doctors, three nurses and an ATM machine. We are surrounded by vineyards - part of the Corbieres. We are 20 minutes from the motorway, 45 minutes from Carcassonne airport, two hours from Toulouse airport, about 60 minutes from Spain, and 35 minutes from the Med.
We are still renting, which suits us at the moment. If we see THE house, we are in a position to buy. I joined the AutoEntrepreneur scheme, which gave us a tax number and got us into the health system, so we have our Carte Vitale (I am 57 and Henry is 64 so no State pensions just yet). Kids all grown up and doing their own thing. We are very happy here and I'm glad we did it now, when we are still (relatively) young to enjoy our adventure. As of today, neither of us has any wish to go back to Ireland - yes the kids are there but most of our friends have gone, to Japan, Portugal, Spain and France. We use Skype a lot! We are complete rugby nuts so brought our Sky box with us - speaking of which, must go - England about to take on Australia. I hope you are building a good picture from the experiences of other members. France isn't for everybody, but if you are prepared to speak French and integrate somewhat, I've no doubt that it will be a great experience for you.