When Did You Decide To Move To France?

I would imagine that all of us have been asked, at one time or another about our reasons for moving to France.

The question is generally fired in our direction by French neighbours and friends who perhaps regard us with a bit of cautious curiosity.

However, can anyone remember WHEN you decided to move and where you were at the time?

I distinctly remember where I was and the occasion.

I was on my honeymoon in April 1990 with my husband Nick. (obviously!)

We were staying over in Le Mans en route to Barcelona.

We had just been to one of our favourite restaurants there called Le Grenier A Sel, and were taking a stroll along the banks of the river Sarthe.

We found a cosy bench, and sat down overlooking the river and let the water and time pass slowly.

As ever, we talked about our love of France, and how happy we were to be back there.

Suddenly, out of the blue, Nick said to me:

“Promise me that we will move here one day”

Twenty one years on, it’s good to know that we kept one of our first promises as husband and wife.

So, what about you? When was your deciding moment?

It was on my very first visit to France and we were driving down through Normandy having got off the ferry at Ouistreham when I experienced overwhelming feelings of déjà vue and of having coming home and at that point I knew that I would love to live in France. It has been many years and many heart-breaks since then but three years ago after my mother died and the children had flown the nest and I was once again unattached I decided it was now or never. There were so many areas and departments which appealed but after lots of thought and ease of access to the UK being a prime consideration I decided to settle in the north. I found a house which felt right and I now have one foot in France – I work term time in the UK and have the holidays and some weekends at home in France. In the intervening period I saw a medium who told me I had been a French lady in a previous life (as well as various other persona, some not quite as desirable) and it does intrigue me and possibly if I get the opportunity in the future I might consider regression therapy.

In 1989 my South African wife [Thora], the children & I moved from Berkshire to Devon, and after the usual South African “must” of Greek Island holidays, we started to take the children on holidays from Devon across the Channel to Brittany with Eurocamp. After several years of paying over the odds to “survive” under canvas with the rip-off camping companies we decided to purchase a house near Carhaix in Brittany in 2000. We soon discovered that Brittany had marginally worse weather than even wet Devon, so sold our renovated “Changing Rooms” home, which we loved and moved south to the Aude via a 4-year ownership in the Vienne. So basically holidays converted us to the basic idea of France, and economics made property ownership more attractive than package holidays.

Having spent my working life wandering around the world for Reuters, there were a lot of places to choose from when I retired back in 1997. I think our current home is probably the 15th or 16th house we’ve lived in. The place we would both have liked to live was Kenya where we spent more than five wonderful years rattling round the country in an old Land Rover. We wouldn’t have left if Reuters hadn’t insisted it was time for a reality check on the desk in London! But it didn’t seem sensible or safe at the time so it came down to a choice between the UK and France. Neither of us like living in the UK, my wife is French, our son thinks of our former house in Paris as his childhood home and I’ve spoken French every day since 1962. So the real choice wasn’t which country but where in France. We spent three years looking for a new home before settling on the third house we’d seen, still on the market at way below the original asking price, in Lozère, where we first met nearly 50 years ago and within sight of Mont Aigoual close to where my wife was born. A coincidence, really; despite our ties to Lozère we’d had no preconceptions about where we wanted to live provided it wasn’t in a major city.

1989 March (or April), London, Covent Garden in some café, my French boyfriend asked me if I thought it possible at some time that we might get married and if so it would be a good idea if I came to live with him in France first. And I said yes I did and yes I would.

I arrived the following July.

We came to France to escape a continually changing England - and we didnt like the changes. We got married in Pas de Calais and we were the first people to marry in the tiny Mairie of Rebreuviette! What a business however to get everything translated - even my birth certificate! It was the funniest day of my life and I dont think we stopped laughing - my husband doesnt speak French well so the proverbial nudge on the “I do” was essential - frites and a constantly melting ice-cream cake with five people present was the reception - I recommend it!

We were having dinner with our Iranian neighbours in Athens. We knew that retirement was looming and couldn’t decide where we wanted to live in the UK. Forty plus years travelling around the world with the Diplomatic Service and soon we would be ‘on our own’. We had done a posting in Paris in the late 70s and had enjoyed holidays in Gascony. Ahmed suggested that we bought a house in France. Suddenly that became the obvious choice. Many months of browsing on the internet followed. We decided on the Limousin as it was then undiscovered. February 1999 we left Greece and drove back to the UK stopping in France en route. Hectic few days of viewing houses, fell in love with one, set everything in motion and drove on to the UK to put our house on the market. Twelve years later my only regret was buying that first house - complete disaster!

We’d had a rough time financially and emotionally helping out others and we felt totally disillusioned with life. We were working and commuting ridiculous hours. We had 2 mortgages. We started spending more and more time in France at our holiday home and one day decided to spend 3 months over summer there to readdress the balance of work/life and to have a bash at setting up some of our own web ideas. We had a great summer & decided to start a family (it must have been the vin rouge) and that was it really, we saw the kids being walked to school in the morning, home for lunch, back to school - no cars or buses required (primary age obviously) and decided it was just what we wanted our lifestyle to be. Before the 3m was up we had a new life plan, having already sold our UK home & paid off our french mortgage (thereby removing the pressure for us both to work) we were expecting enfant no 1. It felt fantastic, we then had a fantastic time in France to enjoy our first child before we were tempted back to chase some euros in Dublin & Germany. No 2 came along in November last year and we decided to get a bigger house which is why we are currently living un pied dans deux pays trying to pay our new french mortgage for a while. We’re looking forward to settling back in France soon so we can start our next project. We never had a dream, we didn’t long to live in France for years, we just had a conversation with the partner of a friend of mine who said ‘why not work from home in France? Do your own thing? Give it a go & see how you get on, you can always contract again’ This was the turning point for us!