Where should we buy?

Hello everyone. We've just joined the Network. Lovely to 'meet' you!

We're immediately in need of advice about where to base ourselves. We've travelled a lot through most of France and know where we don't want to be, and seem to have narrowed down where do we want to be to the area below Poitou-Charentes but above Carcassonne. We've been lucky enough to live rent-free for a while in a friend's house in the Gers region, close to Fleurance and Lectoure. It's been a fantastic way of getting a feel for French life,but we also don't think it's necessarily the right area for us. That's mainly because we're not in love with Toulouse, Auch or Agen, which would be our main towns.

So...we'd really welcome some ideas. Our wishlist would be countryside within reach of a decent town that has a bit of a buzz (not non-stop partying, but maybe a good arts and music scene). Access to trains would be wonderful, though it doesn't need to be on our doorstep!

We'd prefer not to be in a large ex-pat community and I'm confused about which parts of the Dordogne that does and doesn't apply to.

We're currently considering somewhere near Cahors, Montauban, Bergerac or even Bordeaux? The Limousin has always looked interesting, but not sure about Limoges?

It may be that there are areas we haven't even considered, so do share any ideas with us.

Many thanks!

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I live in the western Haute Vienne about half an hour from Limoges.I also spend a lot of time in Cahors and Montauban. Limoges is a busy town with just about everything you need plus a pretty good music scene. Cahors and to a lesser extent Montauban are cultural wastelands in comparison. The western Hte Vienne isn't paradise and it's not too over populated with expats but it has a pleasant enough climate ie not too cold in the winter and not too hot in the summer. The people are friendly and property prices are reasonable. There is good access to all points of the compass and the airport is very handy. The southern part of the Hte Vienne also is very pretty with Limoges just a short ride up the main road.

Have you tried the areas to the east of Toulouse ? Albi is great and towns like Lavaur and Gaillac are not too bad. The Correze is to rural for me, the Dordogne has too many English voices, the Aveyron is pleasant enough and maybe worth a look though maybe a bit 'quiet' on the social scene.

France is such a varied country and differs so much from region to region. Above all I would say do as much research as you can and don't take everything that expats say as gospel! People have different opinions of each region or even Department and what is one persons holy grail is another's nightmare!

We clearly didn't do enough research before buying in France and ended up in the Charente department that we just haven't settled in and don't enjoy living here much. With more research we would have probably realised that the climate here is just too hot in the summer for us (we have lived in North Wales and Scotand!) for example. However Charente and neighbouring Deux Sevres are massively popular with the Brits and we have just sold our house to Brits. We have been lucky, to sell our renovated property quickly and now we can consider other areas that suit us better.

We won't make the same mistakes again.

We really like Limousin and particularly southern Creuse and the north of Correze. Yes it's generally much cooler in the summer over that way because of the altitude, rains a fair bit more than were we are now and can have harsh winters, but that suits us! We need more rain as we are very keen gardeners!

When we did our original search we discarded checking out anywhere east of Limoges because someone told us it rained all the time!! It's simply not true! It is just someone's perpective. If they had lived in North Wales or the Scottish Highlands then they could describe it as a place where it rains all the time!!

We are also considering Auvergne and in particular Puy De Dome. Some people have said that Clermont Ferrand is a dump, yet other people we have met have raved about it (we haven't been yet!). Same with Limoges. We love it, but a Parisian French women we met once (in the UK) said it was like Coventry!! (not been there myself??)

They say that Limousin is the green heart of France and it certainly has some beautiful green countryside. Also it offers good value property wise and Limoges has all we would want from a small city.

At the end of the day it is horses for courses. I would suggest maybe renting in an area before buying. It's a lot easier ending a rental contract than selling a house!!

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Limoger means to put an incompetent person (army, originally) away where they can't do any harm and their career stops, sending someone to Coventry is not talking to them so possibly there's a parallel...

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Now I know why I was transferred to Limoges city centre for 5 years !!

Top tip - forget Coventry, it's a dump. A bit like Mont de Marsan but worse...

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'limoger' is used in a professional context. "From the town of Limoges, which was far away from the World War I front and where General Joffre consequently sent senior staff whom he considered useless and had relieved from actual command. " It isn't unlike ' mettre au placard'.

Originally, to send someone to Coventry was to put the person in quarantine, so the French equivalent of that original use would simply be 'mettre en quarantaine', and the modern use would be ' mettre à l'écart' or 'laisser sur la touche'.

Here's an article which might help

http://www.thelocal.fr/galleries/lifestyle/top-10-the-happiest-and-unhappiest-places-to-live-in-france

Agree about the 'unhappiest' bits but the so-called 'happiest' bits do not taly with my experiences.

I find Paris is well, Paris a sprawling metropole with too many people, unclean air and a dodgy climate. The Loire Valley depresses me with it's blandness except for a few nice chateaux that is and the Rhone Alps gets too steamy in summer and has far too many people and cars.

The Midi Pyrenees is more to my liking along with Aquitaine.

I agree about polluted Paris.

Le Hérault (Montpellier) and les Pyrénées Orientales (Perpignan area) are fine too.

One important factor in the purchase of property is, of course, its price. Toulouse prices are a bit steep. 30 minutes' drive from the centre is affordable. That's good news for retired people, but not so practical to people whose kids are at school in a main town.

I'm quite happy to stay here in Reims till I retire. 5 minutes from my place there's the TGV station, and in 33 minutes I'm at Charles De Gaulle Airport. Terrific for trips to Scotland.

I've been to Reims a few times over the years and I just can't gt to like the place. I find it quite 'dingey'. maybe i've missed something ? The cathedral is superb of course and i''ve often made detours especially to stop off and see the stained glass windows by Chagall.

Quite agree about Toulouse. I spend quite a lot of time there but much prefer towns to the east like Albi etc. Prices in that area are more reasonable and the motorway makes visiting Toulouse so easy nowadays.

We have family at Compiègne and always enjoy our stays there. The people seem to be much more friendly in that area than many parts of France i've visited or lived?

I understand what you mean about Reims. However it is looking better now with the tramway, and la Cité de l'Automobile which has moved car-showrooms to the outskirts. I do appreciate la Vallée de la Marne between Epernay and Dormans.

Reims is where I sleep. I normally get home about 10pm so apart from having a postal address I can't claim to be Rémois. Mondays and Tuesdays I'm in the Aube region.

Once I've finished working I'll be moving closer to the sea, hopefully in Tuscany.

Compiegne is excellent, especially if you ride a horse. The forest is terrific.

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Yes, Compiègne is nice with some good restos too. There is a fine Pakistani resto as well as some more traditional fare. There is a particularly superb resto (pas cher) nearby at Longueuil Annel..

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Bordeaux is a great place if you want culture and interesting stuff to do. If it’s too much of a city, then Bayonne is smaller and on the coast but there is significantly less going on. Having said that the whole of the southern Landes / Pays Basque coastal strip is undergoing massive expansion so it’s only going to get busier with more things to do. I think if I was going to move, I’d probably head up the coast so that I would be within easier striking distance of Bordeaux - half an hour outside of town would give me the best of both worlds.
Definitely agree that renting is a great idea. However, it’s often difficult to arrange if you don’t have a salaried job as French landlords are generally reluctant to rent to the self-employed.

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Theo, First thing you have to get sorted, is why do want to move to France. You say you don’t want to land in little Britain, so that rules out the Dordogne, most of les Charentes, quite a bit of the Limousin.

French rural social life mostly revolves round piss-ups in the salles des fêtes, which expat friends of mine regularly attend, resulting in them meeting many local people and making good social friendships. However this doesn’t include invites to their houses, as would be the case in the UK or Eire.

If you are escaping UK suburban/urban life, then rural France isn’t the best option, unless you have the means to occupy your time, like working from home, writing and art. There isn’t the pub culture, which exists on the islands, and the only bars, which are busy are either expat or PMU (bookies). Friends of mine join the confraternities, which exist in some of the larger villages and small towns. The one nearest to me involves communal meals where everyone brings food, which some times has a “theme”. This sort of socializing brings the benefit of having many people who will stop and chat in the street or shops. If you have primary age children, this is another way to meet locals and become part of the “hello, how are you?” system.

French rural cultural life revolves round the salle des fêtes in the shape of concerts and lotto evenings, the hunt, fishing clubs and other venues, such as vernissages and festivals.

I was lucky in meeting up with a nice french lady and her extended family. My french neighbours happen to share a couple of interests, so we get on like a house on fire: I was lucky.

Northern French from the Isle de France, for example, find themselves in the same boat as the expats from the islands, when it comes to mixing with the locals. It’s marginally easier if they have jobs in local businesses, but the emphases is on “marginally”! French intellectuals have a real problem, which doesn’t get easier with time, as most of them have come to the countryside to get away from their kind! The locals treat them with a strange respect, and more often than not, will tell you all about them: they are sort of “pets”, almost like the zoo.

There is a sort of grey area, where long-term expats with good French belong to a “higher level” (mostly driven by snobbery) of local and blow-in french society. The French belonging to this level, I find mostly quite interesting and sociable, but the majority of the expats, who are involved, are insufferable snobs, and can’t wait to tell you how they were seated next to the Comte de Paris! Being a radio producer, I am in a sort of limbo, but a very amusing one!

I think that’s enough for now.

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Thanks to everyone who’s been kind enough to give me their thoughts. And to Vincent for his reality check!

I wonder what the advice would be to a French person trying to decide where to live in the UK. Would we come across as welcoming and accommodating? Would there be some no-go areas?

The ‘why do you want to move to France?’ question is a good one and it’s made me take stock. I imagine that everyone in this network has an affection for France. That perhaps goes without saying, though some ‘affections’ may be deeper than others, of course (weather and wine being at the shallower end, maybe).

I don’t see France as an escape from anything. I have a lovely life in the UK. But, I’ve spent a lot of time in France, speak reasonable French (with lots of room for improvement) and feel drawn there again and again. That may be a bit of a cop-out in terms of an explanation, but I do think there’s an immediate difference between those who emigrate for negative reasons (ie, escape) and those who feel a positive pull.

I don’t like cities very much (just for the occasional visit), and my desire to be close to something isn’t so much about constant activity but about the chance to meet like-minded people.

I’m a self-employed writer and can work from virtually anywhere, plus I’ve also taught English overseas. I’d want to spend time improving my French, getting involved in something art/photography related, maybe finding a local guitar teacher, helping out in the community in some way…and there’s probably more. I suppose all I’m saying is that I’m looking for a rural-ish area where at least some of these things might be possible.

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A line in a song: “I’m going where the weather suits my clothes”. We too are a Scots / Welsh union and find south Brittany is perfect. Its an active agricultural region with a healthy disresepct for neatness / authority (this is the land of Asterix, and mystic legends) and has an active cultural tradition. Rennes or Vannes has fast TGV connections so a day trip to Paris is pefectly feasible (last train home +/- 10pm). The coastline is the best in France, especially if you enjoy small boat navigation.

And it is still possible to avoid English-speaking ghettos, if desired.

On returning from a business trip to Bordeaux, with it’s neatly clipped vineyards and scorching heat, it was a delight to return to the verdant north. Enjoy the hunt!

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Not many people consider the Allier and we never know why (maybe because so many do seek a large ex-pat community!), where we live we have a choice of the historic towns of Moulins & Montlucon and the Spa Town of Vichy all of which are between 20 and 40 mins drive, Clermont Ferrand is just a 1 hour drive, this also means we have a very good choice of Hospitals and major shops to chose from. The weather is continental, the landscape is very much like Wales, although there is an ex-pat community here you find that they tend to keep themselves to themselves and just get on with life. Moulins (which is closest to us) also has a good train station with regular trains to Paris etc.

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I used to live in the Tarn, 40km from Albi and 9 km from Cordes, loved it but had an op and the house was too big so moved to the Lot et Garonne near Eymet. Probably too many Brits here.
BREXIT has killed the house market , so I can’t sell my house in the Tarn: it is with Agence L’Union in St Antonin if you are remotely interested!

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Have a look at the ara around St Foy La Grande. On a railway line (not sure if its TGV - probably not. ^ hours from St Malo by car. Lovely country side. Dryer than Dordogne. Town is a bit depressed at the moment with many empty shops but has a good Lycees and “toute commerce” still. Easy access to Bordeaux. Airports at Bordeaux and Bergerac.

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Sainte Foy la grande unfortunately got a bad name with the ex-pats a few years ago, when it was claimed to have a high crime rate. The local wine is part of the Bergerac system: Montravel. The rail service goes from Sarlat direct to Bordeaux, but is single line running. The town is quite interesting and has a bastide square, and a port on the river, which is tidal.
Theo, you mention you are a writer and hope to meet like minded people: don’t hold your breath! Andrea Frazer the best selling author (400,000 in three years!) lives in the western Dordogne, and Xavier Cadiot, the french writer, lives not far from me. Other than that, we are thin on the ground, pertly because most of us writers tend to be below the radar. Rick Lee, whom I interviewed (currently being rebroadcast) is an interesting fellow, and doesn’t mind being above the radar, was for a time in Ribérac.
I think your best option is to get a holiday place, which doesn’t commit you to permanency, a sort of halfway house, so to speak. Even if you spend more time in it, than in the UK, it still leaves you with the option. Property prices are such, that it wouldn’t cost an arm or a leg. Rural life here can be very cheap. The community charges are low, compared to the villages and towns. I’m completely off grid, no water or electricity connections and eco loos. The Good Life, without Penelope Keith! Solar panels are now very cheap, as are wind turbines, and water filtration systems also keep the costs down. Being rural and not in a commune village, avoids being part of a municipal sewerage system, which are expensive.
What do you write about?

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