Where's the best place to live in France?!


(Lindsey Hill) #1

Hello everyone, I have just joined the group and am starting to consider a permanent move to France. I lived and worked in Fontainebleau for 2 years a very, VERY long time ago, so I do speak French, but it's a bit rusty. Hopefully it will come back fairly quickly.

I'm on my own, with 2 golden retrievers. I'm a lawyer, working part time as a consultant - and I'm also a writer. I'd like to wind down the legal work and semi retire, continuing with writing, but also perhaps getting a back-up income from renting out a gite or two.

My dilemma is where on earth to go - France is huge! The weather's a biggie for me and I ideally don't want to move to somewhere where the climate is essentially similar to the UK. I love the great outdoors and walking the countryside with my dogs and I'm heartily sick of doing so in mud for about 8 months of the year in Gloucestershire! I don't mind a cold-ish winter, especially if it tends towards crisp and frosty rather than excessively wet and windy.

I'm driving down to the Dordogne next month, arriving on 6 June, and staying mid-way between Angouleme and Perigueux for 3 weeks, having arranged a handy house swap. So I will start exploring then. It would be great to hear the experiences of anyone in that area, especially if you are close enough for us to be able to say hello while I'm there. And also just to hear others' thoughts on whichever area of France they have chosen to live.

I absolutely loved my time living in France before, am fairly outgoing and sociable and was lucky to get on well with French people... but somehow it all feels a little more daunting this time around, approaching retirement age and considering a move to an area where I will know absolutely no one. So it would also be lovely to hear from anyone who has also done this on their own. Thank you!


(Graham Lees) #2

Hi Lindsey.

A toughie...

If you like it hot, then the south of France may be for you but for us, the climate in the Charente (16) best suits us.

Sheltered from the worst of the Atlantic to the west and the massif central to the east, it remains nice and green for the most part with it's own micro climate and good transport links by road and air to cover most requirments.

Have a good look round when you are in this area; Angoulême and Perigueux are good starting points and should give you a fair impression of the area.


(Lindsey Hill) #3

Thanks Graham, that's really helpful. Much as I love the idea of the south of France, I suspect my budget might stretch a bit further elsewhere! I'll be staying just outside the Charente border, I think, so will definitely be able to have a look around there, as you suggest.


(Chris Coughlan) #4

Hi Lindsey

As Graham says that's quite a toughie! We live in the Languedoc region which doesn't command the higher prices that you would find in Provence and property is always available. It's still a buyer's market so you can afford to be choosy. You may avoid the rain further south but there's often a keen wind that keeps it slightly cooler in summer.

On a more serious note, do work out why you wish to be here. Coming for weather and nice walks, cheaper property and good food and wine at a cheap price are not enough in itself. Do you have any family or friends that you miss? Will you keep somewhere in the UK to retreat to in case things don't work out? Transport links are brilliant here (if you can avoid strike days!) so getting back when necessary isn't often a problem. Apologies for being the devil's advocate but it's important to get it right!

I wish you all the best in your search

Chris


(Lindsey Hill) #5

Hi Chris, no need to apologise - you make a very good point! Yes, there are people I would miss, but I think they would visit. And as you say, transport is good if I wanted to pop back. I spent 2 months in the Languedoc many years ago and loved it. Definitely somewhere I would consider.

Depending on the type of house I could find, I might also be able to keep a place in the UK, which, as you say, is a serious consideration.

It's very early days, which is why it's great to have found this site and to able to seek feedback... but for some reason I have always felt incredibly 'at home' in France and my gut feeling is it might be where I'm meant to be. Perhaps I lived there in a former life ;-) Thanks for your thoughts, Chris, much appreciated.


(Peter Bird) #6

The climate in Charente can vary, depending on where you are. The climate in the Cognac area is quite different to the Confolens area for example. The department itself is one the poorer French departments when compared to the Dordogne and to a lesser extent, the Haute Vienne. Many parts of the Charente have a high expat population which may be what your looking for though many try to avoid the expat hot-spots. I've always found the expat population in the Charente mirrors the cross-section of the UK population resident in the UK itself, warts'n all.


(Jane Brewer) #7

Hi Lindsey, I took slightly early retirement and moved on my own to North West Dordogne in February this year. Can't be too far from where you are going to be staying. I knew this area well from lots of visits. When I arrived here it felt like coming home and I can't believe my luck at living in such a beautiful part of France. I have met some great people whose help and advice has been invaluable. Please let me know if I can help with anything.


(Lois Carrington) #8

From your description Lindsey you have hit on the right area.

I live near Nontron. I have a place like many others round here where the woods with miles of walking tracks are outside my front door, and the river Bandiat meanders past my old watermill.

I wish in some ways that I was a tad nearer to Perigueux. I love the atmosphere there on a Saturday morning, and it offers some more cultural activities, and transport links. Do consider your proximity to activities and transport when you choose. I was looking for seclusion, and being far from a road and traffic when I chose, and now it is a long way to either, well an hour's drive.

In reality I live in my own personal writer's heaven, but I am the only one here! I would like to meet more of my fellow man sometimes. Be careful not to isolate yourself too much wherever you end up!

I think in many ways I wish I was a tad further south.

Lois


(Phil Harrison) #9

Hi Lindsey,

Like Chris, we have a home in the Languedoc, just a holiday home, as our main base is the Isle of Man. Our French house is in the village of Pepieux, pop 1000, in the Minervois, on a plain between the Montagne Noire to the North and the Corbiere Hills to the South.

It's very handy for transport back to the UK - Carcassonne Airport is about 40 mins away, as is Beziers Airport. Both have Ryanair flights, although Beziers is just a summer hub.

The beaches just the other side of Narbonne, are about 40 mins as well, our favourite being Gruissan. Narbonne itself is a lovely city.

Olonzac, about 2 miles away from our house, is the local market 'town', and the Cafe de la Poste is the English speakers meeting point, if you would like that option. The Canal du Midi passes a couple of miles away too, at Homps, which has a number of canalside restaurants in the Summer months.

Just a few thoughts and 'tasters'. Good luck with your house searching, hope you enjoy the hunt!!

Phil


(Richard Baldock) #10

Very interesting... We have been in France for the best part of the last 2 years on a similar quest.... The weather too I important for us, but also the scenery, community and available activities. Can't say we have found it yet, but compromise it a must....


(Lis Steeden) #11

Hi Lindsey,

I think we all, hopefully, will recommend the area we have chosen to live in. We travelled all over France for years, on holiday. We liked Dordogne and Languedoc-Roussillon very much, but Provence, every time we returned, in the end won. We are sort of half way between Avignon and Aix-en-Provence, and Aix is very much one of the reasons we are where we are, as we absolutely love this beautiful place. I run a small B&B in a village famous for its music festival every July and August, my companion is the lovely 18 months old Max, a Golden Retriever, named mad Max once in a while! I have become a member of a group here, which I can tell you about, should you one day decide to come this way! We have the beautiful villages Lourmarin, Cucuron, Bonnieux very near by and Gordes and many more just a but further. Looking out the window every morning, whatever the weather, seeing the Luberon mountains is pretty dawn wonderful view. ;)


(John Hedman) #12

Hi Lindsey

We are in the south west region of the Pyrenees Atlantique dept 64, loads of English speekers here with a nice support by local English estate agent .Im not quite near retirement but have managed on a part time job while renovating, prices for property all dependent on how much work needs doing but a very through doe test and walk around should be a good indicator as to a lick of paint or wall down and up job.


(Sarah Ross) #13

Hi Lindsay, I too am from Gloucestershire, I've got a small cottage there but it's rented out mostly to cover the mortgage for another 10 years, so I guess psychologically that makes me feel I could bolt home but then I'd have to repeat the cycle of sitting at the computer 10 hours a day to earn a living to cover the bills and at my age I felt it was slowly killing me after 35 years of it! I haven't been to France much but studied French at school; am a massive fan of the all the property programmes; 3 years ago on "Home or Away", they featured the Limousin as undiscovered and "you get more for your money" so I thought, that's where I will look and it stayed in my mind. When I got divorced 10 years ago I wanted to move to France as you get more house for your money and I love old properties and renovations and entertaining/B&B etc. I don't know why, I just feel so comfortable here. I see the communication via the internet so I never feel alone as I still do some work online just not so much, I have an elderly mother in the UK but otherwise nothing to return to the UK for. My daughter was young then and said no to France. Then a year ago things changed and I could do it.

I spent a year researching France online and properties. Budget for me was a serious consideration. I looked from the line from Bordeaux to Bergerac to Brive-la-Galliarde. I don't like too much heat all the time and although my heart wanted a country property with land for rescue animals, my head and my friends said at my age I needed to consider communications, ease of travel for my daughter, and to be in a town so I would have company when older and a manageable house, not a "money pit" in the country. I also did not want to spend time and money on viewing trips, so I cashed up and put my offers in, drove over, rented a property via AirBnB for 5 weeks and completed the purchase of the only house I viewed inside - a massive, very old stone townhouse in the medieval old town of Uzerche, (dept 19) in the Correze, overlooking the river Vezere. I love history, the family was delightful, the house amazing - just enough for me to do without too much and I am still awaiting my own furniture to arrive from the UK, yet you'd think I'd always been here. Haven't found out yet how to dispose of my rubbish but I will, have even managed to return to the UK as a holiday for 10 days to sort some stuff out. A neighbour stopped to chat yesterday; two neighbours chatted to me the other day. Some other English people saw me move in and came round with a homemade cake. The river walks are stunning, the countryside beautiful for dog-walking. I decided against the Creuse (too remote) and did not want to be as far up as Aubusson. The other property on my shortlist was even bigger, set in the country over towards Rochachouart and had 2 acres - I was sorely tempted and I did drive over one day and sit on the wall outside wondering whether to buy that or the townhouse. In the end I plumped for the town house being sensible and taking friends advice who have a house in Italy. I did like Haute Vienne and also the Charente, I found Charente Maritime more expensive, and I did not want to go on airplanes cos of the dogs so I drive up to Le Havre, so did not want to be down as far as Carcassone or that heat - too much for me! I found Provence too expensive for me. I love history so for me it's perfect here and I feel I can make a life here. Anyhow the house is easily set up as 3 or 4 apartments so can rent it out although the tourist season is short in Uzerche. As we are a bit higher if there's a cloud, we catch it but for me I got more house for my money and spectacular beauty and a friendly community and good communications via Limoges, Brive or Bergerac and it left me enough money in the bank to be comfortable and to be able to start again with work and new projects before I felt too old to do so. I am 60 next year, so I can see some similarities with your situation.

Happy to meet up while you are over here. If you'd like to come over and visit you'd be more than welcome. I moved on my own but in Gloucestershire I was struggling to pay all the bills, tired of the work, feeling old and stiff and my big idea of a treat was going out to Waitrose Cirencester to treat myself to a coffee once a week.

Last Christmas my mother was ill, my daughter was with my ex and I spent 4 weeks including Christmas day - and the dog died on Xmas day too - on my own with tree and presents wrapped up - I just thought I don't have to be in this state any more so I set about changing it. Stopped work, did the house up spent 300 hours cleaning and painting from top to bottom, got a buyer at full asking price - first person who walked through the door, sold up and completed my purchase here in France in 5 weeks, the Notaire and estate agent were all marvellous.


(Bruce Brewer) #14

We had a house in Picardie for 10 years and this one here in the Vienne for 20. Both totally different areas but the main thing is being flexible. Each time we had a pros and cons list. If it got to about 7 out of 10 then that was enough. We knew that we'd never get 10 out of 10 and even now we can look and think, "If only", but that's life. For instance, we love being out in the sticks but it's often a bore having to go 10 kms to the shops. You'll never find everything but don't miss out on the 7 points house looking for the 10!


(Gordon Barnes) #15

Hi Lindsey,

Difficult to be sure you make the right decision!

We moved here in 2004 and decided to rent in the Tarne et garonne after visting in the summer when it was beautiful.

But renting from October to march was so useful as we then discovered the cold wet foggy weather we had and started to look elsewhere.

We searched in Languedoc but the house prices were too high and it was too windy (we are keen cyclists). We gradually searched further west and we have now been in the southern part of the Dordogne since 2005 and love the area.

The fact that there is a high percentage of Brits in Dordogne should speak for itselfbut all our neighbours are French - we live 3kms from the nearest town with walks & bike rides all around & great views.

As a Chartered Surveyor I travel all over SW France from the Cahrente down to the Pyrenees, the Gers etc and can vouch for the best climate in the area where we live.

In my opinion the area between Angouleme & Perigueux is too much like parts of UK and very flat in places. The weather is also a couple or more degrees cooler than the Dordogne on any given day i have visited.

I would therefore suggest you rent for a period which gives you the chance to look at all the areas recomended to you.

One over riding piece of advice is not to be too remote from the everyday services you will have ben used to in UK - such as shops, doctors, restaurants, garages etc.

Good luck!


(Simon Newton) #16

Good morning Lindsay from a sunny Beaujolais - and yes that's my recommendation, why? Well apart from the fact it's where we live it has:

  • Great food
  • Great wines (not just Beaujolais...)
  • Great connections - Auto route de Soleil/Train (Paris 1h40, London 5 hours)/Airport with connections to most of Europe and further
  • Lyon, a great city for that city fix and all that you would expect from a 2nd city
  • Countryside - many refer to the Beaujolais hills as just like Chianti and I agree (my wife is half Italian and from Tuscany)
  • Reasonable property prices despite the above
  • Not so many Brits but enough to have the odd Brit get together
  • Longer summers and colder winters than the UK (real continental weather)
  • Alps are visible from Beaujolais so skiing can be a day trip
  • the list can go on...

Many just pass this area by on the drive south or pop off the auto route for a night stop - we stopped once and now live here, what more can I say.

One negative - and this is general - we don't have a dog but know many who do, vets bills are high here!!!


(Nicole Hammond) #17

Hi Lindsey - I live in the Languedoc (Hérault - between Béziers and Pézenas). I've been here 14 years now and love it! I don't think I could move back to the UK now - everyone seems to eat so quickly! :) Three years ago I started an anglophone ladies' group in this area called Ladies in Languedoc. We now have over 1500 members! This has helped no end of ladies with everything from feelings of solitude to finding a good plumber, from support through illness to great restaurant reviews and we regularly organise lunches and other outings in different parts of the Languedoc so everyone gets a chance to meet up and see the faces behind the names that post in the group. I also work for a company that helps with relocating to France, including finding a place to buy or rent, and all the lovely French paperwork that is associated with settling down here! So I'd recommend the Languedoc, as the transition to our lovely beautiful, sunny area (and yes, as above, property prices are not 'Provençal'!), where you are near to coast and mountains, could be made that little bit easier with a bump up from LIL for your social life and me for your serious stuff! :) nicole@renestance.com www.renestance.com. Whatever you decide to do, wishing you all the very best of luck for your French future! Nicole x


(anne rix) #18

hi try the Lot department near Cahors or Montcuq lovely area i lived there for 8 years the nearby town of Montaigue de quercy is also great there are brits there and an english library an international club which is very friendly

only came back to uk for familly reasons wonderful area with lakes and good markets etc etc


(Steve YATES 2) #19

As far as vets are concerned, their prices do vary. I realised too late that the vet I was using seemed to be more interested in selling stuff than what was best for the animal concerned.


(Sue Langbant) #20

Hi Lindsey, Definitely Charroux, on the Charente / Vienne border. Loads going on, especially in summer. We even have a literary festival. I am extremely biased though :-) Good luck with your search.