Thursday, September 08, 2005

I have wanted to live in France for many years. When I was 15 I had done an exchange visit with a girl of similar age in quite another part of France, and decided there and then that I wanted to live here. It had not been possible before. I had tried when I was 21 and was told that I would have to retrain for my joob, 3 more years in a foreign language and where would I find the money?
Later on there were marriages - two - and children - four. The dream was always there but seemingly impossible. One wonderful day my partner, lets call him George, said,
"It might be possible".
I bought speciality magazines, read, and read, and dreamed. We contacted old friends, French friends and asked them for comments and advice. One year we took a month's holiday and did our own research. We did our own Tour de France and wandered from region to region, Burgundy to Bordeaux, Paris to the Cote d'Azur, le Puy en Velay to Poitiers. We saw such a great variety of climates and scenery. We had not fully realised the range.
We were feted by many friends who treated us to outings and fine meals, one wonderful outdoor picnic on upturned doors included 20 people, all family. They put us up and took us to places we might not have discovered on our own. We also stayed in chambres d'hotes at modest rates and found them generally to be so much more comfortable than equivalent hotels.
We visited several more times and began to refine our areas of choice. The kinds of things which influenced us were landscape, people, climate, space, cost of living and housing, (that mattered; we came from one of the lwest valued UK housing areas and still had a house there. We could not afford a second house - anywhere!)
In 2003 I retired and we started house hunting in earnest. After looking closely between Vendee and Bordeaux and Charente, we settled on Charente Maritime and finally picked a house just 5 km from Saintes. Many houses we were shown were extremely isolated. But how would our language skills improve if we were isolated? Besides, we wanted to be able to participate in local life and that would not be very easy in a house entirely on its own. Besides we decided that as we were no longer youngsters we needed to be fairly near a town of reasonable size.
In September, 2 years ago, thanks to a French mortgage, we bought our house here, met some wonderful neighbours and finally moved in on a very long, cold, wet day the following February.
We are now very well settled in and suffering the beginning of a major building renovation.

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