'It is a wrench to leave France'
Second home owners discuss missing France when they're not here, and whether they might move permanently
For many of us, France is our permanent home - but a similar number of Connexion readers are part-time residents who split their time between two (or more) countries. This week we'd like to hear how you deal with the to-ing and fro-ing and whether 'France withdrawal' is an issue for you.
The topic came up in an article by Karen Fawcett, the founder of BonjourParis.com - a site primarily for Americans who live in (or just love) Paris. She says the more time she spends away from the city, the more she finds herself becoming "incredibly sentimental" about it.
Readers replied with examples of what they do to remind themselves of France while they are away. Answers include: "I'll listen to France Bleu - it's fun listening to the traffic reports" and: "I take French lessons, read blogs, study French wine and plan my next trip."
Are you counting down the days to your next visit to France? Do you enjoy having the best of both worlds - or are you itching to make a permanent move? Do you find yourself doing "French" things while you're not here, to remind yourself of France?
And if you've already made the switch to full-time living in France, was there a particular turning point when you realised France was home for you and that you should take the plunge? Do you find yourself missing France whenever you're away?
Connexion newsletter readers share their thoughts...
Living near to London and Gatwick airport is an ideal location for picking the best things to do in the area with longstanding family and friends close by. We have always had holidays in France with the children and came to love France, however living in France is not a holiday. When we retired we decided to buy a property in France but quickly came to the conclusion that a holiday home was not the answer, we wanted a second home. It did not have to therefore have to meet all the criteria of a permanent home and was certainly not a place to let in a holiday resort. Having lived in London and worked in Switzerland commuting as our lifestyle demanded we wanted somewhere easily accessible to an Airport and far enough south to have good weather and access to the Pyrenees. The place we selected was in the Boulogne sur Gesse, in the Haute Garonne. Our house in the village square adjacent to the Church, 200yrs old and offers us the peace and quiet that we lack living in London.
To-ing and fro-ing is no problem, we can get a flight at Gatwick at 06:30 and are at home by 11:00am. It offers us the base to spend days away in all the southern France and Spanish tourist areas which are a short drive away as well as the tranquillity of French village life. We treat a second home in France as a luxury we can afford, at the moment, but when or if we need residential care in old age then England must be our consideration to be near friends and family.
We are welcomed by the village who see us renovating one of their properties that must eventually return for the benefit of the French as very few people seem to adopt this transient life-style alway from the popular touristareas. However, it is the one way to become part of a French community. We spend at least 30% of our time in France and try to join in all the major events that take place in the village.
The people we talk to at home always have the idea that a second home is a holiday home, but for us it's a place to live and to become part of a French community even if its only on a part time basis and until we get too old to travel and look after both properties.
I'm a retired military man married to a French woman. I have been used to call home wherever I hung my hat. I was working civil service in Germany prior to retirement and we were a bit undecided about where to retire. We chose France even though my wife had no living relatives there. I had always enjoyed going to France and we purchased a house in the center of France (Cher). We have lived here 16 years now and I have never regretted the move here. I've been back to the States several times, but always seem to miss France. I guess I'm stuck for good now!
Bill and Colette
I miss France every moment I'm away. When on my way home from Ireland I love flying over the Norman fields and seeing the Seine loop through the yellow patches. And the first view of Paris, whether from the air or on the ground is always a blast of beauty. I have lived here since 1968 when I came with my family, have lived not only in Paris, but other more rural places, if you can call the south of France rural. I co-direct Dear Conjunction theatre company, a professional bilingual company with English born actor Les Clack. When my husband died four years ago, I could think of no better home, so I'm still here. A stroll down the quays of the Seine on a summer's night convinces me even more. Spend the weekend at home: read the papers or a novel by Balzac, a little poetry by Baudleaire, go to the museums, walk, go to a café to a restaurant. Understand the people around you. What made them. What's making you. It's a unique experience to feel part of it all. Maybe even feel a little French, feel that need to travel with a Guide Michelin whereever you go, because the French people take a true interest in every corner of their 'patrimoine'.
My husband and I have been to and from the Var for 25 years now. We have a house in a small village which is quite idillyic and have thought many times about moving permanently down there. However we havent made that decision and so consequently make many journeys in the year back and forth. When we are there after a few weeks we want to get back home. After a few days in UK we want to be back there. Does anyone have the same feelings as ourselves??
For reasons that still elude me, my wife and I bought a small house, actually and old butcher's shop, in the sleepy town of Esperaza in the Aude Valley in 2007. Having had the initial rush of excitement pass, we thought that our interest would wane.
However, precisely the opposite has happened; as we get to know the local community better, both French and expat, we appreciate the place more; we find the withdrawal harder, and work increasingly difficult to concentrate upon! Our plans to spend a month there from time to time stretch to two months, and I am gradually trying to do more and more work virtually to allow more and more time in Esperaza.
Otherwise, learning the language, day dreaming and understanding more about the soul of life in France is wonderful, energising and we can't wait to get back!
Our decision to move to live in France full time was made in 2006, we had a house here for 20 years which we used for holidays but my husband was seriously ill in 2006 and when he had recovered our daughter and family said they were going to live the other side of England and would we like to move and live them or stay as we were with
holidays in France or move to live full time. We came out here at the end of 2006 for 6 weeks and made our decision.
In March 2007 we put our flat on the market which was sold within weeks and we moved out here July 2007 and have never regretted the decision.
We go back each year for a couple of weeks which reminds us why we prefer France, the quality of life, lower cost of living, the health service, the friends French and English that we have here, we are also involved in our local village with different activities.
We had realised in 2006 as I had retired and my husband had to stop work because of health problems that the time would come when we had to decide where we were going to live as it was going to be financial impossible to keep two homes going, this was the best decision we have ever made
I get down to Provence two to four times a year. When not there i spend most of my time wishing i was there. The euro problem is causing a lot of trouble,but so far i am managing to weather the storm.
I have a mobile home in a oak forest of a hundred acres and its beautifull. There are one hundred mobile homes on the private domain and last year seventeen Brits sold up and left.
On the one hand you have the cost of living which has increased,and on the other the value of the homes has increased too, my home has increased in value £5000.00. Its been too much to resist for some. Its a problem.
Its a trip of six hundred and forty miles for me each way. The cost of the trip is very high for the tolls and fuel. When i bought my home the euro was 1.45 and now its down to around 1.1
I am thinking of letting my home to ease the overall cost of running it.
We had been traveling to France on 1 week vacations for 20 years until we could no longer resist the urge to buy. Six years ago, we fell head over heels in love with the Cote d'Azur. Although we could not find an apartment or house in our price range at that time, we settled on a timeshare for 2 months out of the year. Now we count the days between each visit. In between, we study french, read french magazines and books, read the local town news on the internet, endlessly search for affordable real estate, and hope for better currency exchange rates.
We spend our summers here in France and winter in Cyprus mainly because even having had our house in The Somme for 27 years we couldn't face the long grey winters.
But it is a wrench to leave France every time. There is a freedom here which is difficult to explain and so many memories of holidays, children, grandchildren, weekends, bricolage, a garden full of birds, a river that runs through the garden with all sorts of wild life (Ratty who comes for his nightly apple). Wonderful neighbours, our house has the old Mayor (now sadly passed away) on one side and the new dynamic mayor on the other so we are "entre deux maires". An old plastic pot full of strawberries,
a lettuce or three, potatoes, leaks, cherries, sweet corn, whatever is in season and in surplus finds it's way inside our grille. A delightful family restaurant that always welcomes us back with a glass of Champagne. Helene at the maire who can speak excellent English but never does to us! A GP and hospital that has given us very determined help and support. (when the NHS and the Cypriot system failed us.)
But that help diagnosed my wife with multiple sclerosis so now what to do ? As we get older our language skills both in English and French seam to get more difficult and to try and learn Greek at 69 years old is prohibitive to say the least. We have had our tax residence in Cyprus for ten years and we love it and the Cypriot way of life, the pool, the villa. Oh dear me.
Andy and Joy Ednie
The British I find very strange are those you come to live in France on a permanent basis and then want to make their bit of France the British Isles. They want to set up an English speaking community; fish and chip evenings and the like. They import in their 4x4s as much British food as it will carry when they go back to the UK. They moan about the bureaucracy, usually because they can't speak the French language. They dislike the idea that some shops still close at lunchtime and hate the whole idea that shops close on a Sunday. They love the fact the vans will now import UK food for them, and that it is now very easy to buy clothes from Marks and Spencer's online! I ask you, France is known for its fashion. I met a man a while ago who said, 'I don't speak any French. If they don't speak English, then I don't want to know them.'
I have to say that Connexion continues to keep me Connected to France, where my spirit resides and I thank you for all the interesting and informative information and articles. Whenever I open up the newsletter I am transported to France in mind and spirit which brings temporary reprieve from the continuous withdrawal.
In September 2006, after leaving a 32 year marriage, France and I found one another. During that, my very first vacation on my own, I participated in the Marathon du Médoc in Bordeaux and then spent 10 unforgettable days in Sarlat in the Dordogne. I also found, for the first time in my entire life, a level of peace, contentment and joy that I never knew existed. Part of this gift included the blessed feeling of joyful homecoming, a place where I wanted to lay my head each night for the rest of my life.
I have subsequently returned each year, participating in the Marathon and, in 2009, in the Marseilles-Cassis half marathon. I always make time for Paris but have also spent time in the Loire and Aix-en-Province however, the piéce de resistance at this stage remains Sarlat and the greater Dordogne. France has managed to find its way into my heart and the desire to ultimately be there permanently, is a conscious part of my thought-life every day.
Having finalised our divorce and with no dependents or ties sufficient to keep me here in Australia, it is my fervent wish to continue my life in France where I can start afresh in a place where a life long restlessness and search for a place that I can truly call home, has finally come to an end.
While I am aware of the legalities and red tape involved in finding employment or even being self employed in France, it remains my sincere wish to find any legal way of getting a foot in the door and at this stage finding a "sponsor" or employment appears to be the most logical way. Ultimately, I aim to establish myself as an "Enterprise Individuelle" or under the new "Auto Entrepreneur" system but lack the financial means to do so right now.
Withdrawal never ceases and I carry a passion for France, its people, culture and cuisine which is real, genuine and ever present.