It all depends….
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Choosing an area to buy into will depend on particular wishes and needs, as well as your own personal taste. I recently met a couple at Bergerac airport who had been looking for a holiday home around Sarlat. I asked them if they liked woods, and learnt that in the UK they lived in the New Forest!
Here are some relevant questions:
Do you want a holiday home or a permanent residence?
If you’re after somewhere to escape from the stresses and strains of life in the UK, to be visited in the holidays only, you need to think of what you like to do on holiday. Nature-lovers will be happy anywhere. Sun-worshippers should probably not move to Nontron. Nightlife is pretty sparse in the region generally, but is more likely to be discovered close to the main towns of Périgueux and Bergerac. If you’re used to driving down to your holiday home, you may prefer to keep the journey short and stay in the northern part of the department. But if you’re thinking of flying – and particularly if you’re thinking of spending the occasional long weekend – you will need to be close to an airport. At present this means either Bergerac, Limoges or Bordeaux, to which the proposed airport of Brive-Souillac can be added in a few years’ time.
Just want to chill out on holiday?
Few people actually want to hide away in the middle of a remote landscape for the whole of their holiday. Or they may like to do it once a year, but not year in year out. However, if that’s what you’re after, you need at least to choose the kind of landscape you’ll be chilling out in. Perhaps you like the steep wooded hillsides of the Périgord Noir, and like feeling enclosed. If you find that too tourist-ridden, head for the Périgord Vert. Or perhaps you prefer wider, sweeping views, with regular rows of vineyards – in which case the area south of Bergerac is for you. Lovers of a classic mixed countryside of farming and woodland, with rolling hills and small valleys, should make their way to the area round Ribérac.
If you’re thinking of a permanent residence, you need to ask yourself a series of further questions.
How much do you like country life?
You may be attracted to the concept, but remember that unless you speak fluent French you will be doubly isolated in a rural surrounding. This can be depressing – particularly in the winter months. I have met a number of English who have moved to what they thought was their dream house in deepest country, only to find that they felt washed-up after a year or two without much human contact.
What is your need of a town?
If you want an endless supply of art exhibitions, movies, theatre and cultural life in general, you probably shouldn’t be moving to the Dordogne at all – in fact, you should probably stick to London or Paris! If you need a regular cultural fix, keep close to the A89 motorway between Périgueux and Bordeaux, running across the southern and central parts of the department. You can get an idea of what the department has to offer by looking at our What’s On section.
Much the same applies to shops. The region has its good shops – see our Shopping section for some suggestions. But the choice is fairly limited and you will need to go to the larger conurbations for any serious shopping.
What age are you?
We all get carried away by dreams. But if you’re over sixty, just bear in mind difficulties of mobility. You may need the resources of a town – particularly the medical facilities – more often than you anticipated.
How good is your French?
Unless your French is good, or you’re intending to get stuck into it and become fluent, there’s a serious danger of your feeling isolated in rural France. If that’s a risk for you, you should probably move to somewhere that already has an established English community so that you can meet some kindred spirits. There are English people all over the Dordogne, but the most established communities are probably to be found round Verteillac, Ribérac and Bergerac. (In a recent newspaper article it was estimated that some 6,000 English have invested in this area.) And, of course, you should visit and contribute to this website regularly!