We sneak a peek inside Norwegian couple Heidi and Morten Nystad’s Scandinavia-meets-Occitanie holiday home, near coveted Uzès
FRENCHENTRÉE MAGAZINE: What brought you to France?
HEIDI & MORTEN NYSTAD: France was always our favourite holiday destination, and year after year we spent at least two weeks every summer driving around. Soon we became particularly fond of the south, especially Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon (now Occitanie).
We dreamed of having our own house in the region, and in 2013 it became a reality.The property in Gattigues is our summer house. Heidi is an artist-painter and I’m a shipping-tanker executive. We travel from Norway to the house four or five times a year, spending between five days and two weeks there each time. Family also come and stay at the house.
FE: What made you fall in love with this house and Gattigues?
H&MN: During our property search, we came to France three times. Of the 25 or 30 projects we visited, we fell immediately in love with the house in Gattigues. It was wellkept, easy to maintain, had a manageable exterior/garden. The house had a lot of charm, a mix of old and modern. The village of Gattigues is charming, authentic, yet only a 10-minute drive from Uzès. Here you find good shopping and exquisite restaurants.
The Wednesday and Saturday markets are famous. The bigger and historic cities of Nîmes and Avignon are only between 30 and 45 minutes away. Loving the outdoors, we were taken by the many opportunities awaiting just outside the front door; cycling, jogging, trekking, or simply walking among the vines, olive trees and sunflower fields.
FE: What state was the house in when you moved in? Did it need a lot of work?
H&MN: The house did not need a lot of work or upgrading. The previous owner (who was British) had maintained the property well.
Obviously, however, we did spend time and effort putting our mark on the interior and exterior; paint, lights, furnishings, tiles…
We visited local markets, plus antiques and interiors shops in Uzès and Nîmes. We went to Ikea in Avignon (and rented a van from the Intermarché supermarket in Montaren for the occasion), as well as bringing with us a lot of stuff from Norway. Now, it is a mix of old and new – and French and Scandinavian.
It was important for us to emphasize the charm of the property. We wanted it to have a summer look, with bright colours and lots of light. The Provençal and rustic style had to be maintained, with stone walls and floors.
After holidaying and renting houses in France for many years, we already had a lot of inspiration and ideas – all this combined with having moved house a few times in Norway and assignments abroad. We lived in Houston and Singapore for a few years.
We were lucky to find a local handyman, Thierry, who assists us with any renovation work or upgrades needed and looks after the property when we are not there. Neighbours also keep an eye out, water the plants and pick up our mail.
Gattigues is a very small village, so people look after each other.
FE: What has been the biggest challenge?
H&MN: Language was (and is) always a challenge, but we found that the people here were very understanding and patient with us. We do speak some French, and the locals don’t mind at all speaking English if they can manage. Unfortunately, we have not met anybody so far who can converse with us in Norwegian!
FE: What advice would you give to people thinking of relocating to France?
H&MN: Language is important, and we regret not being able to speak French better. We should have taken classes. But still, you get by with basic French and English.
People are very friendly and appreciate foreigners who try their best to communicate with them in French.
FE: You’re selling the house. Is there another project in the pipeline?
H&MN: As we are selling the property in France, we will now devote our time and resources to a new project: a mountain cabin in Norway. When this is done, we may consider buying a property in the south of France again. The entire setting of Languedoc-Roussillon – people, climate, food and wine – is simply unique and highly recommended. Life is good in Gattigues.
Originally published in issue 122 of FrenchEntrée Magazine.