From Sydney to SW France

From Sydney to SW France

Australians Peter and Shelly Wilson on buying abroad

Fact file

Names: Peter and Shelly Wilson
Age: Mid-life
Where are you from: Sydney, Australia
Occupations: Navy diver and airline cabin crew
Contact details for renting the apartment in Luchon: [email protected]

What attracted you to life in France?

We have both travelled a great deal and visited other parts of France, so we knew that we liked the European way of life. We also decided we needed a change of scene and wanted to show our son, 15, other cultures and lifestyles. Shelly had a dream of being able to collect her baguette on her bicycle and we have finally achieved that dream. Here in Luchon, everything is accessible on foot or by bike and we envisage a life where we will hardly ever get in the car.

Why did you choose the Pyrénées and Bagnères de Luchon in particular?

We wanted to live somewhere where we could do lots of activities such as skiing and biking, so we knew that mountains would appeal. Firstly we thought of Switzerland but that was incredibly expensive, then someone suggested France. The wonderful thing about Luchon is that it is both an elegant town and linked to its own ski resort by cable car. The fact that we are right on the border with Spain adds a whole new dimension and we are looking forward to exploring yet another country just 10km down the road.

How did you go about finding your dream property?

We managed to enlist the services of a property finder in the region who knew Luchon very well. She sent us reports and photos of every property that met our criteria and we were then able to discuss them in detail with her and view them online until we knew that she had found the perfect one. She then undertook all the negotiations for us and even oversaw the restoration so that we could turn up and move straight in.
Haussman style apartment in Luchon
Describe your property

We have bought a very classic, two-bedroom apartment in a Haussmann style building similar to those in Paris. Ours is located on a quiet street right in the heart of the town and has fantastic views of the mountains. Our apartment is on the second floor and occupies the corner of the building with balconies all the way around. We face East and South which means that it is incredibly light. Inside we have all mod cons but we have kept the original features of the building.

Do you live there full time?

We are going to use it for holidays and let it out when we are not there until our son finishes school in Australia. Luckily the holiday rental market is excellent in Luchon all year round, so we hope to cover our costs. Then we plan to spend the majority of the year in Luchon but we will keep a property in Sydney and spend a few months of the year there with family and friends.

Do you plan to work in France?

We are looking forward to the slower-pace of life in France and hope to be semi-retired by the time we live here permanently. Having said that, we have both got ideas of possible businesses that we think would really work here…

What are the main cultural differences you have noticed so far?

Everyone presumes that Australia is really laid-back and cool but that is so not the case with Sydney, which is the stress-basket of the southern hemisphere. We couldn’t believe how relaxed everyone is here with the long lunches. There is so much history here in Luchon – every building, street and village has its own story to tell, whereas we just do not have any history to really speak about in Australia. I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone with a cigarette in Sydney – it seems so strange here to see people smoking and ashtrays on every cafe terrace.

The view from the apartmentHow do you plan to integrate with the local community?

We have found everyone so friendly here that we plan to have our favourite café and boulangerie that we can visit every day and start improving and building up our level of French conversation on a daily basis. We do lots of sport so we are planning to join the tennis club and rugby club and get to know people like that – sport is multi-lingual and after a few drinks following a match, we hope to be too!

What were the reactions of your friends and family to your move?

They are really pleased for us as they know we are following our dream – but they don’t really ‘get it’ at all. Most have never been to France and don’t know what the attraction is – although they all seem very keen to come and visit on holiday and we reckon that, once Australians discover what is on offer here, we won’t be able to keep them away!

What are the best and worst things so far?

The landscape and scenery around here is mind-blowing and the drive down the valley from the motorway to Luchon must be one of the most stunning in the world. The only frustrating thing is that on our first visit, we managed to arrive on a Sunday. Everything was shut so we couldn’t buy linen or towels or even anything to cook. Once we are living here permanently, we actually really like the idea of having a day when shops are shut and people take the time to be en famille.

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Nadia set up Foothills of France as part of The French Property Finders network of search agents. With a post-graduate degree in marketing and many years of experience working for travel companies, Nadia has worked as a travel journalist and copywriter and uses this knowledge – combined with her own personal experience – to help others find homes in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France.

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