In January 2005, Cara and Greg Samways moved from Lincolnshire to the Limousin in hope of a new life. Here, Cara explains how they came to the decision and have now established a home and a new means of supporting themselves through classic cars…
I run a French company offering chauffeured wedding cars, classic car storage and supply of specialist Millers classic car oils throughout France – my father used to rebuild and race classics and so I spent my childhood helping out in the pits at Silverstone.
My husband runs his own company too and provides geological consultancy services to the oil industry worldwide. He currently spends much of his time in the Middle East, North Africa, India and Korea.
One summer about eight years ago, we were discussing the fact that we were fed up with our hectic lifestyles in the UK (70+ hour weeks and lots of travelling) and thinking we could start a new venture in France.
We had been visiting France every summer for 15 years, especially for the Le Mans 24 hour race (to satisfy my passion for cars) and the French folk festival at St Chartier (to satisfy Greg’s passion for traditional French music and dance.
Greg resigned from his job and set up a consultancy business that would guarantee us an income wherever we were. I continued with my job and in my spare time we were researching a new business venture in France and putting plans in place.
We sold our house in the UK almost as soon as we put it on the market. We took every opportunity to view properties in France and were able to make an offer as soon as we found the one.
We live just outside Bussière-Galant in an old property that was a working sheep farm and consists of a fermette, a huge barn, a bakery and piggeries with about 20 acres of land. We found it online and it was the last place we viewed after a two year search.
The entrance was essentially a farmyard so we set about getting rid of the old farm vehicles, cutting down weeds and creating a garden area. We then started converting the upstairs of the fermette into bedrooms and moved on to renovating the barn for the cars.
Before we came to France my husband took French A level at night school and I did an O level. Once we arrived in France, we had two hours of one-to-one French lessons each week for about two years.
During this time we set up our business and were getting regular contact with French clients and we also got involved in a local traditional French music and dance association called Cadanses Folk based in Flavignac, which exposed us to lots more French people.
We have a more active social life and we make more time for ourselves because our French friends make time to relax with their families and socialise. As we both now work for ourselves we are more in control of our own lives and can make our own decisions.
We visited a French accountant at the outset and he advised us to set up a limited company in France (SARL). Although it has cost a large sum of money, we feel it has been well spent as we have been sure that we were doing things properly.
Most days also involve a trip into town to La Poste to send oil packages. Interspersed with these are renovation days which can include anything from building walls to plaster boarding. In the summer we can also be found cutting the grass for weeks on end…