Retirement in France for this chartered accountant closed one chapter but opened an entirely new possibility. What if a whole new life unfolded, with new landscapes, people and experiences? Sylvia Davis digs a little deeper into this move to the Midi-Pyrénées.
What brought you to France, Lesley?
I was approaching sixty and wanted to retire but –no matter how many people said to me that there would be so much to do after retirement that I would wonder how I ever found time to work– I didn’t know what on earth I was going to do. I dreaded the prospect of simply looking for things to fill my time. It dawned on me that I could move to France. I had visited the country on many occasions and knew the different areas well. The challenge of settling in a new country and becoming fluent in the language became irresistible.
What led up to the decision to buy the property?
As a single person retiring from a cerebral profession I knew I would need to keep myself busy, so I decided that the property should include a holiday rental business. This would supplement my income but, more importantly, give me the chance to meet people and give a structure to my week.
Tell me about your property search
I picked Bagnères de Luchon because the town is busy all year round with skiing, cycling, and the thermal spa. However, I soon realized that being surrounded by mountains felt claustrophobic to me. I was stumped. On one of my scouting visits I rented an apartment from an Australian owner who recommended Nadia Jordan, a professional property finder. That was the best advice ever. She suggested that I could have the best of both worlds – buy an apartment in the mountains but live one hour away where I could have open views and a great sunny climate. She set out to find a house with a suitable outbuilding for conversion, as I eventually wanted space for guests, and soon agreed on a shortlist for me to visit. Finally, it came down to a barn conversion for the apartment let in Luchon, and as my residence a home full of character but which had been rebuilt in recent years in Sadournin, in Haute-Garonne with an outbuilding that can be converted into a gîte.
How are you managing the renovation process?
The plans for the gîte and a swimming pool are awaiting approval and then the building works can begin so I can welcome guests to enjoy with me this thoroughly idyllic area.
What was your experience with paperwork?
Thanks to Nadia and the very helpful immobiliers the legals were much more straightforward than I had feared and very quick. I instructed a French Notaire in London to double check everything for me before sending the signed documents to France. A bit pricey but worth it.
How did you manage with the language?
Perhaps I have been lucky that the Notaire spoke English and one immobilier’s English was better than my French. I have since managed to open a bank account and sort out my house and apartment insurance. I love having a go and all the French people I have met have been so patient and willing to help.
My tips are:
1) do your homework. If you know what to expect and can anticipate events – such as the number of documents you need to produce to set up a phone line.
2) Be a good neighbour. When I realised that my furniture van was going to block the lane I wrote a note to my two neighbours and included a bottle of champagne. They were delighted.
Would I rather be stuck in a rut in England? No. You only get one chance at life and I intend to make the absolute most of it.
Contact details for the rental in the ski and spa town of Bagnères de Luchon Haute-Garonne:
Why buy in the Haute-Pyrénées?
Skiing in winter and the spa, plus outdoor pursuits in the summer, plus the incredible landscapes, gastronomy, friendly locals and the sunshine.
Originally published on FrenchEntrée magazine
With thanks to Nadia Jordan, property finder in the Midi-Pyrénées