By Avril Charlton
There are many things that make us want to start new lives from time to time. The pressure of work, a break-up or maybe sometimes even a break-down. The most common reason though, has to be retirement.
These days many of us are living longer lives and so retirement is no longer a case of taking it easy and finding a hobby to fill the hours but perhaps venturing into something completely different. For the first time we have a disposable income, no mortgage and a pension; allowing us to make our dreams a little bigger.
In the Poitou Charente region of France there are approximately 13,000 expat retirees, some of these have holiday homes here but others have made the complete break, choosing to set up another home and indeed another life in this corner of France.
The first task is to find a house.
There are many estate agents (immobiliers) here and Sextant Properties is always busy with property seekers of all nationalities and ages. The rambling fields and hedgerows hide a multitude of small villages and hamlets, each containing its own treasures. You may find a tumbling down ruin that grabs your attention, an old Logis where the rich & powerful were once installed or maybe even a chateau!
Sans vis-à-vis; not being overlooked by your neighbours
Integration with local people is a must, but being overlooked by your neighbours who chuckle over your strange ways can be a little disconcerting and perhaps you’re not keen on Monsieur & Madame Marsault watching you take the first plunge ‘au naturel’ in your new pool!
As we get older our requirements change. Often I am asked to find rural properties with no immediate neighbours. After a few years though these same clients are back. Time has passed and they find that what suited them then has now become a worrisome burden. So they’ve sold the lovely old stone house you found them and are now after something closer to town. Perhaps near a doctors’ and not too far from a hospital. A more recently constructed property like a bungalow perhaps… Stone houses are a delight and full of character however they do take a lot of work; the beams and stonework always need cleaning and the flagstone floors and spiral staircases are perhaps not as easy to negotiate as they once were. New builds however are easy to clean, typically all on one level and generally have an easy maintainable garden.
How much garden?
The average size garden is about 1000m2, add a pool to that and you’re looking around 1500m2. Now add to that your desire to keep chickens, perhaps pigs, a couple of horses… the list goes on and now you’re looking for a couple of hectares (20,000m2). Who I wonder is going to cut the grass? It might be an idea to get some sheep as well…
It’s done. You’ve retired from the job that paid the mortgage, kept the kids at school and generally saw you through life as you knew it. Now you’re up with the larks under a sunny blue sky; with chickens to feed, eggs to collect and afternoons taken up helping Monsieur La Farge pick his grapes in return for a couple of bottles of 3year old Pineau…
Far from the land of 9-5, on a balmy summers’ evening you take a swim in your own pool, safely shielded from all prying eyes and distant chuckles – by that Conifer hedge you planted last year.
Moving countries is a huge step. You may struggle with the language the gallic shrug may forever remain a mystery to you, but with the help of friends and neighbours like M. Mme Marsault all these things can eventually be overcome. Making life in France a continual voyage of discovery and new beginnings….
As we say in France, Bon Voyage à tous !
Avril Charlton has followed a career in Event & Conference Management that’s taken her from London to the Middle East, Bermuda, Ireland and back. Now living in the Poitou-Charente region of France with her husband, she is French speaking and works as an estate agent in the region.