Well we are here! We moved to France and now live in a lovely old French farmhouse not far from Toulouse and we love it!
The journey to finally secure our house was not easy but it was definitely worth it. So much has happened to us in the last 6 years that I find it difficult to know where to start? There have been a lot of lows and a lot of highs, but I wouldn’t change anything. We searched for a year to find our dream house and I often ended up in tears after all the frustrations, ‘wild goose’ chases and disappointments. Would we ever find the perfect house? Well no, because as I now realise that is not possible. Our house is not ideal but I fell in love with it the minute I walked inside. It is not big enough, has no outhouses or barns (which we wanted) but it felt right and that is the secret. It was over budget and my youngest daughter, who was with us on this particular search, said ‘forget it mum it’s too expensive’.

We returned to the UK but I couldn’t get this house out of my mind so we put in an offer—and unbelievably it was accepted! So the big decision was made, this was a permanent move to what we did not know?

Just a few weeks after we moved in there was a tap on the door, quite strange as we live in the middle of a field! However a pretty little hamlet was close by and our visitors were 2 elderly French ladies inviting us to join them at the annual St John’s festival (it happens every year in France in June). We, of course, accepted and on arrival were introduced to all the inhabitants of the hamlet including the local doctor. They made us so welcome and I will never forget being shown into the kitchen of one of the houses where strings of sausages were being roasted on the fire. Dogs and children were everywhere and the wine flowed. What an evening and what an introduction to local life. This is what living in France is all about – eating, drinking, family get togethers and everyone so happy and relaxed. The difference to anything we had experienced in the UK was very evident and set the scene for many happy summers to come.

The next interesting event was dealing with our French builder. After only a couple of days of unfinished work he said ‘au revoir’ on a sunny day in late July and we didn’t see him again until September! Countless phone calls got us no response and when he finally turned up and we asked him where he had been he just smiled and said ‘vacances’ (everything grinds to a halt in France in August it seems) and he just assumed we would know that. He had left us with piles of rubble but at least the pool was usable and I had a good excuse for not doing any dusting! His work when finished was excellent, so what could we say?

As our first Christmas approached we were beginning to worry why our French plumber was taking so long to install the heating? We had decided to have full central heating put into the house but hadn’t realised how much work was involved in laying all the pipes. Old stone houses have very thick walls and if you heat them well they are as warm as toast, but if you don’t heat them they are like fridges! We live in south west France which has lovely long hot summers and short winters, but the temperatures can go down to as low as -10 at night! We hadn’t bought any extra heaters as it seemed a waste as we were having heating put in so as the temperatures plummeted all we could do was to pile on the sweaters. Our bedding was so heavy (but the only place to keep warm) that we had a job to sit up! We had a little Yorkshire terrier who slept in her basket in the bedroom and one particular cold night my husband and I both had the same thought and simultaneously sat bolt upright in bed worried that we might find a frozen dog in the morning! We scooped her up and put her in the bed with us which I think she was very grateful for.

Our French plumber was a lovely man and started to feel very sorry for us (I had chilblains on my hands and toes). He promised to get us some heating in time for Christmas and true to his word he turned up very early a few days before with a helper and they worked all day until it was dark. When they left half the heating was working and we were warm; we wished him a very ‘bon noel’ and gave him a hug, it was the day before Christmas Eve.

Living in France is very much like stepping back into 1950’s England. They believe in a more relaxed way of life and of course central to that is lunchtime. Everything closes from 12—2 pm or sometimes 3 pm, but the shops often stay open till 7pm—you just have to go with the flow. I am not at all surprised that they have a longer lifespan than people in the UK. In fact it is very common to see quite elderly French people driving cars and taking leisurely walks in the countryside. Yes they do like their food but they eat small portions and support local growers (or infact grow their own) so of course a lot of the food is organic. They don’t eat between meals and you don’t see a lot of overweight people.

There is undoubtedly a lot we can learn from the French way of life. I have a saying ‘if a Frenchman finds that he has a leak in his roof he will go and get a bucket rather than mend the leak straight away, then he will go out for lunch!’
Thinking of moving to France? My advice is to take the plunge, it will be the best decision you ever make!