Stressed out and fed up with life as it was, telecommunications businessman Richard Woollams and his wife Elaine decided to chuck it all in and move to France for a new life. A life where they would have time together, a better quality of life and where their three children would have greater freedom and learn to speak impeccable French.
There was only one problem – they had no idea where they wanted to go and had to decide how to choose where to live in France…
A map of France was miraculously produced, and that fateful night we decided where we wanted to spend a good part of the rest of our lives. We wanted to be below the cold isobar that on every weather map seems to run due east of La Rochelle; yes Normandy, Brittany and other points north are beautiful, but decisions had to be made. We didn’t want Peter Mayle’s mansions like the one in the photo above, the expat “Little England” known by some as Dordogneshire and we didn’t want the Cote D’Azur. What we did want was proximity to the Med for summer swimming, the Pyrenees for winter skiing, an airport, a motorway system nearby and a train station just in case we wanted to escape. The kids didn’t want schools either but that decision was swiftly over-ruled by the two senior partners.
This irrefutable logic led us east of Bordeaux, just north of Toulouse, south of Cahors and west of Provence. Once that decision had been deduced the rest became decidedly more complex, Henry the loony Labrador puppy had eaten the map.
We decided to take a quick trip to the bustling metropolis of London to attend an exhibition about France. We left Henry at home. After a stressful time trying to park the car we abandoned it in a Novotel hotel car park and hot footed it to The France Show. It was humming, hundreds of eager Francophiles looking for their perfect holiday home along with all mod cons for the price of a bike shed in the suburbs and the dimensions of the palace of Versailles in Paris. We were amazed and faintly worried. We had brought with us a photocopied list of our specific requirements including a rough idea of location, proximity to a town for junior and secondary schools, motorway connections, airport and the rest of our deluded deductions from our family gathering in which we had all agreed that we wanted to move to France.
Lots of visitors were there for just a day out but we were deadly serious in our intentions and after slogging round the many estate agents stalls we found a small agent based in south west France, whose sales pitch was limited if not to say deficient. “I only deal in a small district in a very small part of a region in a very small department, what are you looking for?” I replied quickly, so as not to upset his predetermined routine, that we wanted “a small district in a very small part of a region in a very small department and here’s what we want” and handed over the family’s version of the Magna Carta.
Having exchanged business cards we left the stand and the heaving mass of fervent Francophiles behind us and headed home with carrier bags stuffed full of leaflets and reading material. We had made the first tangible move towards our new life in France…
Richard Woollam lives and works in France, he is a holiday rental and property management specialist in the Tarn et Garonne region