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The expat good life in Mayenne Pays de la Loire

Mayenne in the Pays de la Loire is the ideal place for a gîte business say expat Brits Zara Bampton and Simon King…

Running a gite in Mayenne

When Zara Bampton and Simon King reached their mid-50’s they decided to it was time to follow their dreams and move to France. Simon had worked in the hotel industry and IT and Zara had been an MoD scientist who also worked in property renovation. With their backgrounds in hospitality and building, they gave up their comfortable lives in Hampshire and moved to the beautiful rural area of Mayenne.

Named after the Mayenne River, Mayenne is a largely rural area in the Pays de la Loire Region, western France.  The couple live in the little town of Ernée, about 30km from Laval, the capital of Mayenne, famous for its picturesque good looks, medieval buildings and majestic chateau.

Simon and Zara chose this area for several reasons including its proximity to the ferry ports and their need to be able to travel back to the UK to visit family on a regular basis. They had visited the area, though not the town of Ernée, when holidaying in France and Simon prefers it to the far south which he finds too hot in the summer.

They looked on the internet and with agents when they were property searching and were specific about wanting a gîte complex with a separate property. They also wanted plenty of room for their dogs. And, after several visits to Normandy, Brittany and Pays de la Loire, one property stood out. Iit ticked all the boxes and the couple found it irresistible.

“We live in an old farm property with three gîtes on site. The gîtes had not been let out for over ten years and needed to be renovated. What with that, getting the gardens under control, establishing a new business, learning the language, dealing with French paperwork, looking after four dogs and having friends and family to stay, we keep pretty busy” says Zara.

The property called Le Hutereau is a 400 year old former farm in the heart of the unspoilt French countryside which has been converted into a main house and three holiday cottages. Each one is named after a grape variety which is grown in the local area, Sauvignon, Chenin and Muscadet.  “The gîtes are in a separate building, which used to be a barn which was constructed in the nineteenth century. We live in the main house, but we’re always available to provide local knowledge and advice on where to go and what to visit, there is so much to see and do here” says Simon.

Adjusting to a new culture and language has provided a few challenges for the couple but nothing that they have felt could not be overcome. “At first it was difficult to know where to go to buy DIY materials and furnishings, but we soon found our way around.  Everyone one that we have met in France since moving over, whether English or French, has been very helpful”.

Having worked as a renovator and landlord previously Zara says that renovating in France can be quite different from the UK. She advises “make sure you have enough French to be able to set up the basics, such as electricity, oil, water and the like.  Finally, just because something is done in a particular way in the UK, do not assume that the same process will apply in France: most of the time, it won’t!”

The couple say that forward planning and thorough research are important for anyone considering running a gîte in France: “We worked on the premise that gîtes will not provide us with a full income…”

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