We talk to Babs and husband Rich who decided to change their lives by moving to Carcassonne in south west France. On a cold February day they flew to France to view some properties, unsure if it was what they really wanted to do or if they were “completely bonkers”. They looked at several properties over the course of two weeks, almost giving up, but the final property was like a dream come true and they said yes there and then.
Babs tells us how the move from the UK to France has gone…
The Big Move to France
A couple of months or so after we found our dream property in France, we set off from the Midlands in England, heading south and into France. Our Fiesta was packed to the brim with suit cases, last minute items and snacks for us, our dog and two cats. The latter have always hated travelling in the car, even a ten minute journey to the vets is sufficient to infuriate them, and they meowed their heads off the whole way to France. The spray I bought, which is supposed to make the animals feel more relaxed, didn’t work at all.
A very long time later we arrived at our pet friendly hotel in Carcassonne where we aimed to stay while waiting for our belongings to catch up with us by removal lorry. When the big day arrived, we were presented with the keys to our new home. What a great feeling that was – a new life in France, an adventure!
Walking the dog enabled us to explore our area every day. Carcassonne has a lake with a beach (Lac Cavayere also known as ‘Carcassonne Plage’) it’s quite big, about 5 kilometres around and so we started to take our walks there. The French are very polite and everyone we met wished us bonjour, it was such a welcome change. Further exploration revealed yet more interesting places, like Revel, another beautiful lake and fantastic picnic spot with sail boats to hire, ice cream shops and restaurants.
Of course we explored the famous La Cité in Carcassonne, an amazing, ancient Citadel on the Cathar Trail where we walked the battlements and the cobbled streets. It is a very special place and perfect for a break to enjoy a coffee or a nice glass of wine in the sunshine. It is a very popular tourist attraction and always busy but never more so than on 14th July when there is a huge firework display to celebrate Bastille Day. It is the second most important Jour Bastille event in France after Paris.
Close by is the Roman city of Narbonne and Narbonne Plage, Gruissan and Collioure with its beautiful beaches. This area has so much to offer and yet it is one of the least discovered parts of France. If we want to ski, Andorra is just a couple of hours away. I haven’t tried to climb Monstegur yet, but it remains an ambition.
Since our arrival just over four years ago we have grown to love this area more and more. We find the people very friendly and helpful, despite my lack of French. My husband is fairly fluent but I know only enough to get by. I have found that people will try and help me out if I get stuck, which happens quite often, but I try and therefore my French neighbours and friends try too.
We feel very content and happy with our move to this beautiful country. We keep exploring and making more great discoveries, places to see and things to do. We love to take family and friends on trips to places like Lagrasse which has a wonderful Abbey, Mirepoix with its lovely market, and the beautiful countryside of Minerve which is famous for its wine.
Our favourite place to go in Carcassone is the Place Carnot on a Saturday morning when the wonderful open air market takes place. We usually have coffee and a croissant at one of the friendly cafés around the pretty and vibrant square and sit people watching and feeling very much at home. The friendly waiters come over and shake our hands asking after our health, the florist gives us a cheery wave when we pass by, it gives us a wonderful sense of belonging.
Moving to France has certainly surpassed our expectations – it is now home to two very happy expats in Carcassonne…
Walking the Cathar Trail
Occitania, the Unknown south of France
Expats in Collioure