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Expats in France | Donna and Dave dare to DIY

expat in france

My name is Donna.

I am 41 years old, have been married for 23 years and have a 23 year old daughter.

I was born on the Isle of Wight in the south of England and lived there all my life until the big move to France at the beginning of 2012.

Growing up on the island we lived in a rural area, so the jump to rural France wasn’t a huge shock for us – we’ve never experienced city life like some people. Where we used to live was in a small hamlet without amenities, and it’s the same here. We were used to no takeaways and driving to the shops. The doctor’s surgery here is France is actually open for longer hours than our doctor in the UK!

We started coming over to France after some friends of ours moved here ten years ago. We came to visit them and made some French friends and simply fell in love with the area. We are in Deux Sevres which is a rural départment in the Poitou-Charentes region. There is some tourism but the majority of it is farming economy, 75% of the land here is arable. It’s a very quiet and a calm place to live.

We originally bought the house a few years ago and it was in a real state, it had not been lived in for over 30 years and the grounds had not been tended for all that time. The first time we visited with the estate agent – it was like hunting for a house in the jungle.

There was no running water, no electric and no fosse septique.

What it did have was an acre of land – and that’s what we fell in love with more than anything. There was a tree in the garden that was 80 feet tall, it shaded the house and dropped all its leaves on the roof (though we didn’t know that at the time!).

Expats in France
The lounge

The roof leaked like a sieve and we had to set  buckets out to catch the rain that poured in. For the first couple of years we visited our French home frequently and worked at clearing all the greenery – slowly the house appeared.

The barns were filled with old straw. The family who had owned the house had suffered a tragedy and left – never to return. They had left everything as it was for 30 years.

We loved visiting and managed our visits with the aid of a gas cooker, candles and oil lamps and read lots of books – we loved it. We dreamed of moving to live here but due to our ages would need to work and we knew there was no way we could make that move unless we had jobs to come to. We also wanted our daughter to finish her education without disturbance before we made any move.

We finally made the move at the beginning of 2012 after Dave was offered work here out of the blue with an agricultural company – with just three weeks’ notice! We didn’t hesitate and jumped at the chance; our daughter was finishing University and intended to stay in London so she wasn’t coming home to our old UK house anyway.

At first I really missed my job in the UK (I was a librarian working in a prison library which was always challenging) and I am currently not working here, but I have loads to do on the house. I’ve taken on a lot of the renovation work myself while my husband is at work.

Last year I re-roofed half the house on my own – with my husband helping on the weekends and evenings. I cleared all the land; pulled all the old smelly plaster off the walls in the house and intend to keep going until the house is finished!

We brought our 13 year old dog who lives up to his name – Fidget and Tink the cat with us to France and they love it here. The cat’s always bringing in mice and has even caught bats! We have ten chickens that have been rescued after being left behind on a local farmer’s lorry and they now have a lovely free range life with us.

So it’s never a dull moment here and I don’t have time to get bored and I’m looking forward to sharing stories of my new French life with you all.

expats in FranceA bientot



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