The department of Haute-Garonne is in the Occitanie (formerly Midi-Pyrenées) region of south-west France. Named after the Garonne River, its prefecture and main city is Toulouse, the fourth largest in France. Haute-Garonne borders Spain. It’s a land of grandiose landscapes, vineyards and valleys. There are mountains, rivers and forests and wonderful hiking and cycling trails that run through wild natural areas. There are castles and tiny picturesque villages, historic towns and even ski resorts.
It’s easy to reach from the UK with a large choice of flights to Toulouse International airport and good auto-routes from Calais (10 hours) and the west coast ports. There is a smaller airport at Tarbes/Lourdes with flights to and from the UK. And high speed trains connect the region to the rest of France with the journey from Toulouse to Paris taking around 5 hours.
We talk to expat Andrew Parker, local agent for Leggett Immobillier, about expat life and buying property in Haute-Garonne…
Can you tell us a little about you and where you are from?
My wife Lesley and I moved from Whitstable in Kent to full time life in France in 2018. I’d worked in sales and business management but decided that it was now or never to make the move we’d dreamed of. In addition to being a local property agent, I tutor in English at the IPSA engineering college in Toulouse as that’s the preferred language for Airbus and other large companies based in the area. We also run a property management business.
What inspired you to move to the Haute-Garonne department
We bought a small apartment in a Haussman style building in Bagnères-de-Luchon in 2010 as a bolthole for the family. It is a great location for walking, cycling and skiing and a superb area to have a healthy outdoor life style. During the summer of 2017 my wife and I and our best friends cycled from our local pub, The Mermaid in Bishopsbourne, Kent to Bagnères-de-Luchon to raise funds for charity. It was a grand total of 1150 kms. It is a really great way to see the vastness and the beauty of France and we knew after that, we wanted a permanent French lifestyle.
We still have the apartment and rent it out but when we moved here we bought a bigger, modern house in a small mountain village just 10 minutes from the facilities of Luchon and 20 minutes from the Spanish border. We have a mountain for a garden and we have to source plants that the deer don’t eat!
What lifestyle does Haute-Garonne offer expats?
The magnificent valleys and mountains of Haute-Garonne were a huge attraction. In summer the Haute Garonne is a great place for walkers and cyclists with beautiful and unspoiled landscape. In winter, there are great family ski resorts catering for all levels and ages. Personally I think Autumn is our best kept secret, the weather is good, the light is awesome and the walks and the cycle rides are superb.
The area is also really well positioned for travelling and exploring. Toulouse is an hour and twenty minutes away and has an international airport. We can get up early in the morning and have breakfast with our sons in London. We can be sitting on the beach in Biarritz within 3 hours drive. And we can pop into Spain for a tapas lunch whenever we like, it’s just 20 minutes away.
Our village is lovely and everyone is very friendly. We’re the only Brits here and we get invites to join in village events all the time.
There’s loads to do year round. We go walking in the mountains, there are masses of paths in the area, beautiful lakes and waterfalls and fantastic picnic spots.
We are right in the middle of a number of the iconic climbs of the Tour de France and the area is full of cyclists come rain or shine. Mountain bikers aren’t forgotten as many of the ski slopes make fantastic tracks in the summer.
Year round activities
The ski resorts of Superbagnères and Peyragudes Peyresourde are excellent. And the huge resort in Spain at Baqueira Beret is close enough to visit.
Bagnères de Luchon has all the facilities you need plus a great choice of restaurants, bars and cafes. And there are plenty of mountain villages to explore including Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges, one of the official “most beautiful villages of France.”
Toulouse, the capital, is the centre for the Space and Aeronautics industry and an important centre for education. It’s also a major cultural centre, packed with museums, galleries, interesting architecture and great shopping.
Property guide to Haute Garonne
What do most property seekers in Haute-Garonne look for?
Most people dream of a traditional stone house with plenty of land and outbuildings. They picture themselves working on their “project”, drinking great wines and eating delicious food. They’d like a two-minute stroll into the village to the local boulangerie, boucherie and café. And, there are places like that but not that many. The next best thing is living within 15 minutes of one of the larger villages or small towns where there are cafes, restaurants and shops. And there are plenty of opportunities like that.
Outside space is important, now more than ever. The region enjoys around 2,000 hours of sunshine a year with long, hot summers. Winters are cold but short, and autumn is mild and sunny. Spring rains ensure the green valleys and mountains.
What can homebuyers get for their money?
There are many types of property available in the area. Traditional mountain villages with old stone houses that need work but have magnificent views. Modern apartments are available in Bagnères-de-Luchon and at the skiing resorts. Large traditional houses with big gardens, 70’s built chalet type properties with lots of land built into the mountainsides, even chateaus.
It really is essential to visit the area to decide to see what’s available. It’s a marvellous region for touring – so what have you got to lose even if you don’t find your dream home on the first visit?!
Explore the area around Luchon to discover little villages like Cier-de-Luchon and Cierp-Gaud. St Beat is close to the border with Spain and very pretty. There are loads of fabulous places that most visitors never find out about, but they’re here and waiting to be discovered – if you know where to look.
See Andrew’s portfolio of property in the Haute-Garonne region