We talk to Jacqui Wood from the UK who now lives and works in the lovely Haute-Vienne region, north-west France. It’s an area of forests and lakes, unspoiled countryside and picturesque villages as well as the lovely city of Limoges, famous for its porcelain production.
Jacqui and her husband Mark, a former London policeman before retiring, now live in the commune of Saint Pardoux where they run a gite and work for Leggett Immobilier, voted France’s best estate agent.
We asked Jacqui about life in the Haute-Vienne…
What inspired you to move to France?
A friend of ours bought a house herewith a view to running a B&B and that idea really appealed to us. She told us that the area was beautiful and a bit like the English Lake District. We were originally looking further south, but decided Haute-Vienne was worth a visit. We were quite astounded at how much property and land you could get for your money, by comparison to further south and we fell totally in love with the beauty of the place. We came in early November, and were mesmerized by all the beautiful colours everywhere. I remember having a general feeling of well-being as we lived the daily life, visiting little villages for lunch or dinner, even though most of the time there was no one around.
What is your house like?
We bought an old stone house with an attached barn, funny enough from some English people! The house had already been updated, but we needed to change some things, as we wanted to run a B&B. We installed ensuite bathrooms and renovated rooms and created a large terrace at the back in the garden. The house is on quite a steep hill, so it was hard work. We opened as a B&B the summer after we moved and got a builder in to renovate the barn which then became a lovely gite which we rent out.
What made you fall in love with your new home?
I’ve always thought the house was really pretty, it looks really homely & cosy. Inside, I really liked the old wood floors and rickety staircase, which we decided not to change and I love that we have so much space. Looking out the window and seeing deer in the garden is a lovely sight. We’re near the swimming lake at Saint Pardoux, it has three beaches and walking paths which are wonderful. And one of my favourite things is the café at Bessines sur Gartempe, where Didier the owner serves the best coffee, according to Mark, and the best hot chocolate, according to me! There are festivals and fetes, great gastronomy and sitting at a café watching the hustle and bustle, especially in the sun, is just perfect.
Do you consider yourself a member of the local community?
Sometimes we have a get together with neighbours for a community meal – we all make a dish or dessert to take along and it usually lasts all afternoon and evening. I keep my horse at a local club, and get involved with club activities and rides – all in French and something I never believed I could have done, when we first arrived here.
Jacqui’s tips for home seekers in France
Make sure you know what you really want and why you want it. Sometimes people want loads of land, but don’t realize that it can get very overgrown very quickly, especially when you’re not here all the time to look after it.
Don’t just buy the first house you see and like. There are a lot of beautiful houses in beautiful villages and there’s plenty of choice, it’s a good idea to take a step back and really think hard about it.
Try to spend some time in the area where you think you’d like to buy. The surroundings are just as important as the house, especially for living here permanently. You need to know what’s about, activities, facilities, bars restaurants, how far away things are and what the people are like.
Keep an open mind and try to look at options, often the smallest amount of renovation can give you the perfect house. Sometimes you have to look beyond what you see and be a little creative.
And when you move to France:
Remember there are cultural differences between the UK and France. You don’t always think about these at the beginning, but respecting them can make the difference between being accepted or not. Politeness costs nothing and attempting to say a few words in French can go a very long way.
Give yourself time to make the adjustment to French life. Sometimes in the beginning you can feel isolated and miss home; I think it can a few years sometimes, to feel settled.
Jacqui Wood’s property portfolio in Haute-Vienne