Five years ago, my husband Peter and I finally took the plunge and decided we would buy a property in France – something we had talked about doing for years. We had thought about buying a house but decided instead on a mobile home. One of the factors we considered was that it might be difficult to integrate into a small village if we were not living there all year round, whereas there was a ready-made community of French, Belgian and English people on the site we chose, all of whom we found to be welcoming and friendly.
We settled on ‘’Les Etangs Fleuris” in Attin, Northern France. Friends at home were curious as to why we hadn’t chosen somewhere in the south to take advantage of the Mediterranean climate, but for us the location is perfect. It is less than an hour’s drive from Calais yet it is right in the middle of the countryside. The site is on the edge of a forest with lovely views over lakes. We have a large terrace that is perfect for drinks with friends and watching the wildlife including kingfishers, ducks and a family of swans. The fishing lakes are popular with the residents. And there are some beautiful walks both on the site and in the immediate locality.
A (brisk) 40 minute walk through the forest, across the wooden bridge over the River Canche takes us to Montreuil sur Mer. This ancient walled town which features in “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo and where the locals re-enact the story every year – it’s an amazing spectacle. As well as an excellent choice of bars and restaurants, there is also a small market every Saturday morning which is really popular. Within half an hour’s drive we can easily reach the beaches of Berck, with its seal colony, as well as Merlimont, and Stella Plage. Even in the height of summer these beaches are never crowded and the beautiful town of Le Touquet with its elegant shops, wide sandy beach and amazing market is also very close.
One of the other advantages of our site is that there is also a large hypermarket a five minute drive away – if we walk to it, we pass Daniel’s cottage where we can buy eggs from the hens we see roaming freely in his garden.
Comfort and community
Since we first bought here, we’ve upgraded to a lodge which has become a real home from home. With its en-suite to the master bedroom, dressing room, separate bathroom and wrap around terrace, it’s more upmarket than our house in London! The owners of the site are very laid back – jobs are started but not always finished which can be a bit frustrating at times. However the staff are all really friendly and we love the ambience and the fact it is so different from a caravan park in the UK.
However, the best thing is the community of French, English and Belgian people. Everyone is really friendly and we have a lot in common – we all love the French lifestyle, the food and of course, the wine. There is a small bar on the site and throughout the summer we tend to congregate there or at each other’s homes for drinks, barbecues and Boules tournaments. We always seem to play better once we have worked our way through a few jugs of gin cocktails! Equally, those who want to unwind and relax in the beautiful surroundings can go fishing, or just enjoy watching the wildlife from our terraces. It’s great having French and Belgian people on site who are very patient with our attempts to speak French. Fortunately, Helen who loved France so much that she and her family decided to move there permanently, speaks French fluently and is able to help us out. One summer, our Belgian neighbour Hilde decided to teach some of us how to cook moules in the Belgian style and a memorable long, leisurely lunch followed !
The highlight of the year is our New Year Party. Fred, the owner lets us take over the bar which we decorate and we all bring food, champagne, beer and wine.
It’s a great way to make the most of the French lifestyle, and northern France is the perfect place to enjoy it…
By Sue Quirk, Sidcup, England