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The expat good life in Pau Pyrénées-Atlantiques

Jane from Dublin, Ireland lives near the beautiful city of Pau, the capital of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the south of France. It’s an area that so far has been relatively unknown to British and overseas buyers but it has so much to offer, we think it’s a hot spot in waiting.

Living the good life in Pau


Jane met her French husband in Dublin through a school exchange visit and they moved with their two young daughters to Aberdeen for her husband’s work. While there he travelled to Pau on business and, says Jane, “he always returned telling me what a lovely place it looked like to live, showing me stunning photos of the Boulevard de Pyrenees,  the famous walkway with tropical plants and panoramic views of the snow-capped mountains and the beautiful Chateau de Pau (birthplace of Henri IV)”.

Eventually she was completely won over and says the famous quote of Alphonse de Lamartine is so true: “Pau has the world’s most beautiful view of the earth just as Naples has the most beautiful view of the sea.”

The family moved to France and though Jane says she found it really hard to leave their friends and life behind in Scotland she felt she could always move back. But instead, she fell head over heels for her new life in France in a village just 20 minutes from Pau and no longer thinks about leaving.

What does life in Pau Offer?

Pau is well situated for a great choice of activities and says Jane “a fabulous lifestyle”. An hour and half drive in one direction will take you to the mountains with a choice of more than 10 ski stations and a myriad of hiking routes. In the other direction you’ll reach the beaches in Basque country, such as Biarritz and St Jean de Luz. Or choose the wide sandy beaches in the Landes region like Hossegor and Biscarosse. “The cherry on the cake” confides Jane “is to push another half hour in both directions and you can be eating Tapas in Spain, enjoy Spanish ski resorts like Formigal or the famous coastal town of San Sebastian”.

Pau has a large international community partly due to the presence of French oil company Total, as well as associated oil service related companies. Many people arrive in Pau on expat contracts for two to three years but like it so much they often buy a holiday home or else they just stay. The international community is large enough to support an International school in Pau which follows the British curriculum.

What’s expat life like in and around Pau?

“The views of the mountains, the peace and space and the privacy and being able to pop into Pau for cosmopolitan weekend drinks with my international friends” are a few of Jane’s favourite things.

“We have very nice neighbours and a super community around us. There’s a lake just 10 minutes walk away, I can just step out the door and go for a run. We love going to the local market at the weekend for a great choice of local and organic produce. It’s really the good life here” she enthuses.

“I found straight away an Anglophone association who offered great support and had the answers to all my questions. I’m now the treasurer of the association and try to help any newcomers as best I can” says Jane.

The countryside around Pau is very lush and green, almost tropical due to a relatively high annual rainfall, unusual for the south of France. “It’s comforting that we are not subject to water restrictions and it’s a pleasant reminder of Ireland” says Jane.

Jane and her husband had an eco-house built, with solar panels and a biologically treated swimming pool (no chemicals or salt needed). “I now know all the ins and outs of buying a site and building house here. The project went well, from start to finish including decoration, the house was completed in just 12 months. We are delighted with it.”

For anyone thinking of a permanent move to this part of France, there are huge advantages to living not too far from Pau. Hospitals and specialist medical facilities, a large choice of restaurants and bars, cinemas, excellent sports facilities, concert venues, horse racing stadium, libraries and conference centres.

We asked Leggett Immobilier agent Kym Williams to tell us more about Pau and the surrounding area. Pau is a small city, she says, easy to get to know. Together with the location, beautiful environment, international community, hot summers and mild winters it’s one of the best places in France for expats.

Jane’s top tips for your home search in and around Pau

1. Make sure you verify the boundaries of the plot of land – your agent should have a map of the parcel to show you and do a walk around.

2. If you are doing a self-build, check out the local restrictions on building before launching off with your dream design, each village can have different building rules on roof heights or max amount of flat roof allowed. Also be sure to budget for the taxes and charges due to the state and to the village for connecting to the services (water, electricity, Gas).

3. Consider your interests to decide what side of Pau to locate, although nowhere is too far, for those in interested in mountain hiking, skiing the obvious choice is south of Pau, if you prefer easy access to the airport and motorway ( 2 hours to Bordeaux) and the beach then north is best.

4. If you like to have close up views of the mountains choose the south of Pau and if you like a view of the whole mountain chain, the north is best.

Pau and around is perfect for a holiday home. It’s a great base for your skiing holiday in the winter and in summer it’s a fantastic escape to the sun location with access to beaches and mountains.

Get in touch with Kym at www.frenchestateagents.com (Kym @ legget.fr)

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