Julia Grange from the UK lives in a small village near Nogaro, Armagnac country, in the Gers. She talks to The Good Life France about life for expats in this lovely region of south west France…
What inspired you to move to the Gers area?
We initially looked at buying in Brittany, but after a damp and chilly three weeks there one summer we decided it was too much like the UK, so we decided to look further south. We literally put a finger in a map and it landed in the Gers. We had never been to this part of France but we ended up buying the first house we saw and decided that though it was dark and damp, it gave us scope to create something light and airy and more to our taste.
The house was originally a bar/restaurant on what had been a campsite in the 1960s. The owners had dug out a lake, terraced the area around, and built this building. Sadly pre-internet it wasn’t a success so they gave it up and used the building to become duck farmers. Then they retired and abandoned the building. Brambles were climbing in through the windows. We did most of the renovation ourselves.
What made you fall in love with the region?
We loved the green rolling hills of the area, covered in vines and sunflowers. We loved the house as it wasn’t a traditional style and has large arched windows/doors. We also loved that it is beside a lake so we can enjoy watching the birds throughout the year.
Nogaro is a vibrant place. Unlike many small towns in France you can always get a meal in the evenings throughout the year. The Paul Armagnac race track brings in lots of visitors, and the cinema sometimes shows films in English. We can be on the Atlantic coast in 1h30, in the Pyrenees in 1h30, and in Spain in 2h.
If I have a day off, I’m a local agent for Leggett Immobilier, there’s loads to do. I love Larressingle, a tiny fortified town about an hour’s drive from Nogaro. Maybe some wine tasting in Madiran, or some Armagnac tasting at a local distillery. There are two lovely leisure lakes, one in Aignan in the heart of the woods, and a larger one in Lupiac. Lupiac is where Count Charles de Batz-Castlemore, the person on whom Dumas’s character d’Artagnan, was based. The village has recently started to hold a d’Artagnan festival in the summer.
What are your three top tips for people searching for a home in the Gers area?
If you need a loan to buy your new home, do speak to your bank or other lenders and find out whether or not you can be offered one, and for how much, before you look to buy. It will save you time and worry when you find your dream home.
The main tip is to be flexible. We, like so many people decided that we wanted to be in walking distance to the boulangerie. We have ended up a 10-minute drive from town. Your perfect house might not be where you expect, or even the style you expect.
It is wonderful when I take clients into a house and I know that it is “the one” for them. You can usually see the delight in their faces.