The Good Life France

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The Gite Life in Saumur, Maine-et-Loire

Saumur in the Loire Valley at dusk, the castle of Saumur sits high on a hill dominating the town

We talk to British expat Tony Brown who lives in Vernantes, Maine-et-Loire in the Loire Valley where he owns a gite, writes and gardens…

Can you tell us a little about you and where you are from?

After a working life in the building industry in southern England, I decided that France was less cluttered and less frenetic than the UK. All the reasons most people come to France  – the laid back lifestyle, the great food and wine, often better weather and a relaxed way of life are in abundance here in the Maine et Loire.

Where do you live in France and what inspired you to move to that particular place?

Bedroom with wood beams on ceiling in an old house near Saumur, Loire

Some say its fate, others say it’s luck, but landing up here in this village was really accidental. I was on holiday, it was a summers day and there was a cloud burst, one of those heavy ones, that soaks you in two minutes. Luckily, or was it fate, I was outside an Immobilier (estate agent) store in Baugé, a town 20kms from here. They had just opened after lunch and I sought refuge from the rain. After very little discussion, possibly because it was in French, of which I knew little, the agent said: ”It’s going to rain for a while but it will get better later. Come, let me show you the area.”  The area included his list of properties which were for sale, not that I had any intention of buying anything, let alone a property!

Several stops later the afternoon was slipping away. The sun had come out and we were in the last but one property, when I suggested going back to collect the car and I would be on my way. “Just one more” he said.

As soon as I saw the unloved pair of cottages dating to the 19th century, I knew I could turn them into a lovely home to retire to and bought them. I spent a lot of money doing them up and now have a beautiful 3-bedroom property which I rent out as a holiday home.

A stone building at the back of the house provides me with a lovely home. From here I write stories and love to garden and share the vegetables I produce with my guests.

Can you tell us more about the area, what there is to do and see…?

The Chateau of Azay-le-Rideau in the Loire Valley with pointed turrets on the banks of a river

Vernantes is a lovely village, set upon gentle slopes just above the beautiful city of Saumur just a 20 minute drive away. There are plenty of facilities in the town which is tranquil and relaxing. There are so many attractions around here you can easily fill a fortnight’s stay with theme parks, castles, vineyard visits and more. Puy du Fou is close by, it’s the best theme park I have ever visited and Futuroscope is simply amazing. Le Mans racing circuit is only 70 kms away.

If you’re looking for walks around the pleasure lakes try the one at Rille where you can swim or hire a pedalo, just 20 minutes away. St Nicholas de Bourgueil is just 10-15 minutes away and has a beautiful lake. The Loire is on the doorstep with its chateaux and vineyards. The lovely villages of Baugé, and La Fleche with its authentic market and great zoo. And within easy distance, there’s Le Lude with its beautiful chateau, Angers, Tours, Azay-le-Rideau and Chinon and Saumur.

It really is a most lovely part of France, and that laid back lifestyle I wanted – it’s here by the bucket load…

Tempted to move here?! Read our expert’s property guide to the Maine-et-Loire

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