Londoner Linda Devine moved to France with her husband Bernard, an engineer, in 2014. After a lifetime of work in hospitality including management roles at the Ritz, Hilton and Accor Hotels, she knew just what makes guests happy and bought all the experience to her latest venture, a gorgeous gite near Carcassonne in the south of France.
We talk to Linda about life as a gite owner in France…
What made you choose this area to live in?
We were introduced to France through a colleague who was married to a French girl and she recommended an estate agent in Castelnaudary, our nearest town. We found Laurac le Grand, a medieval Protected Village, which was once the Capital of the Languedoc area. In fact, Laurac still has ancient underground grain stores, just off the Causeway. In 2002 we bought a holiday house in the village to renovate and in 2014 finally moved to France. We decided to buy a gite as a way to boost our income. When we found La Petite Maison Devine, we knew straight away that it was perfect. It has one bedroom but the house is very roomy, spread over three floors with a view to die for, as well as a large private terrace and parking.
What’s it like to run a gite in France?
I really enjoy the whole process from the client bookings and marketing to the design ideas for the rooms. But what I love most is making sure that guests have the best holiday experience, that they go home happy and having had a great time. Bernard’s engineering background is really great for ensuring La Petite Maison Devine remains pristine and in tip top condition!
What do you love about where you live?
Having lived and worked in central London, the peace and tranquillity that permeates Laurac puts everything into perspective. And the views are stunning. There’s nothing to beat a cup of tea on the terrace with the sound of a cuckoo in the background or a glass of wine enjoyed in the hot tub whilst looking at the stars. Many of our world weary travellers arrive tired and irritable and seven days later we say goodbye to rejuvenated people!
There’s so much to fall in love with in this area. For a start, there’s Carcassonne. The hilltop city looks like a Disney castle on the skyline. We love the Canal du Midi, you can easily hire a boat and just float along under the shade of the trees that line the side. It’s great to stop off and take a break in a café set up in one of the old Lock keepers houses. Eating fresh tarte au citron, drinking in the fresh air, taking in the stunning views, we really are so lucky.
We really enjoy walking through the rose coloured city of Albi with the scent of lotus blossoms on the air, the sight of the magnificent cathedral and ramparts lifts your spirits.
On a clear day the view from the 5km stretch of Narbonne-Plage, with the Pyrenees etched in the distance, is simply awe inspiring. One of our favourite things is to wander the esplanade people watching and finish off with a delicious supper in one of the many restaurants.
What three top tips would you give to others moving to France
- Learn the language, it’s essential if you want to live life to the full in France.
- Make yourself known to the local community, particularly the Mayor. Offer to help with Summer Fetes/Christmas Fetes etc and simply join in.
- Enjoy it – the wine is good and the cheese is amazing!