We talk to British expat Linda James who with her husband Alex runs Le Pommier gites and a cake making business in Riberac, Dordogne department, Aquitaine, south west France.
What inspired you to move to Riberac?
Coming here on holiday, I fell in love with the sunny weather, the stunning countryside, being able to swim in rivers and lakes, the beautiful villages, markets, fêtes and the food.
Tell us about your gites and cake business
Our property consists of a three-bedroom house, one-bedroom apartment and two-bedroom gite. The gite is popular through the whole season as it’s a comfy space for couples as well as the families who come in the school holidays. The house is bright and spacious with a new bathroom that gets the response ‘wow!’ from guest. The large stone terrace overlooking the pool and garden and countryside are perfect for aperos and the spectacular sunsets we get.
We’ve also launched a cake business. The idea started when I made cupcakes for a wedding last year, then a café in Ribérac needed cakes to serve with tea and coffee. Coffee and Walnut cake is really popular. We have several walnut trees and shelling them is a time-consuming process, so I often do it in the evening while watching telly! I’m beginning to take orders for celebration cakes as well.
Tell us about your house
The buildings are 18th century farm workers cottages linked by a large barn, forming an L-shape. We have a lovely stone well attached to our house and the grounds are made up of pretty gardens, a small orchard and a bigger garden with swimming pool and walnut trees. It’s typical for the area.
We found it via an estate agent on our High Street in Portishead that listed Leggett Immobilier properties. They set us up with viewings.
My dream was to run gites but it felt like the timing wasn’t right when I first started looking so I went back to my job. It got to the stage where I felt I could couldn’t stand waiting any longer, so I gave in my notice and left at Christmas in 2013. We jumped in our campervan in the February and I said “we’re not coming home until we find our house in France”. Penny (our agent at Leggett Immobilier) took us to see six properties a day, then persuaded us to see one we had thought was too small.
It was a beautiful sunny day and we walked into the gite and I said “I think this it!” That was mid-February. We moved in at the beginning of June. We also found a house 10 minutes away in village square for my in-laws.
We had our first gite guests less than two weeks after we moved in!
We didn’t have to do major work as it was beautifully renovated with lovely old beams, but we updated bathrooms and wood burners and gave everything a fresh coat of paint and generally redecorated. We replaced a wooden terrace with a grand stone one. Our French neighbour calls it the Acropolis!
How have you found running a business in France?
It was challenging at first as we didn’t know how to get set up as non-retirees, we had to have a business to get into the health system for instance. There is a local online network called the Dronne Valley Network, The Franco British Chamber of Commerce and Industry advertised their services through it, and we went to see them. They guided us through the set-up process. They also do a monthly informal social gathering for people to exchange experiences and information.
What tip would you give anyone following in your footsteps?
This is a difficult one! We took a leap of faith really, and underestimated how much money we’d spend getting everything sorted, and how challenging it would be to earn enough money. We know a couple of people who’ve managed to retain jobs in the UK, they work remotely from here and go back once a month for face to face meetings. A reliable income helps enormously.
What do you love about your area?
We’re living in beautiful countryside and have plenty of places to visit within a short distance. The people are friendly and there’s lots going on – vide-greniers and brocante markets, music, art exhibitions. We absolutely love the fact that we can be outside more because the weather is so good… and having a swimming pool!
Sharing our lovely space with holiday guests is a real bonus and we love to make new friends. The quiet roads and lack of traffic is brilliant.
Website: Le Pommier Gites, Riberac