Print Posted By Lost in France on 30 Jan 2013 in Real France - Expat Interviews

A B&B in Ariege

Kim and Mike Grayson moved to France in 2002 and after months of renovating opened a B&B in Foix in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

FoixWhat made you move to France and how long have you lived here?
We wanted to live close to mountains with plenty of sun in summer and snow in winter - far from the endless drizzle of the UK. Having retired early, the opportunity to do something completely different presented itself. After 18 months of renovations, we opened our Bed and Breakfast in the centre Foix, Ariege, in 2003.

Which part of France do you live in, and what's it like to live there?
Foix is the Capital of the Ariege Department, in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Barcelona is three hour's drive south, Toulouse and Carcassonne an hour North and a two hour drive East through spectacular gorges and vineyards takes you to the Mediterranean beaches. Train connections are also very good. A day trip to Paris is perfectly feasible.

The pace of life is relaxed and the locals are friendly. Brits and other settlers, who come from all over Europe and America, do not huddle in their own ghettos, but mix well and are appreciated for renovating the old stone houses and keeping the villages alive.

Do you have children, if so how easy was it for them to adjust to a French school?
We have four cats, but understand that the education system is very good. Foix and Toulouse are University towns.

Open quote. Interviewee gives their moving to France tips The pace of life is relaxed and the locals are friendly... Close quote

What is your age?
We're in our 50s and 60s.

Where were you born?
Australia and England.

Do you work, if so what do you do and how difficult was it to find work or start a business in France?
Even with no experience, we found running a Bed and Breakfast very easy. We were used to entertaining and we set up the rooms as we would have liked when we were travelling. The rest is common sense. Starting business as a sole trader or small company is easier than ever now in France. A good level of French is required if you want to work in a French company - and you will be in competition with the locals for jobs. Airbus in Toulouse, however, always need staff.

What was the worst mistake you made when buying in France?
Moving in August, when France stops working. We couldn't start our renovations until October!

Your best tip or advice to other people considering moving to France?
Be a cash buyer and don't necessarily trust an ex-pat builder to do your renovations! If you sell within ten years, you will need to show guarantees issued by French registered artisans - especially for electrics and plumbing.

Did you find it hard to integrate or adjust to your new life in France and do you have any tips to help others?
We did take lessons initially, but learned more French on the job. The French love to stay at English run Bed and Breakfasts, as we have high standards of food and cleanliness. The many restaurants in Foix and the tourist sites around appreciated us for sending our clients their way. We did our own marketing and most of our guests came through our website.

Our house is for sale, but we are not going back! Our new home is 5km South of Foix.

What's the best thing about living in France?
Not living in England.

And the worst?

What do you think?

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