Print Posted By Lost in France on 27 Feb 2011 in Real France - Expat Interviews

Living in Moncontour

Anji Weston lives in Moncontour in the Vienne where she runs a B&B with her husband.

moncontourWhat made you move to France and how long have you lived here?
We have lived in France for 5 years although we bought a house here in France way back in 1992 - 19 years ago now, wow doesn't time fly when you're enjoying yourself.

I suppose the reason for the move to France was my fault really - I knew from the age of 14 that I did not want to live in England when I got older. As a teenager I loved France when I travelled through with my parents - the culture, the language, the music. When our children were young we toured France for the first couple of years.

I had been toying with the idea of a holiday cottage - but had looked at Ireland - which is where my father was from and which I adore also - looked at the Greek islands which we all adored. But at the end of the day it came down to France.

Our first house was a beautiful little cottage with just two small rooms downstairs. The children were always by the fact that the mice came up through the holes in the floorboards and watched us have breakfast!

Which part of France do you live in, and what's it like to live there?
Like Angi in your other interview (my name is Anji also!) our first house was in Cotes D'Amor, in a beautiful area, just 30 minutes from the sea. I say beautiful area - but where isn't beautiful in Cotes d'Amor? I am still in love with the area.

We live now in the Vienne region of France - believe it or not in a little town called Moncontour - yes, just like the famous Mocnontour in Brittany. Our Moncontour has a XIth century donjon, beautiful flowing rivers and forest walks. The area has observed many wars. Apart from the first and second world wars - it has observed the wars of religion and the wars between the English and French. In fact the XIth century keep/donjon was once owned by a future king of England, John Lackland. This area would also have observed the stragglers from the war of the 8th century when the Islamic king of France was killed between Poitiers and Tours.

Sorry, I digress. What's it like to live here. Very cold in the winter - we can drop to minus 20, but on the frosty, crisp mornings it is wonderful to take a walk along the river with the dog. But that said our winters are usually very short - around two months long. Sometimes in February we can sit out in t-shirts on the patio. In the summer it is extremely hot for several months.

It is a strange area in that to the passing motorists hurrying from one side of France to the other, it looks particularly flat. But if you venture off the main routes then you will stumble upon some of the most beautiful villages with rivers and ruins dotted about.

Do you have children, if so how easy was it for them to adjust to a French school?
We have three grown up children all following their careers back in the UK. They love visiting here in France and in fact the two youngest spent most of their holidays here in France when they were younger. Our cottage in Brittany was in the middle of nowhere - but they got to know all the farmers, watched calves and lambs being born. In many ways I wished we had bought our property much earlier, at a time when they were all young enough to move over here. The life here for children is much better than that back in the UK.

Open quote. Interviewee gives their moving to France tips Do your homework first... Close quote

What is your age?
I am 57 and my husband 64.

Where were you born?
I was born in West Bromwich in the Midlands.

Do you work, if so what do you do and how difficult was it to find work or start a business in France?
My husband and myself run Le Grand Saule Bed and Breakfast down here in Moncontour in the Vienne. It was a struggle at first, however our website has taken off over the 18 months and we look to have even more guests than ever this year.

The most difficult thing has been the language. Although I speak a little French, it is mostly social French - this in no way helps with technical French, even sorting problems with the broadband people can be very difficult and traumatic at times. As long as you do your research before setting out on the business, get to know what is required, look up the technical words needed and dive right into the necessary offices with all your paperwork to hand - nothing can go wrong.

It is difficult to find work here in France unless you are fluent in the language or are already in a type of work that can transfer easily. The type of work was different for both of us in a sense, more so for my husband who had only ever worked as an electrician and knew nothing else. For me not so difficult as I came from a business family originally, so I think business is in my blood. And I did work for a very large hotel in Germany when I was in my teens - so know a little of that side. But my working career's' - first initially trained as a secretary, then retrained in education. I was a trainer of teacher before coming to France, so for a while I commuted.

What was the worst mistake you made when buying in France?
The fact that I did not make millions in my career in England so that I could buy up every beautiful and interesting house in France. Every village you go into has a house to die for!
I think my next career should be as an estate agent - I did work for one as a secretary!

Your best tip or advice to other people considering moving to France?
Do your homework first. Find out all there is to know about what you want to do in France. Working in that field in England is not enough - you need to know the regulations here in France.

Make sure you have enough money behind you or at least some work that continues to come in, perhaps on a freelance basis. No matter how many times you estimate it never seems to be enough.

Stay legal - cover all the legal aspects.

Did you find it hard to integrate or adjust to your new life in France and do you have any tips to help others?
Don't forget that moving house is supposed to be one of the most traumatic things in life, alongside of births, deaths, marriages etc. And in moving to France you are removing yourself from your family and your friends.

Wintertime can be the most difficult here in France, because it is so quiet, because the French are very family orientated people - isn't that why many of us move to France.
Get out there and try and integrate. Attend clubs and outings and courses of interest at the local towns and villages - doesn't matter that you don't understand to begin with, it will help your French.

What's the best thing about living in France?
The People, The Peacefulness, The Sun, The Vast Open Spaces.

And the worst?
Being far from the family.

What do you think?

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