Straight off the ferry Lovely places and prop­er­ties within easy reach of the Chan­nel ports

French Property News - - Contents -

Here are just some of the things you could miss if you roll off the ferry in France and zoom south with­out look­ing back. A sky-pierc­ing monastery on an en­chant­ing is­land; a coastal foot­path of huge pink boul­ders that glow or­ange at sun­set; an­cient moun­tains, rivers, lakes and forests; long sandy beaches and peace­ful coves; the stomp­ing grounds of Wil­liam the Con­queror and Claude Monet; five World Her­itage Sites – the list goes on.

All these can be found within min­utes of leav­ing the Chan­nel ports, mak­ing this sliver of north­ern France the per­fect place for a week­end re­treat or per­ma­nent home with easy ac­cess to the UK. Join us on a house­hunt­ing jour­ney along the coast.

Calais and Dunkirk What springs to mind when you think of the Somme? A bleak no-man’s land of mud and may­hem? Or gen­tly rolling hills and pris­tine long beaches, forests and val­leys, stun­ning châteaux and crum­bling cob farms, food and mu­sic fes­ti­vals, bro­cante sales in ev­ery vil­lage and UNESCO World Her­itage-wor­thy cities?

For Jen­nifer and Drew Allen it’s the lat­ter. They can leave Lon­don on a Fri­day evening and be at their hol­i­day home in Barly, west of Ar­ras, just four hours later, re­turn­ing home on the last Sun­day ferry from Calais or even early on Mon­day morn­ing.

“It’s our own sanc­tu­ary,” says Jen­nifer. “We con­sid­ered a place in Italy or Spain but this is so close we’ve been able to come ev­ery three weeks or so. We’re in a farm­ing vil­lage where not a lot hap­pens, but to be hon­est, that’s the at­trac­tion.”

Now that the cou­ple are able to move per­ma­nently to France, they’re selling up (see list­ing be­low) but say they will miss the stun­ning Opal Coast and en­chant­ing com­mu­ni­ties such as Le Cro­toy and St-valéry­sur-somme as well as the tran­quil coun­try­side and an­tique mar­kets of Lille, Ar­ras and Amiens. What’s the prop­erty mar­ket like? Hous­ing in Nord, Pas-de-calais and Somme is cheaper than fur­ther along the coast in Haute-nor­mandie, though prices are creep­ing up. A house in Somme, for ex­am­ple, costs an av­er­age of just €123,000, less than a third of what you’d be ex­pected to pay across the Chan­nel in East Sus­sex. Pre­dictably the cities and Opal Coast beaches com­mand the high­est prices, es­pe­cially the re­sorts of Le Tou­quet Paris-plage (where a typ­i­cal house will cost you €560,000) and Fort-ma­hon-plage as well as the

ul­tra-ac­ces­si­ble fish­ing port of Wis­sant, known as the Perle d’opale.

If you’re pre­pared to drive 90 min­utes or so, Tim Sage, an agent for Leggett Im­mo­bilier, rec­om­mends qui­eter (and slightly cheaper) coastal spots such as Berck, St-valéry and Le Cro­toy, or com­ing in­land to the Seven Val­leys. Houses in bustling Hes­din and leg­endary Az­in­court, for ex­am­ple, cost a quar­ter of what you could find in Le Tou­quet.

“This is the agri­cul­tural heart of France,” says Tim of the rolling farm­land and forests be­tween Mon­treuil-sur-mer, Aire-sur-la-lys and Authie. “It’s very pretty and the peo­ple are in­cred­i­bly friendly. Af­ter two world wars they are used to for­eign­ers.”

Some of the finest sights, ex­pe­ri­ences and prop­er­ties in France can be en­joyed within min­utes of leav­ing the ferry, says Ruth Wood

Dieppe

Though not the pop­u­lar seaside re­sort it once was, Dieppe is a gate­way to the Côte d’al­bâtre (Alabaster Coast) a 130km stretch of dra­matic white chalk cliffs sculpted by time and tides. Within min­utes of leav­ing the ferry you can be din­ing on oys­ters freshly plucked off Pourville-sur-mer or strolling along the peb­bly beach near Varengeville-sur-mer where tow­er­ing white cliffs stretch as far as you can see. Fur­ther on you’ll find the sandy re­sort of St-aubin and the fish­ing and weav­ing vil­lage of Veules-les-roses, a favourite haunt of Vic­tor Hugo. To the south is the cathe­dral city of Rouen where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, and the Boucles de la Seine Nor­mande re­gional park where charm­ing vil­lages line the sin­u­ous river.

Like Le Havre, Dieppe is lit­tle more than two-and-a-half hours from Paris and close to the Plus Beaux Vil­lages of Ger­beroy and Lyons-la-forêt as well as Claude Monet’s home in Giverny. What’s the prop­erty mar­ket like? Houses in Seine-mar­itime cost an av­er­age of €150,000, mak­ing the de­part­ment more af­ford­able than fur­ther west, though more ex­pen­sive than fur­ther east. Around Dieppe, there are a hand­ful of prop­erty hotspots, such as the coastal com­mu­ni­ties of Varengeville and St-aubin, but a house here will still cost less than a seaside home in Cal­va­dos. Houses in the coun­try­side of Eure, south of Seine-mar­itime, do not cost sig­nif­i­cantly less, though prices fall the fur­ther south-west you travel and rise the closer you get to Hon­fleur in the north or Paris in the south-east. Le Havre Le Havre cel­e­brates its 500th an­niver­sary this year and its stark post-war ar­chi­tec­ture has UNESCO World Her­itage sta­tus. Most vis­i­tors, though, quickly spread out to the beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tions in all di­rec­tions. To

the north-east are the mag­nif­i­cent white cliffs of the Alabaster Coast, per­haps best seen from the peb­bly beach at Étre­tat with its iconic chalk arches. South-west over the Nor­mandy Bridge lies the Côte Fleurie (Flow­ery Coast), long known as the Parisian Riviera be­cause of its chic beach re­sorts. The crème-de-la-crème is Deauville, fa­mous for its pris­tine white sands, colour­ful beach para­sols and vil­las.

This coast also forms the north­ern edge of the Pays d’auge, Nor­mandy’s em­blem­atic heart­land of ap­ple or­chards, lush pas­ture and half-tim­bered ( colom­bage) houses in pic­turesque com­mu­ni­ties such as Beu­vron and Cormeilles. The Plus Beau Vil­lage of Le Bec Hel­louin is worth a visit for its colour­ful

colom­bage and its abbey, which pro­vided Eng­land with three arch­bish­ops of Can­ter­bury. What’s the prop­erty mar­ket like? Le Havre is in Seine-mar­itime, the same de­part­ment as Dieppe (see above) and on the bor­der with Cal­va­dos, the same de­part­ment as Ouistre­ham (see be­low).

Ouistre­ham (Caen)

Wel­come to Cal­va­dos, home of Wil­liam the Con­queror, the D Day beaches, Camem­bert cheese, ap­ple brandy and pic­ture-post­card houses. The land­scape around Ouistre­ham (Caen) is one area that has not been over­looked by Brits. You’ll find us a hop, skip and jump from the port ad­mir­ing the Bayeux Ta­pes­try, re­mem­ber­ing the fallen at Pe­ga­sus Bridge and en­joy­ing the sun­shine on the beaches stormed by the Al­lies in 1944. We sit in cafés around Hon­fleur ma­rina, sun our­selves in im­pos­si­bly el­e­gant Deauville and gawp at the half-tim­bered houses in vil­lages such as Beu­vron-en-auge. Head south through fields of maize and cat­tle into Orne and the re­gional park of Nor­mandie-maine and you find a land­scape per­fect for hik­ing, climb­ing, ca­noe­ing and horse-rid­ing. Charm­ing set­tle­ments in­clude St-céneri-le-gérai, Las­say-les-châteaux and Dom­front. What’s the prop­erty mar­ket like? Cal­va­dos is the most ex­pen­sive de­part­ment on the Chan­nel, es­pe­cially the Côte Fleurie stretch be­tween Ouistre­ham and Hon­fleur. Typ­i­cally,

you won’t get change from €500,000 for a house in Deauville where prices are nearly triple the de­part­ment av­er­age of €170,000. How­ever, Trou­ville, Caborg and Houl­gate are slightly more af­ford­able and the ma­rina town of Hon­fleur is not as ex­pen­sive as you might think, at €200,000 for an av­er­age house.

Beu­vron-en-auge, one of the Plus Beaux Vil­lages de France, at­tracts a pre­mium but other at­trac­tive Pays d’auge set­tle­ments, such as the mar­ket town of Cormeilles in Eure, are sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper.

Prices are also lower along the D-day beaches, past Bayeux, and south-east, even in lovely com­mu­ni­ties such as Ber­nay and Le Bec Hel­louin. Di­rectly south of Caen in the de­part­ment of Orne, there are bar­gains to be had es­pe­cially the western side around Dom­front, where an av­er­age house costs €82,000, though the ther­mal spa town of Bag­noles de l’orne is pricier.

Cher­bourg

Fresh off the ferry, many Brits put their foot down and zoom through the Co­tentin penin­sula in a blur. But those who linger are re­warded. Turn left out of the port and within half an hour you’ll be in the tra­di­tional Nor­man fish­ing port of Barfleur, one of the Plus Beaux Vil­lages de France.

Half an hour in the other di­rec­tion will bring you to the Cap de la Hague, a wild and at­mo­spheric cape teem­ing with mi­gra­tory birds, botan­i­cal trea­sures and the odd coastal path hiker.

Run­ning down the penin­sula’s western flank are vast empty beaches with crash­ing surf and grassy dunes as well as lit­tle fish­ing ports and shel­ter­ered bays, of­fer­ing views of the Iles de Chausey and Chan­nel Is­lands.

“You can be vir­tu­ally on your own on the beach and the sun­sets are to die for,” says Dar­ryl Miles, who runs lo­cal es­tate agency Miles Im­mo­bilier. “I like the cathe­dral city of Coutances; it’s a beau­ti­ful place with lit­tle bars and restau­rants around the main square and a bril­liant jazz fes­ti­val.” What’s the prop­erty mar­ket like? Manche is the most af­ford­able de­part­ment on the Chan­nel coast­line with a typ­i­cal home cost­ing €120,000 and many homes avail­able for half that price, though the western coast­line is more ex­pen­sive. Ac­cord­ing to Dar­ryl, “cheap and cheer­ful” lock-up-and-leave hol­i­day homes cost­ing €50,000-75,000 are pop­u­lar with Brits while those with €150,000 or more to spend are usu­ally look­ing for a per­ma­nent home with sav­ings left over to en­joy. “You do get a lot of peo­ple who buy a hol­i­day home that later be­comes a main res­i­dence,” he adds.

Al­though the French are keen on Granville, from where you can take a ferry to the Iles de Chausey, and job hun­ters grav­i­tate to­wards Cher­bourg, Brits pre­fer tra­di­tional and af­ford­able vil­lages in­land such as Ham­bye.

St-malo

Within mo­ments of ex­it­ing the ferry ter­mi­nal here, you can be sun­bathing on golden sands

be­side turquoise waters or ex­plor­ing the walled city’s nar­row cob­bled streets. A hop across the Rance es­tu­ary brings you to the gen­teel re­sort of Di­nard while a trip down its banks takes you through the Plus Beau Vil­lage of St-su­liac to Di­nan, one of the best-pre­served me­dieval towns in Brit­tany, and on to book town Bécherel, France’s an­swer to Hay-on-wye.

An hour’s drive east of St-malo is one of the world’s big­gest tourist at­trac­tions: the is­land of Mont-st-michel and its iconic monastery. Travel west and you come to the Emer­ald Coast with its pic­turesque ports such as Binic and sandy re­sorts such as Sables-d’or-les-pins.

In­land you’ll find won­der­ful cy­cle paths, the an­cient for­est of Brocéliande and large lakes such as Guer­lé­dan. What’s the prop­erty mar­ket like? Buck­ing the trend in the rest of Brit­tany, house prices in the de­part­ment of Ille-et-vi­laine are on the rise, up by 3.7% on this time last year, though not yet at their 2007 peak.

The most ex­pen­sive area out­side the cap­i­tal Rennes is the ul­tra-de­sir­able beach re­sort of Di­nard where houses cost an av­er­age of €305,000 while along the Emer­ald Coast prices are pre­dictably high­est in tourism hotspots such as Lan­cieux, Sables-d’or-les-pins, Pleneuf-val-an­dré (€203,500), Binic, St-quayPor­trieux (€150,000) and Erquy (€177,500). How­ever, these prices still com­pare favourably with Brit­tany’s south coast.

If your bud­get won’t stretch that far but you

The white cliffs of Etre­tat have in­spired many artists

Mont St-michel at sun­set

The Iles de Chausey off the Co­tentin penin­sula

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