Sport­ing chances

When does sport be­come leisure? When it makes its way onto your wish­list for your new home in France! Fish­ing, swim­ming, rid­ing, walk­ing and more can all play a part in ev­ery­day life, says Julie Sav­ill

French Property News - - Contents - Julie Sav­ill is Mar­ket­ing Di­rec­tor at Beaux Villages Im­mo­bilier Tel: 0033 (0)5 53 90 35 91 beauxvil­lages.com

Per­fect homes and lo­ca­tions for fans of fish­ing, golf, ski­ing, swim­ming and more

Golf

As a na­tional passion, this is less es­tab­lished in France than, say, the UK or USA, but it is ac­cel­er­at­ing and well sup­ported at grass-roots level. In prac­tice, this cur­rently means af­ford­abil­ity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

Fewer cour­ses re­quire mem­ber­ship, hand­i­cap cer­tifi­cates, or book­ing ages in ad­vance than in the UK or USA. Re­ally good qual­ity cour­ses, even cham­pi­onship grade, are of­ten avail­able to ‘pay-and-play’ and they are quiet and rea­son­ably priced, cer­tainly when com­pared to the Span­ish Costas. Across France, there are English-speak­ing golf pros to as­sist and en­cour­age.

Château des Vigiers in the Dor­dogne ( vigiers.com) is set up for fam­i­lies, in­di­vid­u­als and cor­po­rate events, and of­fers Miche­lin-starred food and 27 holes of golf. Get into the swing in the cov­ered driv­ing range bays, on the pitch­ing greens or in the train­ing bunkers.

For the join­ers among you, we have sto­ries to tell of friendly wel­comes and in­vi­ta­tions to play com­pe­ti­tions at some clubs – a great way to in­te­grate! And ask us nicely and we’ll tell you about a pretty nine-hole golf course we have for sale.

Ski­ing

Much of what is avail­able is world class and found on the borders of Switzer­land, Italy and Spain. Hands up who hasn’t heard of Cha­monix or Val d’isère? For our money, the clever des­ti­na­tions are in the Pyrénées where, if you choose wisely, you can ski the win­ter (there are half a dozen or more ski sta­tions in the Pyrénées Cata­lanes Re­gional Nat­u­ral Park) and spend the sum­mer on the equally lo­cal Mediter­ranean beaches. In­deed, many avid skiers hop over the bor­der to qui­eter, cheaper and (they might say bet­ter) fa­cil­i­ties in the Span­ish Pyrénées.

Cy­cling

De­bate rages about whether this is a sport or re­li­gion… The Tour de France has just whis­tled through once again. In Eymet, one of this year’s cho­sen stag­ing posts, the res­i­dent pop­u­la­tion of about 2,500 briefly be­came 40,000, such is the draw of this most French of events.

If you join a lo­cal cy­cling club (look out for them stop­ping en route in a lo­cal bar for a cof­fee and get chat­ting), you’ll note that rid­ers are of­ten spon­sored by na­tional and in­ter­na­tional brands: great cov­er­age for a busi­ness. Go Team In­ter­marché!

And what an amaz­ing way to stay (or get) fit. The age range is in­cred­i­ble, with many peo­ple con­tin­u­ing for decades be­yond re­tire­ment. They are su­per-fit. I find it hum­bling to ob­serve a group of wiry guys warm­ing up in what looks like a scene from the wait­ing room of the film Co­coon, to then be left breath­less in their wake as they roar off up­hill.

Swim­ming

Even fairly small towns have out­door public pools. Larger towns have in­door fa­cil­i­ties, and elab­o­rate wa­ter­parks are grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity. Of course, many pri­vate home­own­ers also feel it worth­while to buy a prop­erty with a pool or the po­ten­tial to in­stall one. The weather helps! There is a whole in­dus­try set up to clean and main­tain pools and to sup­port those of us who, frankly, left school think­ing we’d never see the need to test an­other Ph level. Wild swim­ming in the sea, lakes and rivers is pop­u­lar and favoured by the cli­mate for at least part of the year in the south of the coun­try.

Hunt­ing

This is a di­vi­sive sub­ject. Should it be even listed as a sport? In France, it is an un­avoid­able char­ac­ter­is­tic of ru­ral liv­ing (and it is highly reg­u­lated). We’ll say sim­ply that there is a broadly mu­tual re­spect be­tween pro­po­nents and protesters. And a strong con­nec­tion be­tween ‘the chase’ and the din­ner ta­ble. What can­not be eaten is left alone. What can be is served up at lazy, boozy chasse lunches to which lo­cal res­i­dents are cor­dially in­vited. Cul­tural in­te­gra­tion à ta­ble.

If you al­low the chasse to hunt on your land, you will be gifted choice cuts of veni­son or wild boar at some point in the year as a thank you.

If you don’t want hun­ters on your land, it is usu­ally enough to buy ‘ chasse in­ter­dite’ signs at the lo­cal iron­mon­gery ( quin­cail­lerie), and fix them to your fence. The signs are well re­spected by the hunt­ing com­mu­nity.

We’ve had clients buy enough land/wood­land to im­mu­nise them­selves from con­tact with the

lo­cal hunt, or for all we know, to own a pri­vate hunt with lit­tle con­tact with the out­side world. As France has the same size pop­u­la­tion as the UK with about three times the land area, land is of­ten much less ex­pen­sive.

Shoot­ing

Travel through the coun­try­side and you’ll in­vari­ably see a sign pro­claim­ing ‘Ball­trap!’ So, is it: a)a com­men­tary on the tweets of a cer­tain for­eign pres­i­dent? b)the slightly-too-tight chi­nos favoured by some male ex­pats of a cer­tain age? c)clay pi­geon shoot­ing If you an­swered c you are on the ball. Clay pi­geon shoot­ing ( tir aux pi­geons) is a pop­u­lar vil­lage sport and lo­cal com­pe­ti­tions are hotly con­tested. Ask at your mairie for de­tails of the near­est club.

To shoot you will need ei­ther a per­mis de chasse (for hunt­ing) or a li­cense sportive de tir (for tar­get shoot­ing). Both re­quire an exam, and de­tails for the hunt­ing li­cense can be ob­tained from the Na­tional Hunt­ing and Wildlife Agency, ONCFS (Of­fice Na­tional de Chasse et de la Faune Sau­vage: oncfs.gouv. fr). For the tar­get shoot­ing li­cence, con­sult the French Shoot­ing Fed­er­a­tion (Fédéra­tion Française de Tir: fftir.org/fr).

Fish­ing

Li­cences for game or coarse fish­ing are easy to come by, and sea fish­ing is plen­ti­ful. Fish­ing lakes are avail­able to buy too. Go to cart­ede­peche.fr to check out where to get a per­mit in your cho­sen area. These al­low you to fish for seven con­sec­u­tive days in first or sec­ond cat­e­gory wa­ters. Sal­mon run in rivers in France – the Gave d’oloron in the PyrénéesAt­lan­tiques, for in­stance, has sal­mon from 4-10kg. Ot­ters are mak­ing a come­back and are pro­tected, so you might get lucky and spot one!

Walk­ing and hik­ing

The Grande Ran­don­née (roughly trans­lated as ‘big walk’ or ‘great hik­ing’) network, of­ten in­di­cated by signs ab­bre­vi­ated to GR, pop­u­late many ru­ral ar­eas and link towns and villages too. A lo­cal dog walk or a se­ri­ous out­ing is catered for here on way­marked and colour-coded routes. Ac­com­mo­da­tion and vict­uals punc­tu­ate the longer jour­neys.

Be aware of other signs in­di­cat­ing VTT ( vélo tout ter­rain) as the track may be shared with moun­tain bikes but also quads or mo­tor­bikes and, of course, horses.

Al­most every town will have a club ran­don­née. Walk­ers gather at pre-ar­ranged places and times to do walks of vary­ing lengths. The schedule usu­ally gives a help­ful ‘kilo­me­tres per hour’ guide so you can pick a length and pace of walk to suit your abil­i­ties. Choose one where you will be able to walk and talk and im­prove your French by chat­ting as you go!

Eques­trian

Many of us have bought prop­erty with more land than we might have eas­ily found or af­forded in our coun­try of ori­gin. Long-held dreams of pony or don­key own­er­ship be­come a happy re­al­ity. It is less than rare to be able to ride out or trek di­rectly from one’s own prop­erty. Se­ri­ous eques­trian prop­er­ties also come onto the open mar­ket.

A cou­ple of pieces of ad­vice if you are think­ing of buy­ing a prop­erty and keep­ing horses: the fur­ther south you go, the more land you will need per pony as the long hot sum­mers mean less grass; shade from field shel­ters, hedges or wood­land is es­sen­tial.

Sail­ing

If dinghies are your thing then head for one of the many lakes of south­ern France. For­get drop­ping into the chilly So­lent on cap­size prac­tice and look for­ward to a swim in warmer wa­ters dur­ing a long, hot day of sail­ing.

On many lakes, such as Lac Ste-croix in the Alpes-de-haute-Provence dé­parte­ment, dinghies, cata­ma­rans, kayaks and ca­noes, wind­surfers and pad­dle­boards are avail­able to hire if you don’t have your own. And, of course, coastal prop­er­ties make sea sail­ing an ev­ery­day pos­si­bil­ity.

Boat­ing

Take to the pretty well-kept canals and dis­cover a bliss­ful pas­time. Delete mem­o­ries of child­hood trauma on the River Avon in flood. In­stead, fol­low in the gen­tle wake of Prunella Scales and Ti­mothy West in Chan­nel 4’s Great Canal Jour­neys on the World Her­itage site of the Canal du Midi. Or re­trace the ad­ven­tur­ous paw prints of ‘whip­pet’ Jim in Nar­row Dog to Car­cas­sonne ( nar­row­dog. com). To hire your own cruiser, try leboat.com.

Fly­ing

We are blessed with nu­mer­ous fa­cil­i­ties for light air­craft across France. Fly­ing lessons cost from around €120 to €150 an hour and you need 30 hours to get your Light Air­craft Pilot Li­cence. Check out the Ecole Na­tionale de l’avi­a­tion Civile ( enac.fr/en) in Toulouse for fur­ther de­tails. Or try a he­li­copter les­son near Per­pig­nan in the Langue­doc-rous­sil­lon, Oc­c­i­tanie, ( he­lit­toral.fr/en/ser­vices/ fly­ing-les­son/). ULM (ul­tra­light air­craft) afi­ciona­dos can still buy a prop­erty with enough land to create a pri­vate land­ing strip, or just join in with an es­tab­lished club such as this one in Cabr­erets, Lot ( bapteme-lot-ulm.fr/).

The big­ger pic­ture

Sport is part of the cur­ricu­lum and the psy­che in France. Tiny com­mu­ni­ties of un­likely scale have well-main­tained public ten­nis courts, swim­ming pools and walk­ing clubs. Watch a pas­sion­ate boules or pé­tanque en­counter on any scrap of vaguely level (but of­ten flood­lit) gravel… maybe even join in, if you don’t mind be­ing hu­mil­i­ated!

The south-west and south-east are mad about rugby. If you want to sup­port rather than take part, any­where within strik­ing dis­tance of Toulouse, Mont­pel­lier, Brive or Bordeaux gives you ac­cess to teams in the Rugby League Top 14 com­pe­ti­tion. Foot­ball is truly na­tional and you can barely be in a town with­out a pro­fes­sional or ama­teur team and pitch.

Many sports, on a prac­ti­cal and fi­nan­cial level, suit the more pas­sive spec­ta­tors among us. Mo­tor rac­ing on two, three or four wheels is wide­spread be­yond the fa­mous Monaco Grand Prix or Le Mans 24 hours en­durance race. An­goulême in Char­ente, for in­stance, hosts an an­nual vin­tage car rally around the city ram­parts where you can see clas­sic Bu­gat­tis and Fer­raris hur­tle around ter­ri­fy­ing bends and through nar­row streets (this year, the Cir­cuit des Rem­parts is on 15-17 Septem­ber). A fine and gen­tle start to your sport­ing life in France? I’ll see you in the apéro tent for a glass of rosé!

Sport is part of the psy­che in France – even tiny com­mu­ni­ties have well­main­tained public ten­nis courts, swim­ming pools and walk­ing clubs

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