MYTH Un­der­stand­ing

In the first of a two-part se­ries, Ruth Wood de­bunks some of the com­mon mis­con­cep­tions about buy­ing French prop­erty

French Property News - - Expert Advice -

Myths of­ten con­tain grains of truth. It’s not that they’re lies ex­actly but that they tend to be short­hand for a more com­pli­cated pic­ture that can’t eas­ily be cap­tured in a pithy phrase. Un­for­tu­nately, if you don’t see this big­ger pic­ture while prop­erty-hunt­ing in France, you could miss out on the home of your dreams. This month: lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion.

Myth: It’s grim up north In­dus­trial, flat, cold and full of trenches – if you think this sums up north­ern-most France think again. Hauts-de-france, en­com­pass­ing Nord-pas-de-calais and Pi­cardie, is a re­gion of rolling hills, pas­ture and for­est, bor­dered by long sandy beaches. It’s rich in his­tory – think of Agin­court, not just the Somme – and en­joys a mild cli­mate com­pa­ra­ble to in­land Brit­tany.

“This area has so much to of­fer,” says Ron­nie Mcgowan, who lived there for many years. “There are won­der­ful gar­dens such as Val­loires, lakes and marshes such as Con­dette, forests such as Harde­lot, rivers such as the Canche and Authie, and stun­ning sea­side re­sorts like Le Tou­quet-paris-plage with mil­lion­aire homes hid­den among the trees and so posh that a no­tice in the main street for­bids the dis­play of ‘naked chests’.

“I have driven many great coastal roads, in France and around the world, but for me the coast be­tween Wimereux and San­gatte beats the lot with its curves and bends, its hill climbs and mar­vel­lous sweeps of pale sandy beaches, its windswept head­lands and capes. On a sunny day, the sea glit­ters, the fer­ries run like toy boats and the fa­mous white cliffs of Dover are clearly vis­i­ble in all their splen­dour. Mag­i­cal.”

Myth: West is best

Tra­di­tion­ally, Bri­tish buy­ers have largely ig­nored the re­gions of Grand Est and Bour­gogne-franche-comté bor­der­ing Switzer­land and Ger­many, per­haps in the be­lief that the cli­mate or scenery is not up to scratch. Tell that to the French. In the six years that pop­u­lar TV show Le Vil­lage Préféré des Français has been run­ning, they have twice crowned a Grand Est vil­lage their favourite in the land – Kay­sers­berg this year and Eguisheim in 2014, both Al­sa­tion vil­lages loved for their colour­ful half-tim­bered houses.

When Peter Ste­wart, staff writer on our sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion France Mag­a­zine, vis­ited this cor­ner of Al­sace in the sum­mer, he was re­minded of Provence, de­spite be­ing 500 miles fur­ther north. “Al­sace is cov­ered in sun­flow­ers and laven­der fields, thanks to its sur­pris­ingly warm sum­mers,” says Peter. “We basked in Mediter­ranean-like tem­per­a­tures of 28-30°c, which one ho­tel owner told us were the norm from June to Septem­ber.”

Liv­ing France mag­a­zine ed­i­tor Vicky Leigh also knows the re­gion well, hav­ing lived there as a stu­dent. “It re­ally is a hid­den gem,” she says. “The mix of lan­guages and cul­tural in­flu­ences from Ger­many make it such a fas­ci­nat­ing part of France. It has many great wines and de­li­cious food too – tarte flam­bée is not to be missed!”

Fur­ther south, Bour­gogne-franche-comté is also “highly un­der­rated” says FPN’S staff writer So­phie Gardner-roberts, who grew up there. Not that she minds if the nat­u­ral beauty of the Mor­van and Haut-jura re­gional parks re­mains un­spoilt and prop­erty prices stay low.

“Farm­ers and vi­gnerons work the land while sleepy vil­lages are reg­u­larly an­i­mated by mar­kets and unique fêtes,” says So­phie. “To the east, in the Jura moun­tains, you can find im­pres­sive peaks, charm­ing pas­tures, vast lakes and hearty gas­tron­omy – ev­ery­thing you find in the Alps but at a lower al­ti­tude, closer to the UK and much cheaper.”

Al­sace is cov­ered in sun­flow­ers and laven­der just like Provence

Le Tou­quet-paris-plage

The fa­mous Al­sace wine route, in the shadow of the Vos­ges moun­tains

Col­mar, Petit Venice, Al­sace

PART ONE

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