Ten years in south-west France

In search of a com­plete life change James Rolt and his wife Clare dis­cov­ered what they were look­ing for in south-west France

French Property News - - Contents -

A fam­ily who es­caped the rat race and found par­adise in Char­ente

For many peo­ple it is hard to pin­point the ex­act mo­ment when they knew that it was time for a dra­matic change in their lives. For me, how­ever, it is easy: 6 Jan­uary 2007 – a wet and windy night in the UK and, once again, I was stuck in an end­less traf­fic jam on my way home from work know­ing full well that I was go­ing to miss the bed­time of our first daugh­ter who had been born a few months be­fore.

For months we had toyed with the idea of giv­ing it all up – the jobs, the house, the se­cu­rity – and re­lo­cat­ing per­ma­nently to France to start a new ad­ven­ture but at that mo­ment, it all be­came clear.

Luck­ily, when I called my wife Clare to tell her of my Da­m­as­cus mo­ment, she was think­ing ex­actly the same thing!

Within a few weeks the house had gone on the mar­ket, no­tices had been handed in at work and, by far the hardest, fam­ily and friends had been in­formed of our de­ci­sion. At that point we had no house to move to, no jobs lined up and only a sketchy out­line of which area of France we wanted to live in. But we knew it was what we wanted even though many peo­ple thought we had lost the plot. As one of my work col­leagues put it: “Is it pos­si­ble to have a mid-life cri­sis in your 20s?”

Ten years of liv­ing in the beau­ti­ful Char­ente area in south-west France have passed by so quickly – we now have three daugh­ters, run

pokey UK homes. Al­though we were very happy in this house for over five years, as our chil­dren got older we de­cided to move into the town of Ruf­fec. We com­pletely ren­o­vated a 300-year-old mill that was in se­ri­ous need of TLC into a lovely, char­ac­ter­ful and com­fort­able fam­ily home.

Man­ag­ing a team of French builders through a com­plete ren­o­va­tion with a six-month dead­line was both re­ward­ing and chal­leng­ing – and proof that French ar­ti­sans can work fast! It’s fair to say though that one month into the build, when we were stand­ing in the cel­lar of the house look­ing up through three storeys and see­ing the blue sky above as the roof was taken off, I started to doubt our timescales!

Find­ing work When we ar­rived in France we needed to find work quickly but we had al­ways dreamt of work­ing for our­selves. There­fore, from day one we threw our­selves into cre­at­ing our first busi­ness – an in­de­pen­dent es­tate agency for which, thank­fully, our com­bined qual­i­fi­ca­tions al­lowed us to be de­liv­ered the oblig­a­tory pro­fes­sional card.

Set­ting up from scratch was tough – es­pe­cially as the fi­nan­cial cri­sis hit just a few months af­ter we started. Luck­ily, we made good con­tacts with lo­cal no­taires and an­other lo­cal agent with whom we linked up to work

If you are set­ting up in busi­ness, an ap­point­ment with an ac­coun­tant is an ex­pense that is well worth pay­ing to get things right from day one two busi­nesses and still look back at that de­ci­sion in 2007 as the best one we ever made. We thought that per­haps 10 years was an im­por­tant enough mile­stone to re­flect on the move – what has gone well, what the chal­lenges have been and what the ad­van­tages are over our old lives in the UK – in the hope that it helps other peo­ple who are per­haps toy­ing with the same idea we had all those years ago.

Where to live For us, the choice of area was crit­i­cal and we looked at var­i­ous dif­fer­ent re­gions be­fore set­tling on Char­ente. We wanted an area that was tra­di­tion­ally French, had a great cli­mate to al­low us to en­joy the out­doors life, had easy ac­cess to and from the UK for friends and fam­ily to visit, and had pretty stone char­ac­ter prop­er­ties that were within our lim­ited bud­get.

We knew as soon as we ar­rived in the area (the first time we had vis­ited) that Char­ente was right for us and we put in an of­fer on a large French farm­house in a tiny ham­let 20km from the mar­ket town of Ruf­fec. In Septem­ber 2007 we were here – set­tling into our new home on Katie’s first birth­day.

When we moved to France we wanted a com­plete con­trast to our UK lives – the re­mote­ness com­pared to the bus­tle of town and city life, the huge liv­ing space com­pared to our to­gether. In fact, this re­la­tion­ship worked so well that two years later we ended up merg­ing the two agen­cies. CIC Ruf­fec now em­ploys eight peo­ple and, al­though ev­ery year there are al­ways new chal­lenges, we are proud to have just com­pleted our 1,000th sale to an­other sat­is­fied cus­tomer.

Clare has worked in the agency from the be­gin­ning and con­tin­ues to do so but af­ter the birth of our third daugh­ter Jes­sica, she de­cided to branch out and fol­low her long-held dream of train­ing to be­come a teacher of English as a for­eign lan­guage with the Univer­sity of Cam­bridge. Cre­at­ing her own com­pany, Yes! Anglais, she now gives English lessons to lo­cal French stu­dents and adults, in lo­cal busi­nesses and also on­line with Chi­nese stu­dents.

France has been a great place to work and do busi­ness. OK, we cer­tainly don’t earn the same salaries as our store man­age­ment and bank­ing jobs would have pro­vided us in the UK, but our mort­gage and costs of liv­ing are mas­sively lower too.

There is a mis­con­cep­tion that set­ting up a busi­ness in France is im­pos­si­bly com­pli­cated and bu­reau­cratic. Our ex­pe­ri­ence shows that, as in the UK, the most im­por­tant thing is get­ting good ad­vice from the be­gin­ning – hence an ap­point­ment with an ac­coun­tant is a worth­while ex­pense, en­sur­ing things are done right from day one.

The Rolts’ home in Ruf­fec used to be a mill The pretty vil­lage of Ver­teuil-sur-char­ente The Rolts’ gar­den Clare and James Rolt, with their three daugh­ters Jes­sica, Katie and Amélie James and Clare’s agency Clare teach­ing English The weir at Ruf­fec Sun­flow­ers bless Char­ente’s coun­try­side

The Char­ente river is pop­u­lar for ca­noe­ing A tree house in the gar­den The fam­ily’s kitchen The open liv­ing/din­ing room

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.