Carolyn Reynier

Start­ing a new life in France on your own can seem daunt­ing, but for Ali Wright who moved to Lot-et-Garonne 16 years ago, it was the best de­ci­sion she could have made. Carolyn Reynier tells her story

Living France - - News -

Carolyn has lived in Nice since 2006. This month she tells the story of Ali Wright who moved to south-west France on her own in the 1990s. “I think Ali’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to up sticks and move to France on her own and in her for­ties, with no half mea­sures, is an in­spir­ing story”, says Carolyn.

It was dur­ing a hol­i­day with friends in Lot in the mid-1990s, when Ali Wright was in­spired to make a life-chang­ing de­ci­sion. The 48-year-old was liv­ing in Glas­gow and en­joyed her job in mar­ket­ing which en­abled her to travel the world, but felt a deep de­sire to do some­thing dif­fer­ent with her life. “I was sit­ting by the pool one morn­ing and thought, ‘I’ve got to change my life and I think I’m go­ing to move to France’,” she re­mem­bers.

Af­ter com­plet­ing a TEFL qual­i­fi­ca­tion in Glas­gow, with the aim of it be­ing a po­ten­tial way of mak­ing a liv­ing in France, Ali put all of her be­long­ings into stor­age in Berg­erac be­fore mak­ing the move. “I was so cer­tain that what I was do­ing was the right thing to do, so no half-way house was ever con­sid­ered,” re­veals the 65-year-old.

FOL­LOW YOUR HEART

“When you first come to France, you don’t re­alise how big a coun­try it is com­pared to the size of the UK,” says Ali. “But I think I had my heart set on the south-west.” She de­cided ini­tially to rent a gîte east of Berg­erac from Jan­uary to May to give her time to find the right prop­erty.

The right prop­erty came along, and in May 2000, Ali moved into an 18th-cen­tury farm­house in the small com­mune of LoubèsBernac in the north of the depart­ment of Lot-et-Garonne, where she con­tin­ues to live with her golden re­triever Char­lie and her two cats, Sable and Ginger.

The house is a long build­ing, typ­i­cal of the area, at­tached to a barn and has a large gar­den and two pools. One end of the prop­erty had al­ready been con­verted into a gîte. The barn, at the other end, was used by the pre­vi­ous own­ers as a games room for their rental guests. The fol­low­ing year, with the help of a lo­cal builder, Ali con­verted this end into a sec­ond gîte, leav­ing the mid­dle sec­tion of the house to live in.

At the time of mov­ing in, there were no ad­vance book­ings for the orig­i­nal gîte. “The pre­vi­ous own­ers had given up,” says Ali, who de­cided to ad­ver­tise the gîte on a cou­ple of web­sites, re­sult­ing in enough book­ings for the first sum­mer. Now that Ali is draw­ing her UK state pen­sion, she no longer needs to earn in­come from the gîte ac­com­mo­da­tion. She also has a sec­ond string to her bow; work­ing as an es­tate agent.

Ali found run­ning the gîte busi­ness hard work. “Let’s be hon­est, I’m go­ing to be in my mid-six­ties this year and what I don’t want to do is spend the whole of a Satur­day, some­times ev­ery Satur­day, mak­ing up six bed­rooms and clean­ing five bath­rooms,” she ad­mits. “It is pretty back-break­ing work and some­times, of course, it’s very hot,” she adds.

Ali man­aged to achieve a com­fort­able num­ber of weeks’ rental with peo­ple com­ing from all over the world. How­ever, in 2008 she no­ticed a def­i­nite shift and it be­came more dif­fi­cult to at­tract guests for the du­ra­tion of the two main sum­mer months. “If you can’t fill the whole of July and Au­gust when it’s peak sea­son, just a cou­ple of thou­sand euros can make a dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing able to pay your bills and not,” re­veals Ali.

Ali was un­able to ac­com­mo­date guests out-of-sea­son be­cause the two gîtes are not cen­trally heated. “The cap­i­tal in­vest­ment is con­sid­er­able and one has to work out how long it’ll take to get that in­vest­ment back,” she says. “I did a few sums and de­cided it wasn’t worth it.”

Hav­ing come to the con­clu­sion that the in­come from the gîtes was not suf­fi­cient, Ali started work­ing as an agent com­mer­cial with Leggett Im­mo­bilier and now works with Beaux Vil­lages Im­mo­bilier started in 2008 by an Eng­lish cou­ple. “They work in teams show­ing and sell­ing each other’s

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