A lo­cal’s view

Orig­i­nally from South Africa, Lisa and Steve Ca­vanagh moved to ru­ral Avey­ron in May 2010 where they run a cook­ing and cy­cling hol­i­day busi­ness

Living France - - Where To Live -

How did you come to set­tle in Avey­ron?

We were liv­ing in South Africa where we were self-em­ployed herb and ed­i­ble flower farm­ers. We were look­ing for a fam­ily ad­ven­ture and a bet­ter place to bring up our chil­dren. We vis­ited France for 10 days in Oc­to­ber 2008, viewed many prop­er­ties and bought this one; a farm­house with out­build­ings near the vil­lage of Goutrens.

Steve moved over in March 2009 to make the house hab­it­able – it was an empty shell, with no elec­tric­ity, run­ning wa­ter or sep­tic tank, but it did have a sound roof. I fol­lowed in May with the kids, then aged seven and five and our ‘menagerie’ (two dogs, six cats and a par­rot) ar­rived two days later.

What at­tracted you to France, and Avey­ron in par­tic­u­lar?

Steve had been to France be­fore and al­ways en­thused about the land­scape, the cli­mate and the peo­ple. Be­ing avid Tour de France fans, we were also se­duced by the won­der­ful images we saw on the TV cov­er­age. As a tourist des­ti­na­tion, France has it all, from the Alps and Pyrénées to the beau­ti­ful beaches in the south. It has his­tory, cul­ture and wide-open spa­ces. In Avey­ron, there are gor­geous rolling hills and a ru­ral way of life. It is the tra­di­tional France of yes­ter­year; a place where farm­ers still gather at 8 o’clock on a Sun­day morn­ing to eat a tra­di­tional meal at huge com­mu­nal ta­bles in the vil­lage hall. It is a place where neigh­bours look af­ter each other, and men still wear berets. It is a France un­touched by glob­al­i­sa­tion.

Did you find it easy to find a suit­able prop­erty. What were your cri­te­ria?

We had a check­list: we knew we were look­ing for a corps de ferme and wanted three hectares of land, with a house and out­build­ings that could be con­verted. Even though it was aban­doned and over­grown, this prop­erty had all of that and is well sit­u­ated be­tween two vil­lages, so we’re near schools.

What led you to set up the cy­cling and cook­ing hol­i­days?

These are our pas­sions; Steve loves to cy­cle and I love food. We thought it’d be a good way for peo­ple to ex­pe­ri­ence our beau­ti­ful cor­ner of Avey­ron, and do some­thing dif­fer­ent that’s not in the guide­books.

What is it like through­out the sea­sons?

No two sea­sons are the same. Sum­mers can vary – we’ve had very hot ones and even a rainy one. Win­ters can be mild or -15ºC. We are not al­ways guar­an­teed snow but love it when it comes.

What do you most en­joy about liv­ing here?

We love the peo­ple; they are so kind and car­ing and have made us feel so wel­come. The area is beau­ti­ful, from forests to moun­tains, rivers and wild-open spa­ces, to some of Frances most beau­ti­ful vil­lages – Avey­ron has it all.

Is there any as­pect of liv­ing here that sur­prised you?

The peo­ple and their will­ing­ness to help us has, at times, left us speech­less.

Is there a spe­cial place that you par­tic­u­larly like to visit?

We love the wide-open spa­ces of the Aubrac and the rugged­ness of the Mil­lau area.

How easy have you found it to in­te­grate into the lo­cal com­mu­nity?

Hav­ing never spo­ken French, the pres­sure was im­mense. I don’t think ei­ther of us will ever for­get the anx­i­ety that came with stand­ing in a queue at the shop or post of­fice, wait­ing to place an or­der, and know­ing that ev­ery ear in the place was keenly tuned in to what the new ar­rivals were about to say! Hav­ing kids has helped; we had no choice and had to in­te­grate and be­come part of the com­mu­nity.

Where is your favourite mar­ket?

My favourite mar­ket has to be Ville­franchede-Rouer­gue. It takes place in the cen­tre of the beau­ti­ful bastide town; it’s so colour­ful and busy with pro­duc­ers from ev­ery cor­ner of the re­gion. It’s a real so­cial event ev­ery Thurs­day morn­ing.

Is there a restau­rant you like to eat out at?

Yes, Le Vieux Pont, a fam­ily-run restau­rant in the beau­ti­ful vil­lage of Bel­cas­tel. Ni­cole Fage­galtier and her team re­ally show­case the amaz­ing fresh pro­duce of Avey­ron in a fine din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Ca­vanagh Lisa and Steve

The cou­ple ren­o­vated the en­tire prop­erty

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