A local’s view
Gîte owner John Waller explains what brought him to Indre in 2001 and what he enjoys about living there
After 17 years in Indre, gîte owner John Waller still hasn’t seen all there is to see
How did you come to live in France?
My wife and I first visited France in 1976 and fell in love with the country and its way of life. In the late 90s, after I had a health scare, we decided to look into moving there. We came to France on a five-day trip and on day three we were in the south of the Indre department. As we turned the corner to view our house, my wife said ‘This is it!’ We hadn’t even got out of the car! We bought it the next day and haven’t looked back since.
We moved in the middle of January, arriving in the middle of the night to a house that had been empty for many years, and had no electricity. Our neighbour couldn’t have been kinder – he used a long extension cable so we could have access to his electricity.
It was a big renovation project which took several years of hard work to complete. We did the small house first, so we could let it out as a gîte ( see below). We then converted the barn into our main house. This was a huge job and we did all the work ourselves with a little help from family when they visited. By 2004 both our daughters had also moved over here, one of whom came with her two-year-old daughter and eventually moved into the small house.
Have you found it easy to run the gîte business?
Yes, the registration was a simple process. As soon as the small house was finished, we moved in to the barn so we could start the lettings. We got bookings for the gîte for a couple of years until my daughter moved in. Originally, our idea for the main house was to run a chambres d’hôtes, which we did for a few years once the renovations were finished. However, my wife’s health was deteriorating, so we changed to letting out our house as a gîte, just in the summer months, moving out temporarily to live with my daughter next door. To improve our chances of bookings we installed an above-ground swimming pool, which has been a success. We advertised with a couple of online sites and got bookings straight away. It’s turned out to be much less work than the B&B and far more profitable.
What do you most enjoy about living in Indre/your French life?
It is very noticeable how the pace of life here is so much slower, calmer and generally happier. When we first bought the property in 2001, we did wonder if there was going to be enough for our visitors to do as we’d barely explored the area before purchasing – 17 years on and we still haven’t visited all the attractions on offer. We have thoroughly enjoyed days out at local fêtes – celebrating everything from snails to tomatoes! We’ve especially enjoyed driving around the local area and finding beautiful picnic spots.
How easy have you found it to integrate into the local community?
We live in a rural location, and our neighbour helped us a lot. We were invited round on several occasions for apéros to meet his friends, mostly local farmers. They were very welcoming and friendly, although they did like to make a bit of fun of us!
When Debi, our youngest daughter moved here in 2004, she integrated easily as it wasn’t long before Caitlin, our granddaughter, started at the local nursery school. We found that, so long as you make an effort to speak the language, no matter how badly, people have always been willing to help. Both my daughters have established themselves – Debi as an artist and Carolyn as a potter – and are becoming quite well known in the area.
Where is your favourite market in the local area?
We are lucky to have several markets to choose from. Our most local, at Ste-Sévère-sur-Indre is small, but has everything you need, and is in such a pretty market square with an ancient halle. We also have an excellent and busy market at La Châtre, our local shopping town. It’s a great place to hang out at the café in the corner of the square on a Saturday morning and watch the world go by.
Indre love with rural John fell in