Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

Emma and Phillip Hutchinson moved to StPalais-sur-Mer in the PoitouChar­entes in 2003. They run a suc­cess­ful bou­tique B&B, Ma Mai­son de Mer. The cou­ple de­cided to buy in France for a com­plete change of life­style af­ter mov­ing first from Har­ro­gate, where Emma had a res­tau­rant, to Hous­ton, where Phillip worked in fi­nance for GE Cap­i­tal.

Emma, 35, who has two young sons, says: “At first we were look­ing for a hol­i­day home in France, where my par­ents had lived for al­most 20 years

“But we didn’t see any­thing we liked so we asked to see big­ger houses. When we saw this one from the out­side, we loved it straight away. We just knew it was meant to be. “

The cham­bre d’hôte needed ren­o­va­tion and the Hutchin­sons set about teach­ing them­selves French by lis­ten­ing to CDs while they ren­o­vated the rooms.

“It was very dif­fi­cult deal­ing with French builders when we didn’t know the lan­guage and they are ex­pen­sive,” says Phil.

“That’s be­cause they pay 45 per cent of their salary in taxes, but we man­aged and we did a lot of work our­selves.”

The dé­cor and lo­ca­tion has made the B&B a big hit with vis­i­tors and the life­style has given Emma and Phil ev­ery­thing they dreamed of.

“The food is pure and beau­ti­ful and we have the sun and beaches,” says Emma,

But the cou­ple work very hard, ris­ing early to get fresh food from the boulan­gerie and mar­ket be­fore cook­ing, clean­ing, look­ing af­ter guests and not go­ing to bed un­til past mid­night.

Phil misses go­ing to the pub, Emma misses Chi­nese food and they both miss English friends.

The hard­est part of mov­ing to France has been the bu­reau­cracy and the taxes.

“You have to know the sys­tem, which is very com­plex and that’s where know­ing the lan­guage is very help­ful.

“The taxes are as­tro­nom­i­cal. It’s cer­tainly not cheaper to live here, but there are so many com­pen­sa­tions,” says Emma.

For de­tails of Emma and Phil’s guest house, visit­maison­de­ Emma Joll and part­ner David moved to South Nor­mandy three years ago with their sons Jack, 13, and Harry, 10. Af­ter hol­i­day­ing in beau­ti­ful South Nor­mandy, Emma and David were se­duced by the un­spoilt area famed for its nat­u­ral beauty, cheeses and ap­ple or­chards that cre­ate some of the best ciders in France.

It is less than an hour from the ferry port of Caen and four hours from Calais. “We de­cided it of­fered a bet­ter life­style for us and our chil­dren and the idea was to find a prop­erty that would gen­er­ate an in­come while David es­tab­lished him­self as a builder,” says York­shire-born Emma, who spent many years liv­ing in Hollywood work­ing as a nanny for ac­tress Jane Sey­mour.

They sold their home in Bath and bought an old farm­house close to Ban­gles de la Orme, a beau­ti­ful spa town favoured by wealthy Parisians.

The prop­erty, which they have ren­o­vated, has a lake, swim­ming pool, ducks, hens, sheep and two gîtes that they let out. The land runs into the na­tional for­est, which boasts 200km of tracks and walks.

David now works for both ex-pats and French peo­ple and the cou­ple buy and ren­o­vate prop­erty to sell.

Emma says: “The French peo­ple are very friendly and happy to help as long as they think you have made the ef­fort to try to speak the lan­guage.”

The cou­ple have English and French friends and their boys have in­te­grated well.

“It’s very fam­ily friendly and quite old-fash­ioned. It’s a bit like 1970s’ Eng­land. “The life­style is very re­laxed.” Prop­erty prices are cheaper and there are still ren­o­va­tion projects for £40,000, but one of the best as­pects of French liv­ing, says Emma, is the health ser­vice.

“It is fan­tas­tic. You can go for a blood test in the morn­ing and the re­sults are back in the af­ter­noon. The can­cer treat­ment is su­perb, too.”

The ma­jor dis­ad­van­tage is the pa­per­work and taxes. Emma adds: “If you come with­out a job it can be very tricky, and some of our friends have gone home be­cause they have strug­gled to find em­ploy­ment.”

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