CASE STUDIES: TWO FAMILIES WHO STARTED A NEW LIFE ACROSS THE CHANNEL
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, visit www.mamaisondemer.com 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.”