I’m excited to welcome Sarah to the blog, as part of our “Families Moving Abroad” series. As with most people I meet locally, I met Sarah via Instagram and our families got together over the Christmas 2020 break. for a lovely wintery walk. I have loved following their journey on Instagram, from South Wales to France. Sarah tells us about their journey and their new start in France.
Meet The Family
Hello! Our family of 5 consists of myself Sarah, my husband Simon and my 3 girls Jasmine, Emme and Zara who are 12, 10 and 8 years old. We moved to Western France last November 2020 from South Wales, after buying an old run down cottage here in December 2019. This was initially intended to be an investment/project and family holiday home, but ended up becoming our permanent home pretty much overnight.
Our Love of Travel
We both ran our own businesses back in Wales, my husband as a self employed wedding photographer and myself as a holistic therapist. When we met 15 years ago, my husband had just returned from travelling and living in Australia, and I had just finished working as cabin crew.
Our love of travel was one of the things which drew us together and we had always hoped one day we would travel again, or experience living abroad.
American Road Trip vs New French Home
Our businesses had been doing well and we had planned to take the girls on an extended road trip through America the following summer. When it come to booking the trip though, I realised we could actually buy a cheap property abroad with the same amount of money. This would be an investment and something we can do together as a family for several years rather than just a one off trip….
From Italy to France
Our original dream was Italy but we ended up looking at France by accident when I saw a house pop up on my social media feed! We both loved France, however we have never visited this region before we came to look at properties here!
Simon agreed it was worth looking at, especially as he already had weddings in France and knew he could take his work there for the summers .
Taking on a Renovation
Additionally, renovating a property is something we had always wanted to do. Simon had previously worked in engineering and is skilled at most diy including plumbing and carpentry. He had also been running his own business for a couple of years making handmade furniture, so the thought of taking on a project wasn’t something we were scared of.
The girls were so excited about the prospect of viewing properties and we explained that they may look pretty awful but we would make them lovely with some hard work!!
The house we bought was 1 of only 2 properties we viewed, we were supposed to view 4 but they were sold by the time we got here and the property we bought wasn’t even one we were intending to view. The advert had very little information on it but as soon as we saw the land and garden it came with we were sold! We were shocked at how much the girls loved it despite the musty smell and wonky floors, all they kept talking about was the size of the garden and the “beauty and the beast” village!
Covid + a shock
The purchase itself was really straightforward but the week we were intending to come out to sign the papers and start working on the house, the Covid 19 pandemic began and most of the world went into lockdown!
We didn’t get out here until June 2020 but we were able to spend almost a month here and made a great start on things. It was such a shock when we arrived and we honestly did think what the hell have we done! Our youngest was mortified and it seemed so much worse than when we had viewed it, dark and dirty with cobwebs everywhere!
Falling in Love
But once we explored our village, met our lovely neighbours and got to know the area in the beautiful sunshine, our enthusiasm was ignited and we loved every minute of our first few weeks here, even if we did live in 2 bedrooms for the entire time!
It wasn’t until we came back that we realised just how much we loved it, and the ‘what if’ conversations started to creep in. This along with the growing worrying effects covid was having on our businesses and finances, as well as the Brexit deadline looming over us, it was a crazy, rushed and pretty radical decision to put the house on the market and make the move.
We spoke to the girls at length before we made the decision, we were so lucky and quite surprised that all 3 wanted to do it! I think the biggest pull for them was the idea of living in a warmer country and being in the countryside and having animals. Ironically, I think it was easier for them to part from friends and family at this time, as they had hardly seen them that year due to the pandemic.
The hardest thing
The hardest thing about going was leaving my Mum who is very close to us. It was a shock to our families initially and it took them some time to adjust to the idea. But at the end of the day, they all knew we were going for a better life for the girls, a country lifestyle, a warmer climate and financially it was a no brainer as it would leave us mortgage free with a big enough safety net to make a beautiful home and set up our businesses.
The Girls and School
Choosing schools for the girls was one of the hardest things about the move. The thought of putting them into a French school with hardly any french language was terrifying me, and I had moments where I would wake up in the middle of the night in blind panic that I was making a huge mistake. I would speak to them over and over, making sure they understood how hard it would be, but they still wanted to go.
Although our girls are fairly quiet, they are not in the slightest bit scared of change and have definitely inherited the adventure gene which I am really chuffed about!
They have all adapted really well to french school. As expected, it has not been easy, and there have been some tough days but they are all happy and have made lovely friends.
The biggest thing that helped them was having some French tuition from my friend on zoom. It gave them confidence and an ability to understand key words before coming.
Dealing with Paperwork
We decided to take on a ‘handholding’ service to help us through the paperwork side of things. This was a huge help as there is so much bureaucratic loopholes to jump through, especially now post-Brexit with applying for residency. I would 100% recommend doing this to anyone thinking of coming over.
A Setback Just Before Leaving
The biggest problem we encountered was when our property sale fell through just before leaving. We were devastated as we we right at the end if the sale and were relying in the money to get things more comfortable in the French house.
We made the decision to take the risk and go anyway so we put the house straight back on the market, and luckily it sold straight away again. However, it has been extremely stressful as its taking far longer than normal due to Covid.
The positive thing about it however is that we have saved thousands doing work ourselves that we may have paid someone else to do had the money been there.
A Little Advice
We are still at the beginning of our story here and have a lot to learn.
I would say to anyone coming over to France, to try and learn the language as much as you can.
I love learning languages so over the last year I’ve picked up from my rusty school french and I am getting by with the basics but I have a long way to go! When things go wrong, which they will, it’s then you realise how important it is to be understood.
Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations…
The quote "difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations" is so true and if you have the dream and a plan to make it work then go for it!
If you want to follow our adventure we have documented our journey on Instagram @petitefleurfrance. Come and say hello!
Thank you Sarah for sharing your journey, I cant wait to see how your French story unfolds and look forward to catching up soon. Remember you can follow Sarah and her familys advice on Instagram.
If you would like to share your journey on the blog, you can find all the information on how to submit your post by clicking here.