With the news that France and the UK will not require a 14-day quarantine for any arrivals from each other’s countries, our attention is back on our much-loved neighbour. Generations of Britons have fallen in love with the French countryside, from the rugged coast of Brittany to the gentle rolling hills of the Charente and the glamorous Riviera. So if you’re planning a move, don’t miss our pick of the spots we Brits can’t get enough of – could it inspire you?
Saint-Malo has a long history as something of a thorn in the side of British sailors, as a privateers’ haven, but today it is one of the most popular areas for us in Brittany, not least for its old-world charm and easy access by ferry from the UK. It sits in one of the driest parts of Brittany, with just half of the rainfall of Plymouth on the other side of the channel. The walled city is one of the most visited sites in Brittany, and it feels like walking back in time down its historic streets.
This is Normandy at its very best, a busy fishing village composed of characterful tall, narrow homes around its picturesque harbour. As a bonus, it’s easily accessible by ferry from the UK – and for those of you in the south of England, it really would just be a short hop to the holiday home of a weekend! Saint-Vaast oysters are among the local delicacies, but many people don’t realise that the Val de Saire is also one of Normandy’s biggest vegetable-growing regions. Food ‘du terroir’ all round! The land here is flat and perfect for bicycling or a gentle weekend stroll. Alexis de Tocqueville once said of the area that it is ‘a long meadow that finishes with the sea on the horizon’.
This chocolate-box village is a huge favourite among British buyers and visitors alike and boasts a thriving expat community. It features a wonderfully preserved historic centre, full of buildings in the local honey-coloured stone. Wander its streets to discover independent boutiques and the Sainte-Marie market, where you’ll find regional specialities from foie gras to artisan cheeses. A history-lover and foodie’s paradise, the sun seems to shine almost year-round, but temperatures remain comfortable, generally not exceeding the high twenties in the summer or dropping below ten in winter.
Recognised as one of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France’, Aubeterre enjoys a picturesque position on a small hillside, surrounded by the undulating countryside of the Charente. Somewhat more affordable than the Dordogne, the Charente as a whole is hugely popular among the British for its pleasant and ‘warm-but-not-too-hot’ climate! The village is set around a main square, where you’ll find a number of shops, cafés, the mairie and the hotel. There is a buzzing sense of community here, with a large number of British, Dutch and German expats, as well as the locals. A tree-lined road leads down to the river, where you can kayak and even enjoy an artificial village in summer. As always, there is the obligatory weekly market and a popular bakery.
The famous Cathar city is instantly recognisable, but it is more than just a tourist attraction. This thriving small city offers that French lifestyle so many of us love, with fantastic independent bakeries, butchers, patisseries, restaurants and boutiques, all wrapped up in fabulous historic architecture. The warm climate and long days mean you’ll likely find yourself outdoors much more than back in the UK, whether that’s exploring the surrounding countryside, heading down to the Mediterranean beaches or just sitting out in your garden.
Just inland from the world-famous French Riviera, Valbonne regularly tops rankings for quality of life in the region and nation at large. It puts you within easy reach of the beaches and buzzing nightlife, while being just that bit further inland from the tourist crowds. Properties in the town itself tend to be apartments, but you can find spacious detached homes not far from the city limits.
If you would like further advice on the selling process in France, download your free France Guide.
Why not split the cost and double the fun of owning a holiday in France by buying with family or friends? Read our guide to Buying Abroad with Family
Are you looking for a property in France? Search on Green-Acres
Want to sell your property on Green-Acres? Advertise on Green-Acres