Property show. Anita Rani crosses the channel to the Poitou-Charentes region of France with a couple from Gloucestershire who are seeking a new start.
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The highly decorative stonework on this historic building is celebrated
as some of the most beautiful Romanesque carvings in the world.
But where could I be?
Join me in a moment to find out.
Today, we're helping a couple from Gloucestershire,
who are seeking a new life on the Continent,
though not everything goes to plan.
This hasn't got an old farmhouse feel.
And it hasn't really got a cottagey feel.
-You're just not feeling it.
But the vibes elsewhere are trying to win them over.
-I can't not see myself in here.
Welcome to Escape To The Continent.
I'm in Poitou-Charentes
in the southwest of France
and that wonderful building is the Notre-Dame la Grande,
here in Poitiers.
Now, it's been a place of pilgrimage for centuries
and the carvings first began at the beginning of the 12th century,
and they can still be read like a picture book of biblical stories,
including Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the Nativity.
An extensive restoration project began in the 1990s,
so Notre-Dame la Grande
can still take pride of place in the capital of this captivating region.
A 90-minute flight from British shores, the Poitou-Charentes region
in south-west France stretches out
across 10,000 square miles of countryside.
As the second sunniest French departement,
it offers some of the country's most impressive topography.
Head west and you'll find 280 miles of sparse, sandy beaches
leading up to La Rochelle, the historic port city.
Look east and you uncover swatches
of undulating countryside that continue all the way
over to the foothills of the Massif Central,
taking in a patchwork of grain fields and fruit laden vineyards.
The vistas draw attention to the intense seclusion here.
On average, there are 160 inhabitants per square mile,
placing the Poitou-Charentes
amongst France's most sparsely populated regions.
And there's the cognac, the brandy appellation of choice
for over 400 years.
Traits of this area are reflected in this complex beverage,
with subtle and intense flavours,
discernible from a single grape variety.
And it's the perfect blend of coast, country and calm
that attracts 10% of all Britons making the permanent move to France,
to this appealing corner of the country.
So how much would a slice of this beautiful region set you back?
Well, the average price of a property here in France
is currently just over £126,000,
which is £51,000 less than in the UK.
And when you consider that here, in Poitou-Charentes,
it's even cheaper at £110,000,
you can get a whole lot of house for your pound.
But will any of them tempt today's buyers?
Because there are plenty on the market.
Pursuing a new life abroad are duo Bill and his wife Sarah
Bonjour. Je m'appelle Guillaume
et ma femme, Sarah.
Between them, they share four boys,
three Labradors and 21 years together.
They currently live in an old cottage in the village of Frocester
that they restored and are constantly maintaining.
The property was first built, we believe, in 1492
and was going to be our final property, but now we feel that we
would like to retire somewhere smaller
and easier to keep up together.
And after dedicating years to building up a successful
removals business, amongst others, the couple are ready for a change.
If we stay here, we will always be involved with
the remnants of our businesses.
We are carrying a huge burden around with us at the moment.
I want to take the backpack off.
Hoping for time to try out new things.
We've got three Labradors and we don't have as much time
as we would like to spend,
maybe an hour or two hours a day, out walking with the dogs.
That would be a lovely thing to be able to do in France.
We also enjoy bird-watching and we would be able to do that.
I play the guitar in a very amateur way and I would like to have more
time to try and learn to play, you know, a little bit more.
I am not a great guitar player, by any stretch.
I work on the principle that the more guitars I have
the better guitarist I will be.
I think, if I stick at it,
I might well be able to prove that hypothesis.
But there's one aspect of French culture that does
worry them a little.
I could see a slight problem in that we're both vegetarian
and eating vegetarian meals in France,
if you want go out to eat, is not always easy,
-so it may mean me doing more cooking at home.
And when it comes to their future property,
it's as much a case of knowing what they don't want
as it is of having a precise sense of what they do.
We would really like somewhere that is a complete contrast
to our cottage that we live in at the moment,
just something simple and modern.
I wouldn't mind how much land or garden there was,
provided that was low-maintenance as well.
If I can sit on a ride-on mower and cut some grass,
round the small orchard, down by the little stream
and the pond that the dogs can swim in, that's absolutely fine.
And they fully appreciate how big a step it is they're about to take.
I would consider this a big risk.
All the time you're growing up, you always think,
"Oh, one day I'm going to do such and such."
Well, I think that now our "one day" has come.
Sarah and Bill have targeted the Poitou-Charentes
as the place to rectify their work-life balance.
They'd like to focus their search in the triangle between the three
major towns to the east - Limoges, Angouleme and Poitiers -
although they're not adverse to venturing further towards the coast,
should the right property crop up.
I'm meeting them at the Chateau de Verteuil
to learn more about their proposed move.
Bill and Sarah, here we are.
-Welcome to Poitou-Charente.
-Thank you very much.
And welcome to my home.
-You're lucky girl.
So, tell me, why do you want to move to this particular region?
There's some lovely inland waterways, the canal system is nearby here,
there are some lovely cities,
so we thought it would be quite suitable here.
-And it's beautiful.
Because we've been working really, really hard for the last 20-odd years
and we feel that now is the time
to make a move so that there's still some time left
for us to enjoy our retirement,
rather than waiting until the very last minute,
when we're too old to get anything out of it.
Are you really the sort of people who are ready to kick back
and put your slippers on?
For a while, it would be really lovely to do nothing,
but then we know that we would probably get a little bit bored.
So we wanted something... Just a small activity or project to keep us
occupied for some of the year, but not the whole time.
So what are you thinking?
We thought maybe a campsite, caravan site.
There are a lot of mobile homes travelling up and down through France.
A very small campsite, possibly.
A small music festival would be nice.
-Yeah, wouldn't that be great? I'll come. For free?
Are you a bit of an old hippy there, Bill?
He had very long hair when we got married.
And how's your French?
-I would be fully aware that
-we would need to integrate, certainly.
Describe your dream property in France.
I actually haven't dreamt of a house in France.
We don't know until we've seen it.
We live in a very old house at the moment.
We're looking for something completely different,
something modern, maintenance-free, two bedrooms would be adequate.
-And you have three dogs?
-Yes, we do.
-So you'll need space for the dogs?
A little bit of land but not a huge amount.
We don't want to have do a lot of work on it.
And I'd like some space of my own.
I wouldn't mind an older property, particularly if it had an
adjoining barn or some extra kind of free space.
But you're also thinking about running a campsite
because that's going to be work.
Yeah, but that's only for sometime during the summer.
That wouldn't be year-round.
-Any big no-nos?
-A restoration project that somebody's done badly.
So let's talk budget.
-If you set a maximum of 200.
-All right, well, let's go and see the first property.
Cash buyers Sarah and Bill have up to £200,000 to invest
in a whole new way of life.
There is one overriding property pre-requisite -
anything but what they have in England.
That translates into an easily maintainable,
recently renovated or new property.
With no idyllic home in mind, their desires are simple -
a couple of rooms, space for the dogs
and some kind of business potential.
Over the next couple of days, I'll be taking Sarah and Bill to
view a selection of four diverse French properties,
but I won't be revealing the price until the end of each tour.
Our final offering will be the mystery property,
with the one single aim of surprising our couple with an option
they might never have chosen themselves.
Our first house is a stones throw away from Melle,
a former mining town just 30 miles southwest of Poitiers.
The decree major airports of the region are all
within a 90-minute drive and yet Melle's ancient town centre
is just a walk away.
And this melange of modern practicality and French charm
reflects the story of the property.
Melle itself is home to France's
oldest publicly accessible silver mine
and it's smattering of houses and churches pay testimony to
its heyday in the Middle Ages.
The surrounding farmlands now evoke a serenity barely impacted
by a handful of useful amenities
and even a language school that sits nearby.
Hopefully, this first offering could be the ready-made slice
of rural modernity that Sarah and Bill have been looking for,
but they'd also have to put up with some stunning views
right from their doorstep.
OK, have a look.
There it is.
-That looks gorgeous.
-It's beautiful, isn't it? It's very, very, very pretty.
The other thing is it looks, externally, in good condition.
-Is that part of it?
No, that is a barn that belongs to the farm,
but it's only got tractors in it.
There are no animals that will be bleating through the night,
-or mooing, or whatever.
Now, when you were describing the house that you wanted,
you said modern but something French.
It's not what I had pictured in my mind. I'm not adverse to it, but...
Not what you'd been dreaming of.
-What were you dreaming of?
-What is it?
Quick, this is what I want to know. What is it? What did you imagine?
Well, something more modern and single-storey.
-However, we're happy to look.
-Let's do it.
That could have gone better and pretty, though it may be,
the cottage is going to have its work cut out wooing Sarah and Bill.
In spite of that barn, there's plenty on offer outside...
with half an acre of land, vistas,
a neatly decked out veranda and a stunning extension
to the rear, which we'll get to a little bit later.
First, I hope the interior will put them back on side.
-This is really lovely.
-Lots of light, that's nice.
And the fire, that's gorgeous.
-Yeah. I love the tiled floor.
-Yeah, very pretty, isn't it?
-And it's got a high ceiling.
-It's a very comfortable room.
-Excellent. Shall we see the kitchen?
The property fights back.
Maybe this isn't so far from Sarah's dreams after all.
Fingers crossed the sizeable kitchen comes up to scratch.
I'm really taken aback by that.
It's so different, it's not a colour scheme or anything that
-I would ever have considered, but it works really well.
-Yeah? Who does most of the cooking?
-I do all of the cooking.
-Now, picture Christmas.
Yes, with the fire and the dining table. Yeah, it's...
-With all the boys here.
-It's more of the living room.
It's retained a certain amount of farmhouse charm
and yet it's been brought up-to-date so well.
Yeah, it's so attractive that I wouldn't change anything.
All right, well, let's show you the bedroom. This way.
Downstairs has now got Sarah and Bill imagining a future
in this sprawling, four-bedroom property.
The cottage was saved from ruin by a Dutch artisan
and again further modernised six years ago by the present owners.
-It's nice to see a bedroom that's big enough
-to actually get a bed and some furniture in it as well.
-I love these.
-Yeah, aren't they gorgeous?
Importantly, they're high enough
that you don't crack your head on them, unlike at home.
-And you have an en-suite.
-Oh, that's nice.
-There is another bedroom up here.
You actually have four bedrooms in total with this property.
Could you potentially run a little B&B?
I suppose it is a possibility but it's not on our, kind of, list
-of things that we are aiming to do.
-It's not what we intended to, no.
Fine. It's a whole lot of house.
So far, what I've seen inside of this house is perfect.
I actually haven't found anything to pick at yet.
-Shall we go and discuss the price somewhere?
And the transformation is complete, but the best is still to come.
Annexed to the 18th-century property
is barn extension housing two of the rooms
and ample storage to the rear.
Oh, isn't this lovely?
-This is the barn extension.
The sun comes in here, you can open these doors right out.
Yep, it is really, really, really lovely.
-It's nice, isn't it?
And that could be a brilliant man cave. Go and have a look.
-Can I have a look?
-Yeah, yeah, off you go.
-OK, excuse me.
Oh, it's enormous. Enormous space.
-It's good, isn't it?
It's a stunning space.
So how much do you think this house is on the market for?
I would estimate that
it's for sale at £195,000.
I would go for £175,000.
It's actually on for
-That's incredible, isn't it? That really is incredible.
-I'm pleasantly surprised, certainly.
-Value for money for it being in such good order...
-There's so much of it.
..and so nicely done.
-You wouldn't have to do anything here, would you?
-No, not a thing.
I wouldn't even have to redecorate.
The colour scheme's perfect, everything.
-It's too easy almost.
-It is too easy.
-There's lots more of this property to see.
-Off you go and I'll find you in a bit.
-Let's go and have a look.
-Go and explore.
(They love it.)
I'm so happy, but it is property number one.
Where do we go from here?
Nearly £50,000 under budget,
the price has clearly caught their attention,
as we go from one barn threatening to ruin the property
to another one saving it.
With four double bedrooms, three bathrooms
and a handy location within a calm, rural setting,
our first property has given Sarah
and Bill a lot to think about.
From the outside I thought, "This isn't really what I specified."
The big steel barn is a little bit of an eyesore,
but you don't notice that quite so much outside.
You could easily sit and look at the view with your back to the barn.
Watch your head.
-Another bathroom there and shower.
And another really good-sized room.
With a headache-beam.
-This is like a family room.
So I can see where Anita was coming from when she was saying about
having this as guest rooms or...
-Because it is kind of separate.
-It is separate.
Yeah, that's something well worth thinking about.
The way that it has been renovated and decorated,
to such a high standard, in such good taste,
it really has surprised both of us.
This is the kind of house we could move straight into.
-Imagine that field when it's full of sunflowers.
I mean, there are properties next door, but the house is still
lovely and the price is so good. That's a real possibility.
I heard "Price is good, house is lovely, a real possibility."
But we're not quite done for the day.
-There is one last place I'd like you to explore.
-Come on, this way.
-OK, let's go.
Sarah and Bill are keen to unload, de-stress
and move to a calmer way of life.
With all this in mind, I'm bringing them to the village of Poursac
for them to experience a snippet of what life could be like here
with their own rented cottage.
Now, a little surprise for the two of you.
We thought we'd do away with hotels and, for the rest of your time,
you'll be staying in this rather sweet little gite.
-Oh, it's fantastic. It's a real treat.
And, to be honest, it's better than staying at a hotel.
-I'm going to give you the key then.
-Thank you very much.
-This is lovely, isn't it? Look at that.
-Isn't that nice?
-Brilliant, let's go and have a look.
-Let's have a look.
The two-tier home is simple, yet functional,
with the kitchen-diner downstairs
and a bedroom with en suite on the top floor.
-This is cosy, isn't it?
-Yes, what a nice cosy bedroom.
Oh, we'll sleep well tonight.
Sounds like this will do nicely,
but one chore lies between Bill and a relaxing first evening in France.
What on earth have you got in here, Sarah?
No wonder it was overweight on the plane.
Once decamped and with the evening to themselves, Sarah and Bill
take the opportunity to research an absolutely vital part of the
French way of life - their local cave au vin -
or wine bar to you and me.
And the French required in this establishment
isn't too taxing either.
Je veux proposer un vin de Loire, ou un cote de blaye.
C'est un Bordeaux.
-Oui, oui, yes. C'est bon.
I can't believe we're here. I can't believe we're doing it.
It still feels a little bit strange, but...
At least we've started the process now.
Yes, we have and now we're actually looking seriously.
Yeah, who knows what will happen.
-S'il vous plait.
This is not a holiday now. This is quite serious.
It's on the verge of actually happening, isn't it?
Yeah, making a decision.
This could be the catalyst to a complete change of lifestyle,
which is long overdue.
-We'll drink to that, shall we?
Sarah and Bill from Gloucestershire have £200,000 to spend in a popular
corner of southwest France.
We've been tasked with distilling their rather broad wish list
into four realistic properties.
Over breakfast, our couples soon find themselves chatting over
the possibilities of everyday life here.
It would be lovely to go out for a walk with the dogs now, wouldn't it?
I do know how much of a challenge it's going to be for the dogs.
It's easy at home because we have a routine
and they know where they are, they are at home.
-They'll soon get used to having all these new places.
We have to make sure the house and the garden...
That the garden is adaptable.
Well, that place yesterday was perfect.
And inside the house was brilliant.
And the tiled floors makes it so much easier to keep clean
-with their paw marks.
But lots and lots of lovely walks and that'll help us to explore the area.
Going out walking with the dogs will help us to explore.
And hopefully meet people and get into that whole social thing as well.
But the boys might come from time-to-time.
We'd have more real-time with them if they came to see us,
-rather than just cruising past when they want something...
..and going away again.
Yeah, they would come and see us. That would be nice.
The first property I showed Bill and Sarah, they absolutely loved,
which is brilliant, it set the bar very high, but these two are a bit
unsure about what it is they're looking for.
However, they're open to ideas and I, for one, can't wait to show them
what I've got lined up today.
-Come on out.
-It's that time.
-Oh, what a beautiful morning.
-How was your evening?
-It was good.
-We had a lovely evening, yes, thank you.
-Are you ready to see some more properties?
-Feeling open minded?
-Yes, very much so.
-Good, best way to be. Follow me.
This morning, we're heading towards the town of Romagne,
as we narrow our search to properties within Sarah and Bill's
preferred Poitiers-Limoges-Angouleme triangle.
Here offers the classic French country escape,
with the lush countryside disturbed only by the occasional farmer.
In the village, the national flag adorns the shops
and businesses in true Gallic style.
Less than half a mile from this quaint town,
our next property offers the calm of life set against stone cottages,
the odd farm and patchwork fields.
And it's this access to the outdoors that will surely attract
Sarah and Bill to our next property.
Take in the view.
-Oh, it's lovely, very French.
-Very pretty. Tres jolie.
It's an old farmhouse, but has been modernised quite recently.
The barn behind us, which is huge,
-is also part of the property.
And the current owners have two Labradors
and the whole place is fenced off to keep the dogs in.
-Are the Labradors included?
Do you want more labs?
-Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
-I don't know, maybe they're negotiable.
That's really good, really good.
-All right, well, let me show you what's going on inside.
The facade certainly impressed Sarah and Bill and, with any luck,
the warm feelings will flow on as we head indoors.
Come in to this rather toasty kitchen.
It's lovely and cosy in here.
-Yep, is it to your liking?
It's a little bit...
-I don't really like that across there.
-But I understand that's...
Yes, it's not, perhaps, the same kind of units
that I would have chosen,
but they're perfectly OK.
Seeing beyond the furniture, it's a good-sized room.
-So it's more cosmetic?
-We're not expecting to find something
-which is absolutely to our taste.
-Which is perfect.
-There's lots more of this house to see. This is only the first room. Follow me.
-Oh, this is nice.
Unspoilt, some original features that haven't been,
-kind of, butchered.
It hasn't got that cottagey feel,
which maybe we're trying to avoid,
and plenty of natural light and it's lovely.
Though we've heard some positive mutterings so far, I'm still
waiting for that certain something to stir Sarah and Bill's excitement.
Elsewhere on this floor, there's a vast utility area
and storage space leading onto a downstairs bathroom.
And we're heading into...
This huge dining room.
-Well, our big sofa would fit in here, wouldn't it?
-Yes, it would.
Furnishing it isn't a problem.
It's... Can I be really honest?
Please, please, Sarah.
-It looks a little bit tired.
The maintenance might be an issue, I think.
Yeah, I think there would be little things to do quite often.
And it's a concern for you?
We live in an old property now and we know what it's like.
Having something that hasn't been completely gutted and started
-from scratch is not really what we were looking for.
Well, we've said this, there are compromises all the way through.
So let's... Show us some more.
-I will. Follow me upstairs.
The house simply isn't up to scratch for either Sarah or Bill,
who seem to be hoping for a more modern twist.
With two double rooms, a fair-sized single, an ultra modern wet room
and an enormous walk-in storage space upstairs,
and that glimmer of compromise offered up by Bill,
I'm still hopeful as we head on up.
-Oh, this is lovely.
Yes, I love this. I like the window, the beams are beautiful.
So what has this room got that downstairs hasn't?
-Downstairs seemed a little bit dark and oppressive somehow.
Could it be that downstairs just needs a lick of paint?
-Could it be something as simple as that?
-No, I think it's a little bit more than that.
There's some old plaster, and that kind of thing, that you'd have to,
possibly, have redone one day.
Those are the kind of issues we want to avoid.
-And you're speaking from experience of your old cottage?
So I think we should go and find somewhere and talk about money.
All-in-all a mixed response,
but there's still the vastness of outdoors left to throw into the pot.
As we head out through the property's three flower-filled acres,
and beyond the outbuildings,
there remains one other consideration
for Sarah and Bill to keep in mind.
So, have a look at this.
Now, I know you've got this idea, somewhere in the back of your minds,
-about potentially doing a campsite for half of the year.
This would be your garden.
However, have a look behind you.
That comes with the property.
-Do you like it, Bill?
-You also have this outhouse here.
-Oh, the log store.
Which you could turn it into
-something for your campers, something very basic.
-Let's see if we can guess the price.
Sarah, what do you think it's on the market for?
Em, I would say £175,000.
-I think this would be nearer £185,000.
It's actually on the market for £184,000.
It's a lot of house and a lot of land for that money.
-You can't fault the place really.
We're just being picky.
Picky or not, Sarah and Bill deserve to be wowed and it's over to us
to help them find what they want.
But it looks unlikely that this 19th-century property will
fulfil those hopes.
And as we learn more on what's on offer locally,
I'm wondering - can any property fit the bill?
There are parts of the house that our fantastic.
Parts of the house are not really to our taste.
The overall impression is mixed.
Laundry and dogs.
They can come in, wet from the garden, and they can stay in here
and not get muddy paws all over the house. Yeah, nice room.
-Oh, what a good, useful space.
-Very, very good.
We realise that all our criteria are not going to be met.
We are not going to find the perfect house,
even if our budget was ten times what it is.
Had a good explore?
-Yes, thank you.
-Yes, we have, yes.
How do you feel about it now, having seen all of it?
There are some really good points,
but there's also some not-so-good points.
So still not the house for you?
I concur with Sarah on that.
It's not quite there.
-All right, in that case, let's depart.
After toiling for nearly 30 years to set up
a successful removals business,
Sarah and Bill are looking forward to a slower pace of life
in southwest France.
But their joie de vivre could be
derailed by several key factors, not least their vegetarian diet,
which could challenge the occasional local chef.
So, to help them out,
we're travelling to the remote village of Fontfaix
to meet expats Nikki and Sean,
who've been living the eco life for 15 years now
and run a spa B&B that stands out from the crowd,
with a focus on vegetarian and vegan catering.
Now I know that in the back of your mind somewhere you have this
idea of possibly running a campsite when you're here,
so I thought that these two could maybe talk to you about that.
I know, Sean, you've got something special lined up.
Yes, I have. It's down in the woods. Let's go and have a look, shall we?
-Off you go.
But with 25 acres of land across this sizeable estate,
the group will need to hitch a ride in Nikki's tractor to get there.
Nikki and Sean's party piece hails from the
nomadic tribes of the Plains of North America and is
great for a powwow.
It also brings in a handy bit of extra business
and adds to the four variously themed B&B rooms that they offer.
-Here we are.
-Oh, here we are.
-That's right, yeah.
Oh, wonderful. Nice one.
How old is the tepee?
-The tepee is actually five years old.
-Why a tepee?
Well, if you're thinking of having a campsite or running anything really,
you need a unique selling point.
Make sure you've got something a little bit interesting that people
are going to come to your campsite, your B&B,
or a little mixture of the both.
There is a lot to competition in France.
And do you need planning permission or any kind of licence?
If you would like to run a campsite,
the best thing is to go to the maire, your local maire.
Yes, we understand he is all powerful.
That's right. Well, they are actually.
-They're also going to be very helpful.
-They are very civil and they will look after you.
They will make sure that you've got all the information that you need to do what you want to do.
And things are regulated.
It sounds like your business is very well-established.
Presumably, there's quite a lot to do most of the time. You're kept very busy.
Well, it's a year-round business for sure.
When people aren't here there's always things to,
there's repairs, hence my handyman.
-You have to keep on top of it.
-I'm sure it's hard work.
-It's hard work.
You've run a business too.
You know, there's a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff.
And that hard graft starts now.
Nikki and Sean take their tepee down for the winter,
so they're taking advantage of the extra numbers
to get the job done a bit quicker.
Bill and Sarah, if you could undo all the tie ropes
-around the base of the tepee.
Nikki and Sean's tepee was handcrafted with wood
taken from the Midi-Pyrenees
and provides a warm and dry hideaway
for campers looking for an alternative experience.
-Taking these skirt ones off as well? Yeah?
Fiddly bits out of the way, it's onto the next stage.
-Now what we're going to do is roll this up...
Camping can be big business here.
France is the world's second most popular camping destination,
with six million campers and a
further two million visiting from abroad.
Having almost mastered the art of tepee deconstruction,
it's time to load up the canvas.
-The tractor's is full.
-The tractor is full, you say.
Sarah, I think you're going to have to walk
because that box is in your space.
So as Nikki heads back in the tractor...
That was fun, I enjoyed that.
..the others are left to amble back by foot.
So time for Sarah and Bill to tap into that local knowledge.
We meet up for an aperitif back outside the main building.
So, do you fancy opening a campsite of tepees?
-It would need some thinking about, yes.
-Do you think they could do it?
They could do it and I'm going to share some wine with them
-for their great thanks. Thank you very much.
-Oh, look at that.
So, Sean, what, I mean, really important advice would
you give Bill and Sarah?
When you're coming to France,
you need to think about integrating yourself.
It's introducing yourself to your neighbours and your local mayor,
and putting yourself out there because, as soon as you do that,
you integrate into your community.
Once you integrate into your community,
then you open doors, doors open naturally.
Oh, that's interesting, yes. So generally you have felt welcomed?
-Good, that's encouraging.
-How important is the language?
It's fundamental to your integration into French life.
You need to be able to speak some French.
-We understand that it is essential.
-You're already there then really.
What surprised you the most?
What you find the most difficult when you got here?
What surprised me most was actually finding vegetarian products
in the local supermarket.
That is something that I had thought about
and whether the products would be available over here.
You get, in a lot of towns, British shops.
So, if it is a favourite, then you can get it.
But what about eating out?
-We go out. Sean takes me out.
But we've got to go to a bigger town for that and our wonderful
-choice is pasta and pizza.
And that's, that's really it.
One of the most serious, or difficult,
things to deal with is having no takeaways.
And that's not just because we live
remotely in the French rural countryside.
They just don't have takeaways in the way that you had that choice...
-Apart from pizza.
-Apart from pizzas.
Most of us cater for ourselves.
We have our home entertainment, we throw parties for one another,
-you know, we get round it that way.
Any regrets, making that big move?
For me? Not at all.
There must be things you miss about living in England.
Do you know, off the top of my head, I can't think of anything.
I mean, there's a wonderful buzz about the UK, but it is really busy.
And I don't miss products.
I get whatever I can here.
I like the idea that it's a slower pace of life.
It does feel, you know, sometimes 15-to-20 years behind the UK.
-So, you're still ready for this move?
You haven't been put off?
-No, no, no.
-It's been a good learning curve. Thank you very much.
-Yes, thank you for your help.
-And thank you for this.
Having gained useful intel from their hosts,
Sarah and Bill are all the more prepared for their move.
Once in France, they'll need to set aside 10% of their purchase price
for legal fees and other costs.
Buyers are well-protected here, with a seven-day cooling-off period.
But, do note, relocating Britains should make enquiries as to the most
up-to-date tax regulations.
French tax authorities have broadened their rules
and, under the wealth tax, can even bypass the tax-free
status of ISAs, or other savings in the UK,
and impose tax on them.
Any failure to disclose investments or income can
even incur tax penalties of almost two thirds of the total value.
We're driving to the village of Sommieres-du-Clain
for a house sitting within the most beautiful of beautiful gardens
and still within a 45-minute drive of Poitiers.
Agriculture covers 84% of this land
and the rest is a mosaic of peaceful rivers, classic French architecture,
old churches and even an historic chateau above.
The imposing structure was supposedly built by order
of Louis XIV to house the exiled marquise de Montespan,
the unofficial queen with whom
he fathered seven illegitimate children.
But before they get to survey the countryside nearby,
there's the small matter of a 19th-century cottage to examine first.
And here's the next property. What do you think?
-This looks really nice.
-It's very tidy.
-Yeah, but that's what I want is...
Neat and tidy, yes, I like this.
It's similar to the picture that I had in my mind, so...yeah,
it looks very promising.
-Now the house was built about 130 years ago...
..and it's three cottages that have been knocked into one.
That's OK, so long as it's nicely modernised inside,
then that's fine.
-Shall we go in?
Sarah's preference for a tidy and easy property has now
overtaken any previous sympathy for charm and character.
And whilst the frontage seems to fit the bill,
a clear line has been drawn.
Does it match expectations?
It's not... It's not modern.
I mean, it's lovely, but it's just, kind of...
It's back to the old cottage-y feel I was trying to get away from.
I was looking forward to tiled floors and, you know,
simple elegant lines. No, sorry.
-I don't like it.
-Oh, Sarah, are you upset?
-Are you a little bit disappointed?
-I'm a bit disappointed, yeah.
Well, look, there is more.
-Let's take you through into this room.
It's just not giving me anything, I'm afraid.
This hasn't got an old farmhouse feel to it.
And it hasn't really got a cottage-y feel.
And it hasn't got a modern feel either.
-You're just not feeling it.
This house is failing to connect,
but there is plenty more to see here.
This ground-floor alone has a double bedroom,
bathroom and a full-size snooker room,
but it's over to the kitchen for round three.
It's been quite nicely done.
I guess, I don't cook, but there's worktops and things and
a cooker and stuff to cook with.
-It's a kitchen, it does what it's supposed to do.
-It would produce a meal for you.
It's got plenty of cupboard space and it's nice and light,
but it's small.
What would you do to this kitchen?
If you knocked this wall down and turned all this into a
kitchen-living area, then you have a nice big open space,
but we don't want to do that.
-No, because we want to get involved in all that.
-No, no, I'm too old.
-I want comfort and my food prepared and brought to me.
OK. All right.
Are you ready for this?
-I'm used to it.
-You're used to it.
-I'm used to it, yeah.
He must give you something. What do you get in return?
-Cup of tea in bed every morning.
-Oh, come on, that's good.
-That's quite nice.
-Yes, that's most important.
-Come on, let me show you upstairs.
It's time to head upstairs
to view three more recently updated bedrooms,
two doubles and a single used as a study,
all accessible via the cosy, wooden corridors.
-The master bedroom.
-Yes, this is pretty.
-Is this an improvement on downstairs?
-Yes, very much so.
And the beams are nice
because they're not painted or messed about with.
So it's retaining something historic about it
in a way that downstairs isn't
because downstairs has been messed about with.
But this hasn't, this has retained it, and yet it's made into a
-nice, clean, modern room and some good natural light.
-Yes, this pretty.
-I do want to show you a bit more of the house and the outside.
-Shall we do that?
Was that approval or indifference?
I'm not sure. But this property has an ace up its sleeve...
a four-acre, bird-filled tree-lined ace, to be precise.
Handily situated on the edge of the village,
neighbours are hidden from view,
and there's a bar and a small shop just a short walk away.
-Do you feel better?
Yes, yes. This is glorious.
It gets better. This plot is actually just under four acres.
-You've got a fantastic barn.
-This is currently being used as an artist's studio.
-Oh, it's gorgeous.
And then that is your very own pond.
I was going to say, that looks like there's water over there.
There is water here.
-You saved the best till last, didn't you?
Labradors in the water.
-Labradors in the water.
-I don't want the house. Can we just have this?
-This is delightful, isn't it?
-Yes, spot on.
-It's by the land.
-Yeah, all these trees.
I wouldn't mind this kind of work, garden work like this.
-Riding round on your mower.
-And picking up the leaves.
-Yeah, maybe put a pool in or something.
OK, let's talk about price. How much do you think it's on the market for?
I think it's probably on the market for £155,000.
-I would say about £140,000.
It's on for £188,000.
-I think it's too high.
It would be too high for us.
OK, the land outside is beautiful,
but you'd actually need to have the house.
-We live in the house.
-You live in the house.
-You have to get the fundamentals right.
Well, enjoy the garden.
Go and cheer yourselves up, have a run-around,
-and I'll come find you.
-Off you go.
It may be £12,000 under budget, but this property has failed to
live up to its external promise for our house-hunting duo.
As perfect as the four-acre exterior may be, the cottage effect is
simply too similar to the house they're leaving behind,
with a classic interior that falls short of the
sleek modern finish Sarah's after.
From the outside, I thought, "Yes, this may well be something that we
"could take seriously", but it hasn't been modernised.
If we came to live here, we would have to do quite a lot of work.
-Look at this.
-Oh, and there's fields there.
-How peaceful, just to sit there in the evening and watch the stars.
Hmm, that's lovely.
-That is really nice.
-And the dogs would love it.
What a shame about the house.
The real treasure of this property is the outside -
the garden and the land.
It's really the property's saving grace.
If we were just playing a piece of land, yes, I'd bite your hand off.
-It's pretty special, isn't it?
-Has it changed your mind at all about the house?
-OK, in that case then, we need to leave.
Come on, let's do it.
With the house-hunting put to bed for the night,
Sarah and Bill squeeze in one final candlelit dinner.
"..legumes oublies au Tofu?"
-What are they called?
-I can't remember.
-No, nor can I.
I'm sure we can get over this language thing.
I'm sure we'll do very well.
Est-ce que vous avez fait votre choix?
Ah, oui. Erm, Sarah?
-Omelette au fromage, merci.
We understand more than we think we do.
-You'll be much quicker at picking it up than me.
But you're more inclined to actually attempt.
If we move here and don't make the effort...to integrate...then,
however much we like to be on our own,
it would be a very, very lonely life out here.
-It's got to be good fun as well.
-It's an adventure.
-There are lots of things to think about.
-At the moment, I can't...
It's not just falling in love with a house,
but it's thinking about all the things
that we'd leave behind and making it reality.
-Alors omelette avec champignons.
Et avec fromage...
-Je vous souhaite un tres bon appetit.
-I'm sure we'd be able to do more than omelettes.
Oh, I'm sure we will.
I'm looking forward to you having more time to prepare food for me.
-It's spot on.
Morning has broken and here, in France's Poitou-Charentes region,
we're helping Sarah and Bill from Gloucestershire,
as they look to invest £200,000 in a new home.
We've had them stay in a quiet cottage, in the village of Poursac,
as they seek to get away from the burdens of life back in the UK.
Now Bill and Sarah, they said they wanted old French charm,
they said they wanted something modern and, as it transpires,
the modern is dominating the old French bit.
Now, today is mystery property day.
Let's just say we're leaving the 19th century behind,
we're moving into the 20th century
and, in my opinion, this is the creme de la creme.
We continue our journey east across the region for our mystery house,
located on the outskirts of Moussac-sur-Vienne.
Perched above the Vienne river,
this is one of Charente's most sparsely populated areas.
That translates into uncompromised views of the fortified chateaux
and walks along the river that are seldom disturbed.
The shops and the markets of L'Isle-Jourdain
are a short drive away and the area is popular with campers
and canoeists alike, a steady source of income for the town,
but we're here for more than business potential.
Our mystery property, a ten-minute walk from the town centre,
is one of contrast,
where a busy industrial past has given way to a serene home
within an irregular conversion
that I just can't wait to show off to our buyers.
Welcome to this dairy.
-Well, it looks very interesting.
-Yeah, it does.
-Interesting is the right word.
-Certainly very different.
-I know that you like nature.
-Yep, yes, yes.
And without giving too much away,
I think you'll be quite pleased in this setting.
-First impressions are really good. It's very relaxing.
-A lovely spot.
-Can we see more?
-So far so good.
Yes, of course you can see more. Let's go in. This way.
Whilst the last two properties managed to establish
what Sarah and Bill don't want,
this mystery house is a whole new kettle of fish.
1.5 acres of land wraps itself around this old dairy co-op,
complete with veg patches, woodland
and even a freshwater lake with a stream flowing through the property.
But for all that external pizzazz, we're taking a real punt
showing them an early 20th-century, former industrial property
and I'm almost convinced that it'll be worth it.
-I like it. It's open and...
It has character, I'm not quite sure what the character is,
but it has something about it which has got a good feel to it.
I love the window seat over there.
You can you see yourself lounging around here?
-I can't not see myself in here.
There's nothing immediately that's coming out that I'm thinking...
Deciphering the double negatives,
I think Bill's quietly taken with the house so far.
Time to ramp it up a notch with a descent into the kitchen
Wow, this is incredible!
-What a space.
-It is huge.
Well, there's certainly room in here. I mean, this makes a
-family room, doesn't it? I mean...
-It does, it does.
-It would make a lovely family room, yes.
-And the dogs.
-And the dogs.
-The dogs would love it in here.
They would park themselves by the range over there.
It's quirky, it's bizarre.
The whole place is a tad industrial.
Is this working for you, Sarah?
Yes. Really nice units, gas cooker.
-I'm a bit, sort of, amazed I suppose, but... Yeah.
-I'm considering my responses.
-Shall we try a bedroom?
The uniqueness of what was the creamery,
with its four-metre high ceilings, almost tongue-tied Sarah,
but it has undoubtedly impressed.
Time to carry on through the property's maze-like lower level.
Come on through.
Big master bathroom there.
You've got a huge store-room on that side...
bedroom here and a big study.
But we're going upstairs.
There is plenty of room for Sarah and Bill on the top floor,
with three more double bedrooms,
all with amble storage, unmissable original windows and 1930s style.
And we're heading into the master bedroom.
-So what do you think of this room?
-I love the wallpaper.
-That's really nice.
-It's cool, isn't it?
It is lovely and the fireplace as well.
It's one of the few rooms I've been into that's actually taller
than it's wide.
There is another bedroom over the way, which is bigger than this,
-but this is the one with
-the en-suite. OK.
-Do you want to have a look?
-Can we have a look?
Go on, off you go. Pop your head in there.
-Oh, this is lovely.
-It's sweet, isn't it?
-This is really nice.
-And I like this.
-Yeah, it's lovely.
-It's really been designed well, hasn't it?
-Yeah, spot on.
And the compliments flow on.
Might Sarah and Bill be taking this mix of homely and quirky to heart?
That remains to be seen.
Welcome to the back garden.
Oh, look at this!
For now, it's time to introduce them to the space outside.
Love the water.
And the stream actually runs around the entire property,
and you can swim in this. And I know you like bird watching.
-Well, you get kingfisher, heron...
Oh, that would be gorgeous.
Not only that, but sometimes the odd deer
-wanders down into the back garden.
-Do you like it?
-Personally, I love it. It's a real one-off.
It's certainly gives us something to think about.
So let's guess the price. I'm going to start with you, Sarah.
I really have no idea. A complete wild guess, I'd say 190,000.
-Bill, what do you think?
-Well, I think it's over budget.
I would think it would be nearer £220,000.
It's actually on for
Goodness. Sacre bleu.
-It's an overwhelming property.
Look, I want you to go back in there...
-Yep, get lost...
-Get lost in there.
-Yeah, basically, get lost in there and I'll try and find you.
So it was definitely worth the gamble.
The old dairy may not be what they claim they needed,
but coming in £7,000 under budget,
this property has clearly bamboozled our buyers.
Renovated just four years ago,
there's an elegance born of its 1930s styling,
plus a unique kitchen, five bedrooms offering business potential and,
of course, it all comes with a lake.
The lake is fantastic.
It's out of this world. Really, really lovely.
It is larger than we were thinking of,
but that wouldn't write out this property.
-What a huge space.
-I don't know what we'd put in it.
-No, I don't know, but we don't
-have to decide now, do we?
-The possibilities are endless.
Having said that we didn't want to do any work at all on a property,
I think what needs doing here would be allowable.
The fact that we're thinking of practicalities in this detail
shows that we may well be showing an interest in it.
-Have you seen enough?
-I think so.
-Yeah, I think so.
-In that case, we are done, done.
-So we should go and find somewhere where we can chat.
Yeah, let's do that.
To the south of the Poitou-Charentes region
lies the cathedral city of Angouleme,
once the 16th-century power house of paper manufacturing in France.
But as that industry waned, another emerged in its place,
as paper and printing gave way to illustrations, animation and comics.
Now home to Europe's most important comic festival,
artists are invited to replicate their works throughout this
historical-artistic hybrid of a city.
Today, I've come to the town's museum of comics
to talk to Jean-Pierre Mercier,
a comic strip veteran of 35 years.
-So, this is it.
Why is this the destination if you're a mad comic fan?
Because of the festival, to begin with,
it's the most important comic festival in Europe.
And when the people come in Angouleme,
they are in the comics capital.
I mean, the city all decided that we would put comic
images on the walls and some of them are Lucky Luke,
but sometimes we would commission comic artists
to do specific painted walls.
If you're a fan of comics, you have to come.
-How important is comic culture in France?
-It's called a ninth art.
It's studied in university, it's used in school in French lessons
and all kind of things like that.
Why are they given so much respect?
It's part of your culture. It's still something really popular.
Every time an Asterix goes out, a new album goes out,
people go crazy and buy, you know, millions of copies of it.
With upwards of 40 million comic albums being sold
in France every year,
it's little wonder that the art form has spilled out beyond the page
and into the national psyche.
The city's museum holds over 12,000 comics
and hundreds of thousands of prints.
It's the first point of reference for the Louvre
and the national museums for all comic strip queries.
Comic inspiration can be found throughout the city in public
art installations that cover anything from hotels to phone boxes.
And Jean-Pierre's agreed to give me a tour
of some of these modern emblems of the city.
Oh, wow, Jean-Pierre!
That's one of the best painted walls in Angouleme.
It's by Max Cabanes.
For him, it's a memory of when he was a teenager during the '50s
and he was longing for the romantic girl.
-And there she is.
-And there she is.
I love that the council commissioned it.
That was the idea. You're trying to get the people coming to Angouleme
to get the flavour of... You know you are in the comic city.
The artworks define the city and love defines its art,
and the perennial theme seems to permeate
much of the iconic artworks.
It's a big, romantic, dramatic love story, you know.
And this passionate scene that's going on down here,
-although he looks terrified.
He is fascinated and he's obviously seduced,
but there's, sort of, danger
and it goes back to the literature of the 19th century,
with these impossible love stories
between the rich guy and the poor girl.
You know, it's a mixing of all this.
Angouleme's artistic revolution continues at pace
and the artwork that punctuates the city has now inspired a new
generation of artists to pick up the baton.
I've arranged to meet an artist who decorates buildings all over
France in his own unique style using no paint.
More than 3,000 of Fred Le Chevalier's artworks
can be found over the stone walls of
Montmartre and Belleville in Paris, as well as here in his home town.
Fred draws his pieces on paper and simply pastes them
onto buildings for all to see.
So, tell me what we're doing.
-We're going to do a little story with this boy escaping from a scene.
-Maybe, can we, put a barrier together?
-Absolutely, let's do it.
-So give me... Wallpapering is not easy.
-So it's a barrier and he's going to jump off of the barrier.
-I put the glue first and then you can help me.
And as I harness my wallpapering skills, it's a good opportunity to
find out more about Fred's mode of expression.
Is being an artist in your blood, growing up in Angouleme?
When you grow up in Angouleme, you had to see the festival.
It was like a big party in the city.
-So that must be amazing when you're a small child.
I think it's looking good already. What's next? Let's do some more.
We're going to put some other characters all around.
They've got bowler hats on!
-Those characters represent society or a kind of nightmare.
My little boy, little character, is escaping from that.
He wants to fly away.
Well, you don't need a language to communicate this.
You just need a wall, don't you?
Yes, this is what I like and people can relate.
-How long will this stay on the wall?
-I really don't know.
Sometimes it stays just five minutes, sometimes it can stay two years,
-so there is no rule.
-OK, let's get another one up.
At the beginning, I was working during the night
because I thought I had to hide me.
But then I met a police man, who knew what I did,
and just asked me not to put it on the public buildings.
Angouleme is fated throughout France as the giant canvas
upon which history and modern art co-exist.
Its bold artistic heritage first inspired Fred to showcase
his artwork online and he's come home to fully develop his style.
And as the wall fills with images from Fred's imagination,
his work enlivens the shell of this disused building.
-Is it all done?
-Yes, that's OK now.
It looks great and really dramatic.
It really makes you stop and think.
It's dramatic and positive at the same time because he goes away
-and that's OK.
-A little Fred, running away.
-Yes, it's a little Fred, of course.
-Of course it's a little Fred.
You're always talking about yourself.
Well, Fred, it's been a pleasure. Until the next time.
-Thanks very much.
-Au revoir, goodbye.
I have to admit, Bill and Sarah have got me baffled.
I still have no idea what it is they're actually looking for.
Time to pin 'em down and find out.
-Right, we've come to the end of our time together.
So let's talk about this property that you are looking for.
Do you think that what you're looking for is even here?
Nothing has met all our criteria, but we couldn't expect it to.
I think each property had its points.
Whether the ultimate property that we're looking for
is attainable within our budget, then I think that's a lesson that
I've learned that it isn't.
Has it been disappointing?
You know, we got very excited about the mystery house
because it's a fabulous building, and I'm so glad that we saw it.
But in the cool light of day, it would be too much work for us.
Has there been one property that's stood out for you this week?
Yes, the first one.
It was immaculate inside. It was beautifully done.
We liked the colour schemes. We wouldn't have to do anything at all.
It doesn't have the beautiful outside space that we've
seen on the other properties.
And the fact that it was adjoined to the steel barn,
that would be a compromise.
We have, since we've seen it, thought,
"What can we do to cover it?"
So that actually suggests that, if we could overcome what was
-next door to it, then that is quite a serious contender.
So what's the next step for you?
I think we'll come back.
We'll probably have another look at the first house
and explore that little area a little bit more,
so that we've familiarised ourselves with what is around the property.
-Well, that's very positive.
So if I were to contact you in six months?
We'll be packing our bags if we're not already here.
-You'll be doing one last removal and it'll be your own.
-Let's just drink to that.
-Let's just drink to that, yeah.
Well, I was a little confused as to what Bill and Sarah
were looking for and, as it transpires, so were they.
But their hunt for their dream property is just beginning
and I am sure, with a bit of searching,
they will find their perfect balance between old French charm
and British modernity.
And then, they'll be making their one-way trip to France
with their own furniture in the back of a van.
Join me next time for another Escape To The Continent.
And I'm delighted to report that they will be making that
one-way journey as they've, in fact, decided to purchase the gite
we arranged for them to stay in.
Their Gloucestershire home is now on the market
and they hope to be enjoying a new life in the in Poitou-Charentes
within the next six months.
We wish them both all the very best.
Anita Rani crosses the channel to the Poitou-Charentes region of France with a couple from Gloucestershire. They are seeking a new home and a new start on the continent with a budget of £200,000 to spend. Anita offers hints and tips on making the move abroad and harnesses her wallpapering skills in an artistic endeavour in the city of Angouleme.