When you think of France, what image appears? These pictures sum up France to me.
Here we wait for our flight, trying to figure out if six hours is enough time to venture from CDG to Paris for a quick browse around. One saving grace is that our luggage goes straight through to Montpellier leaving us free to journey about! ?30 minutes until boarding, we wait for our day to unfold.
With rush hour traffic in Paris being closer to six hours, the cab driver we asked, said no way, not enough time. The flight was short but the layover was long, so we spend the day reading and playing angry birds. We finally reached Montpellier to steal a cab to La Grand Motte and fall asleep before we reach the pillow around 11:30pm.
Rise and shine! My excitement was contagious! We waited patiently for our realtor John Wall to arrive. A charming chap, originally from England, gets there at 9:00 to drive us to our first house with rental potential.
A little home tucked up in the little village of Castelreng, located next to a mule farmer, features that include a nice terrace area, and a beautiful swimming pool.
The rental suite below the house could easily be converted to a Gite, and the garage an additional apartment style one, with private access to the swimming pool. The garden extended far to the back of the property with mature fruit trees to provide shade, a well for watering and a view of the mountains and valley around. The grounds would be perfect for a campground in the high season, with plenty of room for a shower/toilette for guests simply by converting the gardening shed. The only downside would be that the town is quite small, with only a few dozen houses but the nearest town with a market is close enough at 10 minutes by car. They have a school bus pick up for the kids and the local butcher and baker drive into the town to provide supplies, 3 days a week. I didn’t ask about the candlestick maker! The driveway didn’t have much curb appeal and it would need a good over all wash and paint, both easy fixes.
Inside the home ticked all the boxes! It had a gorgeous space, open plan front room/kitchen leading to a sunroom that leads to the wrap around deck. The pool area was in tip top shape, with inviting trees and shrubs, flowers of many color and variety, to make your stay a restful one. You can walk straight out the door, and walk or bike ride for hours through the town and into the French countryside.
This Gite is close to the town of Limoux with a population of about 10,000, 30 km from Carcassonne and on the river Aude, known for the Carnival de Limoux, their winter festival, celebrated in their traditional Occitan language, where food and wine is in abundance. They have Friday markets that bring in the crowds from all the neighbouring villages, such as this one where the home is situated. 1 hour 55 minutes from the sea, it has some of the best country walking in all of France.
The tourist traffic for this one would be fabulous, a typical French countryside getaway!
Our second Gite is located in the remote town of Arques known for its’ pretty little lake, and has a castle which draws 10,000 tourist a year. I have been secretly stalking this rental listing for over a year! I have been dreaming of ‘Dream of France’, and showed it to all my friends as the ideal property we could buy.
The red rock looks beautiful in contrast to the green surrounds, and as we walked about it was tempting to keep going up towards the village and onto the path to enjoy a great walking day.
The property itself backs onto a river, and is situated on an easy access village road next to a public playground with tennis courts. The big lot would be ideal for expansion to camping sites, plus a barn ready to convert into more Gites and a brand new home for us. Already the big house sleeps 11 and the small house sleeps 4-6, bringing in a pretty nice income. Good size pool, although it looks small with the huge homes on either side, the front of the main house is perfect for bocce ball or badminton. My only concern with this house is the lack of life around it. The village has an elementary school. There is a bus to take the kids to school it the next town for the next levels once they reach that age.
This house would be a retreat for someone with little ones longing for solitude, long walks around the lake or a short one to the village for a fresh baguette. Bike rides along rural roads, and fishing in the river or lake. Rest is what you will find here, with mule rides up the small mountain to enjoy the view of the French countryside. Carcassonne Castle is a close drive, the sea is 1 hour or more away, and the canals are about 30 minutes. With loads of outdoor stuff to do it could make a peaceful family retreat.
This property is an up and running Gite with bookings packed in the summer months and additional possibility winter season can be opened up. Great investment!
That was the only two viewings planned for today, so we made our way back towards Montpellier. We ask John to join us for dinner.
We decided to walk towards the sea, and not go back to the hotel straight away. Just outside Montpellier is La Grand Motte; this is where our hotel was located, with amazing 70’s and 80’s architecture boasting its coastline. It is hard to miss. The once hot spot on the Riviera now is much quieter than Montpellier when we were there. Families walk the seawall, and dip into the sea and restaurants alike. I was struck by the contrast around me, and enjoyed the bucket of muscles we ordered as the sun went down. We said good night to John.
Our hotel room at the Novotel was comfortable, with a view of the pool looking on to the golf course. I looked out the window our first morning there and thought I saw a flock of flamingos. Could that be right? Later we saw them in the sea lake along the highway and confirmed my sighting. So many varieties of birds, we should promote our Bed and Breakfast with bird watching in mind! (Note to self)
John was back by 10:00 am for another day of driving!
This charming home was a train station conversion, with a cabin gite in the back for rental. Surrounded by vineyards and wineries, in the valley of the little town of Neffies, which is within walking distance. The major of which, we are told, is a good man ready to help out anyone settling to the area and loves to promote tourism to his once mining village.
This UK couple couldn’t have been nicer. They invited us for a glass of grape juice poolside as we watching buzzing beetle bees feed. The birds we saw as we sat in the welcomed breeze were countless in the hot southern sun. I have no idea their names; totally different than the birds in BC, most likely a hobby I’ll pick up along the way.
The cabin was tastefully finished, fully fitted, and has private grounds. With loads of room on the property for another cabin with more rentals, or even a campsite, the options are endless. The down stairs can also be fitted as another smaller apartment Gite.
The rest of the property reached in a pie shape to the lots end. Equipped with a chicken coup, loads of fruit trees, and flowers everywhere. Truly this Gite is located is in the middle of the picturesque French county-side.
I love th idea of having chickens and canning my own fruit. There’s room for a few campsite too and water already runs tot he back of the property.
Could make a good little investment.
Located in Boisset, Minervois a village with only 27 inhabitants, was home to this beautiful conversion from an original 900 AD ancient ruin, that has add on after add on. The house attached to the Gite was loaded with original charm seeping through at every turn with some pretty interesting feature pieces. A bread oven, a stable trough, and huge wood beams are among the few I remember. The property follows the river, full of fish, and is the water source for this spectacular Gite and home.
Boisset has a yearly festival where they herd the sheep, with sheep dogs and the herding whistles. The inhabitants bring their trades to show and sell. From homemade wine and dried sausage, goat cheeses and olive oils, you can find wood crafts, along with hand made knitting and leather crafts. These rugged people and the open country produce some great things off their land.
Alfonz and I couldn’t talk during our showing it was so beautiful. It was like being in a museum, and we had Cheshire cat smiles pinned to our faces. We forgot to take pictures it was so surprising at every turn.
The beautiful separate Gite house has original wood floors, open exposed beams across the high ceiling, an open fireplace, and loads of character of it’s own for people to enjoy, a separate experience but equally as sharp as the main house.
The whole property, with the 2 homes, are on 9 acres of land! With fruit trees, loads of work done in the front to make it inviting, and a big old vegetable garden in the back.
This would be great to completely advertise as a campsite. Just needs a big pool and some showers fitted in the rear. How hard would it be to run electrical and water lines to the back?
Although a little remote, more than the others, the people searching for this kind of camping adventure through Europe is big! Something to think about as we weigh the properties against one other.
And the fact that 9 hectares of land could make a huge return on our money as a campsite, with little to no maintenance.
Located just outside of Capestang, this six-bedroom home with pool has so much to offer. With 2 separate Gites and the possibility of another apartment Gite, this has great rental potential. Capestang has the Canal du Midi running through it, and loads of coffee shops and bakeries to choose from. Not to mention a 30 min drive to the Mediterranean Sea, and about 1 hour from Carcassonne Castle a big tourist attraction.
The town has schools up to graduation, and is a short walk from the house. The road is lined with enormous trees. It looks like a fairytale. Le Petite Saint Nazaires is along the road for easy locating; bright blue shutters to welcome you, and dates back to before year 1000. Some old and some new, it might be a great combination for something pretty special.
It may have a few things going against it, like the amount of work that needs to bring our house up to specks. And it is on the very top of our budget. This might be a bigger project than we had hoped for, but definitely on our list. The main house needs new electrical, and plumbing, 3 new bathrooms, and 2 new kitchens to bring it up and running. Could take a while.
High in the Pyrenees Mountains, up winding narrow roads, you come to a little village of 83 people. This mountain village is visited by thousands of tourists per year by people looking for great hiking and walking trails. The town of Martin, has a very attractive Gite in the town square, and has some ancient stonewalls, and bread oven features that are so typically French. This is one Gite that sleeps 4 and living quarters for a family up to 5, but also has another Gite or Home in the middle of a renovation on the far side of the building looking on to the cow pasture shown. The thick stonewalls keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter and on good days through the windows you catch a glimpse of the Med Sea. Could be a win win to anyone looking at purchasing a B&B.
The square also has the only school. For us that means the kids are next door learning, take their breaks out front and lunch in the restaurant on the other side of us. Pretty sweet! Look out the window and you can see the kids at all times.This village is also where our realtor John lives. His family lived in the apartment next to the home we are looking at, and his son went to the school in the village. The town and its inhabitants are truly lovely. Each person said hello, and came by to chat. I loved how everyone looks out for each other, telling about whose travelling where and letting people know their plans for the coming year. It was a sweet little community, situated in the what could be the best view of the valley below.
The only negative, is the population may be too small for our big personalities. But it is still on our list.
We went back to see one of these homes, but two are big contenders. I can not say any more, but to me the answer is crystal clear. We go back next week to search some more and stay in the different areas until a firm offer is had. The camping adventure on the Sea and bombing around the French mountains is an adventure of a lifetime. One that I can not wait to experience with the kids.
In total we saw 6 houses, all very different, during our house hunt in southern France.