“I wanted to walk the inner life of every Man I saw, look at the world through their eyes.” Aleksandr Kuprin
Home. What does it mean to you? For me it is where my family gets tucked into their beds at night. It matters not the country, or place, but who.
The sounds of our little French house (Les Platanes) have gone silent except for Daniel’s low humming from the next room. The daily routine that becomes normal with a house full of students has ceased after our second round of 5 weeks of non-stop work. I am not complaining. The students have been a gift and I truly love my job, but… there is always a but…
No human being can keep up this pace for long; between writing, wine tours, two preteen children, volunteering at the town hall, singing, school, rentals, websites… ugh! Have we lost sight of why we moved here in the first place? I think so…
First I must say how much I love France.
I love the culture. I enjoy long lunches and the endless glasses of wine, especially red Syrah. I love the southern rolling hills painted in pastel colours that lead you to more rolling hills covered in endless grapevines. I love living so close to the sea, tasting the salty air, feeling the warm turquoise waters at my feet and even the smell of suntan lotion. It’s romantic, delicious, stimulating, vivid, authentic, and part of my very soul.
Nevertheless, this is a confession from a meandering gypsy, one who has ambition, and I need something more.
A self proclaimed wanderer, I am on an exploration in search of adventure and all things new. On a path towards fabulous experiences, our family can feel the winds of change. And change we must.
We have put our house up for sale!
Our beautiful 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom home with a lovely pool and gite are officially on the market. Our neighbourhood is sought after by both French and foreigner. Generally houses in this neighbourhood sell before expats have a chance to buy them, making this a mostly French family oriented area of Capestang. We are directly across from the quiet campgrounds, so no nosy neighbours to peer over fences and the bedrooms look onto giant evergreen trees to one side. The villa is attached by the garage, and thick brick walls on the gite side; leaving a silent connection between the two. Two neighbours vacation all summer long in the Pyrenees, leaving you all the privacy you will ever need.
We decided that selling it furnished might be our best option, especially if the next family wants to make a rental income off Le Petit Platane as we have. The best case scenario is an English family with children would buy it, and take over our position at Daily English as well. Part of our success is not just from our loving family teaching English but the close vicinity to the sea and the many activities we offer. This keeps the students coming back year after year. Many expats search for good income upon arrival, and perhaps this could make someone’s dream to live in the Languedoc a reality.
Here is a video entry from My Expat Life Series where I talk about our house in Capestang during the winter months among other things.
I know it may come as a complete surprise to many, especially those who have been followed our blog from the very beginning. From the outside we look like we have reached some level of success here in southern France. Both working hard, involved in our community, we have lots of friends and take part in many activities in the surrounding areas. By French standards we are doing exceptionally well, and compared to other expats, yes, we have found some measurable amount of success. You only need to enter our names in to google and you will see many stories about our marvelous French life and how much we love it here.
AND we still love France or more specifically our idyllic village of Capestang. We just see bigger opportunities for our family around the next bend, and now that our children are fluent in French, (Alfonz and I also have a good base) it is time to continue on the trail.
Perhaps you remember the beginning of the story of why our family left Canada in the first place. It was something called “Time Currency” the ideology that we expanded to include time together as a family. When we are not working, we spend time with the children exploring the world. We want to give them a road schooling experience visiting our diverse planet first hand. Travelling is the dream.
Sadly, our life after 4 1/2 years is busy again and because our work is seasonal, it means the school holidays leave us little time to travel. Although we are always together, and we do manage to explore many areas of the Languedoc, we don’t travel outside of France as much as we had hoped. We keep a 2 1/2 week break over Christmas as our vacation with the kids and Daniel and Angelina individually take vacations with family during the summer. Alfonz and I also travel solo often to visit family and friends and have endless amounts of visitors throughout the year. It is not as though our time has been wasted.
Benefits for our children
Our kids have an academic schooling here in France and when they are home for their vacation breaks, we have students learning English living in our home. We all must speak English at all times with students that are struggling to learn the language and the children help them with homework.
The rewards for this job have been very good. Although we are working, the children partake in all the activities with our students: horseback riding, kayaking, accrobranche, canoeing, laser games, beach days, karting, spelunking, castle tours, city tours, cooking and baking lessons, art classes with paints on canvas, cycling the Canal du Midi and the cycling paths, bowling, billiards, shopping, scooting along the beach, festivals, electric boat rental, petanque, hikes, and the list goes on! Our train of thought is if the children are here all summer with the students, and don’t get to travel during their vacations, the least we can do is make it as much fun for them as we possibly can!
Not to mention, having students have made my children amazing at translating back and forth between French and English and their English levels have remained high, which can become a problem for fellow expats who raise children as third culture kids.
Buying a home in France
When we moved here we wanted to buy a home with a mortgage, a hefty down payment to make the payments low so it would not add pressure on our family to start up a business too quickly. We wanted to explore many options and then decide on a strategy to start a business.
However, the banks would not even look at an equity loan even if our rental in Budapest draws an income. We were told it would take us three years to be considered by the banks. We felt pressure to start a business right away and luckily we opened our business in June 2012 and started producing an income.
Since then we have applied and reapplied for simple loans to build our credit and finally after 4 1/2 years of living, working and paying taxes in France, they gave us a government grant of 13500€ to upgrade the windows, shutters, insulation and a front door to our lovely home, all with A++ energy efficiency. A small victory. It just took persistence.
The bank manager has also told us that perhaps in the next year they will consider us for mortgage as well. It is just taking too long for us (as impatient as we are)… so off we go to more prolific pastures.
When and where are we planning to move?
As many of you already know we have a home in Budapest Hungary. It is not big enough to live and run a homestay program, but just outside Budapest, in a beautiful suburb on the Buda Hill, there is a French private school for our children to continue their education in French. In fact, it also has English as a second language and Hungarian as a third, so it is almost custom made for our trilingual kids. Also, they will continue with German and Spanish as this area has many German afterschool programs and they offer Spanish in the school for Angie. This is the neighbourhood we are hoping to move into.
The bank has already approved us for a mortgage, so when time comes, we will be buying a house.
Alfonz and I already have some business in Hungary which we hope to expand; Angol Otthon Itthon (become LivEnglish Hungary) is our linguistic sejour company teaching English to Hungarian students. Here in France, although we make very good money in the same field, Alfonz and I are focussed on different businesses and have fingers in many different pies. In Budapest we will be focussing on just the one homestay business as a team.
I will be finishing my summer with my students here in France, perhaps Alfonz will go ahead and set up our home in Budapest. It really depends on the house sale as to when we can expect to leave. Best case scenario is between September and Toussaint break, but we are open to winter break as well.
We plan to continue with our rental apartment in Budapest so if anyone does come to visit, our rental sleeps eight comfortably with a modern kitchen. Built in the turn of the century with 4 1/2 metre ceiling in typical gothic style. Large French doors, and windows with views of the courtyard and street below. Perfectly located in the heart of Elizabethtown, the Jewish quarter of Budapest, and minutes to the Danube River and all the historical sites.
We also plan to allot time for travel, save some vacation breaks to explore as a family and to get back to our original idea of showing the kids the world.
Lastly, I will continue writing about our explorations here on That’s HAMORI.
The friends we have made in France are friends forever. For this I am truly grateful. You know who you are. It will be hard to say goodbye.
I look out my window every morning when I open my shutters and I absorb my beautiful surroundings. I can see the Canal du Midi wrap around our village just above the roofline in our neighbourhood. Occasionally I can see the tops of canal boats drifting by. The trees peek over the houses as I look over towards our glorious collegiale standing at attention protecting our village. I can smell rose blooms and blossoms from the garden below, and I listen to the birds chirping happily in the morning sun. I count myself lucky to have lived here.
Our time has not been wasted
When I first moved to Capestang from Vancouver I couldn’t even read Coq au Vin let alone make it. The fresh ingredients are so readily available it has been nothing short of a culinary dream. I have learned all the local dishes: veal blanquette, pot-au-feu, beef bourguignon, paella, steamed mussels, oysters with onions vinaigrette, grilled meats over grape roots sprinkle in thyme, lamb and sausages on the planches grill, and can serve them in French style with giant salads full of fresh herbs from my garden, baguettes and cheeses, all paired to perfect perfection with local wines. A glorious achievement and worth every second of the alst the 4 1/2 years! I even made a facebook page to share the recipes. Travel, Eat, Repeat.
But there is more… our time was not wasted and we have no real regrets. We have learned a lot about websites, writing, business practices in France, taxes, the socialist system, politics, as well as a slew of customs and traditions.
And we have had some pretty cool opportunities here as well; two reality TV shows (hired for another in Hungary too), renovated a home, started two businesses, a commercial and blog for Air Transat, expat life radio interviews, the children got to participate in two music video for We Rock Disney, and lastly my beautiful blog to remember all our French adventures from the last 5 years. Not bad at all!
Not to mention paid writing jobs, becoming a municipal councilor, singing in a band… it feels like we have learned a lot during our time here in France. Prolific indeed!
What I won’t miss
I will not miss waiting in strange shaped line-ups, filing miles of French paperwork, and dreading each time the phone rings. I won’t miss not being able to strike up a detailed conversation at the supermarket, at a cafe or with random people on the street. I won’t miss feeling inadequate everytime I open my mouth.
Why Hungary over France? For entrepreneurs there are far less obstacles to success. The cost of living is substantially less. A home is 1/2 the price, food as well, which puts us farther ahead of the game.
Also we know the language and are Hungarian descent. Although perhaps my kids and I will also be foreigners in Hungary too, Alfonz was born and raised in Hungary which will give us a good foothold to reach higher ground.
The Hamori family remains optimistic and open to any experience that comes our way. I am looking forward to the next adventure! And I do love shopping for house decor and am getting excited about another international house hunt! And perhaps our North American friends will see us again on House Hunters International! So keep your eyes peeled!
Eh voila! Please continue to follow the family that follows their dreams. Those are our big plans to move our expat family from France to Hungary!