You might be thinking the title of this post is rather strange. But, moving to France was, indeed, the beginning of the end of life as we knew it in the United Kingdom. We brought family with us, and we also left family behind.
Tom and I had been researching for our potential retirement location since before 2003; we had e-looked around various countries in Europe before finally making a decision that changed our lives and outlook more than we could ever have envisaged.
In 2003, following an extended holiday in France with my sister and brother-in-Law, Tom and I decided France would be our retirement destination. Not too far from our UK-based family, easily accessible via road, sea and air. I was equipped with a French language GCE ‘O’ Level – ok, so it wasn’t as helpful as I thought it might have been, but it still turned out to be a base on which to build my French language skills. Several years later, I realised my French language skills had not fared well through French residence, despite all my efforts. Intending to inform our Cour de Cassation (French Supreme Court) specialist avocat (solicitor) about our difficulties, I asked him if he had enjoyed his sausages and chips for dinner! He was not amused! In fact, he is nothing short of a misery at any time! Hope he reads this and knows that I have him weighed up!
There are many words, and much terminology, that can’t be translated from English to French, or vice versa!
We intended settling in the Midi-Pyrenees, in the south of France; that was the area where we had enjoyed such a wonderful recce type holiday with my sister and bro-in-Law in 2003. No part of the Midi-Pyrenees is too far from the Mediterranean Sea, and my roots, on my mother’s side of the family, had originated three or four (not entirely sure which) generations ago in a tiny canton just outside Gaillac, in the Midi-Pyrenees.
However, as the old adage goes, even the best laid plans…..etc! We eventually landed in the Cantal, Department 15, on a plateau between the beautiful rugged volcanic peaks of the Auvergne. The Commune of Champagnac-les-Mines is typical of the huge number of dying communities to be found in the Massif Central, specifically, in south-central France. It is located between the Auvergne Mountains and the Cantal mountain range, ski-slopes barely an hour away from our house that’s not a home. Champagnac is an idyllic, sleepy farming community where we have met and lived among some of the most down-to-earth, genuine French folks it has been our great pleasure to meet. The village ticked all of our boxes! We knew, from travelling extensively around France, that we would certainly not find a better environment in which to retire. It also ticked all the boxes of our family members who had accompanied us to live their French dream.
In the last week of July 2007, we purchased a 150+ years old traditional stone house that faces Champagnac’s Village Church, it is a house in which we can never live.