Retiring to Southern France


Nov 25th, 2009, 12:44 PM
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Retiring to Southern France

64, single and retiring to Southern France. I come from french ancestry near New Orleans, so I have some knowledge and experience in speaking french.
Here's my question(s):
I'm looking for a semi rural small village or town that is not too far from a city such as Toulouse or Montpelier. Anyone have any input on where to retire to, near these two areas? I possibly thought of Carcassone ? I will be on a pretty tight budget, probably about 2700 euro per month, so that will be very important to find an area not too touristy or expensive.
Thanks for any help,
Blackiev is offline  
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Nov 25th, 2009, 12:51 PM
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Carcassonne is not a semi-rural small village or town by any stretch. Plus, it's overrun with tourists. It certainly wouldn't hold any appeal for me.

But first the logistics. You do realize you can't just pack up and go live in France, I hope. Do you have French citizenship? Hold an EU passport? Have the proper paperwork from the French government? If not, that's where you should start your planning, not picking a village. It also sounds as though you don't even know the area well that you're targeting. I should think you'd want to make at least one, and preferably several, trips to France to scout out areas that appeal to you.

If I were going to settle down in that area, I'd be looking at places like Revel, Graulhet, Castelnau-de-Montmiral, St-Férriol, Castelnaudary, St-Pons-de-Thomières, or Castres.
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Nov 25th, 2009, 12:55 PM
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woah cowboy, I've already done all of that, and I've been to these areas before, so I'm not totally in the woods. I'm only asking for feedback on these areas mentioned, not the french inquisition.
My next step is to travel there in may to check it out.
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Nov 25th, 2009, 01:00 PM
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If you don't have EU citizenship, through ancestry or marriage for example, getting a long-term visa will be your major concern. It's not given out routinely, every application is scrutinised and is referred to civil servants in Paris for a decision. You need to satisfy a number of conditions, such as financial viability, long-term rental contract or purchase of a suitable property, private health cover valid in France, criminal record clearance and health certificate. Get in touch with narest French consulate for details.

2700 euro a month is more than enough for a single person to live in France quite comfortably, by local standards. Compared to US, average French home is quite a bit more modest in terms of size, furnishing and gadgets (no air con, for example). SW France is quite a bit cheaper than Provence or the Riviera, generally the inland areas are cheaper than on the coast. Check on transport links, as rural transport can be scarce or non-existent, some villages have next to no amenities like shops and banks, and if you're looking to use your base for travelling in Europe, a nearby airport with good international links is an advantage. The French Basque area is very attractive, with reasonable property prices. It can get quite hot in summer and cold in winter, with options for summer and winter sports.
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Nov 25th, 2009, 09:00 PM
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Look, you said you wanted a "semi-rural town or village" and "not too touristy" and then you suggested Carcassonne, so any normal person who knows the area would have assumed, as I did, that you didn't know the territory if you thought Carcassonne fit those criteria.

Great if you've got your paperwork in order. That's half the battle.

I gave you at least a half a dozen villages to look into.
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Nov 25th, 2009, 11:26 PM
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2700 Euro is not a tight budget, especially if you're converting dollars to Euro.

May want to look for more expensive areas.

Some countries, including European countries like Italy, have retirement visas for people who can demonstrate financial viability. Not sure if France is one of them but may be worth looking into.
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Nov 26th, 2009, 12:13 AM
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We're very fond of our bit of the Hautes Pyrenees. Places I would think of were I you and heading this way from Toulouse, would be St Lys, Samatan, Simorre, L'Isle Jourdain, Lombez, L'Isle en Dodon, Aurignac, then Lannemezan, Castelnau Magnoac, and Trie sur Baise.

But there are DOZENS and dozens of towns which fit your criteria. Narrow down what you're looking for and let me know, please.
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Nov 26th, 2009, 12:15 AM
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We have rented a home twice in St. Thibery, nearest larger city is Montpellier. Very "small town" life-style which we personally like.

If that is too small for you, Pezenas is more mid-sized, lovely stores, lots of history, much more "happening" place with better transportation. Other option with even better transportation to area/national transportation is Beziers.

I really like this area, but haven't spent time there during the winter; I think the wind can be pretty brutal and in July August it can be searing at times (though we didn' mind). You don't mention buying property, but myself. I'd want to experience a winter before I committed to anything long-term.

Good luck! It sounds like a nice idea if you can swing it.
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Nov 26th, 2009, 01:27 AM
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As this is a travel forum not a moving one maybe you would get some other answers on a relevant forum . Here are 2:
Although they are aimed at Brits at least you will have a common language to discus your ideas.
and here are few on-line resources for you to read:

Do not forget that when you post a question give as much details as possible including your nationality then we will not have to surmise anything and be of more help.
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Nov 26th, 2009, 05:20 AM
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Hello Blackiev,

My husband and I just retired from Missouri to SW France in July. We live about 50 minutes' drive SW of Toulouse in a very small village. However, full services are 4km away and the town of St. Gaudens is about 15km.

We love it here--did about 18 months of research from Missouri and several long house-hunting trips, had one abortive house purchase, but have now purchased a small house with fantastic views of the Pyrenees.

To Shelia's list I would suggest also considering Boulogne sur Gesse, Mane, Salies du Salat--really there are so many possibilities.

My entry into France was eased because my husband has a UK passport. I did not need to apply for a long term visa before entry into France, but once here had to apply within three months for a titre de sejour. For the titre, I/we had to show evidence of self-support (your income should be ample) and health insurance cover. These documents had to be translated into French by a certified translator approved by the courts (not hard to obtain but pricey).

I assume background checks are also being done. I have a temporary carte but will be called for an interview and medical within a few months.

We have private health cover as we can't enter the French health care system until my husband reaches age 65. We will then be covered based on a reciprocal agreement with the UK. As I'm sure you have discovered, Medicare offers no coverage in France.

I have found the web sites which ribeirasacra noted to be helpful with great practical advice, although very UK-centric as mentioned.

Would be happy to help more if you want to send me your PM.
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Nov 26th, 2009, 05:42 AM
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woah cowboy, I've already done all of that, and I've been to these areas before, so I'm not totally in the woods. I'm only asking for feedback on these areas mentioned, not the french inquisition.

don't worry cirq always gets very nervous and uptight when people say they want to move to france. don't take it personally.

"oh my gawd you can't just move to france!!! i'm the only one who can move to france. you probably don't even have an EU passport like i do." you can feel the seething in her tone. don't you dare even dream about moving to france! how dare you.
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Nov 27th, 2009, 12:19 AM
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An unnecessarily offensive comment, IMHO
sheila is offline  
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Nov 27th, 2009, 04:11 AM
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I'm aiming to answer the original question.

You want a small town or village, reasonably cheap, within reach of a city.

*A small town or village will automatically be semi rural here

*In fact, you probably need a town to get the day to day facilities you need (doctor, pharmacy, supermarket, gas station, dentist etc etc)

*Some villages are pretty well abandoned in winter

*I would avoid the coast (expensive - busy in summer, isolated in winter)

*Carcassonne is a bustling Disneylike replica of a medieval city (probably too many tourists and too expensive)

*I would avoid going too far into the hills (too much rain & snow in winter and can be isolated)

*Better weather is closer to the Med than Toulouse which can be surprisingly cold

*That leaves Montpellier & Nimes as reasonable size cities

*The coastal plain as far North as the Cevennes mountains would suit you fine

*Do some research on Beaucaire, Arles, St Gilles, Uzes (maybe a little expensive), Lunel, Jacou (expensive but end of Montpellier tram line) Aubais, Caveirac, Calvisson, Sommieres, St Christol les Ales, Anduze, Quissac, St Hippolyte, Sauve, Gignac, Lodeve, Clermont l'Herault, Pezenas and villages near these towns

*Avoid Grande Combe etc just North of Alès (cheap but area suffers from abandoned coal/iron/steel industry)

*Some valleys flood after autumn rains in the mountains. You need local knowledge. Some estate agents have poor memories !

I've tried to avoid the villages very close to cities because they are expensive due to commuters

You don't say if you will have a car. Some of these villages are served by bus or train, but often the bus service is aimed at school hours and holidays.

I'd suggest renting somewhere for a few months whilst you are researching the area.

Some links :

Photos :

Map :,1.766052&z=9

Furnished studios :

Both have owners who speak English and can help you with info.

More rentals :

Local free classifieds web site :

Bonne chance

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Nov 27th, 2009, 05:21 AM
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The first thought in my mind was your transportation as well. Thinking of retirement, even if I had driven a car all my life, I would already be thinking about when I won't drive anymore. So I would look for a town not only with all the basic shops available but also on a convenient train line. Those wonderful villages at the end of long winding roads can become a trap for the elderly.
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Nov 27th, 2009, 06:56 AM
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You have already got excellent advice. Let me add a few thoughts.

I have lived for a short period in the tiny village Méthamis, south of the Mont Ventoux. It is one of the many villages which are mostly deserted by their original inhabitants and where a few foreigners have bought houses. And, yes, it is one of those villages at the end of a winding road. Here some observations:

Firstly, the French are extremely reserved people. Especially for Americans who are used to move constantly and to be welcomed to their new neighbourhoods, it can be a shocking experience that it will take quite a time to get in contact with the French. Especially the population of such villages are, err, not exactly cosmopolitan people.

Secondly, the other foreigners in those villages mostly use their homes only seasonal, some of them just for a few weeks per year. This means, you won't much socialize with them either. Also, it means, some of them rent their homes to tourists which can become very annoying (imagine eight young men renting a large house for a springbreak-like week).

Thirdly, spend a winter there before you buy a house. Even in southern France, winters get cold and you often have icy, gusty winds (the Mistral is one of them - Moulin Daudet names 36 winds). And most houses are poorly insulated and heated. A house which appears nice and cozy in summer can get nasty in the winter. Also check the electrical system of the house. I have never stayed a week in a French house without at least one electrical breakdown. (This usually happens in the middle of the night during a heavy rainstorm. Then you wander around the premises with your flashlight in your hand finding the gadget where the breakdown happened.)

Fourthly, as others have said, check services and facilities nearby.

Fifthly, retiring and living in a region is completely different from vacationing there. Stay in a rental home for at least two months and observe yourself how you spend the days, what are your needs and what are the pros and cons.

These are some questions which are crucial:

Do you need to socialize once in a while?
Do you want to go to a theatre performance or to a concert once in a while?
Do you need a variety of food over time or will you be content with the same three restaurants which are available within 30 minutes driving time?
Do you need public transportation?
Do you need access to an airport? What connections should the airport have?
Do you need access to the TGV? How often will you welcome visitors at the train station or at the airport and what is the acceptable driving time for you and your guests?
May you come in a situation that you need medical specialists (besides the village doctor)?
Do you like hiking? Do you need access to hiking trails from your house?
Do you need water - river, sea, lake?
Do you need horse-riding?
Do you need tennis or golf? If yes, where is the next club, would the people in the club welcome you?
How do you spend your time? Will you get bored?
Do you speak French fluently?

Taking all this into consideration, I personally would prefer to stay not too far from a major city with some cultural life, good medical services and access to transportation. These cities would be Nimes, Avignon, Montpellier, Perpignan (maybe Toulouse, but I do not know Toulouse).
Echnaton is offline  
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Nov 27th, 2009, 07:10 AM
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Indeed. Wonder what the problem is there? St Cirq has provided a lot of useful informaton.
Luisah is offline  
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Nov 27th, 2009, 11:50 AM
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Echnaton asks some excellent questions.

I particularly agree with the idea of knowing what winter is like in any place that interests you. Whenever anybody I know falls in love with a place on a perfect summer day, I always ask them "What is it like in February?"
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Nov 27th, 2009, 11:52 AM
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Meanwhile, if I had to make a decision in the next 10 minutes or have a hand amputated, while I would probably have chosen Montpellier in the past, I think that I would now choose Toulouse.
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Nov 27th, 2009, 12:25 PM
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If you want a nice town, not overridden with tourists, but easy to get to other cities like Montpelier, Nimes, Arles, etc, look into LUNEL. I spent a considerable amount of time there some years ago, and I found it VERY economical, friendly, and pleasant. Good restaurants.
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Nov 27th, 2009, 01:25 PM
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I read this with envy, but I don't drive so living in rural France is out of the options for me
bon chance, Blackie
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