In the last couple of articles, we looked at relocating from the UK to northern and central France. This time we’re taking a closer look at the Atlantic coast region, bordered by the Loire region in the north and stretching down as far as the Pyrenees mountains in the south. It’s a region of historic cities, picturesque villages, endless vineyards, a gorgeous climate and a whole lot more.
The Nouvelle Aquitaine region, comprised of the former regions of Aquitaine, Poitou-Charentes and Limousin, is France’s largest region and it contains a bit of everything that the country is famed for. There are twelve departments in the region, including some well-loved ones that attract expats, such as the Dordogne and Charente. Regional cities include Bordeaux, Bergerac and Limoges.
There are many drawcards when it comes to Nouvelle Aquitaine. Beach lovers are attracted by the seemingly endless expanses of sand; food and wine afficionados by the incredible gastronomy, world class vineyards and the fabled distilleries of Cognac; and mountain walkers by the foothills and peaks of the Pyrenees. The region is warm, with long hot summers and mild winters, and it’s easy to get there due to excellent road, rail and flight links.
It’s such a large region that we’ll take a look at three distinct areas, although of course there are many more to choose from.
Bordeaux is the regional capital, and perhaps no other French city is so closely associated with wine. It’s a city of graceful streets, world famous restaurants and beautiful architecture. Expats claim it is one of the best cities to live in anywhere in Europe, and with that fantastic southern French climate and beaches only half an hour away, who’s to argue with them? What’s more, you can be in Spain in just a couple of hours for a daytrip, Paris in a little over two hours on the TGV, and even the train from London takes only six hours.
With around a quarter of a million residents, Bordeaux is a medium sized city by European standards. Sitting on the Garonne River, this city that was once an ancient Roman settlement spreads out towards the coast and offers a range of districts to choose from. If inner city life is your thing you might opt for an apartment right in the centre, where accommodation ranges from the basic to the luxurious. An average apartment here would cost around €300,000.
Slightly outside the inner city is the old wine district of Chartrons, a charming residential area packed with bars, green spaces and restaurants beside the river. An apartment here will set you back between €400,000 and €1,500,000. Renting here is not cheap, with flats starting at €1,250 a month.
Other popular areas to live in Bordeaux include the elegant suburb of Cauderan, the nightlife area around Gare Saint-Jean or right in the beautiful tourist districts of Saint Pierre and Bastide. Or you could opt for a more spacious property outside of Bordeaux in one of the dormitory towns of Pessac, Cestas or Bégles, where houses with gardens cost from €400,000.
Situated about halfway up the Atlantic coast in the department of Charente-Maritime, the port town of La Rochelle and its nearby islands has everything you could ever dream of. Said to be the second sunniest spot in France, the beautifully preserved old town has winding cobbled alleys, bars and restaurants aplenty, long sandy beaches and a lively marina. There’s a definite maritime feel to La Rochelle, and several islands lying just offshore draw in tourists, as well as France’s rich and famous alike.
The most popular is the Île de Ré, a tranquil, almost car-free island of long sandy beaches, artsy fishing villages and some of the world’s best oyster bars. You get about by bicycle, and there are over 100km of bike tracks to make this a very family friendly island.
Another popular island is the Île d'Oléron, which is covered in pine forests, surrounded by beaches and dunes, and crisscrossed by bike trails. There are several fishing ports on the island, as well as oyster restaurants and a large fortress. Both islands are popular with artists, and various crafts fairs are held every year.
La Rochelle, despite its elegance and its seaside situation is surprisingly affordable, with one-bedroom apartments starting at €130,000. If you want something a bit more spacious, you’ll have to pay in the region of €250,000, with the upper limit being around €400,000. But La Rochelle is quite spread out, with numerous residential suburbs to choose from where you can buy a three-bedroom house from around €200,000.
In stark contrast to the relative affordability of La Rochelle, if you dream of living the island life on the Île de Ré, you’ll be looking at paying over a million Euros for even a small village house.
The Nouvelle Aquitaine region isn’t just historic cities and dreamy beachside towns; you’ll discover an entirely different side to it if you just head inland a bit. There’s a reason the Dordogne region is so popular with British travellers and expats – it has everything you could ever want if you want to pursue the ideal French lifestyle of long, lazy lunches in beautiful surroundings, marinated in an atmosphere of culture and gastronomie. Sometimes said to be France’s version of Tuscany, the Dordogne is a region of rolling hills dotted with ancient towns and villages that the 21st century seems to have passed by.
Most people who move to the Dordogne choose to live in small villages or country properties, but a fair few head to the regional capital Perigeoux. Here you can buy a spacious four-bedroom house with a garden for as little as €275,000. If you look a little further afield there are real bargains to be had, with some rural properties selling for as little as €50,000. As ever, the sky is the limit when it comes to property prices, and you can equally find luxurious mansions and chateaux at the upper end of the price spectrum. However, with a little imagination, you could buy your dream property in the Dordogne for very little and set about converting it into a home as you see fit.
If this has piqued your curiosity to investigate France’s Atlantic seaboard more closely, be sure to check out other forthcoming articles about moving to France on the Currency Solutions website.
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