Florist in France
Mary and Mike Devereaux from Birmingham loved their holiday home in Deux-Sèvres and dreamed of the day when they could spend more time there. In her early forties Mary decided they shouldn't wait any longer and the couple made the move. Mary, a florist, tells her story...
Deux- Sèvres in the Poitou-Charentes region of central-western France is quite sparsely populated but it's a real delight, lovely countryside, waterways, historic towns, great food and wine and lots to do and see. It's also really well placed for the sandy beaches of the nearby Atlantic coast and one of my favourite places, the Ile de Ré.
"Our home is in a small hamlet called La Grande Tranchée. The property was actually two adjacent small terrace houses with outbuildings and an acre of land and similar properties cost around £75k. No-one had lived in the houses for many years but fortunately we only needed a new kitchen and bathroom and to completely redecorate. Most of our efforts went on sorting out the garden because I love to grow flowers and evergreen shrubs for my floral creations. We even have vines and make our own wine and Pineau, a local apéritif.
"Before setting up my business I discussed my goals with the local Mayor and as a result I've been handling all the flower arrangements for village celebrations for the last few years. I've always thought of it as a way of giving something back to the villagers who had made us so welcome when we arrived here.
"We attended a compulsory five-day training course on starting up a new business run by the nearby Niort Chambre de Métier. They were very helpful in explaining the process and paperwork (and there is plenty of that). I have struggled to learn the French names for all the flowers I order, but my wholesalers are very helpful as they know I am still learning the language. Keeping up with worldwide floral trends is easy thanks to the internet.
"I got experience working at local markets and that way I also built up a good customer base of regulars. My workshop is a stone barn in the garden that my husband renovated. The view over the beautiful countryside of this very lush part of France is inspirational. I do lots of wedding displays for both French and overseas brides who marry in France and it's wonderful to be involved in their special day."
Taking English tea to France
Phil and Tina Sharpe from Essex are not quite expats - they decided to set up a business in France before making the final move. They bought their £600,000 house in Gers, Midi-Pyrénées in 2007 and are building a teapot shaped café. Tina 51, explains...
We came across this area of France after viewing a house on the internet, falling completely in love with it and flying over to buy it, only to find that the house had already been sold.
We stayed for a week, viewed more properties and by the end of it we were in love with this region. The fields were full of sunflowers, the sun was shining and it just felt right to be in the Gers.
"We initially bought the house to escape from the daily pressures of life after working very hard running our generator business in the UK. But, as time has gone on we've made good friends and feel that we've settled into a beautiful part of France. We really love the peaceful, quiet life of the rural landscape and countryside.
"We have recently started a self-storage business in Castelnau-Magnoac and it's been very busy, popular with both French and British customers, private and commercial. "Our next big project is an English tea room in the town, but it's no ordinary café, it's in a giant teapot! My idea is to bring the 'traditional English afternoon tea' to France and as soon as I saw the teapot I knew it was going to be perfect. It was featured in the UK 'Shed of the Year' competition, it didn't win the contest but it won me over.
"We bought it, had it taken apart, packed onto the back of a lorry and driven to France. We then put it back together again and we've been busy painting it and planning the traditional English tea room décor. It can sit about 30 people comfortably and I don't think there's anything quite like it anywhere in France! French people really like traditional English style - in much the same way we Brits like typically French things like farmer's markets.
"We haven't found it particularly easy to open a small business in France, the paperwork and forms can be very frustrating and confusing. We've had lots of help from the staff at our local town hall though, the Mayor and his secretary have been great, very supportive in all we have wanted to do."
(This article was first published in A Place in the Sun
Magazine Spring 2015 issue 121)
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