House Hunters Lynn and Ian, Key Observations from Living in France

House Hunters Lynn and Ian, Key Observations from Living in France

After 30 years in France, why we're moving to Spain (and this is what we learnt about the French)

Lynn Stewart has had quite a life. At 18 she left Blackpool as a croupier to work in South Africa, on cruise ships and then the south of France. She’s been in France ever since but at 62 she’s looking to move to Spain as she heads towards retirement.

“I’ve spent over 30 years living in France, but yet don’t feel as if I’ve got to know the French,” says Lynn, who originally comes from Stockton-on-Tees in County Durham. “Despite running very social businesses it’s tough to get close to anyone!”

Lynn met her (British) husband Ian, 72, whilst she was running a bar in Valbonne, on the Cote d’Azur. He moved to France permanently in 2001 having worked in design and marketing for over 20 years and had bought house through working with clients at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes. “We were introduced six months later in my bar and fell in love,” she says.

The couple then ran a hotel-bar-restaurant in Fos, a village in the Pyrenees mountains in the Haute-Garonne for a decade and ‘had lots of fun’ – and got married there. “It was full of characters, we had lots of regulars. One couple used to come and stay every year and book the same room. Ian’s daughter also helped us.”


“We then went for a gardiennage [onsite care-taking job] and ended up in a small village 20 km from Agen in the Lot-et-Garonne looking after a 17th-century manor owned by an English couple near the Abbaye of Saint Maurin.

“The owner had lovingly restored it over 20 years and we had a lovely cottage with a garden. Ian looked after the grounds and had a salary. Ian carried on working there until 2019, and since then we’ve both been running a bar-tabac.” 

But now they’ve decided now they’ve had their fill of both working full time and of France and are selling the bar that comes with a two-bedroom apartment where they live (for €90,000 through Leggett) to move to Spain. “We want a complete change,” says Lynn.

“We love the Pyrenees and have explored the Spanish side. Spain has a certain vibrancy and buzz that France lacks. It’s got a totally different atmosphere. We are going to look for somewhere to love in Valencia, not far from the city but an inland village. Of course the weather is also better in Spain. Ian in retired and I want to write some books.”

Lynn & Ian's Key Observations

After running a British bar in France, Lynn and Ian have a few key observations or for anyone thinking of making the move (or buying that bar):

  • Even if you speak fluent French (like us) expect to be asked several times what it is that you require – you won’t escape your accent!
  • When walking into a room – whether it be bar, restaurant or shop – be sure to utter these words under your breath: ‘bonjour Monsieur, Dames’. Although grammatically incorrect it has passed into ‘la politesse à la française’.
  • NEVER suggest that it is possible to find a good British restaurant and certainly NEVER suggest that the British have excellent recipes or chefs. There is only one pays where good food is served.
  • As for wine…don’t praise Pinot Grigio. The French are rightfully proud of their long tradition of winemaking and believe it to be the best in the world. Having exported their vines to all regions, most notably to the southern hemisphere, they are still under the impression that if the wine is not produced in France it can't be of the same quality!
  • The key to finding contentment as un étranger in France is to ‘give it back’. Never feel intimidated – just shout!

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Liz Rowlinson