Blog reader John sent us (thank you!) an article entitled “7 Reasons to Buy a Property in Carcassonne”. It was sponsored by a real estate company so there were lots of enticing photos with descriptions including words such as “mansion, garden, village, views, marble fireplaces, and wooden floors.” Everything you want to see and read when you are fantasizing about your French dream life. Since we’re already living that dream, it was easy enough to look past all of the beautiful marketing to see the concrete reasons that someone might want to buy here or elsewhere in France, for that matter. We’ve included some of our own observations with each of these ideas from author Karen Tait.
For administrative purposes, mainland France is divided into 96 departements, each with its own presence of the federal government at the Préfecture. Not only is that convenient for the elected officials in Paris but it’s also handy for comparisons when you’re trying to decide where you might want to live. Here on our blog if you click on the Tag “Where to live in France” (in the right hand column) you’ll see posts that have sometimes included that division in the results. Today we’re adding one more article to that list with the topic being “cheapest” since it’s about the cost of living while others have looked at factors such as healthcare, recreation, and weather. After all, it’s probably pretty inexpensive to live on a desert island but the quality of life might leave a lot to be desired.
The magazine article headline that caught my eye was “A New Neighborhood is Being Built in Utah That Looks Like a European ‘One-Car Town’”. This told the story of developing a 600 acre (243 hectares) site in Draper, UT into a pedestrian-friendly town with favor given to bike lanes over cars. Author Andy Corbley said that this was like something he might see in the Netherlands. Realizing that potential residents could balk at going completely car-free, the developers are focused on making the use of an automobile unnecessary within the confines of the community. At least 45% of the city will be covered by greenery including sidewalks, bike paths, and roads that lead to the perimeter bus system with connections to Salt Lake City. Hikers and cyclists will have easy access to the river parkway and to the mountain trail system. In describing the target market, one of those developers said, “They want more urban features, they want to know their neighbors, they want to be part of a community.” Hmm, sounds like us. By the way, this new town is called The Point.
Coming in second out of 242 isn’t bad. That’s the position that Carcassonne achieved in a “where to live after retirement” study conducted by the newspaper Le Parisien. They compared cities of more than 20,000 inhabitants outside the capital region of Île-de-France, evaluating around 30 different factors that would be important to the 75,000 French retirees who move each year. The authors readily admit that they were unable to account for emotional factors such as returning to where you grew up, settling in an area that’s near your adult children or where you already have friends or where you’ve always enjoyed visiting. After 25 years of annual vacations in France, that last point rang true for us.
Long before we knew that we’d be retiring in another country, we looked across much of the US for the ideal place to settle. One option that we considered was a university town where we anticipated the excitement of a diverse environment, i.e., lots of different people with a range of ideas all open to discussion. Our visits to cities like this had shown us endless dining opportunities, a multitude of community events, concerts, films, plays, and art shows, plus—vital for us—being pedestrian friendly since we wanted to live without a car. That was a good idea as was our consideration of a beach house, living by (or floating on) a lake, or even going on-the-road full time in an RV as Bill’s parents had done for years. Then the possibility of retiring in Europe took the lead and here we happily are in a house that’s not on the water in a city that doesn’t have a university. Those thoughts persist, however, so when our local newspaper published an article called “What are the cheapest university towns in France?” I wanted to take a look.
Years ago when we told our friends who live in the north of France that we were considering moving to the south of their beautiful country, the first thing they said was, “Watch out for the floods!” They were understandably concerned since there had been 14 major inondations involving overflowing rivers in the previous 15 years in this part of the country. We knew that Carcassonne itself had risks since we’d seen numerous high water marks beside the 14th century bridge that crosses the Aude river (featured photo above) that brings us drinking water daily and destruction occasionally. Luckily we’d also seen the flood zone map prepared by the local newspaper so that we knew in advance where to concentrate our house hunt, or more accurately where to avoid. But what if you’re looking elsewhere in France; is there a national database to access?
When a city consistently makes it to the top of an annually published list of where French people say that they would like to retire, it makes you curious why this one place is so attractive. We’d been to Bordeaux several times but had never taken the train less than an hour further west right to the Atlantic coast to visit Arcachon. Adding that 53 minutes to the trip would only cost an additional 5 € so we thought that this would be a good time to see for ourselves why everyone wants to move there. This was a wintertime excursion to a summer beach resort, it seemed, so we didn’t have our hopes too high. To our pleasant surprise we found a lively town with plenty of pleasant walks, shops to peruse, and restaurants to enjoy and it didn’t hurt that our hotel room had a great view of the sea!