THE LOCAL AREA
Le Manoir is the most prestigious property in our hamlet. Our neighbors are largely French speaking and include the local lady mayor, a retired bank manager and a retired military gentleman. We also have an English couple and a Belgian family. Relationships are very good and the regular neighbors BBQ’s have helped cement this.
CRIME or lack of it
One of the most delightful things we came to appreciate about living in the French countryside is how safe you feel.
We began by acting like we did in Berkshire, back in the UK. But very soon we appreciated that people go on hoilday and leave their houses unlocked. Now I am happy to leave nice bicycles outside all summer, I have not locked the cars on the drives for the last 10 years. We were very happy to let our 10 and 12 year old children cycle on the local lanes on their own. It is just a breath of fresh air!!
SOCIAL LIFE FOR ENGLISH XPATS
Charente Maritime is about number 4 in the league of French Departments with English members of the community. It still feels French unlike some parts of the Dordoyne and Provence but there are enough English speakers around if you prefer to socialise in English.
We have a vibrant local organisation that organises social, gastronomic, artistic and sporting activities. You can see details here. You can pick and choose which activities you would like to get involved with. It is wonderful.
There is a similar organisation based in Royan so you will be spoilt for choice. For details click here.
Our local nursery, primary and secondary schools are at St Genis de Saintonge which is less than 10 mins drive but school buses are provided and stop in our local village St Sigismond de Clermont which is less than 5 mins drive along local traffic free lanes.
Both of my children attended the local school and did very well . The staff were very supportive. The school web site is here.
Most things that you need in a typical week are available in the very good supermarkets and shops of Mirambeau (7mins) or Jonzac (15mins).
For more exciting window shopping like clothes boutiques or for less usual products or just for a greater choice, we go to Saintes (30mins), Royan (35 mins) or Bordeaux (1 hour)
I have nothing but praise for the French health service, if you need medical help you get it and much faster than in the UK.
My local GP speaks excellent English and I get a routine health MOT once a year with a full suite of blood tests.
There is a good A&E and general hospital 15 mins away in Jonzac and specialist clinics in Royan and Bordeaux. The ambulance services are first rate.
For information of paying for health services see here.
OUT & ABOUT
The countryside is delightful and very diverse with the huge Gironde estuary and the wonderful golden beaches at Royan in very easy reach. The historical interest of the area is amazing and as Charente Maritime is an important tourist destination, their is an abundance of local attractions. All of this is very well described on our main holiday rental web site but here are a few highlights:
There is so much to explore and the history is extraordinarily rich. The nearby town of Saintes offers Roman arches, amphitheatre and churches to explore and a plethora of chateaux and restaurants are waiting to be discovered. Jonzac (10 minutes) has a lovely Chateau and historic walks through the medieval walled town.
Wide choice of lovely restaurants in old market towns, in the country, at fishing harbours, overlooking the sea or near to beaches.
Cognac, Rochefort and Ile D’oleron are all within easy driving distance, with La Rochelle and Ile de Rey further up the coast. Cognac has some surprisingly entertaining visits at the headquarters of brands like Remy Martin and Hennesy.
Heading south, Arcachon with it’s famous Pyla sand dune and beaches are a must to visit and Bordeaux offers chic French city life.
The wildlife of the area is unbelievable - a tribute to the traditional farming methods in use. You will see lots of very large birds of prey as you drive around. There are some very good nature reserves with english speaking guides.
GETTING ABOUT & TRANSPORT
One of the things that new arrivals to rural France find frustrating is the sheer scale of the place meaning that you have a substantial drive to reach even the nearest supermarket and often on very small lanes. We are lucky to be in tranquil countryside BUT very well provided with transport links. The main west coast motorway (A10) is only 10 mins away and we are not far from a very good north south main road (N137) which links to all of the local towns and shopping centres.
There is a railway station at Jonzac linking to Bordeaux, La Rochelle and Nantes where you can pick up TGV services to all of France and beyond. The line from Bordeaux to Paris and Lille has been upgraded to allow very fast TGVs to run so you can be in Paris in a little over 2 hrs