5 things we didn’t expect moving our family to the south of France

5 things we didn’t expect moving our family to the south of France

Posted on: 06/02/2022

"Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere’’- Chinese Proverb

1/ The amazing way that the children reacted to the move: we were prepared for tears and unhappiness from the children, especially from the older 2 girls who were 11 and 9 years old at the time. We had spent many summers here prior to the move, and they knew the area well, we are what the French call a ‘famille composée’, I was married previously and the girls are from my first marriage, so when we left the UK in 2008 they left not only their school and friends, but also their dad too, of course they found it a challenge, and at times I bet they wished they could have returned to their old life, but they were truly amazing at just getting on with it!


2/ How flipping cold the winters are here! Alet les Bains is in south west France, 1 hour away from both the Mediterranean sea and the Pyrenees mountains, today and for the last week we have dropped down to -8c at night and not much above +8c in the day. Generally when you view properties it is in the warmer months and the estate agent NEVER tells you how cold it gets and how expensive it is to heat your old stone house. We spend many hours loading up wood fires, stacking logs, bringing logs in and cleaning ash out.


3/ How beautiful it is to have 4 very distinct seasons and the treasures that the countryside has to offer, we have skied, canoed, swam in lakes and hiked etc. We knew it was all there, but didn’t expect that we would embrace it so. The seasons are not only visible from our window, but also there is a strong sense of what season you are in by what you can buy in the supermarkets, you can only find local vegetables that are in season and I love that.


4/ Sexism, I was not prepared for that at all. Keith continued to work in the UK during the early days and I managed the project and the tradesmen. I had a smattering of French, Keith had less, so I totally project managed the renovation and yet when the bills came in they were always addressed to Mr Keith Fairhurst only, what’s that about?!


5/ That we could be so resourceful, we had a limited budget and like most renovations it was very easy to go over that budget. We left the electrics and plumbing to the professionals of course, but we plastered, replaced glass, re-laid floors, painted and so on. We lifted floor tiles from the old attic rooms and used them in the kitchen, nothing went to the tip if we thought we could re-use it somewhere else: everything has a value.