Life in France

Moving to a Provençal Village

Greetings dear readers and friends. So… we’ve moved! After living for 7 years in the portside city of Toulon, we recently moved just outside the village of Ollioules – a ten-minute drive from our former home and near the towns of Sanary-sur-Mer, Six-Fours-les-Plages, and Le Beausset village.

We’d been thinking of moving from Toulon for quite awhile. The city has many benefits, including immediate access to the beaches of the Mediterranean, but we were hoping to get closer to what makes this region so special – the picturesque and charming villages that make up “la belle Provence”.

But which one to choose and where to go? And how to know if we’d picked the right one or not?

In the end, we spent months researching and trying to figure out where the best location for us might be. We thought about different villages around Aix-en-Provence and also considered moving further up the coast. On a gloomy Sunday in May, we even drove out to Cotignac (about an hour away) because it seemed like the ideal Provençal village (which it quite near is!).

Pretty stand at the Olive Festival in Ollioules – one of the star products of the village.

There were so many factors to consider, and of course everyone moving abroad has different situations, but I thought it would be nice to share our moving process for anyone who has the same ideas of “escaping” to a village in the South of France.

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Here are a few things we considered before making the move.

-Home prices vary greatly across the region.

Of course, this is a biggie! Sometimes it all comes down to what your budget is, and what you’re able to do with a large, or small, property. Cotignac was a big plus for us because prices are cheaper and you get a lot for your money. On a smaller budget, say €250,000, you can get a great village house smack-dab in the middle of all the action. Go a bit further out, and get yourself up to about €400,000, and you’re close to having a veritable mansion with a big plot of land and a swimming pool. Lovely! For the same price in a seaside town like Sanary-sur-Mer (which is absolutely gorgeous) €400,000 won’t go very far. You can get a sort of “townhome” with a small garden and find yourself quite possibly near the train station. Living near the sea in the South of France will cost you a pretty penny.

-Consider how you’ll spend your time.

This is another biggie. If you’re in a village a bit further afield, like Cotignac, you are really living the “country” lifestyle in many ways. This area of Provence is simply stunning. Vineyards as far as the eye can see, olive farms galore, nature trails, lakes, campsites, the whole works. But you’re also far from a lot of shops and just general industries. Will you work or stay home? Working can mean that you’ll have a bit of a commute if you can’t find anything near the village. Perhaps you’ll stay home and take advantage of the many social events and local committees. Or you could even open a B&B with all the extra house / land you’ll have.  The fall and winter months are definitely a lot slower when living in a village, so it’s a good idea to think about how you’ll organize your day.

-Visit as often as you can.

A big influence in our decision to move to Ollioules was that we knew, and liked, the village already. When we really focused our attention on moving there, I tried to go as much as possible to really get “a feel” for the place. I learned about where the “good neighborhoods” were and also that certain areas were surprisingly noisy. We attended the local “club day” to learn more about the associations and activities in Ollioules and started having coffee at a local café on Saturday mornings. Every experience we had was positive, and I felt the village had a great community spirit, something we really wanted to be a part of.  I also felt that if we’d decided to move to another village further away, we’d have to rent for awhile to see if it would be a good fit for us.

-Are you ready for village life?

As my fantasy self, I was sure that I would quit my job, move to Cotignac, and open a Bed & Breakfast… and live happily ever after. Sounds pretty fantastic right? Well, my “real” self realized that I’m much more attached to city-living than I thought and I need to be close to a larger town. So our village lifestyle amounts to trying to have a bit of both worlds – village life and the “creature comforts” of having access to a bigger city. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it works for us. Perhaps you’d also like a mix of both, or you’d prefer to get away from it all and live a quiet lifestyle.

Either way, it’s a big decision that involves a lot of research and knowing what you’d like to get out of the experience. It’s all fresh and new for us, so I’m discovering more and more every day.

 

Wishing you a very bon week-end from Ollioules!

About Tuula

I’m a 40-ish American woman & I’ve been blogging about my travels around belle Provence since moving here in 2010. You can also find my travel writing in International Living magazine, Charming Small Hotels (France), & Living France magazine. Bienvenue!

19 comments on “Moving to a Provençal Village

  1. This is all great advice, especially about visiting as often as you can before you move. I have American friends who moved to a small town near Cahors, in southwest France. They spent a few weeks there during January before moving, to make sure they would enjoy it even in bad weather.
    One note I would add is that for village life, having French language skills is even more important than in a big town where it is easier to find people who speak English. If you are in a small town and can’t communicate, it can be very isolating.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As always, great advice Keith! And so smart of your American friends to spend time in January before their actual move. The winter months in France are so different from the rest of the year, it’s a good idea to see how you’ll adjust to the slower pace of life. And yes, yes, yes for being able to speak French! I really don’t know how I’d be able to “get along” otherwise… it just opens so many doors and gives you a better opportunity to make friends with your new neighbors. Thanks again for your comment, bonne journée! Tuula

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  2. Jane Dunning

    We’ve been to Ollioules twice and liked it very much. It’s close to many of the places you love and you’ll be able to get to Sanary-sur-Mer market in no time although Ollioules’ market seemed pretty good. Wishing you and your family good luck and happiness in your new home…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jane! That’s great that you’ve been to Ollioules, wow. I always feel like it’s a bit “off the beaten track” since most folks head to Aix and the villages around that area. We think it’s pretty special too and the access to the sea can’t be beat. Hope we get to see you one time soon near us! Thank you again for your kind comment 🙂 Tuula

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  3. Congratulations. How exciting. As you say, it is important to have agreement about what is important for you when you set out to choose a town or village in the South of France. While we didn’t get to check out Sablet as much as you did Ollioules before we bought our home, it met all our criteria and has proven to be exactly what we wanted. I hope that is your experience too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Michel, thanks for your nice comment. And I have to say that I thought a lot about you when I was writing this post… wondering how you came to choose Sablet for your home. It looks so lovely! Well, like so many Provençal villages, we are really spoilt for choice here. That’s great that it worked out so well for you, I think we will be just as happy in Ollioules. It’s a really nice village with so many activities and events all year round. Wishing you a bonne journée from Provence! Tuula

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  4. Oh, congratulations Tuula! Can’t wait to see and hear more: I’m sure it’s quite a change and moving anywhere can take time to get used to it all. Did schools enter into your decision at all? I know, you have a while, but I just wondered how that works in France?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Libby, that’s so kind of you! And yes, schools were actually a big part of our decision. Of course “city life” is nice, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to have our daughter grow up in a “village” environment, especially since we’re so close to so many lovely villages… We have 2 great schools right down the road, I couldn’t be happier! Wishing you a very bonne journée, hope all is well! Tuula

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  5. As always, I love your blog – and all the information you share. I dream of moving to Provence – wish I had done it 20 years ago. Enjoy your new home and I’m looking forward to more articles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much Patty, that’s so nice of you! It’s always hard to make a “big” move, but I feel we did the best we could. Hope to share more about Ollioules village very soon! All the best, Tuula

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  6. Lovely story! I find myself dreaming of a village house on Costa Brava, but I know that I am such an urban animal! It is interesting to read your exploring of your own mindset. And those lovely villages of Provence, hope to see more of them here!))

    Liked by 1 person

    • It such a nice thing to do… dream about where you’d like to live, so many great places out there! The Costa Brava sounds lovely, hope to hear your updates on that one 🙂 Thanks again for your comment and happy travels! Tuula

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      • And sometimes dreaming is sweet than actual moving 😆😆 or what would you say?
        I am afraid that I over idealize Catalonia, and try to take it easy and enjoy – as much as I can – cold and dark and quiet Norway in the time before moving))

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I can relate! I tend to do that too… totally idealize a place before I’ve even really spent time there. It’s hard to know what the right decision is…I think a long vacation at the spot can help, at least you get to know people and see their way of life. Catalonia does sound beautiful though!

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      • That is a good idea! I used to be easily carried away by my dreams of a place, but as they say, don’t mix tourism and immigration 🙂 My motto in life is that it always is better to try and regret what you have done – rather than what you haven’t done. So I will definitely try. My man is from there, and I have done long vacations there and got insights into the way of life. It is not ideal. But I am so eager to give it a go!

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  7. What a great post! Moving is never easy even if it is just a short distance.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. ramblingtart

    I’m SO thrilled for you, Tuula! What a wonderful adventure. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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