Shopping Around for Property in the South French Property Insider Volume XVII, Issue 39 Thursday, October 3, 2019 • Paris, France
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Adrian looking over property ads in Uzès
Patty Sadauskas, who has a second home in Nîmes, and I spent last weekend exploring the region around Nîmes, including the Pont du Gare, Uzès, other neighboring towns and down to the Camargue, in the interest of finding a village house for a client of ours to purchase.
Uzès is small town of almost 9,000 inhabitants in the department of Gard, renowned for its Renaissance architecture, its history for silk, linen and licorice and with strong Roman links. Like Nîmes, its water once came via the Pont du Gard aqueduct, just 25 kilometers southwest. Uzès is certainly one of the region's most beautiful, desirable and livable towns in the area. I understood immediately why so many people love it.
One of the things we determined while sitting under the large old trees in Place-aux-Herbes — one of the town's main squares, anchored by a large stone fountain, bordered by cafés and surrounded by elegant buildings — that it might be as interesting to have an apartment overlooking a Place such as this as it would be to have a village house.
From Uzès, we detoured to Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie, a village of about 3,000 which claims to be the birth place of the inventor of reinforced concrete, Joseph Monier. That's not the reason that the "La Poterie" was added to its name in 1886 by the then President of the French Republic, but because it's a center of manufacturing of pottery. Since the Middle Ages, the village has produced ceramics from the high quality clay in the soil from the area and was awarded the official label as "Ville et Métiers d'Art." We eliminated it from our list of potential towns because with one ceramics shop or factory after another lining the narrow streets, there is little human life, such as cafés, and virtually no greenery. It must be heaven for a potter, but if all you want to do is while away your time, this didn't seem to be the best choice.
The Camargue is natural region south of Nîmes between the sea and the Rhône, an expanse of marshy plain covering 930 square kilometers (about 360 square miles) comprised of large briny lagoons ("étangs") encircled by reed-covered marshes. This is an area famous for it being a haven for wild birds (over 400 species) including flamingos. It is also known for the wild white horses (known as the "Camarguais") which roam the marshes freely and black cattle (bulls used for bull-fighting), along with lavender, glasswort, tamarisks and reeds.
Village house in Ansouis
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, about an hour from Nîmes, certainly doesn't look or feel like what you might think of France, but it is. It is considered the capital of the Camargue with a year-round population of only about 2,500, but a summer residency of up to 500,000! I'm not sure this is where you'd want to hang your hat, but the town itself has an interesting history, dating back to the 4th-century AD. As a fishing village, this picturesque spot was made even more famous by Van Gogh who made several paintings there in 1888, and it was frequented by writer Ernest Hemingway and artist Pablo Picasso.
We don't normally have access to a lot of properties in the south of France, but just in the last week, four properties have come our way, all by American owners, one of which is perfect for this particular client seeking a village house in Provence. It's in the beautiful hilltop village of Venasque, in the Vaucluse department of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, surrounded by a beautiful forest, close to the towns of St. Didier and Carpentras. Venasque has a population of about 1,150 – small enough that our American client living there part-time can get to know most of the other residents. Almost two million people live in the region full time, with about 435,000 secondary residences and sadly, almost 200,000 which remain vacant.
Provence is one of France's most expensive regions, but is surprisingly still very affordable. Prices per square meter range from 2,200€ to 4,000€. Paris, by comparison ranges from 8,000€ to 10,580€ – these figures as reported by the Chambre de Notaires.
Two beautiful, large and luxurious homes in the Luberon town of Lourmarin will soon be on offer to you, too. Lourmarin was my first introduction to the Luberon when I stayed in a B&B there in the summer of 2000 with my daughter, her friend and a friend of mine. We explored the whole region of hilltop villages and fell madly in love with it. I now frequent Lourmarin often, as it's a neighbor to Ansouis, where my close friend, Barb Westfield has her beautiful village house that she rents to augment her expenses. The tickets have already been purchased to go there for Thanksgiving and a trip to the Lourmarin Friday market is our usual routine. After shopping for goodies, I'll be visiting the two homes and that's when you'll hear much more about them.
Guidebook author Rick Steves describes Lourmarin: "The southernmost Luberon village of Lourmarin has a good Friday market, a beautiful Renaissance château on its fringe, and an enchanting town center. Lourmarin sits on a level plane and feels strangely peaceful and happy, away from the more-visited villages in the heart of the Luberon. This self-assured and lovely town accommodates a healthy tourist demand without feeling overrun. It's the best Luberon village to enjoy in the winter when other, better-known towns rattle about with few residents and little commercial activity. Existentialist writer Albert Camus (The Stranger) lived in Lourmarin in the 1950s and is buried here, lending it a certain fame that persists today. Author Peter Mayle moved here not so long ago, adding to the village's cachet. Lourmarin makes a good base for touring the southern Luberon, Aix-en-Provence, and even Marseille and maybe Cassis. From here you can tour big cities, beaches, and castles, returning every night to the comfort of your village."
The Village House Pool
The Canal du Midi
On the other side of France, in a small village between Carcassonne and Narbonne on the Canal du Midi, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, we will have a village house for sale that has a small pool. But more interestingly, it is divided to create two one-bedroom homes that can be used or rented individually or together. Both have been renovated and decorated to ultimate luxury and will sell with all the furnishings.
The Canal du Midi is 240 kilometers long and connects the Garonne from the city of Toulouse to the Étang de Thau on the Mediterranean. It was constructed in the late 1600s during the reign of Louis XIV and was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. The Languedoc-Roussillon region is what is known as "Cathar Country," where a group of religious dissidents were active in the 12th-century. This is a part of France very rich in history and for some, very spiritual, as well as very beautiful.
If you are interested in homes in the south, then by all means contact us now as one of these luxury properties just might suit you to a tee...and it's a smart move to buy a property from another American because you can bet it's been well appointed and taken care of!
Lisa Anselmo, Author, Creative Director and Blogger
Author and speaker Lisa Anselmo discusses her memoir, My (Part-Time) Paris Life (St Martin’s Press), and shares how you can create your own story—one that resonates and sets you apart. If you want to write a book, start a blog or podcast—express yourself artistically in any medium—Lisa will show you how to uncover your unique voice and find a passionate following.
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