If you read Monday’s Parler Paris Nouvellettre® titled “‘Un Oeil’ on the Occitanie: From Nîmes to Collioure and Back,” then you already know about our excursion to the southwest of France from a touristy point of view. And in last week’s French Property Insider article, we gave you an advance glimpse of real estate in the Occitanie with “On the Road to Collioure.” There is no doubt that the Occitanie offers a similar lifestyle to Provence and the Riviera for a lot less expense with the average square meter costing 43 percent less in the southwest than the southeast of the country.
That in itself tells you a lot about what you will find in the west compared to the east. Real estate in general is priced based on desirability of location (“location, location, location”). And those with wealth gravitate toward that which they can afford…more. That means, you will find more wealthy living in the east than in the west and that wealth will be reflected in everything, from the way the people are dressed to the way the homes are adorned. These are simply the facts and I make no judgment good or bad about either aspect. In fact, it may be the wealth that you shy away from, feeling more comfortable in simpler surroundings.
During our excursion, we purposely stayed away from the large towns of the region (Montpellier, Narbonne, Béziers, Perpignan, etc.), staying on the “N” and “D” roads (free National and Departmental roads), avoiding the autoroutes in order to really see the countryside better. We experienced overnights at the inland town of Pézenas and the seaside town on the border with Spain, Collioure. Both are reeking with charm and an idyllic lifestyle.
This is how I find the Occitanie…beautiful, rustic, unspoiled, and not quite as “raffiné” as the east—refined or sophisticated. Again, this is not necessarily a bad attribute! The landscape is breathtaking, the villages charming, the lifestyle sublime. How bad can it be!?
There’s a lot of France to love, so in my world of real estate, I want a property to “check off all the boxes”—or as many as possible of attributes I feel are important. You have to determine what are yours, but here are mine:
- A thriving American community—ease of making friends
- Fast and easy access to transportation—international airport, TGV hub, local transport
- Necessity or not of having a car at your disposal (French Driving License)
- Cost of living—mainly cost of housing, for rent or purchase
- Access to good healthcare and hospitals
- Business opportunities or cultural activities? Which is more important or is both?
- Language level—do you need or want to speak English?
- Urban vs rural environment—apartment living vs village house or house in the countryside?
Tomorrow, a colleague and I will be making a two-hour car trip from Nice to visit a property potentially for sale (as one of our listings) in another area of the south—the Var, in the town of Collobrières. The Var is part of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region that takes its name from the river Var, bordered on the east by the department of Alpes-Maritimes, to the west by Bouches-du-Rhône, to the north of the river Verdon by the department of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and to the south by the Mediterranean Sea. Toulon is the largest city and administrative capital of Var, but other important towns include Fréjus, Saint-Raphaël, Draguignan, Brignoles, Hyères and La Seyne-sur-Mer. Saint-Tropez is its most famous, for which we have actress Brigitte Bardot to thank!
Collobrières isn’t as famous as Saint-Tropez, and it’s not on the sea, but it’s a beautiful, charming village that can claim groves of chestnut trees and cork oaks for cork production. Labeled a “Village of Character,” Collobrières, nestled in a curve of the “Réal Collobrier” river presents a set of interesting and homogeneous old buildings, and is spanned by an old 12th-century donkey bridge. The calm and peaceful village, away from the crowds of the coast, groups its houses around a 19th-century Gothic church. The village adheres to a Quality Charter in order to preserve its architectural heritage and its authenticity: tiny cobblestoned streets, churches, registered historic monuments, numerous fountains and shaded plots. The Place de la Mairie, charming and shaded, has a very beautiful old fountain. Everything can and should be discovered on foot. That’s what we will be doing!
We have a client who wants a house, a pool and a community. This is just the kind of village where that can happen. For those interested in a quiet life in the South of France, stay tuned for the home’s availability…or not! (And others we might find along the way…)
Adrian Leeds Group®
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