“Our lifestyle is more relaxed here. We don’t live to work but the other way around. The cost of buying a home, living comfortably in the country, and eating good food is lower here compared to the U.S.,” says Laura Springham about rural France where she, her husband Keith, and their son Patrick moved almost two years ago.
“I always wanted to live in France. So when I moved to Bermuda for my job I joked with my parents that I was half-way to France.” In Bermuda, Laura met her future husband, Keith, and they realized they had a dream in common. “One of the first things he told me was that he was saving money to retire in France. So it was meant to be.”
The couple bought a large house in the tiny hamlet of Peument in the Poitou-Charentes region of southwest France. “It is a typical French country stone house with bluish-green shutters, a huge kitchen, and beamed ceiling. It was a 200-year old barn renovated into a house 100 years ago.”
Laura fell in love with Peument when she saw it the first time. “There are about 30 people living in the hamlet and it is very tidy and well taken care of. There is a little pond with frogs and lilies just down the lane from our house. Many of the locals are retired and they grow fruit, vegetables, and have lovely gardens.” Laura says that everyone is very friendly with them. “We always make an effort to speak French and everyone here is very patient with our attempts.”
The area around the hamlet is mainly agricultural, with beautiful sunflower fields that turn yellow in summer. It is famous for excellent butter and a delicious fortified wine, Pineau des Charentes, that locals have been enjoying for centuries. With historic towns, great restaurants, local festivals, and beautiful rivers it is impossible to be bored in this corner of France.
“There are many places around to sit down, enjoy the view, and soak in French life and lots of things to do that are all within an hour drive or less. When the weather is nice, we like to go to the nearby town of Ruffec for a picnic by the river and enjoy the scenery,” says Laura. “We also like to go to vide grenier; they are like local jumble sales in small towns. It is interesting to see what people are selling and is a fun way to explore new places.”
Laura says that the cost of living in this part of the country is affordable. “We spend less than $800 a month on groceries for the family. That includes meat, treats, and a lot of wine. Keith loves good wine and here you can buy a good bottle for $3, it is crazy.” They shop at several supermarkets within a 10- to 15-minute drive from their house. “We also have many weekly farmers’ markets with fresh produce in the area. If you want to shop only at markets, there’s one on every day in the towns nearby.”
Laura’s favorite restaurant, Moulin de Verteuil, is about 10 miles from the hamlet. “It is a great place to have a long slow lunch. It costs about $20 per person for three courses and wine. They have a small menu but all dishes are with local ingredients and we always order a gourmet pizza, with the flour from the restaurant’s own mill, and a delicious goat cheese salad.”
The area has a large English-speaking expat community. “We know many British retirees who have settled here and I have met many people through the French class that I go to every week,” says Laura. The couple has just finished renovating part of the house for a B&B, Jambon De Printemps. “We are starting to rent out and the first guests, our friends from Bermuda, enjoyed their stay and my husband’s baking lessons.”
Laura is enjoying her relaxed country life and not rushing to fill up her schedule with activities. “I feel relaxed, I don’t feel the pressure like I did back in the U.S. to always be busy, to do something. It is a slower pace of life here and I love it.”
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