A Snowbird Lifestyle on the French Riviera

For Hani and Roanne, living part-time in Europe was a long-time dream. After talking about it for many years, in 2008—on their third visit to the French Riviera—they took a spontaneous plunge.

“We were on vacation and had some extra time on our hands, and we thought ‘Why not start looking at properties?’” says Hani. “We didn’t really set out to get a place. It just happened. And in September 2008 we came back from Canada and bought it.”

Now they spend slightly less than half the year in the city of Nice and just over half the year in Ottawa, Canada, to maintain their Canadian tax status and healthcare.

For them, this is the perfect situation. It lets them spend ample time with friends and family in Canada in the summer and over the holidays, and plenty of time in the French sunshine in spring and fall, while avoiding most of the long Canadian winters and the hottest part of the French summer. They often leave Canada in a snowstorm, with airport employees scrambling to de-ice the plane, and arrive in Nice to light jacket weather and sunshine.

As Roanne says, “We love Canada. Our family is there. We’re always in Canada over the summer. It’s a lovely time of year and we avoid the crowds and the excessive heat in Nice. Then we shorten our winters by spending time here in France. And we go back to Canada at Christmas to see family again. Really, we have the best of both worlds.”

The couple enjoys the great weather, long walks, and their current location right in the heart of lively Nice. They also love that Europe and the Mediterranean are so accessible, with just about everything within a three-hour flight.

Hani says: “While we’re here, we get up when we feel like it, have a leisurely breakfast, read the paper online. We try (especially when it’s nice) to go for a two- or three-hour walk through old town, downtown, along the famous Promenade des Anglais, and back home. We have friends—some French, some English, some American—we meet for drinks, lunches, or dinners.”

“We do things differently here because the pace of life is different,” says Roanne. “I do groceries every couple of days. I walk to one store for Parmesan cheese and to the boulangerie for lovely fresh baguettes and croissants. I could do my groceries the way I do them in North America, but we want to walk and see people. We love to walk to Old Nice for our coffee (they have great coffee beans there) and pastries. It’s a very different pace of life here and there’s always somewhere to go and something to do.”

The cost of living in the French Riviera is comparable to their costs in Canada, with heating and electricity costing a bit more and day-to-day things like wine costing far less.

The couple says that while their health insurance comes from Canada, they’ve experienced and heard great things about the French health system: “We even know expats who have gotten cancer and decided to stay in France for their treatment. You’d think you’d want to go back to your home country—that you’d feel more comfortable there—but they stay here, instead. That’s how good it is.”

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