Discover a Far Better Quality of Life in the “Real” South of France

It’s no surprise that France inspires such love. With its stirring architecture and landscapes, diverse climates, incomparable foods and wines, and mellow lifestyle, the country offers a personal gift to everyone.

Despite feeling a genuine connection with France, many people are quick to brush off the dream of retiring here. They often think that France, having so many extraordinary things to offer, is automatically too expensive.

In truth, most regions in France are unexpectedly affordable. Naturally, if you focus on high-profile spots like Paris or the Cote d’Azur, you may become discouraged. Dig into lesser-known, equally charming regions, however, and you’ll discover that your dream of a French retirement could be a lot more affordable than you thought.

One such region is Languedoc-Roussillon. For retirees on a budget, who dream of losing themselves in the warm, sunlit days and sleepy medieval villages of the south of France, the Languedoc-Roussillon region may be just the spot.

Although less in the public eye than its swanky neighbor, Provence, the Languedoc has just as much to crow about. Nestled between the Pyrenees and Cevennes mountain ranges and the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean, the Languedoc is a wonder to behold. The region offers some of the most diverse and intense landscapes you’ll see in France, ranging from violet-blue lavender fields to dramatic rocky gorges and waterfalls, to flat marshlands dotted with pink flamingoes.

With around 300 days of sunshine a year and short, mild winters, the Languedoc attracts thousands of expats. The biggest hub for expats is Montpellier, the Languedoc’s historic capital. This fast-growing university town is ideal for anyone seeking a bubbling cultural scene and easy access to a variety of great restaurants, boutiques, and bars. The white-sand beaches of the Mediterranean are only a 45-minute tram/bus ride from the town center.

But many retirees prefer sunbaked old Languedoc villages to the charms of Montpellier. Historic towns such as Sommieres, Pezenas, Villevieille, Banyuls-sur-Mer, and dozens of others embody the essence of the south of France. Unlike other parts of the south, most Languedoc villages haven’t given up their authenticity to mass tourism or surrendered to the super-rich.

Given its prime location near the Mediterranean and pleasant climate (with summer temperatures ranging from the mid-70s F to the low 80s F), the Languedoc housing prices are a bit higher than other areas in France. But there are still bargains to be found.

In a pretty village 15 minutes from the town of Pezenas—and an hour’s drive from the sea—is a gorgeous, three-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot townhouse for sale for $205,000. The fishing town of Banyuls-sur-Mer has a fully renovated two-bedroom village house of 721 square feet on the market for $172,900.

Ohio native Linda Amstutz, 69, retired in Homps, a small Languedoc town along the famous Canal du Midi in the Aude departement.

“I love it here!” she says. “To be honest, I moved to the Languedoc for economic reasons…it was more affordable than Provence. But once I got here, I found the quality of life far better. I feel like I landed in the right place.”

Linda enjoys a peaceful life with her dog, spending plenty of time walking along the canal, visiting friends around the region, and exploring vide-greniers, the French equivalent of a village-wide yard sale. Not only can you score interesting finds at vide-greniers, you can also eat well for little.

“There are always sausages cooking, or maybe duck, and a chunk of baguette,” says Linda. “You get all that and a glass of wine for around $4 to $5. And the wine is always good. It’s a lovely way to live.”

©iStock.com/phbcz

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