The couple who split their lives between Chatburn and France

PUBLISHED: 15:13 26 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:58 20 February 2013

The Post Office and store in Chatburn

The Post Office and store in Chatburn

Karen Tait talks to Abi Turner and finds out why she and her husband Martin believe they have the best of both worlds owning homes in both Lancashire and France

Karen Tait talks to Abi Turner and finds out why she and her husband Martin believe they have the best of both worlds owning homes in both Lancashire and France

Where do you live in Lancashire?
Chatburn in the Ribble Valley. I went to school in Preston and then lived in Manchester, where I ran my own clothing business, before moving into retail management, which took me to America and all over the UK.

Meanwhile, I was renovating properties in my spare time. Having had enough of corporate life, we bought a failing village store in the Ribble Valley and set out to turn it around. The Ribble Valley was the ideal choice - we loved the fact that its a rural idyll but its less than an hour to Manchester or Harrogate for a days shopping or the theatre.

How long have you owned a home in France?
Five years. Initially, we had a second home in the Gers, in south-west France, but we found it too quiet and the weather wasnt good enough. So we wrote a checklist of what we needed and ended up in the Herault - all boxes ticked!

Better weather (drier); less than an hour to a major city (Montpellier); half an hour to both the sea and the mountains; picturesque historic villages; plus the village we chose needed to have all types of commerce and be in an established tourism area (even though the Languedoc-Roussillon region has only really been discovered by northern Europeans in the last few years), with extensive airport and road links. Since 2009, I have run 15 Grand Rue as a boutique bed and breakfast.

How do you spend your time in Lancashire and France?
In Lancashire, we run the village post office and store (open all year except Christmas Day), see family and go shopping! In France, we run the B&B as well as wine and gastronomy holidays. We found that its much better to each have a business that we are responsible for, it cuts down on arguments!

How do you divide your time?
I spend two months in the UK, the rest of the year in France, while my husband spends about four months in France spread throughout the year. The B&B is open from the beginning of February to mid December so I have to be there the majority of the time, I do go back to the UK for odd weeks. Martin has to be in Chatburn most of the time so comes out every other week during peak season and some of the quieter times.

What do you like most about the two locations?
In Lancashire, the beautiful countryside, walking, shopping, gastro pubs and living life in your first language. In Languedoc, the beautiful location, weather, time for friends, eating out, mountains and the sea close by.

What are the biggest differences? The weather and language. Weather by the Med is fantastic and more predictable for planning activities outside, while the slower pace of life means youve more time for friends. Saying that, living life in your first language is so much easier, especially when things go wrong like fixing the car or the boiler breaking down.

What are your two homes like?
In France we have a maison de matre (masters house) in a historic wine village, and in the UK we have three stone cottages converted into a village shop with a spacious apartment above. Our French home is a beautifully elegant house; it was a family home before we renovated it and converted it into a five-suite B&B. The apartment for the shop is a much simpler country style, but in winter its lovely to be cosy in front of the woodburner. We live over both businesses so have the convenience of no commute, which adds incredibly to the quality of life even though we work long hours.

What are your favourite activities in Lancashire and France?
In France I love running the B&B, meeting new people and introducing them to the undiscovered Languedoc, as well as living in a beautiful historic house and having a wide circle of friends, mainly people who have established businesses and life here. In Lancashire, its more about family as my parents still live in Preston, and I enjoy seeing old friends.

What are your favourite places in Lancashire and France?
The Trough of Bowland in Lancashire and, in France, the port of Marseillan and the Herault gorges and mountains.

Which are your favourite restaurants, home and abroad?
In Lancashire, the Inn at Whitewell, and in France its LEntrepots in Pzenas.

What are your favourite shops in Lancashire and France?
In Lancashire, the general high street wins - M&S, Monsoon etc - nowhere in the world does quality mid-market like the UK. In France, the markets, for good local produce.

How do you travel between the two locations?
We nearly always fly, maybe just one trip by car if we need to move stuff. One of the benefits of being in the Languedoc area is that there are low-cost airport links at several airports.

Do you think you have the best of both worlds, with a home in both locations?
Keeping both businesses going started out as a necessity - we thought wed sold Chatburn when we bought 15 Grand Rue but it was the start of the economic downturn and the sale fell through twice, which turned out to be a blessing. Ill always be English and need my fix of all things English, and the rest of the time Ill enjoy all the Languedoc has to offer. Being self-employed gives us the flexibility to enjoy both countries, we dont see it as an either/or choice as we can have the best of both worlds and enjoy the best of what each has to offer.

Karen Tait is editor of French Property News, the UKs leading magazine all about French property.

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The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012 issue of Lancashire Life

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