What it’s like to buy and run a holiday home in France

🎉Exciting news! I am soon to announce the launch of my first Galathée Retreat, a week-long creative and culinary experience on the Île de Ré from 12th – 19th September 2020. If you’d like more information, email karon.foxwell@btinternet.com.🎉

Happy New Year everyone! It’s a little belated I know, but we are still in January and I am now firmly back on British soil after spending two weeks in Île de Ré. It was time to catch up,  to reflect on what it’s been like to buy and run a holiday home in France over the last decade, and look forwards to what’s in store for the future.

holiday home in France, Île de RéWe used to make family New Year’s resolutions and write them down secretly on pieces of folded paper to exchange and then read them out to one other.  We no longer do this because we are not often together on NYE. And, to be honest, it got a bit boring writing down the same old challenges: lose weight, go to the gym, give up alcohol etc.

This year, at the beginning of a new decade I am looking back to reflect on the exciting journey it’s been to buy and run a holiday home in France, and try to take forward the life lessons I have learned. 

holiday home in France, Île de Ré

Reflecting on the last decade

Ten years ago we had no idea that Galathée exsisted and certainly had no intention of buying a property on the IDR.  We visited as a family and loved it but that was it. Fast forward to July 2013, my husband and I were driving through France to stay a few nights in a small fisherman’s cottage in St Martin de Ré. I called the English owner to compliment her on her gorgeous cottage and we ended up having coffee and going to see an estate agent posing as potential buyers.

We were walked back around the corner a few steps from our fisherman’s cottage to see Galathée. We fell in love. We were mad, but we decided to buy this completely unmodernised, exceptionally old house and make it our own. As Harry would say “it seemed as though the stars were aligned” and we found it a very straightforward process to complete the purchase. 

holiday home in France, Île de Ré

Now when we visit St Martin, we walk down past the fisherman’s cottage to where our friend lives in the house next door! And guess what? She also has a Pug called Moon.

In October 2013 Galathée, our first holiday home in France, became ours and work began that November. The house was virtually finished by May 2014 against all the odds and with the help of a great friend who finished decorating the house internally we were done. I created a small garden in the courtyard and a larger front garden.  We scoured local brocantes for furniture and local house sales.  I painted lots of the old brown furniture we bought with the house in Annie Sloane paint, upcycled old bits we already had and “voila” – it was home.

Since then we have been registered with Alistair Sawdays and built our own website which generates income to pay the bills.  Valerie our manager was the original estate agent who showed us Galathée. Valerie was shortly afterwards made redundant and decided to set up her own concierge business with our house the first she took on. 

holiday home in France, Île de Ré

The joys of renovating and running a holiday home

From the beginning we’ve been lucky to receive great reviews by both the Times and the Telegraph and had the most wonderful clients to stay. Some clients re-book and we get lovely feedback. We have made friends with our neighbours and enjoy their company imbibing the rosé in the summer months as aperitifs. 

We have even had an offer of purchase from one client… and I was tempted! But in the end they went on to buy a beautiful house in the harbour of St Martin.

I had the opportunity to live and work in IDR at the beginning of 2019, which meant living alone for the first time in my life. I loved it and adapted to a new way of life with my three amigos, the Puggies. I was given French lessons where-ever I went and I relished the challenge to improve.

I made many good friends and enjoyed cooking all the fresh local produce bought from farmers markets. I also did a great deal of DIY myself at Galathée and of course tended the now established garden which always gets commented on when I am outside bent double with secateurs in my hand.

There is an ancient well situated in the front garden and it is on the history tour of St Martin, so in the summer hundreds of tourists snap my front door and pose by the bougainvillea clad well. Galathée is situated in Rue Merindot, which is one of the most historic streets in the town and our house is purported to have a huge tunnel which links our salon to the church. This goes back to the many wars between the English and French (Protestant/Catholic). It is said to be tall enough for a horse to walk through, though I cannot confirm this as we have not investigated… not yet anyway!

Last year was tricky for English tourism as it seemed everyone was frightened to travel to Europe. Our bookings were certainly down, and we weren’t the only ones affected.  Now Brexit is decided,  we are definitely seeing clients seem more willing to book, which is good for us and the island.

holiday home in France, Île de Ré

Looking forward to an exciting future: Galathée Retreats

I am currently organising my first Galathée Retreat which will take place in September 2020. The retreat will be a week-long creative and culinary experience on the Île de Ré. I am finalising details so if you are interested please do email karon.foxwell@btinternet.com and I will share more information. 

Have we ever regretted buying a holiday home in France? Not at all. It’s been the most amazing journey and opened up a whole new world to us. There is nothing nicer than driving over that bridge, seeing sandy beaches, and knowing you have arrived.  Your shoulders relax and that lovely island feeling fills your soul.  You should try it… you wont regret it.

Happy New Year!