3 ISSUES FOR JUST £3 Subscribe to France Magazines today click here

How I renovated a house and moved to Gers on my own

PUBLISHED: 11:44 12 June 2018

The hamlet where Paula lives in Gers © Family Laplane

The hamlet where Paula lives in Gers © Family Laplane

Archant

When she inherited a ruin of a house in Gers 15 years ago, Paula Middleton decided to take on the challenge, completely renovated it and now lives there on her own

How did you come to live in Gers?

Fifteen years ago I inherited the ruin of a house in Gers, ‘La Taste’, as part of a divorce, and chose the ruin over an apartment in London – taking the route of the romantic. I had to go away and earn my keep as a single woman again, and my work took me all over the world with the British Council. I would visit La Taste during my leave and think to myself ‘keep the faith’. It seemed an overwhelming amount of renovation work for someone with better diplomatic skills than technical skills, but I had made my choice and one day I knew I would come here. In all my years of working abroad, I never found anywhere else quite like this little corner of the world called Gers.

When did you move in permanently?

I retired three years ago and it was overgrown with grass, full of bats, owl nests and gaping holes. The suitcases were put away and a pair of French working overalls replaced the business suits. All those diplomatic skills proved useful for negotiating ‘devis’ (builders’ quotes), planning consents, and the design and build of the house. Over these three years, La Taste has emerged as a beautiful space and beautiful home.

_______________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Ways to save money when renovating a property in France

What is it like to move to France on your own?

_______________________________________________________________

Paula in her renovated house in Gers ©Glenn CharlsPaula in her renovated house in Gers ©Glenn Charls

How have you adapted to French life?

My French improves daily and so do my technical skills. My favourite retail therapy locations are now bricolage outlets on the outskirts of towns. As I settle into making La Taste my residence principale, I am getting to grips with the French system on taxation, health and residency requirements, which currently remain unchanged post-Brexit referendum. Sometimes going it alone in my adopted country feels daunting, but for me the Ladies Lunch Club de l’Armagnac has proven to be a wonderful support system for English-speaking women in our area. Many of us meet for lunch once a month to enjoy local restaurants and local cuisine. There are also groups who meet on a range of interests, garden visits, book club, language learning and community support.

Have you been welcomed into your local community?

I have encountered kindness and courtesy throughout my adventure of the build. I live in a hamlet of about 20 souls called Ste-Fauste named after the old church which looks out over a wide sweep of valley towards the Pyrénées. When La Taste was gutted and the land dug up for a new fosse septique in one of the coldest winters on record, my French neighbours gave me the key to their home so I had somewhere warm to live. Flowers and fruit, sweet-baked delicacies and mushrooms appeared on the doorstep.

_______________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

How we renovated a French château

My advice for people moving to France is...

_______________________________________________________________

The French market in Eauze © Glenn CharlsThe French market in Eauze © Glenn Charls

What is it like throughout the seasons?

What I most enjoy about living in Gers is the clean air (reputedly the cleanest in Europe), the tranquillity of the countryside and the slower pace of life in the towns and villages. Everyone stops to say hello if they recognise you to have a chat with their distinctive Gascon accent.

Is there any aspect of living here that surprised you?

What has surprised and fascinated me about living here is the variety of cultures that have influenced the area from prehistory to modern times. The Pyrénées have been a passage for migration for centuries and today you see pilgrims, distinguished by the scallop shell on their backpacks, walking the Camino de Santiago through Gers.

Is there a special place in Gers that you particularly like to visit?

I love many of the beautiful Gers villages and towns, but I especially love Marciac which has an annual international jazz festival in the summer (usually late July to mid-August), bringing the normally quiet and pretty town alive with music and markets for three weeks with some of the biggest names in jazz. Music spills out everywhere – from cafés, street corners, bars and the big marquees.

Like this? You might enjoy:

How to make new friends when you move to France

What is it really like to live in rural France?

I was priced out of the UK buy could afford to buy in the south of France

More from Living in France

Tue, 10:28

His chambres d’hôtes renovation continues and the builders are making progress, but Ian Moore soon learns there’s never a dull moment when communicating in a second language

Read more
Ian Moore
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

She made an impulsive decision to move to Limousin 10 years ago and a decade and five children later, Gillian Harvey has no regrets about jumping in feet first. In fact, she couldn’t be happier

Read more
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

If you are heading away on holiday soon, it might be a good idea to do a few security checks on your French house before leaving. This will give you extra peace of mind so you can relax and enjoy your leisure time. Here are our home security tips...

Read more
Thursday, June 28, 2018

If you are planning to take your car with you to France from an EU or non-EU country, these are the regulations you will need to comply with and the paperwork you will need to complete

Read more
Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Thinking of setting up a campsite in France? Here’s what you’ll need to consider when it comes to planning permission.

Read more
Friday, April 6, 2018

Understand the home-sharing website Airbnb, including the latest French rules, and follow our top tips for using it to rent out your property in France

Read more
Running a business
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

With its unbeatable wine and cheese and laissez-faire attitude, there’s nowhere better to retire than France. But which cities are best for growing old in? Here’s the top 10

Read more
Pays de la Loire
Thursday, January 25, 2018

If you are buying in or moving to France you will need a French bank account but before you open one make sure you read these 11 things you need to know to avoid making a costly mistake

Read more
Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The French pharmacy is so much more tham a place to pick up your prescriptions. Here are 11 things you might not know about pharmacies in France.

Read more
Healthcare in France
Friday, March 9, 2018

If you’ve just moved to France then you will need to get to grips with the French welfare system. Here’s our guide to the system including healthcare, benefits, social contributions and the changes Macron intends to make this year

Read more
Subscribe today

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now