“I won the lottery without buying a ticket!” My dream home in a national park
PUBLISHED: 15:33 08 May 2019 | UPDATED: 12:59 24 June 2019
Have you ever thought about living in one of France’s national parks? Penny Setubal hadn’t either until she came across the Parc Naturel Régional de la Chartreuse in Isère and fulfilled a lifelong dream to buy a home in France
When did you first fall in love with France?
From the age of eight years old I used to holiday in France with my parents and siblings each summer, taking the boat from Jersey where we lived to St-Malo and then driving down through France stopping at campsites along the way. These holidays were always great adventures and I have fond memories of meeting French and Dutch children staying on the campsites and playing outdoors on sunny evenings with my brothers and sister. My fiancé Mitch has been to France on holiday many times too and particularly enjoyed visiting Carcassonne. We both are passionate skiers and rekindled our love of France together by holidaying in the French Alps on winter ski breaks and motorhome trips visiting as many different French towns as possible over 10 days.
Why did you want to move to France?
It has been a lifelong dream of mine to buy a home in France and if ever I was asked the question, "what would you do if you won a million pounds?" my answer was always the same: I would buy a chalet in the French mountains. Despite wanting to move to France from a young age, family circumstances tied me to living in Jersey and it was only when the opportunity came up in my 50s that I could see the possibility of my dream being fulfilled. I was very lucky to meet Mitch who had travelled all over the world during his army career and was open-minded to the idea of buying a place in France.
What made you choose Isère, and the Parc Naturel Régional de la Chartreuse in particular?
We spent a lot of time 'armchair' property hunting on the internet and had listed places that looked attractive with the view to taking a look on our next motorhome trip through France. We drove all the way from Calais through the middle of France, to Clermont-Ferrand, east to Macon, south to Orange and Nice, west to Montauban and Bordeaux before heading back to Brittany, but didn't actually stop in Isère or Chartreuse. If we had stopped in Chartreuse, we would have known that this was the place to choose to live! When we got home we discovered that a chalet we liked and had seen for sale online, but that was out of reach due to funds, had been reduced in price and was available to view. We arranged an appointment to see it and despite this being the only property we had actually seen in reality, we knew straight away that we had fallen in love with this mountain chalet and that the area it was in was perfect. Our offer to buy was accepted on New Year's Eve, which meant we had a very exciting year ahead to look forward to. Only now that we live in the Chartreuse area do we appreciate exactly how lucky we were to find this property. We moved in last year and every day I wake up feeling like I have won the lottery.
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What do you feel are the best things about living here?
The area we live in is surrounded by woodland and pine forests and every morning we wake up to a view of the incredible Chartreuse mountain range through our windows. Our home is in a little hamlet with medieval-style houses and old-fashioned tiled rooftops, and quirky small triangular windows. There is farmland on our doorstep where Charolais cows graze and the woods are home to wild boar, red squirrels, golden eagles and even wolves. Both of us are keen walkers and cyclists and nature enthusiasts, so this area could not be more ideal. There is also the added bonus of being only a 15-minute drive from a pretty ski station, St-Pierre-de-Chartreuse, which allows us to pack up our skis in the car when it snows and spend the day skiing or snowshoeing. We live in a town called Entre-deux-Guiers which is situated between the two Guiers rivers that divide the Savoie and Isère departments. One of the best ways to enjoy these rivers is having a swim on a hot day in the natural river basin pools. We also live a short drive away from Lac d'Aiguebelette, which is famed as being one of the largest natural lakes in France that is warm to swim in due to its natural water springs. There are plenty of water sport activities, which Mitch and I enjoy, such as canyoning, paddleboarding and kayaking.
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Why would you recommend it as somewhere to live?
Despite being one of only a few British residents in our town, we have been welcomed warmly by the local community and had a wonderful surprise when we were invited to the town hall earlier this year. The maire treated all newcomers to some food from the region and of course some tasters of the renowned Chartreuse liqueur. He introduced us to other residents and generously gave all newcomers a beautiful hand-carved walking stick, made from the Chartreuse wood, as a welcome gift. We have a friendly postmistress who comes for a chat when delivering parcels, have made some close friends among our neighbours who have taken us to some of the regional events, and have been genuinely grateful for the helpfulness of the many people who have helped us to settle into our house. This part of France has so much to offer and we'd love to let others know how wonderful it is.
Has living in France lived up to your expectations?
Living in France has more than lived up to our expectations, and we both feel we have found our permanent home. Personally part of me knew that I would always love France and so much of what I had read about the French people and countryside has surpassed what I had wished for. I pinch myself each day, thinking that I did in fact win the lottery without having to buy a ticket!