These are questions going through our minds as we wait for our next little one to enter the world. We were supposed to move to Challans in December to live closer to my husband’s family in Normandy. We decided to stay in Provence until the baby is born because it would have been too stressful – move across the country to a temporary month-to-month house while house hunting, and then buying furniture (we’ve only lived in furnished apartments/houses over the past 2.5 years in France). And now after passing it by, we’re thankful because the weather there is very similar to Normandy.
We know we should rent for at least a year in the area we want to buy a house. We want to buy a house within the next five years, so we need to finally settle down in the region we hope to buy. It’s tempting to buy a house now, however, we want to save enough so we either don’t need a mortgage, or can repay it within five years. And then we’re torn between buying an old stone home to renovate or a newer home that doesn’t need any work. For now, we’re keeping our eyes open for good deals. If one too good to refuse comes along, maybe we’ll buy sooner than later.
The problem is… where do we want to settle down? Our hearts are in Provence. We love our tiny village – the views of the rolling hills, friendly neighbors, and small commerce. Everyone is patient with my French and I feel apart of the community. After living in L’Estaque (section of Marseille), Bordeaux, and Lantheuil (15 min north of Caen, Basse-Normandie) – we finally feel home. Our only gripes are the nearest hospital and supermarket are 40 minutes away, TGV is 1.5 hours away, and airport is almost 2 hours away.
The reason why we’re moving? It’s a long trip to visit my husband’s family. We want to go to the US every year to visit my family, plus see his family for shorter durations throughout the year. From Banon, it takes 13 hours to get to Caen with minimal stops. With two kids… I’m sure we’ll be stopping more frequently, possibly taking us 15 hours. If we go to Caen at least twice a year and the US once a year, it will not leave us much time, if any, to go on little family getaways – we love traveling to Italy, Spain, and other countries. Plus, all those trips to visit family are expensive.
If you’ve been a longtime reader of this blog, then you know living in Normandy is not an option… at least, for me. I’m from Florida and didn’t do too well when we lived there for nine months. I couldn’t handle not seeing the sun for weeks at a time, and the wet and cold climate. My mood is too sensitive to the weather… gray days makes me sad. I have great memories of when we vacationed in Normandy, however, living there was too rough on me.
We lived in Bordeaux for almost a year and loved it. It’s a bit more gray and damp than Provence, but at least there is a real spring and summer. We began house hunting in Gironde to get an idea of what we can get for our budget. We need at least a four bedroom house – a room for us, two for the kids, and an office. We also want to live within 30 minutes of Bordeaux and a short walk from commerce. Of course, we need schools and activities nearby for the kids. I’ve found some interesting places within our budget, however, we need to visit the areas to make sure we like them in person. The drive to Caen will be about 6 hours.
We’ve been in Normandy for almost 5 weeks visiting family for the holidays. With each passing week, we’ve been searching less in Gironde and begun (curiously) searching for homes within Provence. It’s not that living near family is any less important – it’s that we’re reminded about how much we hate rainy weather. My husband mentioned the other day that as long as we lived near an airport or train, he could visit his family easily throughout the year, and then we could do one longer trip a year with the kids. It’s difficult to find a larger house within our budget in Provence, but not impossible. It’s too bad our home only has 3 bedrooms. If we owned this home then would convert the garage into a sound-proof office for my husband (he records French voice-over).
So here we are… confused. It’s great for our kids to live near family so they can get to know them. But man, we really love Provence. I love being surrounded by stunning landscapes – there’s such beauty everywhere we go. Even on my regular trip to Apt to go grocery shopping, I can’t help but to want to pull over and sit in awe at my surroundings.
The baby is due in June. We’ll visit family in Normandy in August, fly to Florida in November, and then start visiting houses around February 2014.
So what do we do? Do we move to Gironde to live closer to family or stay in Provence? What would you do if in our situation?