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Life in Rural France

Living the French Dream….The Good, The Bad, and The Hilarious

A field of sunflowers in the Charente region of France

Moving to the Charente in rural France from North East England

If moving to the Charente in rural France, close to the Cognac vines is a dream of yours, then you’ll love the story of the Paylors.

Carol, her husband Martin, and their young children made the move to rural France from the North East of England in 2017.

Living the country life certainly took some getting used to, but the family have thrived. 

Carol has embraced her new life in the Charente working in a local college, running a gite business and writing for a local magazine.

I was excited to hear about her story and her experiences of living life in the Charente.

What appealed to you about moving to the Charente, particularly the Cognac region?

The Charente River running through the town of Cognac

We chose the beautiful Charente as it has everything we dreamed of, stunning countryside, the magical Cognac vines and the coast within striking distance. 

Being in the Cognac, Ruffec, and Angouleme triangle means we have the best that town and country can offer. 

These historic centres are only 30 minutes from the rural hamlet we call home; La Grue. 

It’s also readily accessible with the TGV fast train at Angouleme, three airports with UK flights and an excellent road network.

Moving to the Charente and running a gite business

An old Roman ampitheatre in the Charente in France

Running a family-friendly gite business, we wanted plenty of local activities for our guests. And the list is endless in roughly under an hour’s drive. 

There’s something for everyone from the local plan d’eau, carriage rides at Verdille, and donkey petting at Amberac. 

And the historic “Les Bouchauds” Roman Amphitheatre is on our doorstep. 

Only slightly further afield is canoeing, accrobranche, river boat trips, fishing, eco-friendly zoos and more leisure lakes. 

Plus, many family attractions such as Monkey Valley, Zoodysee, The Castle of Riddles, Paleosite for prehistoric adventures and Saint Savinien for captaining little boats on the lake at Le Mung.

How hard was it moving to the Charente with a young family whilst taking on the challenge of running gites?

In all honesty, there were some dark days in our first year. From the leaking house roof, the blocked fosse septique debacle (not for those of a weak disposition!) and understanding the never-ending paperwork! 

The genuine kindness and real, practical support from our new neighbours, our Maire and our friends kept us going.

The children were amazing, full of confidence and resilience. Their Headteacher and her staff at Verdille school were so very supportive when we needed it most.

And what about retreats? Is this something you offer as part of your gite experience?

We are seeing a growing trend of people who really want to reconnect with nature and the simple life. 

We’re receiving increasing numbers of bookings from groups who want the three-gite complex for themselves for a weekend or an extended break of total relaxation. 

We can recommend a local yoga teacher, a local masseuse/beautician and local caterers. 

There is also a Spa in Gourville less than 10 minutes away.

Our neighbour is an organic market gardener. Guests can choose their produce from the field and have it dug up, washed and delivered to their gite. 

The emphasis here is on local producers with honey, meat, wine, cheese and Cognac on our doorstep.

La Grue is a hamlet nestled in the vines which sounds idyllic. Have you ever worked in the vines?

Every June, I undertake my pre-summer workout doing the “relevage” for our friend and neighbour, Katy. 

Her family have generations of ‘savoir-faire’. They are one of a dwindling number of expert Cognac producers who sell directly to the public from their stunning Maison de Maitre in Mons.

Moving to the Charente includes new traditions such as the Relevage

The ‘relevage’ is the annual “lifting” of the vines to make them stand-up tall like soldiers for their annual haircut. 

I love it! It’s a chance to exercise, to utterly clear my head, to connect with nature and to be a real part of rural life here.

I listen intently to the chatter from the other workers – where they have found the best mushrooms, how they cook their rabbits, whether their hens are laying well.

It’s a real privilege and a constant education. 

Moreover, to know that I have had a small hand in Cognac production, which could end up anywhere in the world, is an absolute real thrill.

You’re also writing for a magazine and have just started working at a local college. How on earth do you find the time?

Writing regularly for French Entree magazine for the last few years has been amazing. It’s an opportunity to research many useful subjects to help others who, like us, are new to living in France. 

It’s easy to write about something you love and I love our life here.

Recently, an opportunity presented itself for me to work as an English teacher at a local College. 

Being an English teacher in the UK for over 20 years, I thought it might help to improve my French and I do love a challenge! 

On my first day, I was nearly sick with nerves. I worried my French would not be up to the mark and I would fail miserably. 

Thankfully, my worries were completely unfounded. 

The students are so keen to learn and they are very kind to me. It is all about mutual respect and I truly understand what it feels like to learn a new language. 

This experience has certainly put a spring in my step. Last week, a girl brought in all her beekeeping gear and gave a fabulous presentation about honey-making. 

She is thirteen!

Where would you say are the best places to visit in the Charente?

For foodies, a visit to Rouillac market on the 27th of every month as it is reputedly one of the largest markets in South-West France. 

Whilst in Rouillac, after the Foire, sample lunch at “Les Fins Bois” a true ‘regale’ and Veronique will take excellent care of you. 

There are many excellent restaurants locally with outstanding reputations such as ‘Le Cheval Blanc’ at Luxe for example. 

The cheese chariot is epic and Christophe’s knowledge about the provenance of their food and wine is seriously impressive.

Visit ‘Le Compostelle’ in historic Tusson where Cecile, the first female Maitre Sommelier in the Charente, greets you with her husband chef, Laurent. 

My advice: ask your neighbours where they dine and follow their lead.

The architecture and history of the Charente region

The area is famous for the Gallo-Roman influence and we have ‘Les Bouchauds’ a Roman Amphitheatre at Rouillac with year-round activities at the Visitor Centre. 

The candlelight picnic is one of my favourite events there.

The beautiful Abbey at Saint-Amant-de-Boixe dates from the 12th century and virtually every village has a beautiful ‘lavoir’ or ‘puits’. 

With the ‘Chemins de Saint Jacques’ passing through Tusson with its Monastic Gardens and delicious cakes from Lydia at her exquisite Salon de The, ‘Gateaux’, it’s well worth a visit. 

As is the simply breathtakingly beautiful fairy-tale Chateau at Verteuil, dating from the 11th century.

Cognac is home to our world-famous Cognac houses with their visits and tours. There is also a fabulous ‘Base de Loisirs’ by the Charente River in Cognac for family days out and the gorgeous Carousel in the marketplace.

Jarnac which has lots to offer as the lesser-known sister to Cognac. We go there for canoeing, river boating, Cognac Courvoisier, and a walk by the river followed by cafe culture.

If you like a river boat trip, visit Saint Simon Village Gabarrier and learn all about the Charentais’ traditional barges.

Angouleme is a bustling city which hosts many international festivals, famous for its Cartoons and murals, most notably, Asterix. 

Take a land train ride from outside the Mairie and see the famous wall murals and trompe l’oeil which are dotted all over the city. 

Visit the ‘old town’ and les Halles for the market. 

Dine in one of the many restaurants or visit one of the many museums.

For families, we love a trip to the local plan d’eau – these are inland beaches around leisure lakes and there are many all over the Charente. 

We do love a trip to Saint Yriex. There’s the crazy inflatable assault course on the lake – Aquajump 16, sailing activities and a range of sporting activities as well as swimming. We often take a picnic and spend hours with the children.

After moving to the Charente, what would you say is your favourite thing about living in France?

The sky. It is huge, blue and every time I see it, I smile. We are not hemmed in here. 

I feel free and the enormous sky symbolises to me, the endless possibilities and the freedom for us to live a slower, family life here in the Charente.

A grassy country lane in the Charente region of rural France

What do you miss about the UK, if anything?

My friends and family but with the TGV at Angouleme, three airports being only 90mins away and the excellent road network here in France – a visit is easy-peasy.

What advice would you give to others moving to the Charente with a young family?

Our mantra was: you only have one life, live it. Any life anywhere has its challenges. Dare to live your dreams and be happy. We did. It hasn’t always been plain sailing and if we had our time over, we would not change a single thing because it has all been worth it.

Where to find Carol & Martin at La Grue Gites

To book a stay at one of their three gites use the links below to get in touch.


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About Me

I’m Kylie….

And I live in the beautiful Charente region of France having made the move back in 2016, and I’ve never looked back.

Now, I’m sharing everything I’ve learned about living in rural France. From visiting wineries & chateaux to negotiating French admin and learning the language.


Here are my favourite resources I use each time I travel!

🇺🇸 🇨🇦 Travel Insurance US & Canada – I use Safety Wing

🇪🇺 🇬🇧 Travel Insurance UK and Europe – I use Globelink

🚘 Car Hire Comparison – I use Discover Cars

🚌 🍷 Day Trips and Wine Tours – I use Viator

🚂 Booking Train Tickets – I use Trainline

🏨 Accommodation – I use Booking.com

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