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Countries Information & Lifestyle
 France France

Country Information & Lifestyle

 La Vie Francaise

La Vie Francaise

France is an economically stable country and is the most visited country in the world. Bordered by four seas, the North Sea, the English Channel, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean, and by three mountain ranges, the Alps, the Jura and the Pyrenees, and the edge of the central Europe lowlands, France lies at the heart of Western Europe.

France has one of the richest historic heritages of any country in the world, every region has its selection of monuments, including ancient cathedrals, fortified castles, magnificent chateaux, palaces, historic towns and city centers, and a range of other sites including prehistoric caves, Roman remains and medieval bridges.

Life in France can be anything you want it to be, from the world's most bewitching city, Paris, 'The City of Light to the sun-kissed beaches of the Cote d'Azur, rubbing shoulders with the jet set in Cannes or Nice on the French Riviera, the Camargue with beautiful wild horses, to the ski slopes of the French Alps and of course Courchevel, LA VIE FRANCAISE has something for everyone.

France boasts the most varied natural environment of any country in Europe; it varies from the lush agricultural countryside of Normandy and Brittany, or the rolling prairies of Champagne or Beauce, to Alpine peaks, northern spruce forests, the dry hinterland of Provence, the steppe-like plateaus of the Causses, not to mention a very varied coastline including the North Sea, the Channel, the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean.

The climate in France is diverse resulting in very different weather patterns, temperate but for most warmth and sunshine during the winter months head for the MIDI, the term the French use for the deep south of the country. Brittany, jutting out into the Atlantic, has a particularly mild climate but can be quite rainy even in the summer, the eastern and southeastern area is particularly influenced by three famous winds, la Bise, le Mistral and le Tramontain.

La Bise is the dry east wind that can blow over from central Europe and in winter it can be bitterly cold, in summer blisteringly hot. La Bise is forced south and notably channeled down the Rhone valley towards Provence where it becomes le Mistral. Thus a dry wind that can blow over central Provence for weeks on end and in winter can be surprisingly cold.

The wind that skirts round the Massift Central or blows over the top of it towards the Mediterranean is known as Le Tramontain. The micro climate of the Riviera around Cannes, Nice and Monaco benefits from its own micro-climate protected from the Mistral by the mass of the Alps with mild winters and warm summers.

One of the pleasures in visiting or living in France is the traditional French market. Le marche is an integral part of life in virtually all French towns and large villages and has always remained a part of life in France. A few specialised markets have acquired national reputation for example the flea market at Porte de Cligancourt in Paris, the flower market in Nice, the Christmas market in Strasbourg, the olive markets in Provence or the fish market round the old port of Marseilles. Then there are the wine markets of Bordeaux, the famous gastronomic markets in Perigueux, the head of French truffle and foie-gras country.

More than 350 kinds of cheese are made in France and names like Camembert, Brie and Roquefort are known world wide. France is also famous for its perfumes Dior, Chanel, Givenchy, cars, Renault, Citroen, Peugeot, fashion houses and of course the Tour de France.

French cooking is thought to be the best in the world and croissants, pastry, souffles, and French Onion soup are well known, a deep rural tradition in France is snails and frogs legs, both tasty especially snails with butter-parsley and garlic sauce.

France is renowned for producing come of the most famous people in history, Claude-Achille Debussy and Saint-Saens, composers, Louis Pasteur, Marie & Pierre Curie, scientists, authors Victor Hugo of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables fame and Alexandre Dumas who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, Joan of Arc, Napoleon and of course Gustav Eiffel, the engineer who designed and built the Eiffel Tower.

Where to go in France, that is the hardest part of relocating as the whole country has something different to offer and in Brittany and Normandy there are plenty of attractions. Situated a couple of hundred miles south of the English West Country their Celtic roots have a lot in common with Cornwall. The north coast of Brittany has rugged granite cliffs and little sandy coves and the south coast can be hot in the summer months.

Normandy, from where William the Conqueror set out in 1066, has sandy beaches, rocky cliffs in the Cotentin peninsula, the famous white cliffs of Etretat and an inland area full of wonderful small towns and villages many boasting fine half-timbered houses. One such town is Bayeux home of the famous medieval Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the Battle of Hastings. Off the coast in the west of the region lies the Mont St. Michel, the most visited historic site in France outside Paris. The Normandy Beaches, scene of the vital D-Day landings in the Second World War, draw many visitors, including a lot of American tourists.

The central Loire Valley is known as The Garden of France, famous for its mild climate, castles, vineyards and chateaux. Rich in history and culture the countryside is made up of gentle undulating hills and quietly flowing rivers, an ideal region if you want to be lazy, enjoy eating out or just like exploring the countryside.

The Sologne area south of the Loire contains the remaining parts of a once huge forest, rich with wildlife, that originally encouraged the Kings and Princes to build their castles in the region. Beyond the Loire lies the region called Beauce, it is Frances' breadbasket, an area where vast wheat fields stretch towards the horizon and in the middle lies Chartres, home to one of the most magnificent medieval cathedrals.

Burgundy lies in the east of the region, famous for its wines and rich in places to visit such as Dijon and Beaune, known as the wine capital and with its medieval hospital. The Saone plain has lots of lakes and slow flowing rivers and is popular with anglers and bird watchers. Most of the rest of Burgundy is a hilly region, the Morvan, with small towns and villages many of them rich in history.

North Eastern France is not well known as a tourist region and the western part of North East France is undulating country, with small towns, lots of rivers, and plenty of attractive countryside. The central part of the region is flatter and, near the Belgian border, partly industrial. Yet this is a region with plenty of history - some magnificent cathedrals and impressive monuments from the two World Wars. It also includes the Champagne-Ardenne region, round the historic city of Rheims, with its famous vineyards and wine cellars.

In the north east corner is the region of Alsace, the capital Strasbourg is seat of the European Parliament and is a very distinct region with half-timbered houses, painted in many colours, vineyards and hills. Lorraine is an attractive region with plenty of large coniferous forests and near the Vosges mountains, the southern part of Lorraine is extremely rural with rolling hills and lots of small, old towns that look as if time has passed them by.

The west coast of France is a popular tourist region. From the mouth of the Loire as far as the Spanish border, France's Atlantic coastline is characterised by long expanses of sandy beaches, offshore fishing, and a broad band of very flat land, some of it marshy. The ports of La Rochelle and Rochefort are very attractive, as well as being popular with yachtsmen, south of the Gironde, the coast offers miles and miles of sandy beaches.

Inland from the coast, the region is very pleasant, the Charente Maritime region is often called the "green Venice" on account of its extensive network of drainage canals and waterways. This is a region where the pace of life is slow, like the water in the rivers that flow through it. Rowing boats can be hired in many places, and a canal boat holiday is so relaxing you might even want to buy one of your own.

North west of Bordeaux lies the Saintonge, the home of Cognac and the aperitif wine "Pineau". This generally flat agricultural region is famous for its historic churches, many of which have exquisite medieval carvings. South west of the historic city of Bordeaux lies "les Landes", the largest continuously forested area in Western Europe; and of course, in the Aquitaine region around Bordeaux where there are miles and miles of famous vineyards, producing a wide range of wines that include some of the best and most expensive in the world.

Inland from Bordeaux lies the Dordogne rising from the coastal plain in the west towards the Massif Central in the east. The Dordogne, centred round the town of Perigueux, is famous for its farmland and fine cuisine. Its pretty villages and towns have long attracted holidaymakers and retirees from Britain, to such an extent that there are now villages with their own cricket club and pub l'anglaise, not to mention a range of craftsmen and artists who have fled the hassle and the colder climate further north.

The Massif Central is a large region split into western central, central and eastern Massif Central. The area around Limoges is famous for its gastronomy, historic castles and bourgs, fortified rural towns and its very attractive countryside. The central and eastern Massif Central is the wild France and includes the mountain areas between Auvergne and the Rhone Valley.

Auvergne remains a region where you can really get away from the crowds. The small city of Puy en Velay is remarkable for its medieval churches perched on outcrops of volcanic rock and the region of Monts d'Auvergneare is rich in history and culture with fortified castles, old churches and historic towns, as well as being beautiful with deep river valleys ideal for river sports.

The Midi is generally speaking the most popular tourist region in France and has masses to offer in terms of climate, history and landscape. Escape to the hills of Provence which is incredibly beautiful with deep river gorges and valleys, or to the valleys of Cevenes, more wooded and rural, or the inland areas of Languedoc with their huge vineyards and arid rock Mediterranean hills. The area has lots of historic cities such as Nimes with its superb Roman remains, Avignon with its famous bridge and Palace of the Popes, Arles, and the university town of Aix en Provence. The Languedoc region coast offers large expanses of sandy beaches and the medieval city and ramparts of Carcassonne.

The Pyrenees, forming a natural land barrier between France and Spain, are a beautiful range of high mountains, thickly wooded on their lower slopes, but offering good mountain and hill walking higher up - not to mention the attraction of day trips into Spain, and also winter skiing. Between the Pyrenees and the southern flank of the Massif Central, southwest France is in summer a land of warm rolling hills and valleys, a rich agricultural area famous for its abundant crops and cereals. In the Midi-Pyrenees region historic cities such as Toulouse, the "pink city", and Albi, with its astonishing fortified medieval cathedral built almost entirely of red brick, are rich in atmosphere.

The Cote d'Azur or the French Riviera has famous resorts such as Cannes, Nice and St.Tropez and the mountainous hinterland the Alpes de Haute Provence and the Alpes Maritimes is very attractive with its small villages and towns, many of them perched precariously on hillsides or beside trickling rivers that become raging torrents in the winter.

Sun-drenched Provence is a beautiful region of hill towns and lavender fields, fringed by the turquoise sea and shady palms of the Cote d'Azur, or maybe the Loire Valley is for you, full of chateaux, romance, mystery and history, you can certainly have a wonderful time exploring this beautiful country whilst finding your mansion, castle or villa over the Mediterranean, you will certainly not be disappointed.

Paris "The City of Light", the most romantic, mesmerising and beautiful city in the world. Where do you start to explore this most beautiful of cities. Stroll the banks of the River Seine and maybe take a Bateau Mouche, visit the Ille de la Citie, an island in the Seine that is the original birthplace of Paris, where the Notre Dame Cathedral has stood for over nine hundred years watching over the island.

The most beautiful place in Paris surely must be the Place de la Concorde which offers a superb view of the Avenue Champs-Elysees in all its length and the Arc de Triomphe, and on one side the Louvre Museum, one of the world's largest and best-known museums of fine art and home to that famous lady, the Mona Lisa and the Tuilieres Gardens.

Visit the shops of the Rue de Rivoli and Rue de Madeleine, Les Invalides founded in 1670 by Louis XIV and where Napoleon I came to his final resting place under the crypt in 1861 and of course a symbol of Paris is the Eiffel Tower built in 1887 to symbolise the World's Fair and until 1930 the world's tallest building, since 1986 a new lighting emphasises the night its fantastic metal frame and consolidates the Capital of France in its fame as The City of Light.

Built in the early 14th century the Conciergerie, located on the Ile de la Cite, became the first prison of Paris. During the French Revolution nearly 3,000 condemned spent their last days here and were then transported to the Place de la Concorde to be guillotined. Among them were Queen Marie-Antoinette, the Austrian wife of Louis XVI, and the dungeon where she was kept has been renovated and her original cell was transformed into a chapel according to the wishes of Louis XVIII. Today you can visit the Prisoner's Gallery where the cells have been reformed and you will also find mementos of the French Revolution.

No trip to Paris would be without a visit to Montmarte, the famous Moulin Rouge theater, and the Butte de Montmartre, a hill in the north of Paris known for the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur on its summit. The Butte gets its name from the Mount of Martyrs, a convent of nuns installed on a hillock in XII century and became the seat of a powerful abbey near the Sacre Coeur. The Place du Tertre is popular with artists and has a wonderful selection of restaurants where you can while away a few pleasant hours on a lovely summer evening.

Just outside of Paris the centuries old Bois de Boulogne, a park of 860 hectares with a large variety of landscape, which makes this a very charming forest. It is a very popular place for Parisienes and has a rich network of pedestrian and equestrian walkways. Spend an an afternoon visiting the forest, take a romantic picnic by one of the lakes, go horse back riding or just enjoy the beautiful gardens in the way only the French can - saunter.

The chateau and gardens of Versailles, the former hunting lodge of King Louis XIII, was built in the early 14th century is among the most prestigious monuments of the world's artistic heritage and are certainly the finest and most complete achievement of 17th century France.

The palace was enlarged and transformed by his son Louis XIV who installed his court and government here and during the 18th century in the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI was embellished with new apartments. The royal family and the court were forced to leave Versailles on October 6th 1789, after the first days of the French Revolution and in 1837, King Louis-Philippe inaugurated the Museum in the Chateau, devoted to glorious events in the history of France.

Deciding where to purchase in France is no easy task - Maybe you like the idea of walking along the wild shores of Brittany, steeped in its old ways and traditions, or the Dordogne in Aquitaine, a lush land of castles and quaint villages that seem to be sleeping their way through the Middle Ages, or how about glittering Paris, The City of Light with its historical monuments, museums, haute coutre, excellent restaurants and oh so chic, such sophistication.

Imagine sitting outside your property on a hot summer day after visiting the local market for freshly baked baguettes, ripe Camembert, vegetables, olives and some excellent wine, you then enjoy a wonderful lunch under cloudless blue skies with a backdrop of orchards, vineyards and flower meadows - ABSOLUTE BLISS! Wherever you decide you will not be disappointed and you will wonder why you have never been before.

Purchasing a Property

Considering that France is one of the most bureaucratic countries in Europe there is no restriction on who can acquire real estate and you will be treated as a French citizen when buying property.

The most common initial contract is COMPROMIS DE VENTE, often prepared by the estate agent not a lawyer, and is generally available for signature within several days of a sale being agreed. The contract will have the purchasers and vendors details, the details of the property and the purchase price. CLAUSES SUSPENSIVES can be inserted into the contract making the purchase subject to certain conditions.

A 10% deposit is normally paid to either the agent or NOTAIRE but not to the vendor. Your deposit is forfeited if you withdraw from the purchase for any conditions not covered by the initial contract. You generally have seven days after the COMPROMIS DE VENTE has been signed by the purchasers and vendor to withdraw from the purchase without penalty. This seven day period includes week-ends and Bank Holidays so it is extremely important that you fully understand the implications of signing this document and you are strongly recommended to instruct a lawyer before signing any documentation.

The NOTAIRE is an independent French government official who conveys property, collects taxes, registers the transfer of the title and ensures the transaction is correctly carried out, but they do not act in the same way as a lawyer. If a survey is required it is the vendor who is obliged to pay an inspection and preparation report noting asbestos content and insect infestation within the property, this is not a structural survey.

After about three months the transfer of the legal ownership to the purchase involves paying the balance and signing the ACTE DE VENTE OR ACTE AUTHENTIQUE in front of the Notaire, third party property insurance is a legal requirement at this stage.

Before signing it is advisable to give the property a final check as the contract transfers the home in its condition on the day of sale.

Fees & Taxes

The purchase costs are the responsibility of the purchaser and are often referred to as les frais de Notaire, although after tax and stamp duty the Notaire receives only a small proportion of these costs.

These fees are based on an agreed purchase price of a property. The following is only a guide as to the taxes you can expect to pay.

Legal fees 3% for new build and 6-9% for resale property

Transfer tax at either 4.89% or 19.6% depending on the status of the property.

There is no Capital Gains Tax payable on a primary residence. For a second home the CGT is 32.5% on any profit - this reduces year on year and there is exemption after the 22nd year.

Tax Foncier and Tax d'Habitation is assessed on the property value and number of inhabitants.

Estate Agents are strictly regulated and must hold a CARTE PROFESSIONELLE and the commission is generally payable by the purchasers, although it is important to establish who is responsible before signing the preliminary contract.

Visas

No visa is required for the first three months but to live permanently you will need a long term visa from the French Consulate in your home country and then obtain a CARTE DE SEJOUR VISITEUR.

To prove you have the financial means to live in the country statements from your pension plan should be sufficient and you will need health cover.

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