View from the Foothills of France

Some personal views on living, working,
bringing up family and making the dream happen in the most beautiful region of France. View from the Foothills of France also includes some personal and professional thoughts and tips on finding and buying the perfect property in the Ariège and Haute Garonne regions.



Bagnères de Luchon makes top 10 of best places to live in France

In the latest ‘Ville de Reve’ (dream town) survey of the almost 40,000 towns and communes across France, the small town of Bagnères de Luchon, here in the foothills of the Pyrenees, came 10th (out of 34,900 towns surveyed). Pretty impressive for a town of just 2,220 inhabitants.

This is, of course, great news for the town but I think it is also indicative of the generally high quality of life that exists in this region (probably not always appreciated by the locals but definitely appreciated by those of us not born and bred locally!)

Bagnères de Luchon is an ancient, elegant spa town and ski resort with grand houses and hotels testifying to its illustrious past when the who’s who of Europe descended to take the waters including Flaubert, Bismarck and Mata Hari. The spa was built in 1848 on the site of the old Roman baths. Today the waters are reputed to help rheumatism and ear, nose and throat problems. In spring, summer and autumn health seekers and holiday makers come to Luchon for the waters, the climate and mountains as well as all the facilities on offer in the town. In the winter it is the turn of the skiers and winter sports fans. Other activities available in the area include cycling (the Tour de France passes through most years), paragliding, walking, golf, canoeing, pony trekking and fishing.

The busy, tree-lined, main boulevard Allées d’Etigny, has rows of restaurants and cafés, boulangèries and chocolateries with the accompanying enticing aromas of coffee, wine and food. The town is full of flowers, fountains and gardens and well equipped with shops. Luchon also produces 30 million bottles per year of its own mineral water which has been classified since 1990 and is said to be particularly therapeutic and refreshing.

This is all surrounded by some of France’s prettiest scenery and soaring snowy peaks making one of the most dramatic backdrops you could hope to find. Plus, of course, Spain is only 10 km over the hill. The people here are also some of the friendliest I have met in the whole region.

So, it is hardly surprising that Bagnères de Luchon always comes high on the best place to live lists, ticking the boxes as it does for easy access to beautiful countryside, good accessibility by public transport (a new trainline is currently under construction which will improve this score yet further) and a great community. Moreover, all amenities are within walking distance, there are excellent sporting facilities on the doorstep, it is both dynamic and safe with excellent schooling and healthcare and a very high overall score for quality of life.

Luchon and the surrounding villages and countryside are some of my favourite search areas. Well known and loved by the French, Luchon is yet to be discovered by many other nationalities but that is beginning to change, and property prices have certainly started to rise over the last decade. However, property here is still very good value, both for country houses and for townhouses or central apartments, perfect for a permanent home or a holiday house or, equally, a rental investment for winter and summer tourists.

You can see the results of the survey (in French) here:

If you need help or advice with your property search, please get in touch:

Can a holiday home in France also pay for itself?


If you have always wanted a holiday home in France but need to make sure that you can justify the running costs and maintenance, it might worth be considering renting it out for holiday lets when not using it yourself. This means ensuring that you choose a property that works both for you and for holiday accommodation.

There are plenty of benefits of renting out your holiday home:

  • Demand is strong for self-catering holiday accommodation all over France from the French as well as foreign tourists and, more importantly demand is growing in both markets. France gets more tourists than any other country in the world
  • Holidays in many parts of France have year-round appeal so you have a continuous, annual income stream
  • If you are mainly looking for a family holiday home, renting out your property for a few weeks per year can cover all the costs hence effectively providing free holidays
  • The property will not be left empty, and you will be indirectly contributing to the local economy which can be beneficial for local restaurants and shops

But there are also some downsides:

  • Letting out your property involves management which will cost either your time or else your money in employing the services of a property management company
  • Initial set-up costs can be high as a holiday rental has to be well-equipped and durable and there will be turnover of high-use items and furnishings.
  • It is important to understand websites, marketing, and social media if you want to ensure bookings
  • You need to have enough time to deal with the bookings unless you plan to use a bookings agency

What sort of property lends itself to holiday lets?

  • A cliché though it may be, location is just as important for a holiday house as for a permanent home. When choosing a location, remember to keep potential future clients in mind. Imagine what most guests are likely to be looking for when on holiday
  • Make sure there is some ‘wow factor’ whether this is the interior design, incredible views, fantastic coastal, mountain or city location or the facilities provided. Standing out from the crowd will ensure you get noticed
  • Keep within two hours of an international airport and major city; accessibility is important
  • Target areas with broad appeal and year-round attractions and activities
  • Choose an area both where people are likely to want to stay for longer periods at peak times and weekends off-peak
  • Make sure your location has a variety of activities close by particularly in rural locations where good walking, cycling, skiing, water sports and adventure sports all add to the attraction
  • Think about the type of property; the quirkier or more characterful (and more photogenic) the property, the more popular it is likely to be

If you would like some help or advice in finding the perfect property, please get in touch:


New year, new house

January can be a tough time of year as the winter chill sets in and the holiday festivities wind down, but it is also a time of new beginnings, fresh starts and the perfect time to think big and long-term, a time to set the stage for positive changes. For anyone looking to make the dream of owning a property in France a reality, January can offer the perfect opportunity. Planning a property purchase now means that all the motivation and optimism that come with the beginning of a new year can be channelled into actual steps towards realising this dream.

In addition, an effective property search requires thorough market knowledge, which takes time and lots of research. In January, the property market is quiet, providing you with an advantage; with fewer buyers actively searching, you can take your time to research different regions, property types, and prices. Additionally, sellers may be more open to negotiations during the off-peak season, potentially allowing you to secure a better deal.

It also gives you time to research legal requirements, consult with professionals, and plan your visits to potential properties. By taking a methodical approach, you can avoid rushed decisions and ensure a smoother buying process.

January is not just a month for resolutions; it’s an opportune time to lay the groundwork for the whole year and strategic planning in January sets the stage for a successful and enjoyable property search. So, as you welcome the new year, consider making your dream of owning a property in France a reality by starting the planning process now.

If you would like help with your property search, please get in touch:


Christmas in the Foothills


Christmas in rural France is a more low-key and less commercial than in many parts of the world and is based mainly around food, family and festive traditions.

The main Christmas meal is Le Réveillon de Noël and this is eaten on Christmas Eve around midnight to celebrate the very beginning of Christmas Day. The meal typically consists of French favorites like oysters, foie gras and smoked salmon, followed by some kind of roast meats (often a capon) with Buche de Noël for pudding. Needless to say, it is also French tradition to wash down the meal with plenty of wine and Champagne.

Rather than hanging stockings by the fire, children in France leave their shoes on the hearth in the hopes that Santa will fill them with gifts and goodies overnight. It is traditional to hang mistletoe in French homes during the Christmas season but because the festive plant is considered to be a symbol of good luck rather than an invitation to get amorous, so if you offer a kiss under the mistletoe, you might get some funny looks.

Traditional Christmas markets (marchés de Noël) pop up in December in towns and villages all over France offering an array of handmade crafts, artisanal goods, and festive treats like roasted chestnuts and vin chaud, the smell of which is the predominant scent of a Christmas here in the foothills.

Holiday feasting continues into January with la Fête des Rois. December 1 is the start of the Christmas season in France and Epiphany, which is observed on January 6 and known as Three Kings Day, marks its end. Although la Fête des Rois is not a national holiday, it is still widely celebrated in schools and workplaces with a namesake cake (galette des rois or king cake) made from flaky pastry and almond paste. Per the tradition, a tiny figurine is baked into every cake and the person who is served the slice with the hidden treasure is crowned King or Queen for a day.

Best of all, when you live within sight of the Pyrenees, Christmas also means the chance to head up to find some snow either for a bit of sledging, skiing, a snowy walk or simply to picnic with some mulled wine and enjoy the blue sky, sunshine, and winter warmth we are so lucky to get predominantly at this time of the year.

If you would like some advice and help in finding your perfect house in the foothills in 2024, please get in touch:

Wishing you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year