The region of Nouvelle Aquitaine in South West France consists of the regions which were previously named Aquitaine, Poitou-Charente and Limousine. As most buyers are still quite specific about the area of France they want to live in we will keep this information displayed under the old regional names. After all, trying to summarise the whole of Nouvelle Aquitaine with descriptions that refer to the whole, huge area is not really possible. The only reason these regions were amalgamated into one was to lessen the French government’s administrative costs.
This area covers the departementsof Lot et Garonne, Dordogne, Gironde, Les Landes and Pyrénées Atlantiques offering a wide variety of landscape. Nearly half of the stretch of French Atlantic coastline is in Aquitaine and Pyrénées Atlantique also has access to the mountains. The ever popular Dordogne has been attracting British buyers for many years, mainly drawn here by the mild climate, the beautiful architecture and the magnificent countryside. The splendid river Dordogne is not the only special feature of this part of France; there are wooded slopes, sunflower fields and rolling hills interspersed with medieval villages, castles, manors, dovecotes and windmills. The architecture is as charming as the rural settings of most property in this area. Aquitaine is also a region which delights in its many summer festivals, from music, pottery, art and wine there is always a reason to shut the streets, call in the musicians and dancers and celebrate with friends, neighbours and visitors.
The departments of old Aquitaine all enjoy very comfortable climates, early springs, long warm summers, delightful autumns and cold, crisp winters. This climate allows the numerous street markets to flourish all the year round where the stalls abound in local, seasonal produce. Apart from the fruit and vegetables, early asparagus being very special, the area is also renowned for its duck, goose and black truffles all of which combine with the local Bergerac or Bordeaux wines to create a feast fit for any occasion.
Access to the area from the UK is easy. Bergerac Airport is well situated forproperties in the north of Aquitaine and Bordeaux, Toulouse, Pau and Biarritz airports all have airports with flights from the U.K. serving southern Aquitaine .Anyone who prefers to enjoy the drive through the French countryside to finally arrive at their home will find access simple, especially to the departements in the north of Aquitaine, as the area is well served by a network of motorways direct from the channel ports.
This is the most northerly part of South West France, and of Nouvelle Aquitaine and has both wonderful coast and countryside. It’s most famous town is probably Cognac from where the world- renowned drink originates. The area offers a huge range of activities from boating, surfing, wind surfing, walking, cycling, fishing through to horse riding.
The departements in the old Poitou-Charente region are Deux Sevres, Vienne, Charente Maritime and Charente. Charente-Maritime is the most westerly department of the area and offers wonderful stretches of coastline, with long sandy beaches and fishing ports. It is an up-market part of Nouvelle Aquitaine with La Rochelle and Ile de Re the best known coastal spots. The area has one of the sunniest climates in France and is second only to the South of France in its annual hours of sunshine.
Inland from the Charente-Maritime, we find the Charente. This area offers a more rural lifestyle than its neighbour. The countryside is undulating, scattered with pasture land, sunflowers and offers wide open views. The beautiful Charente river meanders through the department bordered by beautiful villages and markets towns.The Deux-Sevres and Vienne departments are slightly more rural than the Charente and are the least known departments of the region. They are characterised by rolling countryside, beautiful rivers and a way of life that has changed little over the centuries. These areas offer the cheapest property prices. Access to the area is excellent. Airports include La Rochelle, Angoulême, Poitiers and Limoges. There are also TGV fast trains into Poitiers, La Rochelle and Angoulême . Motorway access is also very good.
Situated pretty much in the centre of France, this is the most easterly part of Nouvelle Aquitaine. Limousin is known as France Profonde and is commonly referred to as ‘the land where time stood still’. It’s large number of lakes has also earned it the title of ‘the Lake District of France’ and, of course, it is the home of the lovely russet brown cows that we see so often in our fields in the U.K. However, none of this alone seems to explain why so many Brits have chosen to buy their French house in Limousin! When you realise the ease of access from the UK with its large quantity of flights arriving from the U.K., the mild climate and the exceedingly low property prices with lots of renovation projects still for sale, you can begin to get the picture of the appeal of Limousin. It is a combination of all of these factors which makes so many people buy property in Limousin.
There are three departments in Limousin, Haute Vienne being the one in the north west and the one in which the capital, Limoges, is situated. Creuse is over to the east and is the most rural, in the days of phone directories it was proud to boast that it had the thinnest of all French phone directories! Correze lies to the south and borders Dordogne. Each department is a joy and would be a good place to buy a French property but for me, living with reasonably easy access to Limoges for the occasional sortie into city life and easy airport access enabled me to really enjoy a rural lifestyle while not feeling totally cut off from the outside
Scenically, the rolling countryside of Limousin consists of meadows, woods, rivers and lakes interspersed with pretty hamlets and flower-filled villages. It is typically very rural but one is never far away from a small bustling market town. There are many picturesque riverside towns and the larger cultural centre of Limoges, famous for its porcelain industry, is a good place for shopping, museums and culture. Just about every village and town has a weekly market and seasonal produce is always reflected in the menus of the numerous, small local restaurants. Buying a house in Limousin is buying into a gentle and unsophisticated lifestyle. In your new property in Limousin your social life is likely to revolve around aperitifs with friends and neighbours, trips to the market, tending your garden and the occasional visit to English or French speaking films, a concert, opera or ballet. Come the hot days of summer, swimming in the many rivers and lakes or lazing in the garden is a must, probably followed by a barbecue under the starry night sky. Life is slow, neighbours are warm and welcoming and it will not be unusual to find gifts of fresh fruit and vegetables and newly laid eggs on your doorstep.
The joy of life in Limousin is that, for so many people, although it may be more rural than that which they have been used to in the U.K., it is the one they recall from their childhood or the one they have always dreamt of. There is a sense of ‘coming home’ when you arrive here. In Limousin you will be valued for who you are, how you interact with your neighbours, how you join in the community, rather than what you own. There is a pride amongst those who live off the land and if you are prepared to share their love of the countryside they will become lifelong friends. For anyone wanting to immerse themselves in a traditional way of life there can be nowhere better to look for French property than the region of Limousin, now renamed Nouvelle Aquitaine.