Have you been tempted by the fantastic house prices in Sud Charente or have fallen for gorgeous French home? You might be wondering how to make it work financially and thinking about converting your outbuildings into a ‘gîte’ or two. Here’s our guide to making it work. 

Emma who developed the French Retreat as an event venue says: 

Converting outbuildings into gîtes is invariably an expensive, time consuming and even back breaking undertaking. A few key things to be aware of are: 

Don’t do this expecting to make a quick buck. Property does not go up in the same way as it does in the UK. You might recoup your costs if you need to sell up, but don’t expect the amazing profits that can be made from adding extra bedrooms in the UK. Even then the housing market is much slower in France and on average houses take two years to sell. 

Building materials are much more expensive in France. Even experienced property developers have been caught out by assuming the prices in the local brico...

Whether you live in France or are on holiday, if there's a brocante going on in the village it's worth a visit. You'll either find you a bargain très charmant or  laugh at the absurd items for sale but either way it will give you a slice of real French life.

As a rule of thumb a brocante is normally for the sale of second hand furniture or antiques. A Vide Grenier (empty attic) is like a British boot sale. A Bric-a-Brac Sale will be for knick-knacks of lower value. Increasingly, however, the line is becoming blurred with both brocantes and vide greniers selling all manner of furniture, antiques, jewellery, ceramics, linen, lace, records and tools. A good place to find one of these events is on brocabrac.fr or vide-greniers.org. and follow the links for your area. Unlike British boot sales the French ones will go on for most of the day and there are always bargains to be had. It’s a wonderful way to treasure hunt. To see what it’s like from the other...

May 31, 2018

Whilst a dip in your own pool is one of the reasons so many of us have moved to Sud Charente, there is nothing to beat a swim in a cool river or lake on a sweltering summer day. 

In Sud Charente we are fortunate to be within reach of numerous watering holes: beaches, lakes, rivers and open air public swimming pools (piscines en plein air). 

Our main rivers, the Dronne and the Charente, both offer freshwater bathing points with sandy beaches as well as water sports.  Aubeterre beach (plage) on the Dronne (pictured below) is exceedingly popular, where canoeing and kayaking can also be enjoyed. It's emptiest in the mornings and best avoided on Sundays in August. There's a simple cafe open in high season, and when the crowds have come home you can sit with a glass of beer and a plate of chips and enjoy a view that the classiest restaurants in the world would die for.

Some other less well known spots are:-

  • Jonzac’s base de loisirs d’Heurtebise 

  • Chateaune...

May 1, 2018

With the wonderful hot days we’ve enjoyed this April many of us pulled on our shorts for the first time this year, took one look at our legs and reverted to a pair jeans. If you want to get your body toned and honed after the winter hibernation there are lots of options here in Sud Charente indoors and out, social and private.


Yoga is one of the oldest relaxation systems in the works and it’s currently enjoying unprecedented popularity. Many a celebrity is putting their taut bodies down to yoga, which as well as relaxing your mind, helps tone the body inside and out.

Yoga was originally taught on a one to one basis by a guru who chose specific positions or ‘asanas’ for each student. This is the reason for the number of different systems that are now in existence, You might come across Iyengar yoga which concentrates on getting each asana correct and holding it for several minutes; Sivananda yoga which is gentle and relaxing, with an emphasis on breathing and meditation; o...

March 30, 2018

Sud Charente is surrounded by so many world-class wine producers that for years Charentais wine has felt like not just the poor relation but the aunt locked in the attic who no-one mentions. But things are changing as more vineyards diversify from Cognac into wine production and festivals such as Gastronomades promote the innovative producers of Vin de Pays Charentais.

Many of us first tasted Charente's vino on our holidays and being summer found ourselves sipping a fresh and fruity glass of the region’s white. And then another, whilst wondering why we’d never seen it on our supermarket shelves. So if you’d like to know more, why not pour yourself a glass, and read on.

The Charentais whites are mostly made with the ever popular and familiar Chardonnay and Sauvignon, as well as the less known Ugni Blanc and Colombard grapes (which are varieties used to make Cognac). It’s incredibly good value and very drinkable. 

The reds are made from a whole range of grape varieties, among wh...

January 1, 2018

With regular weekly classes in Sud Charente plus an Easter Yoga weekend at The French Retreat at we took a look at the best yoga mats on the market

October 10, 2016

My back has gone again. I can’t haul myself out of the sofa, and am thinking crawling is a viable mode of travel. Last time it went like this I was pregnant, an

September 29, 2016

Apparently kids have low self-esteem because they are looking at the fantastic lives their friends are posting on Facebook and know their own lives suck by comparison. I don’t have this problem. I’m ‘living the dream’. I have an unbelievably beautiful house in France, a swimming pool, a choice of thirteen different loos to pee in. But I’ve got a confession to make. Fabulous and beautiful though my life undoubtedly is, I’m still not happy. I dreamed The French Retreat, I manifested it, I’m living it. And it’s nice, really it is. I have everything I’ve ever wanted and yet it’s not enough.

You could call me a spoilt bitch. Quite justifiably. I’ve said it to myself. But I’ve come to the conclusion that actually I’m a killjoy. My husband and daughter ask me to do things that I would really enjoy and I say no. I send them off to have fun so that I can spend the afternoon washing sheets. Don’t get me wrong, the sheets need to be washed. There’s always sheets to wash when you have 1...

September 27, 2016

September 9, 2016 to October 10, 2017, will be a 13-month planetary transit for Jupiter through Libra.

I've only just been catching up on my astrology blogs (my favourite is this one from Sally Kirkman) and have been discovering that it's a great time for setting intentions and for relationships - which made me smile since my husband and I have been talking about combining our skills and learning, and working together to develop relationship workshops.

So I looked back to see when this transit had occurred previously. They come around every 12 or so years and I was amazed to see each one was completely momentous for me. 

The first in my nearly adult life was Oct 27, 1980 - Nov 26, 1981.

In 1980 I was 15 and invited to a Christmas party. It promised to be amazing - all the cool girls in the year above were going and it was being held at a grand house in Oxfordshire. I met a boy who I instantly clicked with. We lived on opposite sides of the home counties, so wrote each othe...

September 22, 2016

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