How do we narrow down a search area from a distance, so that when we do go in person to explore and get a feel for our new potential stomping ground, we’re not having to spend six hours every day in the car?
Well, having selected a region of France, we then chose just one department within that region, but the department is 1,890 square miles huge. We then identified a cluster of villages we’d like to be within reach of – twice – the second time with our minds opened to a patch less popular with Brits.
We’ve been thinking about physical geography a LOT. We’ve been getting used to the idea of ski resorts and taking the kids snowboarding. I’ve been having nightmares about driving straight off winding mountain cliff edge roads. Ben’s been fantasising about sunny views from his writing studio, and the sense of so much space, our own space, in the foothills. We don’t want to be too high up in the mountains, but being connected to the mountains rather than the plains seems really exciting and actually much more us.
We’ve not been able to escape the pull we feel toward water, rivers, swimming lakes. We’re really pleased to discover there is an inland beach nearby, so we won’t even have to drive out to the coast if we want a day in the sand and surf. Again, much more exciting, feeling so much more right, the idea of boating on a lake rather than bodyboarding in the sea.
From our research so far we have been getting a good feeling for the action being in snowy thermal spa towns in the mountains. It would be amazing to have that buzz nearby without actually living in the midst of it. Houses and gites we’ve come across down in the lowlands seem a bit safe, a bit neat, with their sunlougers and rectangular pools and their rolling countryside views. We’d like something in between. Something rougher, rambling, ramshackle, dare I say edgier.
We don’t want to be too far from Toulouse, and don’t want to be too close to larger towns or roads, so we’ve honed in on a the Parc Naturel Regional which covers about half of the department. Our current favourite village within this Parc has a great name which we’re sure we’re pronouncing wrong but makes us chuckle every time we mention it.
Only, we need more to explore than just one village when we visit next April, without feeling like we have to cover every single road in the Parc. So we’re back to tracing the path of the rivers within the Parc, because we cannot get away from the feeling we want to be on a river. I think there are 5 rivers within the Parc boundary, and from the map we could cover the half of them that also follow roads, as a starting point. It feels good to have a plan of action.
The Parc is about the same size as the Cotswolds. We know this because we scrolled google maps back up to home from France keeping the same scale. This isn’t a huge search area. Here it would be nothing. But being so far away it just feels so much bigger, and at the moment, unknowable.