Does the title conjure up a romantic image of a corner of France known only to a handful of locals? Where lazy days in the sun, with the joys of peaceful times gone by, meet modern living standards. You are the first ex-pat to discover it; it is yours alone…..
Keep it real!! We’re good, but we’re not magicians!
You know when you find the TV remote control down the back of the sofa, and daren’t admit you probably poked it there yourself?
Or when the set of keys you’ve looked for loudly 3 times in the same drawer turns up in plain view on a worktop (maybe under a piece of paper - for heaven's sake!) House hunting in France can be like that. Forgotten France in the Dordogne? Surely not…
Well, it can be done. What we are talking about here is not discovering a whole département that has never seen a Brit before, but finding an off-the-well-worn-track gem in a favourite (and likely popular) part of France
Check out our list of favourite towns to head to when we want to step into Forgotten France.
Right in the heart of the Dordogne, maybe more under-valued than actually forgotten, between Bergerac and Sarlat, Lalinde is a year-round town on the river.
It has a thriving Thursday market where French is the predominant language and year-round bars and cafés supported by the local permanent population. Right on the river, it is a pretty but ‘real’ town. Wander down to the bridge by the church to get a great view and see the huge flock of swans that has made its home there.
Also visit: Beaumont du Perigord, Pressignac Vicq, Sainte Alvere
Getting there and getting away: Flights to Bergerac or Brive.
Saint Jean d’Angely, Charente Maritime
On the borders of the Vienne and Deux-Sevres and about 40 minutes from the Atlantic coast is the charming and buzzy little town of Saint Jean d’Angely. La Rochelle, the Ile de Ré and Ile d’Oloron are all within easy reach for a seaside day out. The medieval town centre has the abbey at its heart and this houses the Centre of European Culture.
Swing by on a Saturday or a Wednesday to catch the market.
Also visit: Matha, Aulnay, Néré, Menigout
Getting there and getting away: Poitiers (TGV and flights), Niort. Paris is barely over an hour and a half by TGV.
Mirandol Bourgnounac, Tarn
Where the Tarn meets the Aveyron there are amazing villages and towns where Helen Mirren hasn’t even made a film!! Yet. The countryside here offers huge vistas of rolling arable farmland, grazing cattle and woodlands and feels like pioneer country! Mirandol itself is a sleepy little town but the surrounding landscape makes it a true jewel.
Also visit: Montiral, Tayrac, Pampelonne.
Getting there and getting away: Airports at Rodez, Carcassonne, Toulouse. TGV to Toulouse.
This pretty little spa town is right on the beaten track - for the French who come here throughout the year to visit the baths and take the ‘cure’. Far less well known to the British tourists, the town has lots to offer from bustling day-to-day life to the proximity to the Gironde estuary and its mass of wildlife, and, of course, the spa! And all this a scant hour from Bordeaux.
Also visit: Mortagne sur Gironde, Pons, Talmont sur Gironde.
Getting there and getting away: Flights to La Rochelle or Bordeaux. TGV to Bordeaux.
If ever a town had fairytale written all over it, it is Verteuil-sur-Charente. A little drive north of the busy and bustling prefecture town of Angouleme, you crest a rise and suddenly there is it in front of you, dominated by its huge and rather magnificent chateau. With a picturesque cafe-restaurant in a watermill, a couple more bars and cafes and assorted small shops it is a photographer’s dream and one of our favourite ‘secret’ towns.
Also visit: Ruffec, Mansle, Nanteuil en Vallee.
Getting there and getting away: Flights to Poitiers of Limoges. TGV to Angouleme.
Built on two hills, either side of the Gartempe river, Montmorillon is a Cité de l’Ecrit (city of literature) and bookshops, paper shops and the like line the winding street up the side of the hill in the older part of town. A new international cookery school is planned which will give the town a real commercial boost.
Also visit: Lussac-les-Chateaux, Chauvigny, Lathus-Saint-Remy
Getting there and getting away: Train or plane to Poitiers or Limoges
Forgotten France near the Cote d’Azur? Surely not! But make tracks for the Provence Verte and you’ll be surprised. It is so called because it is the green heart of the Provence, it offers the same beautiful weather that can be found on the Cote d’Azur but in a more quiet and authentic atmosphere. It also offers properties for a fraction of the price of what can be found right on the coast.
Also visit: Villecroze, Cotignac, Tourtour, Le Thoronet or Aup.
Getting there and getting away: Road access via the A8 motorway. Nice and Marseilles airports are convenient.
This is Cathar Country. Wild and dramatic with magnificent castles such as Quéribus on the hillsides and tiny villages and higgledy-piggledy towns dotted in the valleys. Quillan has a warm, dry, Mediterranean climate yet skiing is within easy reach in winter months.
Also visit: Cucugnan, Caudiès-de-Fenouillèdes, Belvèze-du-Razès.
Getting there and getting away: Airports at Carcassonne, Perpignan and Beziers
Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. We’d not wish to be prescriptive about how or where anyone should live, and so we will not provide a list of areas, ‘in our humble opinion’ best avoided.
That said, a good estate agent will tell you about local ‘features’, such as power stations, road widening schemes, repeated flooding… Much as you would hope they would tell you about issues pertinent to an individual property, such as nasty neighbours, structural faults and local heavy industry.
You may then choose to, ‘forget it’. Just that bit of ‘it’.
Pros and cons of being forgotten
- Your french will come on in leaps and bounds when you have to use it or go without that beer/diy gizmo/recommendation for a good vet
- You’ll be forced to integrate - or be a hermit. Check out roadside poster, the mairie pinboard and local papers for all the events coming up.
- Property tends to be lower priced in more out of the way places. You might get the dream property for less or get considerably more on the same budget.
- No cosy evenings with friends in your own language.
- Humour! It is a defining characteristic of the British and noone does that slightly black sarcasm in quite the same way.
- You are less likely to get those Brit comfort eats such as cheddar and Marmite. Maybe not an issue at all, especially if this is a holiday home, but if you are relocating lock, stock it’s surprising what you start to miss.
- You’ll be less likely to benefit from daily cheap flights back and forth to the UK.
- If letting is on your agenda, somewhere known will attract a higher number of bookings.