Which sets your heart beating a little faster? A rural home so beautiful yet bought for a price that will make city dwellers cry or an elegant pad overflowing with period features near the shops and the buzz of urban life where you can pretty much get anything you want in a jiffy?
If you’re suffering from the January blues or just feel the need for a little escapism stick with me today. I thought we should let our imaginations run wild and indulge ourselves with a sprinkling of fantasy.
Naturally, I am keeping things local and all in the Charente Maritime because otherwise I fear Paris may win! But whilst we might not have the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre or the Champs Élysees we have plenty of things in our favour. We have world Class shopping and dining. The Atlantic ocean, oysters and sailing. We have agriculture, vineyards, historic castles and a Roman amphitheatre. We have our Atlantic islands, the Île de Ré, Île d’Oléron, Île d’Aix and Île Madam. And still we have a whole lot more, what’s not to like? So even though this is, rather sadly, just make believe, there really is something for everyone. There are no limits and no rules except the property you decide on has to be one that would make you truly happy. You have a fairly hefty budget at your disposal so what and where would you choose? The options are endless but as we are dreaming so are the possibilities!
Many people dream of swapping a city apartment for a large country house and the chance to live in isolated splendour, never having to venture into the big smoke again.
Fine country houses come in all shapes and sizes. At one end of the scale there is the thirty room plus château where the upkeep will probably end up costing more than the original purchase price and it will certainly give you sleepless nights, the roof will permanently be in need of repair and the windows will rattle alarmingly in the wind.
Or still on an impressive scale any manoir or maison de maitre will have most of us already imagining family meals in the fabulous farmhouse style kitchen and long lazy summer afternoons working in the gardens.
However, it might be wiser to adopt a slightly more realistic approach with somewhere not so big as to be completely unmanageable yet located in a heartbreakingly pretty spot.
The question is which is best for you? Do you want to live in the heart of a village, close enough to a boulangerie that you can almost smell the freshly baked baguettes and croissants from your front door
or would you be content with an amazing fireplace, beamed ceilings and a wealth of history.
Maybe a town house or flat would be the best decision, with well proportioned rooms, high ceilings and original features throughout. An apartment in an historic building can form the basis of a very elegant lifestyle and I can see the appeal of being able to wander through neighbouring streets to the green grocer, the florist and a selection of restaurants.
Perhaps you long for something that’s neither town nor country, but rather in between the two, a little bit of both where picture-perfect little cottages vie for space in narrow winding cobbled streets where you will find art galleries and craft shops, cosy cafés and an ancient church.
If you are a family with young children, how about a beautiful period house within easy walking distance of the village primary school?
Maybe you are retired and want to take things easy or maybe you hanker after a complete change in lifestyle. You could step back into a forgotten age and enjoy the smell of the sea in the air and taste the salt on your lips on the Île d’Aix. Motor vehicles aren’t permitted on the Island with the exception of service vehicles and the link to the mainland is via a 20 minute ferry crossing.
But coastal living comes in all styles and covers all budgets and if a remote fisherman’s cottage doesn’t rock your boat then perhaps a villa, old or new, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean might be more your style.
I wonder if instead of any of the above you would rather try your hand at some major renovation work? How about a romantic wreck that needs some love? You could always camp out in a caravan, as many have done and do, whilst you build, quite literally, your dream.
So what would you choose if you were told you were moving to France? Town or Country? Fixer upper, complete wreck or perfectly perfect?