“The Impressionists painted here for a reason,” says Ira Faro of his new home in the southern French region of Languedoc-Roussillon. “The feel of the place is very powerful… It’s as though the light is shining from everything. Every day there’s a different flower blooming, the sky looks different. You don’t have to fill yourself with external stimuli. You get involved with everything around you.”
Ira and his wife Cathey moved to this striking region in 2014 and haven’t looked back. With its warm, sunny climate (figure on 300 days of sunshine a year and summer temperatures peaking in the low 20s C) and location close to the Mediterranean Sea, the Languedoc gets a lot of attention these days as an excellent retirement destination. It remains in the shadow of its glamorous neighbour, Provence. But this region has every bit as much to offer…if not more.
“Drive 30 minutes in any direction and you’ve got beautiful rivers, mountains or beaches…the Roman ruins in Nîmes… There’s a plethora of interesting geological and historical things to do,” says Ira.
Ira and Cathey, both 68, fell in love with the Languedoc while travelling through the area in 2003. “I was convinced as we were coming down the motorway,” says Ira. “We stopped at a scenic overlook that has a view of the old city of Carcassonne. It was so impressive. We drove up to see this beautiful citadel, all the French families were eating there and they had bottles of wine and baguettes and there was this beautiful rural area surrounding it…and I said, ‘I really like this.’
“We came to France from the U.S. on a long-stay visa as retired visitors. We decided to wait the full year that the visa was valid. Before the visa expired, we successfully applied for the titres de sejour (temporary residence card).”
The couple started looking for a house in the area almost immediately, but they didn’t find anything they liked until 2004. Even that wasn’t perfect. “We wanted a more rural setting, with more outdoor space and sun,” Ira says. They found their dream home in 2013, in the village of Quarante.
“It’s a small rural village of about 1,500 souls, with a church that’s over 1,000 years old. There’s no ATM, no service station, but there’s a surprising number of expats. Our out-of-town visitors always comment on how quiet it is. But we’re not isolated. We can drive to the centre of either [the larger towns of] Béziers or Narbonne in a half-hour or less.”
They now live in a three-bedroom house with a large, sunny terrace and lemon, orange, bay and oleander trees, lots of rose bushes and flowering plants. It cost €109,000 ($155,893), though, according to Ira, “We had to furnish it from top to bottom.”
Ira says it took a few months to get with the South of France lifestyle—and being retired. But now he’s fully into the mindset.
“An average day is just hanging out together, walking to the bakery for the morning’s fresh bread, puttering with the plants on the patio. We also check for interesting markets or cultural events, take rides in the country. My days are full, even if it’s with the simple things.”
The cost of living in the Languedoc-Roussillon is quite reasonable. The couple’s average monthly costs are €2,354 ($3,366) a month, with the least expensive months going as low as €1,900 ($2,717).
“We’re satisfied,” says Ira. “We don’t go out to eat every day. We don’t have to do anything every day, just walk through the vineyards.”
When they do eat out, they have a range of high-quality local restaurants to choose from. Average prices for a three-course meal, sometimes including a glass of wine, are usually €15 to €21 ($21 to $30). “It’s so beautiful around here. Many restaurants, like the Restaurant de la Tour in Montady, have dynamite views.”
Not only do Ira and Cathey have beautiful weather, great food, and quality wine (the Languedoc is known for having the best-value wine in France). They’ve got good friends to share it with, too.
“We were surprised at how quickly we were able to engage in an active social life… Most are expats like us—Brits mostly. The French are a bit private in these small towns. They’ve figured out that we’re here for the long run, though. Slowly, we are getting acquainted.”
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