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Re-locating to the Aude in Languedoc - a case study

 

Relocating to the Aude2. PETER WOODCOCK AND DEBRAH SMITH

Creative couple Peter and Debrah left London to bring boutique-hotel chic to the Languedoc town of Carcassonne in the Aude.

 

Why did you move to Languedoc?

Debrah and I had been thinking about buying a holiday home to escape from our stressful London lives. Our move to Languedoc is a work in progress – Debrah is still committed to spending a certain amount of time each month in London, but I’ve been based permanently in Carcassonne since the start of 2008.

 

What sort of Languedoc property did you buy?

We purchased three shabby apartments, covering the entire first floor of an 18th century townhouse, two minutes walk from Carcassonne’s main square. Debrah had seen the property on an estate agent’s web site, we viewed it, fell in love with it and bought it!

 

How did you plan to earn a living in Languedoc?

We wanted to set up a luxury B&B – like a boutique hotel but with extra attention. Carcassonne is served by low-cost flights to London and we could see that new investment was coming into the town, along with growing numbers of visitors to this part of Languedoc.

 

How did you turn your run-down Languedoc property into a luxury pad?

The apartments featured some fabulous period fireplaces, parquet flooring, ceiling mouldings and panelling. They were huge, but there was no kitchen to speak of and the solitary bathroom was disgusting.

An initial post-purchase burst of activity saw a contemporary kitchen installed and a bedroom and living room given a new lease of life, but it was resigning from my full-time London job that really kick-started the renovation work in earnest.

For about eighteen months I combined a part-time job in London with the entire renovation of the three apartments. This included complete re-wiring and plumbing, installation of five bathrooms and three kitchens, and top-to-toe redecoration throughout. Debrah was responsible for the interior design; in total, we spent around £60,000.

 

Do you manage to earn a good living in Languedoc?

We have no staff - we can’t justify it, and it is very expensive to employ someone in France – so we do all the cleaning, laundry, cooking and shopping ourselves, as well as the admin, and I keep our accounts. We make a good income which more than covers our costs in France. It’s probably not enough for Debrah to be able to make the permanent move from London, but for the moment that suits us both.

 

How would you rate your quality of life in Languedoc?

Compared to London, it’s vastly improved! I have less stress, no commuting, and I’m self-employed. I work as many hours as before, but a lot of what I do doesn’t really feel like work. Mundane daily tasks like food shopping and cooking are much more fun here.

 

The pace of Languedoc life is less hectic, and I really appreciate the two-hour lunch break and the “no shopping” Sundays. If there is a downside, it’s that Carcassonne is a comparatively small, provincial town, and I do sometimes feel cut off from the buzz of the big city.

 

How would you rate your Languedoc relocation overall?

Our move to Languedoc has been an adventure, driven by a desire for a life change and the excitement of new horizons, and I wouldn’t have changed anything. We have learnt so much about running a holiday business and I’m sure we’ll take that forward to future projects.

 

Read more about Peter and Debrah’s super-chic B&B here.

 

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