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Guide to France

Administratively, France is divided in to 22 regions. These regions are further sub divided in to 95 departments. The French have a wonderfully easy numbering system with the departments numbered from 1 to 95, sometimes when viewing holiday home property for sale on internet sites you will see. the name of the region followed by the number followed by the department name, for example Aquitane – 64 Pyrenees-Atlantiques. The above example is telling you that the property is located in the region of Aquitane and the individual department is number 64- Pyrenees-Atlantiques. The areas of France are as follows, we have placed them in alphabetical order to make things easier for you.

Alsace. 67 Bas Rhin 68 Haut Rhin

Alsace is a small region of France located between the Vosges in the west and the Rhine in the east. Although small, this is an important region of France and many important organisations have their headquarters in this area. Although not that well, know for French holiday homes, the areas does contain the town of Strasbourg where the European parliament is located. Here you will also find the council of Europe and the European Court. This is a busy region for administration and much temporary accommodation is needed, if you purchase a second home in this area, you will find that landlords property is much in demand for rental purposes. Other important towns in this region are Mulhouse, Colmar & Haguenu. Because of the close proximity with Germany, German is spoken by many as a primary language. The region has spent time under German control and thus many customs and much of the architecture etc has Germanic influences.

Alsace is well known for it’s beautiful and unspoilt countryside, it has some quality rolling hills which during the winter months are much loved by skiers. It’s farmland produces good quality, world famous wines and beers. As much as 50% of the beer production of France is produced in this area which despite it’s wonderful countryside is the third most industrialised area in the country. If you are considering buying a French holiday home in this area, a couple of factors to take in to consideration.

1- The climate is best described as continental, the summers are hot and the winters are very cold, these extremes may not be to everyone’s liking. 2- House prices in Alcase are amongst the most expensive in France and property is often sold at a premium, the areas boasts up to ten million visitors a year, often coming to attend a variety of functions or to visit one of the organisations mentioned above. These factors help to produce a strong demand for housing even away from the main town areas. If you are interested in buying a holiday home in this area, you may find it easy to obtain a secondary rental income but you may have to pay more for the property than you wish.

To reach your holiday home, in Alsace, you can now fly to Strasbourg International Airport, this is located a short distance to the south west of the city, you can reach the centre in about 15 minutes by car. At the present moment you can fly using Air France & Brit Air. Entzheim railway station is only 5 minutes on foot from the airport terminal. The other major airport in the region is L’Euro-Airport Basel-Mulhouse-Friborg which is located 25km to the south east of Mulhouse. For the holiday home owner, this airport offers better selection of flights and discount fare operator Easy jet fly’s from a number of it’s UK Airports. The ability to obtain cheap flights is a major factor for some people when considering a holiday home purchase and it is certainly a good idea to obtain some sample fares throughout the year to obtain a better understanding of the costs involved of visiting your property.

Aquitaine 24 Dordogne 33 Gironde 40 Landes 47 Lot-et-Garonne 64 Pyrenees-Atlantiques

The French region of Aquitane is located in the extreme south east corner, it consists of five departments as listed above. This area has become quite popular with Brits moving abroad or buying a second home for holiday purposes. The area has a lot to offer ranging from beautiful countryside through to the popular coastal resort areas. The main population of the region is located in Bordeaux and this this city is the fifth largest in the whole of France. This immensely popular city has been growing at a steady rate for over 20 years and the current population is a little over 700,000. Bordeaux easily stands out as the largest town in the area, others that are small but still important include Agen, Bayonne,Bergerac,Biarritz, Perigueux & Sarlat. This area is famed for it’s agriculture and of course this being France by agriculture we mean wine production. Bordeaux is a very famous city and much prosperity has been brought to it by the wine industry, it is a well known name and brand the world over. This is a city where the new meets the old and much new industry such as computers and electronics can be located here. It is a favourite city for hosting trade fairs and exhibitions which is of course good news for any landlord hoping to rent out his or her French holiday home. Bordeaux has excellent transport links and it’s close proximity to the Iberian peninsula makes it an ideal base in the south eat corner of France. As much as 10% of the local population are employed in the agriculture industry and away from the large towns you will find this to be a most peaceful region in which to enjoy a vacation or in fact relocate. Some of the coastal resort areas can be quite lively in the summer months and the climate here produces hot summers and fairly mild winters.

The Brits love this area and historically it has been a prize that the English & French have fought over. The Dordogne with it’s wonderful hilly scenery and picturesque hill forts has always been popular and fairly significant British communities can be found in this region, ideal if you like a bit of company. The are is particularly popular with holiday makers making in an ideal choice to purchase your French holiday home, you shouldn’t have too much trouble obtaining a rental income if you purchase a property here. Prices are reasonably high reflecting the demand for short term holiday accommodation and the ever expanding expat community.

If you do decide to make a purchase in this area, you will be pleased to note that there is no shortage of transport options available to you. There are airports located at Bordeaux, Biarritz. Bergerac & Pau and economy flights should be easily available to all from Easyjet & Ryanair amongst others. One other option to consider if wanting to travel to this area is that a ferry service is available from Plymouth to Santandar in Northern Spain, ideal if you want to travel and take your car with you.

Auvergne 03 Allier 15Cantal 43 Haute-Loire 63Puy-de-Dome

Some say that this region is located in the heart of France, well it certainly is towards the middle of the country and consists of the four departments as listed above. If it’s dramatic scenery you want that may be this is the region for you, located in the highlands of the Massif Central, you will be captivated by the sheer number of beautiful gorges, lakes, rivers and large expanses of forest. This area is sparsely populated and French holiday home ownership in the region is low, perhaps as a result of the fact that transport links from the United Kingdom are not that developed. Certainly if you want to fly to the area, you will have to change at another French airport. You can of course drive and the trip on the motorway from Paris can be achieved in about 4 hours. Property prices are low and if you are looking for a truly unspoilt region where you can be left in peace then this maybe the area for you, especially if you don’t mind a little extra travelling time. Do check the expenses though, if you want to fly, having to change planes at a connecting airport may prove costly and the ability to reach your property easily and cheaply may put off anyone looking to rent a French holiday home for a short period holiday Please also bear in mind, because of the topography of the area, summers are extremely hot and winters are very, very cold.

Don’t be fooled though in to thinking this area is a complete back water, Clermont- Ferrand is an industrial centre where you will find the giant tyre manufacturer, Michelin and also the printing presses for the bank of France. There is also plenty to do when you are on holiday including such sports as cycling, hang gliding, water sports, canoeing, ballooning. Auvergne is known to attract wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world.

Bourgogne 22 Cote-d Or 58 Nievre 71 Saone-et-Loire 89 Yonne

This area, probably better known by us Brits as Burgundy, consists of the above four departments and is known to produce some the best and most famous wines in the world. In fact ask most people what the word Burgundy means to them and straight away they will say it is a type of wine. The capital of the region is Dijon with notable towns being Autun, Auxerre,Beaune, Fontenay, Macon, Nevers and Vezelay. This region is located in the central eastern part of the country and is characterised by it’s peaceful fertile land, ideal for producing the quality wines as mentioned above.

Vineyards are interspersed between rolling hills and quiet pine forests. The quite meandering canals are also a popular feature of the region and anyone renting a French holiday home will be able to enjoy some quality time drifting these beautify waterways., with boat hire available from at least 10 ports in the area. Luckily for Burgundy, the chief industry ( if that is the correct word) is wine production, there is very little of any other type of industry in the area and this has managed to keep the countryside in an almost virgin state. The Burgundy Kings of old formed alliances with the English against the French and many old castles and palaces are still in evidence in the region and these are very popular tourist destinations throughout the year. Holiday home owners in this areas simply love the peace and tranquillity, the local people are very friendly and inviting and this area is fast becoming a popular location for Brits wishing to buy abroad. Anyone with liking for our British climate will certainly feel at home in this region, the summers can be hot but damp and the winters are quite cold. However, this temperate climate shall we call it, coupled with the sheer beauty of the countryside and the ever popular wine producing industry tempt more than three million tourists a year, these figures should give a clue to the fact that French holiday home rental in the area is quite popular, particularly amongst French people themselves. Certainly if you do buy in this area you should be able to make some money back by renting out the property as a Holiday Home, although home prices can be quite expensive, the tourist numbers are quite remarkable when you think that air transport links to the region are not developed. If Dijon airport does start to accept cheap charter flights in the near future then property prices could escalate even more.

Bretagne 22 Cotes d Armor 29 Finistre 35 Ille et Vilaine 56 Morbihan

Bretagne or Brittany as it is know and loved in Britain has been a popular holiday destination for us Brits for hundreds of years. Consisting of the above four departments, it’s so close many of us consider Brittany to be an extension of our own country particularly as the Bretons with their Celtic ancestry have much in common with the Cornish, Irish & Welsh and share their sense of hospitality, love of music and story telling. Breton is a language in it’s own right and in some areas in can still spoken by hundreds of thousands of the local population French holiday home ownership is high in this area and it is easy to see why, it’s close proximity to Britain, ease of transport links and some wonderful coastal and inland scenery make it an ideal destination for family holidays. In Brittany, you will find over1200 kilometres of coastline and unlike on the Spanish Costa’s, if you do take your family to a beach, you will have plenty of room to breath. French holiday home ownership and rental is highly developed in this area and to rent you property as a holiday let should be fairly easy when you consider that over3 million French people and some 650,000 foreigners take there holiday in Brittany every year. Recently, many of the UK national newspapers have been running features on this area commenting on the wonderful scenery and gorgeous beaches.

Away from the coastal areas, there is plenty to do, there are many local festivals that are attended the world over and Breton wrestling championships are a sight not to be missed. The whole of the area is gradually becoming a little Britain and you will find many English & Irish eating establishments with English proprietors being in the main. The climate of Brittany provides warm summers and mild wet winters and as the northern coast benefits from water brought up from the Gulf Stream, this region is hotter than the rest of the region. Apart from the coastal areas, Brittany plays an important part in the French agricultural industry, it contributes over half of the countries supplies of Beef & Port and 20% of the countries milk needs. Fishing is also an important industry and over half of the French fishing quota id delivered via Brittany. Although not as wide spread, expect to see some industry in the area, mainly associated with automobiles and ship building. If you decide to buy a property as a holiday home, this region makes an ideal choice, the prices on the coast are more expensive but still cheaper than many of the seaside resorts you can find in Britain. This is an immensely popular area and has been for quite some time, as mentioned above, transport links are highly developed as well as the ferries and road links, there are good air services to Breast, Nantes & Dinard

Centre 18 Cher 28 Eure et Loire 36 Indre 37 Indre et Loire 41 Loir et Cher 45 Loiret

The name” Centre” does not exactly conjure up too may vivid pictures of beautiful French country side, decked with fine vineyards but use the name we are all familiar with in Britain,’The Loire Valley” and then you will have some idea as to the area of France we are referring to. Consisting of the six departments as listed above and located in north central region of France, this well know area contains almost 1200kms of Frances longest river. This historic and well known river has developed and sustained French agriculture, in particular the wine industry since ancient times, It meanders through the countryside until it reaches the coast at St Nazaire in neighbouring Pays de la Loire and is vital to the economy of this rich and diverse area considered by many to be the most beautiful of all the French wine producing regions.

Many famous towns and villages abound, Chartres, Orleans, Blois, Tours & Bourges to name but a few. On a journey through the countryside you will encounter many fairytale castles and chateau, constructed by kings returning from the wars in Italy, laden down with treasure and a desire to copy the best of Italianate architecture, this is. an area steeped in history. Here you will find ancient monasteries and medieval villages that will leave you breathless, this historic region was also the home to the ‘Maid of Orleans’, the martyred Joan of Arc an important part of French national history.

As well as the most beautiful, The Loire valley is considered by many to be located at the historic heart of France, the chateaux’s are the main attraction of this region. Originally constructed in the 16th and 17th century, the biggest concentration of chateaux’s are around Tours. Tours was the 15th century, capital of France but now it’s medieval old quarter has been pedestrianized and is full of cafes, trendy boutiques and art galleries. Some of the worth while châteaux’s to see are; Chateau deVillandry, Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau, Chateau d’Amboise, Chateau de Chenonceau, Chateau de Blois, and Chateau de Chambord.

Chateau de Blois, located north east of Tours was from the 13th century until 1598 the principle royal residence and court, after this date the Royal Court was moved to Paris but Blois retained is regal charm. The chateau has been much altered over the years, the has been extended, and combines wings of Gothic, Renaissance, French Renaissance and Classical designs.

Of course, not everyone visits the Loire valley to visit it’s chateaux and ancient buildings, wine making is very much in abundance and Vouvray & Sancerre are famous the world over.

This is a very popular area for holiday home ownership, and you can expect to pay above average prices for a property, that said, your French holiday home in the Loire valley should be fairly easy to rent out. Tours in particular is very popular and Ryanair fly to this destination from Stansted. As well as holiday makers, the Loire valley contains a fair amount of industry, nuclear power is generated from four modern stations on the banks of the Loire and the fertile valley helps produce good quality cereal crops.

Topographically speaking, this region is quite flat and the undulating valleys much in evidence in other areas of the French countryside are not really in evidence, this flat landscape can also lead to problems with flooding at certain times of the year and some areas have been badly hit in recent times. If you are considering purchasing a property in this area, a little bit of research in to the areas history relating to flood damage may be a good idea.

Champagne- Ardennes 08 Ardennes 10 Aube 51 Marne 52 Haute Marne

This area needs no introduction at all, famous the world over for it’s production of the’ Premier Cru” wine- Champagne. Comprising of the above mentioned departments, Champagne-Ardennes stretches from Ille de France in the West, touches the Belgium border in the North and backs on to Franche-Comte.A historical region and former province of northeast France. It was first incorporated into the French royal domain in 1314. The sparkling wine known as champagne was first produced here as long ago as 1700. What ever other producers may claim, there is only one real Champagne and it is made in Champagne-Ardennes This is the region that invented it and it continues to produce the world famous wine using traditional production methods and the finest quality champagne grapes. You can drive from from Epernay to Reims and discover and industry that has changed little changed in hundreds of years witness the city of Reims with it’s famous cathedral, is the capital city, it has a population of a little over 200,000 here the kings were once crowned. Reims is the capital city with a population of a little over 200,000, other famous towns include, Troyes,Chaumont, Chalons en Champagne & Langres.

This fertile area has suffered greatly from flooding in recent years hardly surprising when you consider that 5 rivers flow through the area helping to create a soil from which is produced the wine that all others aspire to. The landscape is divers and appealing, there are plenty of valleys and gorges and the Ardennes region is famous for it’s deep dark forests. It’s hard to fathom out this area, it is immensely popular with wine lovers and whilst property prices are higher the closer you get to Paris, on the whole much cheap property can be located in the region. Holiday home ownership is limited, there are hardly any foreigner owners here at the present moment, perhaps because International air links are underdeveloped.

This beautiful, peaceful region of France hides a darker past and it has often throughout history been the scene of many devastating battles. The Ardennes are home to one of Europe’s largest fortified castles, Château Sedan. Château Sedan is said to be the largest military structure of it’s kind in the world and many Franco-Prussian battles were fought here during the 18th century. Journey along this regions now peaceful roads and you will often happen across a memorial paying tribute to those that fell in battle. The First and Second World wars both are commemorated in this area and in it’s expansive dark woods, numerous bloody and fierce exchanges between troops have taken place.

The climate is quite humid, another factor that helps the wine production, skies are often overcast but it experiences very little cold weather unless of course you travel to the up reaches of the Ardennes area. Of course the bulk of people come here to witness the champagne production, this industry employs upwards of 5000 people full time but this can increase to 40000 when the grapes are picked, that aside, there is plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. Wild life abounds in the verdant forests. There are many lakes that look like glass, and plenty of river activity can be enjoyed. This area has over 600 kilometres of waterways and it is easy to locate boats for hire Just some of the sports on offer include; biking, boating, fishing, hiking, A favourite hike or walk is to visit one of the many number of limestone caves, there are hundreds of miles of these, many have been excavated are are now employed as wine stores.

If you are going to consider a holiday home is region of France, consider that you will not have too many other Brits as neighbours and do check out the travel arrangements, the absence of a good regional airport may effect the marketability of your property as a Holiday Home

Corse ( Corsica) 20a Corse du Sud 20b Haute Corse.

Corse or Corsica as it is better known is an Island situated in the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, to give Corsica’s correct location, it is situated in the gulf of Genoa, but as this location is probably meaningless to most Brits, we have mentioned the Mediterranean sea as everyone knows where that is. Corsica is actually part of France although, strictly speaking, legally it is defined as a territorial collective which gives it a little more autonomous power than the other regions. The island has little holiday home owners ship amongst Brits but never the less we are including it in our regional holiday home owners roundup as it is definitely an island that is very appealing to some prospective holiday home purchasers, mainly the French themselves.

This is a staggering beautiful island, and despite it’s somewhat turbulent past it still remains relatively unspoilt. You can witness the rich and chequered history of Corsica at practically every corner. There are monuments, citadels, watchtowers and museums scattered all over the island and UNESCO have even recognised part of Corsica as a world heritage site, this multicultural island has always been at the mercy of invaders and was of course occupied during the second world war by both the Germans & the Italians. This island is considered by many to be the last unspoilt Mediterranean island and has been invaded on numerous occasions, from the middle ages it has been in a state of flux between French rule and Italian rule. Since 1768 it has been a French Island although their is much still here that can be attributed to other influences. Despite this somewhat traumatic history, the Corsicans have retained their staunch independence -‘Once a Corsican, always a Corsican” is a popular saying amongst the Islanders. French is the official language of Corsica, but a large number of Corsicans speak Corsican and this language is still taught in some schools on the island.

Size wise, Corsica is an island of some 3350 square miles and it is located some 160km from the French Coast but only 85 from the Italian coast and only 14 km from the Italian Island of Sardinia. The island is divided in to two departments as mentioned above and the island is presently home to in excess of 260000 people

Without the most famous Corsican son was Napoleon who was born in the town of Ajaccio in the year 1769, he was of minor nobility but went on to become one of the most famous of all the French historical figures. Other principal towns on the island include; Bastia, Bonifacio,Calvi and Porto Vecchio.

This island is very appealing to holiday home owners and it is geograifically very diverse, summers are very hot but the winters are mild, the prevailing south westerly and north-westerly winds are prone to be a make corsica a little windy at times especially in the winter months. it has some beautiful mountains, many are still snow capped well in to the month of July and over 1000 kms of coastline. Much of the coastline is rocky but there are still many glorious beaches to choose from especially on the western side of the island. Corsica prides itself on the fact that it has managed on the whole to keep it’s beaches unspoilt and this fact appeals to scores of French families who do not like the hustle and bustle of the French Rivera.

Tourism is without doubt the islands main industry and if you come here on holiday, you will find plenty to do out doors to keep you occupied. Corsica has facilities for sailing, canoeing,diving, surfing, rock climbing, hiking & rafting amongst other things. Trekking in the mountain areas is very popular and draws people from all over the world. Apart from the tourism industry, there are few local jobs outside of the agricultural industry, the island grows a fair amount of crops including some good quality citrus fruits. There is a also some fine Corsican wine produced on the island which is well worth a sample

Traditionally this has been a much sought after destination by the French themselves and the bulk of holiday homes are owned by them,. In recent years, foreign investors have been arriving on to the island although still in small numbers. There are a number of charter flights from the United kingdom to Corsica and GB Airways have regular flights from Gatwick. If you come to Corsica as a tourist and decide to buy a holiday home here, you will encounter several difficulties. Firstly, the amount of property that is actually offered for sale is small, when it does come on to the market it is normally snapped up by the French or Italians as this is a very popular location for them Secondly, property purchase on Corsica is difficult, the laws are more complex and sometimes it can take years to purchase a property. Often persons with legal title to a property have left the island and their consent to sell is required before you can proceed. This can take quite a time and this fact alone deters many overseas purchasers. It is worth pointing out that in the past, there have been a few minor attacks on some of the more upmarket homes but these have mainly been restricted to homes belonging to French people coming from the mainland

Some purchasers have tried to get around this title problem by purchasing land on which to build their own property, however the Corsicans have many strict property rules relating to house building even down to the type of building materials you can use, you may find it difficult if not impossible to build your own home. In fairness, these tough regulations have enable the island to remain largely unspoilt and to a certain extent the laws must be applauded. All over the Mediterranean, other locations are falling prey to over zealous property developers but this island is managing to maintain it’s identity.


25 Doubs

39 Jura

70 Haute Saone

90 Territoire de Belfort

This quite region of eastern France borders Switzerland and is made of of the departments as listed above. The name Franche-Comte first came in to usage around 1366 having previously been a territory belonging to neighbouring Burgundy. This is an area characterised by it’s landscape and throughout history it has enjoyed a peaceful rural existence. Such is the areas reliance on agriculture that the region’s population fell by a fifth between the censuses of 1851 and 1946, reflecting low French natural growth and a steady migration to more urbanised parts of the country to find work. Most of the population decline occurred in Haute-Saône and Jura, which remain among the country’s more agriculture-dependent areas.

The remaining population today are mainly employed in the agricultural industry although there is some automobile industry work to be found, a sense of peace and tranquilly fills the clean air. Notable exports from this area include the famous Gruyère cheese and watches and clocks. With it’s abundance of wide open spaces, mountains, forests (almost 43% of the land) rushing waters, architectural heritage, picturesque villages, and refined cuisine Franche-Comte offers an escape to a quality of life that is little seen in most other areas of the country. Of course we should mention that there is the odd one or two quality French wines that can be sampled

This is an area with very little holiday home ownership by Brits, the region is very mountainous and has some deep pine forests and much quality farm land. There are no direct flights to the area and if you want to visit the region you either have to fly to neighbouring Switzerland or to Basel-Mulhouse. It’s a shame really because this infrequently visited area boasts some spectacular scenery not to dissimilar to it’s neighbour Switzerland. If you do manage to make a visit, you will find the great outdoors, wildlife abound and there are plenty of sporting activities to keep you busy such as cycling, horse riding, king, mountain biking. There is a plethora of lakes and fishermen will be in their element.

Traditionally house prices are fairly low in this area and you should be able to pick up a property for a very reasonable sum of money. Definitely one of the attractions is the close proximity to Switzerland and the air is beautifully clean However that said, not too much property seems to come on to the market and hardly any new construction works seems to take place. One of the major draw backs of this region is the transport and simply popping over to your holiday home for the weekend may not be possible. Of course, you can travel in to the region by train and a trip by TGV from Paris can be achieved in a little over 2 hours.

Guide to France from Assetsure

For Holiday Home Insurance in France– Contact Assetsure for a quote.

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