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My husband and I would like to retire in France, but not for about 10 years. In the meantime, we are planning several trips to France to check out various potential areas in which to live We have over the years visited Paris multiple times but as we do not think Paris is a viable option for retirement (due in part to the high cost of housing there), we want to spend future trips to France exploring other areas with a view to retirement potential.

I was hoping that those on this forum might offer suggestions of areas to visit / consider for retirement. We are interested in city life (not village / rural). We would plan on living in a 1-2 bedroom apartment (we don’t want the upkeep of a house / garden / land). We also do not plan to own a car (we don’t want the expense or hassle of car ownership), and so we want to live somewhere in which we can walk to local facilities (food shopping, pharmacie, café, etc) while also having access to good local public transport as well as train service to other areas (1.5 – 2 hrs to Paris would be ideal) so that we can visit Paris and other areas of France as well as visit friends throughout the EU (Belgium, Germany, Greece, UK). We would be getting French driver licenses and would rent a car on occasion to explore nearby areas, but prefer the use of train travel for further distances.

My husband has been to Rouen (and Normandy in general) and so has suggested Rouen as a possibility (he loved it). However, he was only there for a day or two as a tourist, so I’d love feedback from the forum as to the pros/cons of Rouen. We both have been to Bordeaux, again for only a day as a tourist, so while we enjoyed it and it is a possibility, the distance from Paris is a drawback.

Any ideas / feedback from those in the forum would be greatly appreciated. I have been pouring over the forum already and have gained so much valuable information / insight into the process for non-EU people to retire in France (i.e. Visas, etc).
 

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There is a ‘best cities in france’ thread in full swing in the bistro section of this forum. Although not always quite ‘on topic’ it might give you a clue.

I am no expert on city living in france but just from the suggestions there, i would start with rennes, tours and maybe orleans which would all seem to fit your critera on distance from paris.
 

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Welcome to our forum.

As Conky says we have a rather light hearted discussion on cities in France (don't use the word in French unless you are sure!)

A lot depends on your approach to the question " why France?". Is it the weather, the food, or the general ambience? Near the sea, ..near ....what? One thing, tourist France is nothing like "living" in France!


Have you thought how you want to spend your time in France? You want to avoid long winter evenings watching US TV? Even if you speak good French it is not always easy to make friends in France, even with neighbours.

I live near Rouen, and I've taught at Rouen Business School, so I know it well. It is steeped in history and really old buildings. However, winter in Rouen is rather wet and miserable rather than cold. There are some very nice appartement buildings near the city centre. Rouen really bustles, tourists, students, law students, medical students.....and a thriving business life.

Have you thought really long term? I arrived in France 16 years ago at the age of 56 in robust good health. Doctors and illnesses were not on my priority list. Well, old age marches on, and my thoughts turn to really old age...for me and my wife! Do you want to be in a foreign country with long term health problems and limited family / friends to help? If you've thought this through then well done!

As everyone here will tell you if you are planning to live in France in 10 years, then start learning French now, if you have not already started.

I'm not trying to put you off, I love France and would never go back to the UK, but there are difficulties and periods of doubt.

I'll say nothing of visas and health care....others know much more than I do.

DejW

My husband and I would like to retire in France, but not for about 10 years. In the meantime, we are planning several trips to France to check out various potential areas in which to live We have over the years visited Paris multiple times but as we do not think Paris is a viable option for retirement (due in part to the high cost of housing there), we want to spend future trips to France exploring other areas with a view to retirement potential.

I was hoping that those on this forum might offer suggestions of areas to visit / consider for retirement. We are interested in city life (not village / rural). We would plan on living in a 1-2 bedroom apartment (we don’t want the upkeep of a house / garden / land). We also do not plan to own a car (we don’t want the expense or hassle of car ownership), and so we want to live somewhere in which we can walk to local facilities (food shopping, pharmacie, café, etc) while also having access to good local public transport as well as train service to other areas (1.5 – 2 hrs to Paris would be ideal) so that we can visit Paris and other areas of France as well as visit friends throughout the EU (Belgium, Germany, Greece, UK). We would be getting French driver licenses and would rent a car on occasion to explore nearby areas, but prefer the use of train travel for further distances.

My husband has been to Rouen (and Normandy in general) and so has suggested Rouen as a possibility (he loved it). However, he was only there for a day or two as a tourist, so I’d love feedback from the forum as to the pros/cons of Rouen. We both have been to Bordeaux, again for only a day as a tourist, so while we enjoyed it and it is a possibility, the distance from Paris is a drawback.

Any ideas / feedback from those in the forum would be greatly appreciated. I have been pouring over the forum already and have gained so much valuable information / insight into the process for non-EU people to retire in France (i.e. Visas, etc).
 

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I was hoping that those on this forum might offer suggestions of areas to visit / consider for retirement. We are interested in city life (not village / rural). We would plan on living in a 1-2 bedroom apartment (we don’t want the upkeep of a house / garden / land). We also do not plan to own a car (we don’t want the expense or hassle of car ownership), and so we want to live somewhere in which we can walk to local facilities (food shopping, pharmacie, café, etc) while also having access to good local public transport as well as train service to other areas (1.5 – 2 hrs to Paris would be ideal) so that we can visit Paris and other areas of France as well as visit friends throughout the EU (Belgium, Germany, Greece, UK). We would be getting French driver licenses and would rent a car on occasion to explore nearby areas, but prefer the use of train travel for further distances.
Having made the same dicision recently with much the same criteria I suggest that you take a look at Lyon. It "ticks all of the boxes" in your wish list.
 

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DejW beat me to it, but he raises some very valid points. Unlike many here on the forum, you have the added "challenge" of being from a non-EU country and so will have to deal with visa and carte de séjour (residence permit) issues. There is also the matter of health care. Insurance seems less of an issue these days - though you'll need to have private cover for your first year in order to get your visas (unless, of course, the rules on that change as they so often do). After that, there is the option to register for the national system (don't forget the mutuelle for top up cover).

And in amongst all of that is the language "challenge." Though there are some English speaking doctors and other medical personnel, in general you will probably find that you'll need to be able to cope in French when it comes to medical (and most administrative) matters.If you've been here as tourists, you're never too far from English speaking staff, but once you're really resident here, English speakers can be few and far between - especially in an "urgent" situation.

None of this is meant to put you off your plans. Just something to think about and potentially plan for.

I'm a huge fan of Normandy - however, most of the "best" parts (to my mind, anyhow) more or less require that you have a car for day-to-day shopping and getting around. The train system is great, but local public transport can be spotty, or limited to routes suited to those commuting to and from work.

However, you still have a good 10 years of making trips to explore France, and knowing that you are interested in retiring here means that you can make them more research trips than tourist ones.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Welcome to our forum.

As Conky says we have a rather light hearted discussion on cities in France (don't use the word in French unless you are sure!)

A lot depends on your approach to the question " why France?". Is it the weather, the food, or the general ambience? Near the sea, ..near ....what? One thing, tourist France is nothing like "living" in France!


Have you thought how you want to spend your time in France? You want to avoid long winter evenings watching US TV? Even if you speak good French it is not always easy to make friends in France, even with neighbours.

I live near Rouen, and I've taught at Rouen Business School, so I know it well. It is steeped in history and really old buildings. However, winter in Rouen is rather wet and miserable rather than cold. There are some very nice appartement buildings near the city centre. Rouen really bustles, tourists, students, law students, medical students.....and a thriving business life.

Have you thought really long term? I arrived in France 16 years ago at the age of 56 in robust good health. Doctors and illnesses were not on my priority list. Well, old age marches on, and my thoughts turn to really old age...for me and my wife! Do you want to be in a foreign country with long term health problems and limited family / friends to help? If you've thought this through then well done!

As everyone here will tell you if you are planning to live in France in 10 years, then start learning French now, if you have not already started.

I'm not trying to put you off, I love France and would never go back to the UK, but there are difficulties and periods of doubt.

I'll say nothing of visas and health care....others know much more than I do.

DejW
Thank you for the replies, conky2 & DejW. Very helpful.

Why France? Both husband and I have known for years that we wanted to get out of the U.S. My husband (prior to meeting me) lived abroad in the late 90s-early 2000s in the UK and then in Turkey, so he is experienced in being an expat and integrating (to the extent possible) into the local area and, as we have limited family ties remaining in the United States, we have been discussing for years (for at least 11 years, when we got married) that at some point we wanted to move out of the U.S.

Over the years, we have considered a variety of places, but in the end, France is the place that we feel most comfortable and in which we can imagine actually living long term. Lots of countries are fun to visit, but don’t strike a cord as livable. I guess it is the “general ambiance” (as you say) that attracts us to France and keeps us coming back again and again. The other attraction is the ability to live relatively close to friends in the EU and the UK. We have close friends in Belgium, Germany, Greece and the UK. Granted, none are close enough to see every week, but still close enough to see perhaps regularly, several times a year.

We don’t particularly have a preference to location in terms of near the sea, etc. Of more importance to us is the character and services of the city. I like your description of bustling Rouen. This is the type of environment that appeals to us. Your description of the weather does not deter us at all. Though my husband and I are both native Californians (and currently live there), we have both lived in "wet, miserable" areas - my husband in the UK for several years and me in coastal Oregon.

We have considered the effects of aging, which is in part why we prefer to live in an apartment in a city - where we don't have to try to deal with maintenance of a house and garden / land, driving everywhere, etc. and where we would hopefully be near doctors, hospital, other medical services. Neither of us have much family left (parents deceased, siblings either deceased or estranged), so whether we are here in the U.S. or in France doesn’t really have an impact.

Both of us speak some French (mine is better than my husband's), but as that French is based on long ago high school / college French classes, and our practice has so far been limited to use as tourists, we have both started now to study in earnest (and to look into local Meetup groups to participate in French conversation) so that by the time we retire, our French abilities are much more advanced.

Looking forward to reading additional replies from other forum members. Thanks again for replying so quickly to my first post!
 

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My husband and I would like to retire in France, but not for about 10 years. In the meantime, we are planning several trips to France to check out various potential areas in which to live We have over the years visited Paris multiple times but as we do not think Paris is a viable option for retirement (due in part to the high cost of housing there), we want to spend future trips to France exploring other areas with a view to retirement potential.

I was hoping that those on this forum might offer suggestions of areas to visit / consider for retirement. We are interested in city life (not village / rural). We would plan on living in a 1-2 bedroom apartment (we don’t want the upkeep of a house / garden / land). We also do not plan to own a car (we don’t want the expense or hassle of car ownership), and so we want to live somewhere in which we can walk to local facilities (food shopping, pharmacie, café, etc) while also having access to good local public transport as well as train service to other areas (1.5 – 2 hrs to Paris would be ideal) so that we can visit Paris and other areas of France as well as visit friends throughout the EU (Belgium, Germany, Greece, UK). We would be getting French driver licenses and would rent a car on occasion to explore nearby areas, but prefer the use of train travel for further distances.

My husband has been to Rouen (and Normandy in general) and so has suggested Rouen as a possibility (he loved it). However, he was only there for a day or two as a tourist, so I’d love feedback from the forum as to the pros/cons of Rouen. We both have been to Bordeaux, again for only a day as a tourist, so while we enjoyed it and it is a possibility, the distance from Paris is a drawback.

Any ideas / feedback from those in the forum would be greatly appreciated. I have been pouring over the forum already and have gained so much valuable information / insight into the process for non-EU people to retire in France (i.e. Visas, etc).
Hello luckylyn5,

So far you've received great information and I personally can't add to it.

I'm in my mid 60's and my family and I are planning our retirement in France.

I've also spent a considerable amount of time in Paris, and as much as I would love to live there, it is expensive and out of our budget.

Our list is similar to your's...no car ownership, 2 hours by train to Paris, in a town/city with everything we should need.

Have you considered eastern France?

We're planning to find our home in Burgundy. I'm making another trip in December, and will be in Beaune, Dijon, and Lyon.

We haven't decided to rent or buy, like you, it will not be a house with gardens.

I spent the first third of my life living in the wine country of Sonoma California.
The wine country of Burgundy reminds me of where I spent so many years.

You have a lot to explore and that's half the fun.

Mark
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
DejW beat me to it, but he raises some very valid points. Unlike many here on the forum, you have the added "challenge" of being from a non-EU country and so will have to deal with visa and carte de séjour (residence permit) issues. There is also the matter of health care. Insurance seems less of an issue these days - though you'll need to have private cover for your first year in order to get your visas (unless, of course, the rules on that change as they so often do). After that, there is the option to register for the national system (don't forget the mutuelle for top up cover).

And in amongst all of that is the language "challenge." Though there are some English speaking doctors and other medical personnel, in general you will probably find that you'll need to be able to cope in French when it comes to medical (and most administrative) matters.If you've been here as tourists, you're never too far from English speaking staff, but once you're really resident here, English speakers can be few and far between - especially in an "urgent" situation.

None of this is meant to put you off your plans. Just something to think about and potentially plan for.

I'm a huge fan of Normandy - however, most of the "best" parts (to my mind, anyhow) more or less require that you have a car for day-to-day shopping and getting around. The train system is great, but local public transport can be spotty, or limited to routes suited to those commuting to and from work.

However, you still have a good 10 years of making trips to explore France, and knowing that you are interested in retiring here means that you can make them more research trips than tourist ones.
Cheers,
Bev
Hi, Bev,

Yes, becoming as fluent as possible in French before we move to France is of extreme importance to us. We are not interested in moving to France but then trying to continue to conduct our lives solely in English. We want to be able to communicate with our community (whether it be shopkeepers or waiters or doctors or...) in French. That is why we have given ourselves so much time to prepare - from working on improving our French to taking (as you said) research trips to France.

I have been pouring over these forums, and I think I have a pretty good handle on the Visa process, health insurance for the first year and PUMA and mutuelle from then on. There was a reply from you to one post in particular that I specifically remember that gave terrific succinct information on all of those!

Thanks - Lynda
 

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Hi, Bev,

Yes, becoming as fluent as possible in French before we move to France is of extreme importance to us. We are not interested in moving to France but then trying to continue to conduct our lives solely in English. We want to be able to communicate with our community (whether it be shopkeepers or waiters or doctors or...) in French. That is why we have given ourselves so much time to prepare - from working on improving our French to taking (as you said) research trips to France.

I have been pouring over these forums, and I think I have a pretty good handle on the Visa process, health insurance for the first year and PUMA and mutuelle from then on. There was a reply from you to one post in particular that I specifically remember that gave terrific succinct information on all of those!

Thanks - Lynda
As I'm sure you are aware, all of these things can (and probably will) change over the next 10 years. Cities, too, will change over that timeframe, as will housing costs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
As I'm sure you are aware, all of these things can (and probably will) change over the next 10 years. Cities, too, will change over that timeframe, as will housing costs.
Yes, of course, who knows what may change over the next 10 years? Size and character of cities, the Visa process, and so much more. But hopefully by starting now and keeping up with this forum during those ten years, I will be well informed of those changes and can adapt accordingly!

I will look into Bordeaux and (as suggested by MarriedandRetired) cities in Burgundy. I didn't realize that those areas are now accessible to Paris by train fairly quickly (within my 1 1/2 - 2 hour specification).
 

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Hi and welcome to the forum!

My wife and I retired to Paris last April. I know everyone goes on about how expensive it is to live in Paris but I don't find that to be the case. Sure, compared to other areas to live in France there is a higher cost, mainly in housing expense.

However, compared to where we were living in the US (Austin, TX) it is costing us roughly the same. We owned our home there but have leased it for more than we pay in rent here, to include utilities. Groceries, day to day expenses, metro/bus is about the same. Not needing a car is a big budget saver. I'd say our monthly living expenses for two are 3000€. Eating out, going to the opera, cinema, theatre, buying art... that can be expensive; we don't a lot of that.

Compare the cost of living in Paris to other major cities in the world; San Francisco, LA, New York, London, Hong Kong, Sydney, Vancouver, Melbourne. I think you'll find Paris is a real bargain. Hard to say if that we'll be the case in ten yrs though.

This message brought to you by ex-pat citizens for a united, human-friendly Paris :)
 

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Here is a list of the 10 most popular cities to retire to in France:

Top 10 des villes où prendre sa retraite – PARCOURS FRANCE 2017, le rendez-vous des projets en régions !

Personally, (given that you want to be car free) that is your best choice.

All are 2-3 hrs from Paris. Tours being the exception where it is 1 hr. So you can walk to the station and catch the 8AM train and be in Paris by 9AM. Or to save costs you can catch a bus for 15 euros. If you want it slightly more relaxed, check out Amboise or Blois !!!!.

So basically you really need to choose a region because all regions of France are completely different.

The Loire Valley is very calm (Tours, Anger and Nantes). Grenoble you have the mountains. Strasbourg and the surrounding area (Eastern France) is stunning beautiful. Aix en Provence is in Provence and is hot. Bordeaux is Bordeaux. Personally not my favourite place. You could add Montpellier onto that list if you want the beach. Montpellier is 3hrs by TGV. Or 1hr by plane !!!!

So basically when you come to France, you have to check out these cities. Stay in Paris and catch the TGV.

Lastly, don't rule out Paris. You don't have to live 'in' Paris. Places like St Cloud, Versaille, Becon etc etc are cheaper and only 10-30 mins by train from central Paris. Also, prices in places like Aix and Bordeaux are nearly as expensive as Paris anyway for decent places. But if you want Paris but much cheaper, then Tours is a good bet.
 

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Yes, of course, who knows what may change over the next 10 years? Size and character of cities, the Visa process, and so much more. But hopefully by starting now and keeping up with this forum during those ten years, I will be well informed of those changes and can adapt accordingly!

I will look into Bordeaux and (as suggested by MarriedandRetired) cities in Burgundy. I didn't realize that those areas are now accessible to Paris by train fairly quickly (within my 1 1/2 - 2 hour specification).
Strasbourg is, of course, another possibility :)

Edit: Just saw that Smeg has mentioned Strasbourg. It's worth noting that this city has ALL facilities and is very well connected transport-wise. Nice apartments centrally located tend to be somewhat pricey (not quite as expensive as Paris, though). Personally, I find that Alsace (for the most part at least) tends to be much cleaner than other areas in France and I just love the way that use flowers to decorate windows, balcnies and the streetscape (although to a lesser extent in Strasbourg itself).
 

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Another idea for your visits over the next ten years or so - check out the apart-hotels in the various cities you're considering. These are basically like the "suites hotels" in the US - i.e. actual living accommodation with a kitchen or kitchenette so that you can prepare your own meals and all.

It's not a bad way to "experience" what it would be like to actually live in town. You have to buy some day to day groceries and do your own cooking. A nice way to try out the local marchés and other features in town.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Hello luckylyn5,

Have you considered eastern France?

We're planning to find our home in Burgundy. I'm making another trip in December, and will be in Beaune, Dijon, and Lyon.

I spent the first third of my life living in the wine country of Sonoma California.
The wine country of Burgundy reminds me of where I spent so many years.

Mark

Mark, we recently bought a house in Burgundy, although we ended up in a village so I needed to buy a car. My husband has 10 more years until retirement, so it's more of a summer home now. I'm usually there 4 months a year, and my husband about a month.

Burgundy gets overlooked and has a relatively low expat count (although Beaune has quite a few Brits). Like you, we spent many years in CA and I think that's probably one reason we find Burgundy so lovely. It takes me about 100 minutes to get to Paris, but 35 of those are driving to my nearest TGV station. The train ride itself is an hour. I do like being relatively close to Paris, and we make good use of that, going up for day trips often.

Good luck on your search!

Diane
 

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Mark, we recently bought a house in Burgundy, although we ended up in a village so I needed to buy a car. My husband has 10 more years until retirement, so it's more of a summer home now. I'm usually there 4 months a year, and my husband about a month.

Burgundy gets overlooked and has a relatively low expat count (although Beaune has quite a few Brits). Like you, we spent many years in CA and I think that's probably one reason we find Burgundy so lovely. It takes me about 100 minutes to get to Paris, but 35 of those are driving to my nearest TGV station. The train ride itself is an hour. I do like being relatively close to Paris, and we make good use of that, going up for day trips often.

Good luck on your search!

Diane
It's good to see you're back. How was your stay?
I'll send a pm.

Mark
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Another idea for your visits over the next ten years or so - check out the apart-hotels in the various cities you're considering. These are basically like the "suites hotels" in the US - i.e. actual living accommodation with a kitchen or kitchenette so that you can prepare your own meals and all.

It's not a bad way to "experience" what it would be like to actually live in town. You have to buy some day to day groceries and do your own cooking. A nice way to try out the local marchés and other features in town.
Cheers,
Bev
Whenever possible when traveling, we do try to stay in AirBnBs or apart-hotels rather than hotels. Not only is it nice to be able to have some extra space and be able to do some cooking, I agree that it does feel more like living in a town rather than just being a tourist (especially when you stay a couple of weeks as a time, as we would plan to do).

Thanks - Lynda
 
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