French Property News|April 2020
It was the height of the summer in 2018 and my wife Kathy and I were sitting in our garden in Guernsey, chatting about our future and that of our three girls, Isabelle aged 18, Emilie 16 and Grace 11. The Channel Islands are a fantastic place to live and bring up a young family, but, looking into the future, we decided we had to evolve.
We had other priorities too. My entire career has been spent working in the cut and thrust of financial markets where no prisoners are (ever!) taken and profit is key. To exercise and to relieve the stress of that life, I took up cycling and it’s been a huge part of my life ever since. (Recently I cycled 1,150km from St-Malo to Amsterdam to raise money for a great charity called the Sarah Groves Foundation.)
We are also a family of animal lovers with quite a menagerie of pets, including seven chickens, two tortoises and two Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs (Lottie and Bruno), not forgetting Nugget the hamster.
So as Kathy and I sat in our garden that summer’s day, we started to investigate the idea of setting up a business that combined all the things that were important to us – our family, our animals, our passion for cycling and our desire for a new adventure.
The dream was to move to France and establish an amazing family holiday complex with supported cycling activities. There are cycle tour operators in France, often around the Loire Valley, but they are generally quite expensive and are multi-center packages which exclude family members. But our concept was different. It would, first and foremost, be a fantastic family holiday destination with a pool and small petting zoo to enjoy, but if people did want to go cycling, we would make it super easy for the whole family to jump in the saddle and set offon a route that was right for them. VéloGîtes was born!
The timing for our move was absolutely critical and focused on the summer of 2019. Isabelle would have just finished her A-levels, Emilie her GSCEs and Grace her primary school years. We had a window of just two months to leave Guernsey, get ourselves all organized and start our lifechanging adventure.
Finding the perfect property in France was extremely difficult; we wanted to be within five hours of northern ports, in a region where the terrain and scenery was stunning, and within a very short distance of a lively village. Our search took us from Deux-Sèvres to southern Vienne and Charente. We also needed to find a property that allowed us to create a business – not simply supplement a retirement income. This meant finding a large gîte complex, something quite rare!
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