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English take back France, one business and house at a time

June 16th, 2009 · 6 Comments

One of the stranger quirks of the last two days has been running into Brits who’ve decided to chuck their boring lives on the Rainy Island and become quasi-French.

Last night, we had dinner at a beautiful old house in the middle of the countryside in Dordogne. The menu boasted that the restaurant had a slow-food philosophy and all kinds of dishes — the duck a l’orange and the little fried smelt-type fishies — were sourced locally. And our host for the evening at Le Salvetat? Steve Jordon, a one-time manager in the plastics industry, originally from Birmingham.

Today, we stopped for lunch in Eymet, a small town to the southwest. Sitting at the table next to us as we drank our cafe cremes was … William King, a one-time computer programmer from just south of London, who is living in Eytat and running a business brewing English ale. It’s a tough go, he said, as most bars in France have exclusive agreements with their suppliers. But he’s got his hopes up, because the anglo community in some town 100 kilometres away has been asked to organize an English bar for that town’s July 14 celebration. He’s hoping he’ll sell at least 200 litres.

In the meantime, he was having a great time basking in the sun in front of a bar that was plastered with English soccer newspapers in the windows. He claimed that Eytat has the largest English population of any town in France and that locals sometimes call it the capital of Dordogneshire.

All of which is a reminder to me, yet again, of how fluid borders are these days. As it becomes easier to move around all the time, there are waves of immigrants from the high-carbon-footprint countries moving all over the world to enclaves that they’ve decided are their paradise.

It makes me wonder what the end result of all this melding will be — Will it create more diversity? Or will it create communities where, since everyone has moved there for some particular quality they value, there’ll be a narrow and rigid idea of what that place should be?

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  • gmgw

    We spent some time in the Dordogne in the early 90s when the Brit invasion was starting to gather steam. The other visible “foreign” presence at that time was that of the Germans, who were also buying up properties in droves; considering the circumstances of the previous German invasion, it seemed to be a rather extreme example of historical irony. For an absolutely shattering example of those “circumstances”, I strongly urge you to visit Oradour-sur-Glane, the “Martyr Ville”, northwest of Limoges, and view the handiwork of the German Das Reich division; one of the most overwhelming emotional experiences I’ve ever had, every bit the equal of our visits to Mauthausen and Dachau. Anyway, better the Brits than the Yanks, I think.

    The Dordogne, its valley, and its lovely towns and villages, are indeed very beautiful. Try to go to Sarlat on market day, to cite only one must-see. But it looks as though the shifting world economy may be putting a crimp in the the “melding” process you speak of. Have a look at the following New York Times story (I hope this link works):

  • gmgw

    OK, the NYT link in the previous post doesn’t work, it appears. For those who are interested, the title of the story is: “Financial Crisis Stings British Expatriates”, and it appeared in the NYT on May 30 of this year. Good luck.

  • Kirk

    Are there more English in Eytat than there are Asians in Richmond? If all the Brits pulled their money out of Paris at once, would that compare to all the Asians pulling their money out of Vancouver?

    Frances, you can answer your own ponderings about melding, diversity, and community. You had to go halfway around the world to get a reminder?

  • Way cheaper to live in France and Spain than Britain plus the weather’s better.

    The biggest complaint I hear from the British on the mainland is the horrid selection of tea. Many restaurants have two selections: (perfectly good) French tea for everyone else and a special box of an assortment of British teas for the Expats.

  • Bill Lee
  • Fred

    go a little further west into the Albi – Cordes – Gaillac “english triangle” area and the area is overrun with “Les Roast Beoefs”

    Off the tourist main roads, great wine at 1/3 the price of Bordeaux and wonderful food of all types.