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Downshifting - Starting a new life in France


Simon and Elizabeth -


Until August 2003 my family lived in the UK.  We enjoyed a good standard of living but my husband’s

high-powered job required him to work two to three days a week some 200 miles away from home. 

We tried to consolidate our family time into precious weekends to accommodate all four of our children.  

Having spent another perfect family holiday in France we realised that we badly needed a fresh challenge,

yet one that would afford us a better quality of life.  Thus began the process of selling our much-loved

family home in Cumbria, a sizable part of our possessions and finally emigrating to France.

We bought a run-down water-mill in the Haute-Garonne, 1hr from Toulouse, with abundant potential.

Having tried in vain to find sensibly priced builders, yet never having built so much as a doll's house,

we decided to renovate one of our barns ourselves (with paid advice from a local builder).  Never

has work satisfaction been so pronounced nor shoulder muscles so defined.  We now have a

luxury villa available for holiday rental content in the knowledge that the building work has been done

to a high standard with no short-cuts taken.   We are going to continue to use our building skills and

renovate our water-mill now that the villa is finished.

Our downshifting has been a total success for all the family.  All four of our children speak fluent French

and are in the mainstream education system.  My husband and I are able to spend much-valued time

together and, as a bonus, have learnt challenging new skills including French. 

What do we miss?  Only a few non-essentials: Reading the Daily Telegraph (although one can download

via the computer, there's nothing like turning the pages), Indian takeaways, warm beer and Marmite! 

Naturally we miss family and friends but we find that good friends travel.  Our life now is so much richer

though not yet in the financial sense of the word. 

I live by the motto 'feel the fear and do it anyway!

Elizabeth Ellis.


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