© S. Lafaye CRT Limousin

Each month, I will be introducing you to expats who came to Limousin to settle down and to open a tourism related business. Discover why they chose Limousin and what they love most about the area. Because sometimes it’s essential to get an outside look at things! 

Meet Simone from Harper Gites in north-western Corrèze!

I don’t think I could have chosen a better day for my very first interview : there’s not a cloud in the sky and as I head down towards the town of Vigeois, the sun just keeps getting brighter and warmer. As I reach my destination, I realize that I am going to have to cross a lovely, but very medieval bridge. (Can I even cross that with my car???! It looks like I can, but there is something almost sacred about the bridge, so I end up deciding to park my car and cross the bridge “the old fashioned way” – by foot!)

I am greeted at the door by Ruby the dog, closely followed by the delightful Simone, owner of Harper Gites, who has kindly agreed to tell me all about her “French adventure”. The first thing I notice : the Gite is wonderfully light and there is a terrace out back with a breathtaking view of the river Vézère, whose trickling waters make for an instant atmosphere of calm and serenity. This is where we settle down for the interview.

Simone is Dutch and her husband Peter is English. They met in The Hague, where Simone was working as a graphic designer. In fact, she owned her own newspaper, “The Underground”, about cultural life in and around The Hague. Peter also had his own business. The couple, who had bought their very first holiday home “La Marteille’ 10 years ago, had often spoken about moving to rural France. It was one of those dream projects that keeps coming back into your mind, until one day, it hits you : “It’s now or never!” And that is exactly how Simone and Peter found themselves selling their house in The Hague (it only took 3 weeks to sell – I can only imagine their excitement  : “oh my, is this really happening?!”) two years ago, and moving to France for good. That is when they bought their second gite, “Maison du Vieux Pont”.

Why Limousin?

Friends of Simone’s had bought an old farm in the area : real estate prices were quite reasonable for people interested in buying something old and renovating it. Luckily enough, Peter is quite handy – a “bricoleur” as the French would say. Limousin is much cheaper than nearby Dordogne, and there is less risk of finding yourself in an English community in Limousin. It was important to Simone to settle down in an area where massive tourism has not taken over.

The Limousin way of life fits perfectly with Simone’s “back to basics” motto. Bye-bye Gucci bags, hello local shops and farmers’ markets! “Living in Limousin is a great reminder of life’s essentials. When we moved here, we were made to feel at home by the locals. They bring us cakes and jams, and always have a kind word for us and a pat on the head or a piece of cheese for Ruby!”

Simone’s favourites

When asked to randomly name what she loves most about Limousin, the first thing that comes to Simone’s mind is “the stars at night”. “There is no light pollution here; you look up at night and are dazzled by the star-studded sky.” Next on her list of all-time favourites are nature and the wilderness, the people of Vigeois and the intense community spirit, and last but not least, the food! “Especially Limousin meats” adds Simone.


A wish for the future

Simone’s wish for the upcoming years is that tourism will develop and that Limousin will continue to realize what great assets and how much potential it truly has. “Small businesses need to be encouraged and tourism is an ideal way to bring life to delightful villages such as nearby Ségur-le-Château, one of “France’s prettiest villages”.

I can tell you that Simone is doing more than her part in making that wish come true. Her experience as an international cultural newspaper publisher is definitely an asset. Just have a look at Harper Gites’ website! www.harpergites.com/ The pictures of her and Peter’s holiday homes are beautiful and inviting, there are articles about what to see and do in the area, and she has loads of good ideas and is so dynamic about contributing to bringing Limousin into the limelight.

Thank-you for the warm welcome Simone, it was a pleasure meeting you and I look forward to exchanging with you in the future.