Your interactive family guide to France as recommended by local mums | Last updated 2 months ago

Interviews

Helen Bates - Cannes

"We are extremely happy with the French education system. The creche / halte garderie that our boys went to was fantastic and we have no complaints about the maternelle or primary schools either. There are quite a lot of differences in the schooling methods from England but so far the boys are thriving."

  • Interview with Helen

    What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Cannes?
    Helen Bates, age 37 and I've lived in Cannes for almost 10 years.
     
    What nationality are you and your partner?
    I am British and my husband is Irish
     
    How many children do you have and what are their ages?
    2 boys - aged 7 and almost 5.
     
    Why did you move to Cannes and how would you describe everyday life?
    We moved to Cannes having lived and worked in the City of London for many years and our main motivation was a  better work/life balance as well as better weather. Everyday life is almost idyllic here. We walk the kids to school, there is a lot of camerarderie amongst the Mums at the school and whilst they are almost all French they have been so welcoming to me - the foreigner. My husband and I are self-employed so we fit our work around school. My husband works in Cannes on our property rental business whilst I fit my photography work in during school hours. When not working we have the time to enjoy and discover the beautiful region in which we live. We are often outdoors - I organise regular hikes with a group of expat ladies and we are also both keen athletes  - our current challenge is the Trail des Balcons  - a run in the Esterel mountains near where we live taking place in April. With the children we also take advantage of our surroundings and often have beach picnics after school, go bike riding, sailing and skiing. With two energetic boys I really couldn't think of a better place to live!
     
    Can you tell us more about your businesses?
    My husband and I run a small property company in central Cannes where we buy, renovate and rent out (seasonally and for conferences) stylish apartments and townhouses. We are very hands on and have done a lot of the renovation work ourselves. If you are looking for perfectly located and equipped apartments in the heart of Cannes for business or pleasure then please take a look at our website -  www.accommodationcannes.com (The first ten readers can profit from a 10% discount on a non-conference booking with the code CHICMUMABROAD)

    In addition to this I have a photography business focusing on two main areas - baby & child photography and real estate. I aim to capture babies and children in their own environment letting their personality shine through and providing clients with an enduring memory of precious times.

    With real estate I cover apartments, villas,  and commercial property (yachts, restaurants etc) - The difference professional photographs can make to the successful sale or rental of a property is remarkable. First impressions count and more and more these first impressions take place on internet sites based on the quality of the photos,

    I am also available for special occasions (weddings, birthday parties etc) where I specialise in natural and informal photography.  I work from Nice - Frejus  and my website is https://www.facebook.com/hbphotography/?ref=hl
     
    How easy was it to find work in Cannes?
    I think as an ex-pat it is quite difficult to find French - speaking work here so you need to look at the ex-pat sector or become self employed. In terms of setting up our businesses we found a good lawyer and accountant to help us through the mountains of french red tape and it's been fairly smooth. There are the obvious highs (finishing year-long projects and clients loving your work) and lows (dodgy plumbers flooding entire buildings and then fleeing the country) but overall it's been a great experience and we are enjoying our businesses and life here.
     
    How well integrated would you say you and your children are?
    I would say our children are extremeley well integrated - they have gone to French creche from the age of 18 months and are now in the local French school. They are both completely bi-lingual and have lots of French friends. We have been told that developmentally they are completely comparable to their French contemporaries. At home they often play in French but their language of choice is still English.
    We are pretty well integrated but our close circle of friends is made up of ex-pats.
     
    What language do you speak to your children?
    We only ever speak English to the children - except on rare occassions when we speak with French neighbours and the kids invariably correct my French!
     
    What is your impression of childcare and education in Cannes so far?
    We are extremely happy with the French education system. The creche / halte garderie that our boys went to was fantastic and we have no complaints about the maternelle or primary schools either. There are quite a lot of differences in the schooling methods from England but so far the boys are thriving. 
     
    What school do your children go to?
    The local state school called La Roquette St Jean - it's 2 mins walk from our house! We were pretty adament that the kids would be immersed in French from an early age and it is paying off. I also believe you try the easiest option first and then if it doesn't work look into changing them - it's usually obvious if your kids aren't happy.
     
    Where you live, how good are the facilities for children (shops, restaurants, activities etc)?
    We love living here and taking the kids to restaurants etc and have been doing so from a young age. I would say French restaurants are very welcoming to well-behaved kids but do not bend over backwards in terms of entertaining them - it's left to the parents to ensure they are "sage". The local beach restaurants of course are brilliant when the kids can play as the adults dine. 

    We have loads of activities nearby for children and it is one of the main reasons we moved here. There is a myriad of free things to do - the beach, hiking, cycling, swimming and plenty of other options including play parks etc. 
     
    Are there any particular activities, groups, classes etc for children in Cannes that you would like to recommend?
    Our sons have both loved learning to swim and there is a great club called CN Cannes - they take babies from as young as 6 months and we now have two little fish on our hands. https://www.facebook.com/CNC-B%C3%A9b%C3%A9s-nageurs-501927746536629/?fref=ts
    Our eldest also plays rugby and he really loves it - there is a very welcoming club in Mandelieu https://www.facebook.com/RugbyClubValDeSiagne/
     
    Other activities we have enjoyed were the ex-pat playgroup run by Andrea in Sophia Antipolis. This was a wonderful place to take my pre-school kids and to meet other ex-pat Mums in the area. The Anglican Church - Holy Trinity in Cannes has a lovely Sunday School and is extremely welcoming. http://www.holytrinitycannes.org/
     
    Not specifically child-related but the Riviera Fitmums group on Facebook is a great place to meet people and exercise (walks are often buggy-friendly) and it is through this group that I organise runs and hikes. https://www.facebook.com/groups/574322729245742/?fref=ts

    Are there any particular service providers (doctors, dentists, babysitters, tutors etc) for children in Cannes that you would like to recommend?
    The dentist Mette Mop in Cannes La Bocca is great with kids. She's Danish but speaks about 8 languages!  https://www.facebook.com/docmop/

    Julia Edgely - Homeopath  - she practices in Mouans Sartoux and Antibes. https://www.facebook.com/JuliaHomeopath/?fref=ts 

    As for restaurants - Vega Luna in Cannes on the beach is great as is La Plage on Mandelieu beach . There is always a warm welcome for families at Ma Nolans in Cannes and also at Zucchini Blossom in Mouans Sartoux which serves fantastic burgers.
     
    What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Cannes?
    Advantages - the gift of bringing up children being bilingual is second to none.  The diverse types of people you meet and how welcoming the ex-pat groups are here on the Riviera. Exposing our children to the cultures from two countries and lots of travel. I feel they really will grow up to be global children and comfortable in many different surroundings.

    Disadvantages - the only strong disadvantage I see is missing home and the friends and family who don't live as close by and potentially for those who don't speak fluent French not being able to be 100% involved in the local community.
     
    Is there anything you think would improve children’s lives in Cannes?
    I would love a gastropub with a big beer garden but I am not sure if that is for the kids or for me!! I think more sport during the standard school week in regular state schools would be great. 
     
    What advice would you give for anyone thinking of relocating to Cannes with children?
    LEARN FRENCH - I can't emphasise enough how helpful this is. Research all the areas you may want to live and be sure to choose a town  / village that has the balance you want between locals and ex-pats. Don't ignore the local state schools - most of them are extremely good. 
     
    What couldn´t you live without in Cannes?
    The weather and being close to the beach.
     
    What could you live without in Cannes?
    The mosquitos, mopeds and dog dirt!

    April 2016