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Interviews

Jennifer Iddon - Cahors (Le Lot)

" Initially I didnt want children, and it was only when I turned 30 that I changed, I guess my body clock kicked in! My ex-husband and I tried for several years and we suffered 4 miscarriages. When we went for tests, they told me it was unexplained infertility despite being able to get pregnant, I couldnt carry them to term. I met my current husband and we decided not to take precautions, with the thinking that although we werent trying for a baby, we werent not trying, so if it happened naturally then fantastic and if not then it wasnt meant to be. We also had one miscarriage a few years ago and then the boys obviously decided it was time to put in an appearance.... I have no idea why or what, but looking at my families histories of only one sex each generation going back several generations, its possible that it is girls I cant carry, the doctors didnt have any answers & now I have my 2 perfect little miracles" (JI, Sep 2011)

  • What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Cahors? Mrs Jennifer Iddon, Im now 38 and I have lived in Rocamadour near Cahors, for a year & 9 months. I initially commuted back to the UK for work, & lived here full time for 2 weeks before falling pregnant with the twins.

    Why did you move there? We have friends in Rocamadours Medieval City and when my husband reached his first option to retire from the RAF, we took it, we wanted a better life, calmer, more fixed on quality of life, and we fell in love with the Lot, its a very beautiful part of France. Were also bikers and the roads around here are some of the best to ride.

    What is the area like where you live? We live on an area called the Causse du Quercy, its part of a National Park and in parts very rocky, but with some very lush fields and orchards (Walnuts and Oak mainly). There are stone walls, little country lanes, quiet and peaceful, and with the stunning medieval city of Rocamadour 3 minutes away it is a very beautiful place to live.

    What nationality are you and your partner? Were both British although a few hundred years ago my family (maiden name of Capron) originated from Beaulieu sur Dordogne which is about 60kms from me now.

    How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born? I have just my twin boys Valentino and Louis, they were born on 26th November 2011, so theyre coming up for 1 year old now. Theyre my little miracles as I was told I couldnt have children, yet I live here for 2 weeks and fall pregnant - the locals are very proud!

    You were told that you could not have children, when was this and how did things change? Initially I didnt want children, and it was only when I turned 30 that I changed, I guess my body clock kicked in! My ex-husband and I tried for several years and we suffered 4 miscarriages. When we went for tests, they told me it was unexplained infertility despite being able to get pregnant, I couldnt carry them to term. I met my current husband and we decided not to take precautions, with the thinking that although we werent trying for a baby, we werent not trying, so if it happened naturally then fantastic and if not then it wasnt meant to be. We also had one miscarriage a few years ago and then the boys obviously decided it was time to put in an appearance.... I have no idea why or what, but looking at my families histories of only one sex each generation going back several generations, its possible that it is girls I cant carry, the doctors didnt have any answers & now I have my 2 perfect little miracles.

    What was your experience of having a baby in Cahors ?
    My twin boys were born in Cahors Maternity Hospital last November at 0330!! I had several people in the delivery room, including my husband whose hand I clutched throughout most of the births (I think its just about recovered). My gynaecologist was wonderful, and determined I give birth naturally, although I was wheeled into the operating theatre just in case. I was pretty much left to my own devices throughout the labour, checked on most hours but getting on with it. The birth was itself was quick and painful and 2 perfect little boys arrived within 11 minutes of each other. The only real complaint I have is the lack of support for breastfeeding. Ive been feeding the boys exclusively for 6 months & continue now Im weaning & its just not supported here


    Do you work and if so what do you do? I am a Qualified Management Accountant, but out here we have a Chambres DHotes on the edge of Rocamadour, and my husband has just started an enterprise as an Agent Immobilier as well. But having had the twins, my job now is Mother and I support my husband as much as possible so he can run the business.

    Did you buy or rent your property? How did you find the process? We bought the land and buildings that we run as the Chambres DHotes, and have some barns that were also planning to convert as a home & office. Because it was bought to be a business as well as a home, it was quite a long drawn process. We found an empty property that was a family home until the previous owner had died several years before. It is in quite a prominent position on one of the main roads into Rocamadour so we had to jump through several hoops in terms of changes we wanted to make to the property (just colour & signage mainly) - but I had to put together a 6 year business plan to get the mortgage to buy it all. Luckily that is what I do as a Management Accountant, and we were successful in raising all the finance we needed, it just took around 8 months, with a solicitor and notaire, and very helpful bank manager (and a good friend to help with the translation!). Its not an easy process, buying a property!

    How well integrated would you say you and your family are? It is a very mixed community here, and being the 2nd most visited site in France means that we have a lot of different nationalities here, which makes for an interesting time. Our direct neighbours are Belgian, and opposite us are French, we already had friends here (French & British) so its been easy in some respects, but in others quite challenging. I was very ill with my pregnancy & my French suffered, so its been a little difficult sometimes, but on the whole because we now have the babies, people have been very friendly & helped us to integrate. I cant imagine living anywhere else now. The boys will go to the local school which I think will help even more too.

    What language do you speak to your children? We speak purely English to them as I want them to speak English at home & French outside the home so theyre completely bi-lingual. Also our French is not good enough to teach them, although I will be teaching them English both written, and verbal, language and literature myself so they can read & write in English as well as French. An English friends daughter cant spell or write in English & thats such a shame.

    What is your impression of childcare and education in Cahors (if any yet)? I have a friend whos daughter goes to an excellent private school in the next village, and that was chosen for her & also for the boys because as a private school (which is a few euros a week) the teachers dont go on strike & lose days of school. I have no experience with the childcare here as I look after the boys myself and as theyre just 10 months old they havent been to a nursery yet. As far as I am aware, the French schooling system is very good, but as were very rural here I think we may look at schools a little further out towards Toulouse way for their older school after they leave their fist school at 12. We will see how things go.

    What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Cahors? The main disadvantage for me is my poor French (although I am studying so fingers crossed it improves quickly!), so it was difficult to enjoy my pregnancy & the ante natal classes were pretty useless. Now, its more the fact that Im so far from my mother & closer friends so Im out on my own while I make friends here. On the upside of that though, is that it is a very mixed community and the boys will grow up with friends from many different countries & cultures - that is such a wonderful opportunity for them.

    How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in Cahors? I was very sick when I was first pregnant so we were unable to get out & about as much as we wanted to - so it took a little time although where we are we were watched quite closely. One local rumour was that we were opening a Biker Bar!!! We now have a lovely Chambres DHotes and quite a lot of clients so the locals are very relieved.....The little village over the road has been very welcoming, but Rocamadour itself is quite a challenge as its not really a village or town as such, its mainly a tourist attraction now.
    How would you describe a typical local? The little village of Blanat is over the road that they are very rural, lots of farmers & older people, although on the road into the medieval city there are many homes that are more commercial, so really its a mix of farmers in their tractors, and local business people.

    Would you say your area is family-friendly and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live? Again, as it isnt really a village as such, its a bit difficult to classify - there are quite a few local children & other mothers around that have small children & babies & Im trying the get to know them. We are going through the process now of converting a barn to live in so that will help enormously when we have some privacy to have the boys friends over (when theyre older & out & about). Hopefully I can then get more involved in the activities for children, and create some of my own if necessary. We have a lot of land here, so there are so many opportunities for the boys, but as they get older, I think we will consider moving to Cahors itself as a large market town because it has more for the boys to do as they grow up.

    Are you able to recommend to other MumAbroad members in the area any local services (home delivery, plumbers, dentists, babysitters etc) or any activities, restaurants or shops for children in the area? Absolutely, we have used recommendations from friends to find good artisans, doctors, vets etc. And with friends who own & run their own restaurants and cafes here we have the inside scoop on most places. We are also lucky to have both Cahors to the south and Brive to the north as good shopping towns, with Toulouse just over 1.5 hours away if we want anything major that cant be found here. Because we have renovated our property we can also recommend local artisans both French & English who are good, and reliable (which can be a problem in more rural areas I gather!). Best thing to do if there is anyone local to me, is to chat & ask specific questions so I can help out.

    What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Cahors with children? Most important thing of all before moving to France, especially further south where English becomes less common, is learn French to a good degree. The kids pick up French quite easily in comparison but certainly for me, Im struggling. There is quite a bit to do here for children activity wise, and plenty of outdoorsy things like walks, learning about the countryside, growing things etc. Cahors is a wonderful place, Rocamadour is quite remote by comparison, but it is a wonderful area, very beautiful and the kids would all be so lucky to grow up here. The medical care I received as well is second to none, I have no other personal experience of having children in the UK or elsewhere, but even though I struggled with the language, I had a great gynaecologist who I had total faith in and the boys had superb care, which after 2 weeks in neo natal because of their prem nature, they needed. And they allowed me to stay with the boys as well after my free healthcare ran out as I had the best level of personal health insurance as well.

    What couldn´t you live without in Cahors? I love Cahors, and would not want to lose that feeling of living somewhere I love.

    What could you live without in Cahors?! The summer tourists & the prices that increase for the locals as well in summer!! That said, it does bring out the festival sense in the area, so it does have a good side.

    Sep 2011