"It´s always been very important for us to have our children integrated into the local culture and environment, I have known a number of friends who went to International schools and felt that they were never truly part of the local community. Plus the local school here is excellent with a strong focus on nature and the environment. I didn´t really see it as an option to send my daughter to a school in Rennes and we have a few friends who are teachers in the public system who turned me against the private one!" (SP, March 2011)
What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Plelan Le Grand (Brittany)?
My name is Sara Plumier, I´m 39 and we have been living in Plelan Le Grand (30 kilometres south of Rennes in Brittany) for only 3 months (March 2011). Prior to that we were staying at my in-laws nearby until we found a property.
What is the area like?
Very green! We´re right next to la forêt de Brocéliande` which is a medieval forest with lots of celtic and arthurian legends! So it´s very beautiful and peaceful.
What nationality are you and your partner?
I´m British and my husband is French.
How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
We have two children - Olivia who is 4.5 years and Leo who is 20 months.
Do you work and if so what do you do?
I´ve always got my hand at something or other but I must say at the moment I´m concentrating my time on my kids! However, I have began running art, music and dance classes for children in English in Rennes and Plelan and I can be found in my office at ungodly hours doing web research for a couple of sites.
You relocated to Brittany from Catalunya, why did you decide to do this, and how did you find the relocation process?
My husband and I had never really intended to spend our family life in the city, we just fell into really as both our kids we´re born in Barcelona. So many things came together at the same time to make us think that our family life would be better in the country and it really didn´t seem feasible for us to look at buying somewhere in Catalunya. But I must say one of the main reasons for the move was to be closer to family. My husband has his parents and brother and sisters all living nearby and three of them with children and I have a sister and nieces and nephews living in Jersey.
The move itself was not too hard, we hired a van and all the family helped out in transporting all our possessions - but the unpacking has been a bit of a nightmare!
I knew the area well before we moved as I had visited here lots of times when I lived in Jersey (I worked as a tour guide in France there) and we came here often during our time in Barcelona.
As far as getting all the paper work sorted it´s been pretty easy with my other half being French as he´s pretty much done it all.
How does life compare living in Brittany to living in Catalunya?
Apart from the weather (sometimes quite a big difference for us after living 7 years in Spain) our family life has much improved - we have a house now instead of a small flat and a garden. Being close to family is a god send. The language was a bit hard for me at first but I´m getting used to it now I only make the occasional slip up from Spanish to French. One thing I find hard is missing my friends - I was very active in the expat community in Barcelona and I´m just beginning to find my feet here!
Did you buy or rent your property? How did you find the process?
We´re currently renting as we are not sure exactly where we´d like to live! (My husband works from home so we could potentially live anywhere.) The process of finding somewhere to rent here was a little difficult as we didn´t realise that most properties weren´t available for three months as this is the required notice here, so we didn´t have a lot of options. Luckily we found a place we really liked but through an agency which means you have to pay a service fee (although not as expensive as in Spain!). The paper work to do it was quite lengthy but I believe it´s because tenants have more rights here and you´re very protected.
How well integrated would you say you and your children are?
I´m starting to feel more and more at home here every day but it´s more difficult in some ways as there isn´t the culture for meeting up with other mums and kids here. You have to go out and try to find more activities for yourself and information is a bit sparse so it´s great to have a web site like this that you can use as a reference point.
My daughter has integrated fairly well as the language was not such as an issue for her as my husband has always spoken French to her. I try to get her involved in other activities such as a local library reading group, dance classes and various activities available in Rennes for children her age.
It´s less of a problem for my son as he is so small but I do take him to the local social centre play group once a week as there is no creche in the town.
What language do you speak to your children?
We practise OPOL in our house (One Person One Language system) so my husband speaks just in French and I speak in English. However, English is our ´house´language so it tends to take over the conversations!
What is your impression of childcare and education in Plelan Le Grand?
There is no creche here but, as I mentioned there is a play group one morning a week. Like most French towns the main child care here is the child minding system which is very well run and monitored. It´s a system I actually prefer to nurseries anyway.
What school(s)/nursery(ies) do your children go to?
My daughter goes to the local school, which I´m very happy with but she still only goes in the mornings and not at all on Wednesday. It one of the things I really like about the French education system as it´s less structured than the Spanish one.
I am thinking of going along to a Halte Garderie with my son in the next village along, which is a space available for parents to go along with their children for the day.
Why did you choose this school/these schools and are you happy with your choice?
It´s always been very important for us to have our children integrated into the local culture and environment, I have known a number of friends who went to International schools and felt that they were never truly part of the local community. Plus the local school here is excellent with a strong focus on nature and the environment. I didn´t really see it as an option to send my daughter to a school in Rennes and we have a few friends who are teachers in the public system who turned me against the private one!
What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Plelan Le Grand?
I´m not sure there are any real advantages or disadvantages from being from the international community and living here. Maybe that you are used to going out there yourself and searching for information on what there is on offer. Being able to have something in common with other families living here is useful as you have a reason to contact them.
How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in Plelan Le Grand?
Very welcoming! The town hall has been great at providing me with info and gave me a welcoming pack when I went to look for information including 2 free tickets to the local cinema! It´s a real mixed bunch here of farmers, town people, commuters to Rennes and ´Baba Cools´(French name for hippies!).
Would you say your area is family-friend and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
Yes, it is a family friendly place it´s very family focused with a lot of activities geared to people with children. A local creche would be an improvement though...
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Plelan Le Grand with children?
Learn French before you move! As soon as you get here you´ll have to immerse yourself in the language and culture to truly integrate and navigate your way around. Look into what paper work you need to sort out beforehand, I know people who have arrived here when already pregnant and struggled with getting things sorted - look into it beforehand. Its quite difficult to look at properties properly on the Internet but have a look at some of the local sites to get an idea of price and location. Also try to get in contact with expat families before you arrive to ask for advice.
What couldn´t you live without in Plelan le Grand?
The Sunday market - it´s well known in the area and has become a bit of a routine in our household! There´s a great organic stall and the local bakery is packed out. The town transforms itself into a different place, we live just round the corner from it and I still can´t get used to the noise on Sunday morning.
Having a garden and in general the local nature and surrounds; it´s one of the main reasons we moved here.
What could you live without in Plelan Le Grand?
The weather!!! But the local landscape makes up for the odd grey sky and rainy day - good for my plants anyway!