Your interactive family guide to France as recommended by local mums | Last updated 4 weeks ago

Interviews

Claire Almond-Jones - Meribel

"We relocated permanently when Noah was 18 months, although we did do a trial run when he was 9 months old for 6 months. As he was so young we didn`t have to worry about school or language difficulties as he wasn`t at that stage, we did find childcare an issue here through, as the creche was over subscribed and we were put on the waiting list, and stayed there until he was 3 and starting at the Maternelle. This was a massive issue for us as my husband and I really wanted him to gain some experience of being away from us and the French language, but when there is nothing you can do , you get on with it. Luckily over the past few years the creche has merged with other creches in the area and is being managed by one central office and other parents are not having the same issues we had" (CA-J, July 2012)

  • Claire on Life in Meribel

    What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Meribel?
    Hi, I am Claire, I am 36 and lived in Meribel for 5 years

    Why did you move there?
    In 2006 we had our son and at the time were living in Bournemouth, we had mediocre jobs and were looking to buy our own restaurant, we found the perfect place in Poole, had our offer accepted but at the last minute due to rules through the a government grant start up incentive our offer fell through. After the disappointment of this we decided that the time was right to follow a dream of ours to live in the Alps, if it failed, it failed at least we could have said we tried instead of plodding along and still dreaming. The feeling of disappointment was enough to kick us up the bum and do what we always wanted. We were lucky and are very lucky that we have very supportive families who were full of encouragement, even though it meant taking their 1st born grandchild on both sides across the channel.

    What is the area like where you live?
    I live in a stunning picturesque area of France, Meribel is part of the 3 valley ski area which is exceptionally popular . It is billed as the largest ski are in the world and for 18 weeks out of the year it is full with eager winter sports enthusiasts. During the months of May - June and September - November the place turns into a ghost town, where no shops open and the only place to meet up is the playpark with the kids or our local bar Evolution. This is my favourite time of the year, with a population of around 2000 and a smaller ex pat community, it is a great time to catch up after hectic seasons where you rarely get to catch up with friends.

    What nationality are you and your partner?
    My husband and I are both British, I am from Yorkshire and he is from Bournemouth, we met during a ski season 11 years ago in Courchevel, France

    How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
    I have one child, a little boy called Noah, he turned 6 at the end of March and is amazing. No plans to add to the family, one was always the preferred number

    What was your experience of relocating to Meribel with children?
    We relocated permanently when Noah was 18 months, although we did do a trial run when he was 9 months old for 6 months. As he was so young we didn`t have to worry about school or language difficulties as he wasn`t at that stage, we did find childcare an issue here through, as the creche was over subscribed and we were put on the waiting list, and stayed there until he was 3 and starting at the Maternelle. This was a massive issue for us as my husband and I really wanted him to gain some experience of being away from us and the French language, but when there is nothing you can do , you get on with it. Luckily over the past few years the creche has merged with other creches in the area and is being managed by one central office and other parents are not having the same issues we had.

    Do you work and if so what do you do?
    I work for my self here in Meribel, when we relocated we set up AktivExperience a catered chalet holiday company, both myself and my husband are from the Travel and Hospitality industry and therefore running our own company within an industry that we knew exceptionally well was the most logical step.

    Did you buy or rent your property? How did you find the process?
    We are still in rented accommodation, house prices in Meribel are very high and we understand that we are unable to afford a house here and to get on the housingmarket we would have to consider moving down the valley which we do not want to do, not at the moment anyway as we have integrated into the village, we have good friends both English and French and my son loves his school, which is a major thing for me as he is thriving in his school environment.

    What language do you speak to your children?
    We speak English together in the home, we are all British born and feel that Noah still needs to speak English to a high standard as all his relatives are English and we often visit the UK

    Do you think it essential to be able to speak French when relocating to Meribel?
    This question made me giggle, the answer to it is definitely no, you do not need to speak French to relocate here, as a tourist resort that attracts a lot of British even the locals speak English, but if you wish to live here long term a grasp of French is needed as the schools do not speak English, the Post Office and Bakery are French speaking and during the interseason in everyday life French does help. What I do find hard is that when trying to improve on my French the locals will speak in English if they think I am struggling, plus they see it as a great way to improve on their English

    What is your impression of childcare and education in Meribel?
    I have no complaints of the education system here, Noah attends the local Ecole where in his class there are just 18 children and this includes 2 classes GS & CP. The number of pupils raise in the winter as seasonal family workers are here, but last year this number only rose to 25 for two year groups. The level of learning is high, although I find it hard to get my head around the teaching of reading, in the UK children are taught as soon as they go to school yet here it is when they start CP (age 6/7). I know a few of my English friends probably find it amazing that Noah`s reading age is a lot younger than their children in the UK but then I reconcile this with the fact he is bilingual and his maths skills are amazing

    What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Meribel? The advantage of living here in Meribel is that settling into life was pretty easy as we didn`t have the struggles of language barriers and there is always someone on hand to give advice with issues such as the CAF, registering with school, even just buying a car as everyone who moves here has been through the process of settling in and can advise accordingly. Another advantage of living here is that Noah can mix with a range of nationalities as it isn`t just English and French, there are russians, americans, and polish expats, so he gets to see a multitude of cultures (admittedly they are not that different from the British but there are new foods, languages and even childhood games) Regards to disadvantages, this is a little more tricky, I suppose it has to be family orientated, and that Noah doesn`t see his grandparents as often as I would like, although Skype is amazing for ensuring that family can chat and also see him grow. And from a selfish point of view I miss fish and chips!

    How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in Meribel?
    I could not fault the welcome we had here, as I mentioned earlier there is already a large integrated expat community who are fully integrated with the locals and this helps with introductions

    Would you say your area is family-friendly and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
    It is a very family friendly area, the playpark is only 5 min walk away and all the school kids from the age of 5 get a year pass to the local swimming pool and ice rink giving them free access

    What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Meribel with children?
    Do it, but with every big move, research. Visit here first get a feel for the place, think wether you could live in a tourist resort that gets busy during the seasons but will be deathly quiet for a few months too.

    What couldn´t you live without in Meribel?
    A vehicle, the nearest supermarket is 20km`s away and during interseason even the local shop doesn`t open for milk!

    What could you live without in Meribel?!
    Bureaucracy, the way that even the simplest of tasks take forever with countless forms to fill in.

    July 2012