"Coming out at 7 months pregnant I missed all pre-natal classes but was given a tour of the hospital facilities etc. beforehand. I chose to have both babies induced (with an epidural) and when Alexander was born I had the consultant gynecologist, pediatrician and mid-wife all present. I then spent the next five days in an individual en-suite room in hospital being taught one on one how to care for my baby. Whilst in hospital I was visited by a social worker who helped me get all my paperwork sorted, writing letters for me etc. (I hadn’t yet received my social security card!)" (CM, Jan 2013)
What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Beauville? Whereabouts is it and what is it like?
Claire Mallalieu, 43, lived in Beauville for 13 years.
Beauville is a large village (pop. 600) with many facilities : crèche, primary school, village shop, boulangerie, great restaurant, café, garage, bank, doctor, vet, coiffure, quincaillerie, sports hall, campsite, post office, pharmacy…
It is approx 25km from Agen, half way between Toulouse and Bordeaux (in the Lot et Garonne)
Why did you decide to move there?
A move out of London to have a family. I already spoke fluent French having originally studied it in Toulouse and still had friends there so we were looking in the area. Beauville is a lot further from Toulouse (about an hour and ten mins drive) than we were originally looking but we fell in love with the house. After we bought the house, Jonathan my husband got a jo with the (then) newly created International School of Toulouse which gave us the momentum to move. The same week he got the job, we discovered I was pregnant!
What nationality are you and your partner?
How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
Two. Alexander was born in January 2000, two months after I arrived in France. Harvey-Jay followed in March 2002.
What was your experience of having a baby in Beauville?
Fantastic. Coming out at 7 months pregnant I missed all pre-natal classes but was given a tour of the hospital facilities etc. beforehand. I chose to have both babies induced (with an epidural) and when Alexander was born I had the consultant gynecologist, pediatrician and mid-wife all present. I then spent the next five days in an individual en-suite room in hospital being taught one on one how to care for my baby. Whilst in hospital I was visited by a social worker who helped me get all my paperwork sorted, writing letters for me etc. (I hadn’t yet received my social security card!).
Do you work and if so what do you do?
With my husband, we run our own company, Beauville Arts, which provides performing arts courses in english in France for children aged 8 – 18, plus a classical wind chamber music course for adults. We have two centres, one here in Beauville and one just outside Cannes on the Côte d’Azur. During term time we also welcome school groups to Beauville, generally from the international sector and I teach the piano. www.beauvillearts.com
Did you buy or rent your property? How did you find the process?
We bought our house, which was the former presbytère, off the Mairie through British/French estate agents based in the village. The notaire who acted for both parties is also in the village. Needless to say all went very smoothly.
How well integrated would you say you and your family are?
Very. Speaking French and having two children clearly helps, as does teaching the piano (I have approx. 20 students). I have been involved with several associations – the Crèche first and then president of the school PTA for four years. For the last six years I have been on the Conseil Municipal. When I was voted on that caused quite a bit of publicity for the village with both TV and newspaper interviews etc.
What language do you speak to your children?
Do you think it essential to be speak French when relocating to your region?
Yes, if you want to integrate however it’s quite possible to carry on your life in an expat community should you wish. There’s a lot going on.
What is your impression of childcare and education in Beauville?
The crèche and primary school in the village are excellent – there has been huge investment in these services and whilst they were great when my children were small, both have since moved into brand new purpose built premises which I don’t think you could better. Early years childcare costs are a fraction of what friends of mine pay in the UK. The school is an ‘école informatique’ equipped with interactive white boards and a trolley of laptops which can go around the different classes. The only downside is that the primary school lost a class a couple of years ago due to falling student numbers so there are now two or three year groups per class but this is quite normal for a rural school. As in all French schools, there is, in my view, a lack of music, drama and creative learning but that’s what inspired us to create our company which plugs the gap for Anglophone children and their parents.
Being in a rural area the disadvantage is the distance to Collège / Lycée (35 mins on the school bus) and friends from school of children of this age being spread far and wide.
What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Beauville?
Main disadvantage is lack of access to bilingual/international schools – our eldest son is now boarding in the UK.
How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in Beauville?
Hugely, they couldn’t have been more welcoming. Some have since said they thought we were mad to take on a house renovation project as we did with no experience in this field. They could have had a point – we’ve only just ‘finished’.
Would you say your area is family-friendly and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
There are a number of children’s clubs in the village and neighbouring villages – dance, tennis, football, Hapkido but the range of clubs is limited compared to a big town. We have sometimes had to rely on clubs in Agen which is 25 mins away in the car. A trip in and out will take several hours so you must think of this if living in a rural area. There is no public transport, no cinema etc.
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Beauville with children?
Think about those teenage years to come….what activities do you want your children to be doing/do your children want to do? Are they available nearby?
What couldn´t you live without in Beauville?
Broadband and British TV (we have freesat!).
What could you live without in Beauville?!