Your interactive family guide to France as recommended by local mums | Last updated 3 months ago

Interviews

Ilona Laver - Perpignan

"The system is very different here, very thorough and personal. I stayed in hospital for 4 days, (like a little holiday!) and returned home a little more rested than with my previous two children. You have to go to various different places for blood tests, midwife and gyno but all is clear and well organized" (IL, November 2011)

  • What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Perpignan? Which part of Perpignan do you live in ?
    Hi, my name is Ilona, I am am 36 and I live in Perpignan. We have been here for a year and a half. We live in the Jardins St Jacques which is 5 mins from Perpignan centre. It is the area that previously served as the garden for the Kings of Majorca and is now used as farmland, the soil here is amazing.

    Why did you move there?
    We moved here from London as we were seeking a better quality of life for ourselves and our children. We were attracted by the proximity to the sea, mountains and Spain and the opportunity to lead an outdoorsy life.

    What is the area like where you live?
    Perpignan is a small but vibrant city with loads of music and theatre throughout the year. We are very close to Collioure which is a perfect French seaside spot and have 120 miles of stunning beaches to walk the dogs, swim, and relax. The people are proud of both their French and Spanish roots and there is a strong Catalan influence. We
    find all the local people extremely welcoming and they have a god sense of humour!

    What nationality are you and your partner?
    We are both British.

    How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
    Zach - 5, born in Kingston, UK, Elodie – 3, born in Kingston, UK, Aurelia, 6 months, born in Perpignan, France.

    What was your experience of having a baby in Perpignan?
    Really excellent. The system is very different here, very thorough and personal. I stayed in hospital for 4 days, (like a little holiday!) and returned home a little more rested than with my previous two children. You have to go to various different places for blood tests, midwife and gyno but all is clear and well organized.

    What was your experience of relocating to Perpignan with children?
    We arrived in May 2010 to a full house of renters in our gites and glorious sunshine, we were probably a bit shell shocked to start but soaked it all up easily. There is so much to do and discover here that we are never short of things to do to entertain the children. Our neighbor is a school teacher so she was very helpful, they go to a small French school in the heart of Perpignan, they struggle a little with the language but are young enough embrace the only school system they know.

    Do you work and if so what do you do?
    We have a gite business in Perpignan with three gites and we have a Landscape Gardening business in Kingston www.bloomin-marvellous.com which is run by a Manager and team of staff.

    Did you buy or rent your property?
    How did you find the process? We bought our house and business, it was a very long winded process but did progress without major incidents. As everyone always bemoans, the French system can be very paper heavy and bureaucratic but we just chip away at it – we are still waiting for our Carte Vitales!

    How well integrated would you say you and your family are?
    Pretty well, we know a lot of the local people and have started to make friends at the school. It is 100% about making the effort and speaking the language.

    Do you think it is important to speak French when relocating to Perpignan?
    Imperative.

    What language do you speak to your children?
    English and a little French when we look at school work.

    What is your impression of childcare and education in Perpignan?
    Haven’t got a clue about childcare but the education system seems good so far. The school days are long 8.30-5pm with all day Weds off. They do a lot of tests and the teachers place great onus on them at an early age.

    What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Perpignan?
    I sometimes have no idea what is happening at school and can be quite puzzled by the communication methods! Time will improve that we hope! Life is the same in many respects (mealtimes for children, washing etc etc etc!) but is enhanced by our surroundings.
    How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in Perpignan? Very welcoming and intrigued!

    Would you say your area is family-friendly and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
    Very family friendly.

    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?
    Babysitters, activities and heaps of restaurants – email me and ask!

    What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Perpignan with children?
    Register with a doctor and be prepared to foot your own medical bill whilst you wait for your Carte Vitale. (Each visit to doctor will be about 21E). The maternity system and care is great. There are a huge amount of things to do with children of all ages here, the local people are very family orientated and children are welcomed everywhere.

    What couldn´t you live without in Perpignan?
    320 days of sunshine.

    What could you live without in Perpignan?!
    Dog mess on the streets – everywhere!

    November 2011