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

Interviews

Keren Sharpe - Bar sur Loup (Cote dAzur)

"I have always approached people with a smile and after my initial shyness of trying to speak French I found most people friendly and helpful. I have seen the same parents at school for several years now and still find that my friendly bonjour is totally disregarded by some of them. Well, I suppose that that is universal; there are always people who are reticent to accept outsiders! I do feel apologetic sometimes when I hear of other Brits who dont even try to integrate; again that is a problem that exists everywhere in the world" (KS, March 2011)

  • Interview with Keren Sharpe

    What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Bar sur Loup?
    Im Keren, aged 40, and Ive lived in Bar sur Loup for nearly eleven years (scary!).

    Why did you move there?
    My husband and I liked the idea of living in the South of France and offering our children the opportunity to be bilingual. We searched around until we found a place we liked and then looked for a house. We wanted to be close enough to the coast to go to the beach, go windsurfing, camping etc and close enough to the mountains so that we could go hiking, skiing in the winter and so on. We also didnt want to live in a city.

    What is the area like?
    It is beautiful, we are in the mouth of the Gorges du Loup and our view is spectacular. We are out in the sticks according to some people but we are close enough to Nice, Cannes and Antibes to make going out viable. We love the outdoorsy life so this balance suits us perfectly. There is so much to do and see round here as well.

    What nationality are you and your partner?
    Both my husband and I and our children are British.

    How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
    We have two boys, Dan born 1998 in the UK and Rob born 2000 in Grasse.

    What was your experience of having a baby in Bar sur Loup ?
    I was one of the lucky ones, a quick relatively painless birth. I did manage to annoy the hospital staff by giving birth in the monitoring room - you have to remain in the room in which you gave birth for two hours! I stayed in hospital for four days in a shared room and was given the option of having staff change, bath and look after my newborn if I had wanted them to. The food was alright, although they did provide cauliflower and beef and other foods that they themselves said should be avoided during breastfeeding as these foods could taint the breastmilk! On the whole it was a very pleasant experience and I really benefited from the calm to bond with my baby.

    What was your experience of relocating to Bar sur Loup with a baby ?
    We moved to Bar sur Loup when our first child was one. I found it incredibly hard at first as my husband was commuting to Monaco each day, I was tired and pregnant with our second child, we were gutting our house, it was a rainy winter and we didnt know a soul. A couple of chance encounters with other mums with young children provided some much-needed and long-lasting friendships! I started going to a mother and baby group too (my first try was a disaster as the mums of one group werent interested in welcoming a newcomer!) and I quickly met what I consider to be my core group; other mums recently arrived in France with young children.

    Do you work and if so what do you do?
    I was registered as an Artiste Libre and now an Auto Entrepreneur. I undertake DIY for people - not an interior designer, more of a decorator, painting, tiling, fixing. I have enjoyed showing other mums how to do DIY so that they can get on with jobs themselves (I work under the premise that generally women are better at DIY than men as they work more cleanly, more neatly and have an eye for detail; they just lack the confidence). Ive spent a lot of time putting flat-pack furniture together for various clients (my boys say it is my equivalent of Lego!) I also make (create) character birthday cakes and have made well over two hundred different ones for friends, friends of friends and family. Im a coeliac and make some great gluten-free cakes too.

    Did you buy or rent your property? How did you find the process?
    We bought our house, with a sizeable mortgage. We were lucky in that we had help finding a bank that would finance our loan. We had the wool pulled over our eyes however when we were advised to register the purchase as being 70% - 30% in my husbands favour. When we looked in to writing a will we had to have the paperwork changed - at huge cost - to be 50% - 50%.

    How well integrated would you say you and your family are?
    This is an interesting question as we have many friends here, both French and English speaking. I think that we are pretty well integrated although we dont tend to get very involved in village life. I think that a lot of

    What language do you speak to your sons?
    We speak English at home.

    What is your impression of childcare and education in Bar sur Loup?
    Generally I have been happy with the education. Having had no experience of schooling (for our children) in England I can only compare with my own education when I was younger. I did find it very frustrating that the school expected my children to start speaking French before they were ready for it. There seemed to be a lack of understanding and acceptance in that our children were learning to speak in two languages. Our older son started speaking French after a year at school and our younger son started speaking excellent French well into his second year, after much worrying and pestering from his school teacher (who was extremely apologetic for badgering me to have him assessed which was obviously unnecessary). I also found it staggering that the French attitude was to get your child (children) into a crèche as soon as possible. I put the boys in for mornings only during their first term at school and was constantly told that this would be detrimental to their education... as if they were studying for A levels or something! Id recommend that each parent do what they think is right for them and their child and not be bullied into doing what is easiest for the teacher!

    What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Bar sur Loup?
    I sometimes felt that my children were missing out on a purely English or purely French upbringing. A lack of knowledge of the French nursery rhymes and songs meant that my boys would make up words when they sang in class. Now, however, I am really proud that they are coping so well and are fluent in two languages. We have chosen the international education route (following the French maternelle and primaire) - I see no point in doing otherwise because one of the main reasons for us coming down here was to give them the opportunity to benefit from their bilingual status.

    How welcoming were the locals when you arrived in Bar sur Loup?
    I have always approached people with a smile and after my initial shyness of trying to speak French I found most people friendly and helpful. I have seen the same parents at school for several years now and still find that my friendly bonjour is totally disregarded by some of them. Well, I suppose that that is universal; there are always people who are reticent to accept outsiders! I do feel apologetic sometimes when I hear of other Brits who dont even try to integrate; again that is a problem that exists everywhere in the world.

    Would you say your area is family-friendly and is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
    I think that Bar sur Loup is an excellent place for families. I would like to see a local skate park or something for older children, but since we moved here the mairie has built a play park, tennis courts and a mini amphitheatre so I cant complain.

    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?
    We are very fortunate that we have local shops, doctors, dentists, etc here. Id always get a recommendation from a friend before calling in a plumber or electrician because there are lots of people out there who would take advantage and overcharge for work carried out.

    What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Bar sur Loup with children?
    I think the advice Id give could be for anyone moving to any area - be friendly, be respectful and be outgoing - ask for help, ask for information, whether it is about how to meet others or which doctor to go to. Information isnt freely given but once the ice is broken I have found that the locals are friendly. Of course there are exceptions and everyone has a bad day now and again... Also, go into the village, meet people that way.

    What couldn´t you live without in Bar sur Loup?
    I couldnt live without my friends - they helped keep me sane (for a given amount of sane at least!), and I couldnt live without a car!

    What could you live without in Bar sur Loup?
    I could live without the really frustrating barrier to having a small business! It is so hard to start anything viable as the charges and taxes are astronomical. The bureaucracy is irritating as anything too, one person saying one thing and another something else. It comes across as being unhelpful and disinterested and is extremely difficult to deal with. I get fed up with the macho attitude of workmen towards the women that they deal with too.

    (March 2011)