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French or Spanish Pyrenees?

Posted: Sat 21 Dec 2019 14:07
by phila
Hi Everyone,

We've arrived at a crossroads in life and big changes are coming.

We've always thought about the Pyrenees when considering where we'd like to spend more time, having skiied, walked and motorcycled in the mountains previously. The time to do it may be soon.

We have younger friends who have moved to the Spanish side of the mountains (North of and within a commute of Girona) and we're thinking we'd like to find a long-term rental close, but not too close, to them to try out life in the region for a few months.

So what I'd like to ask here is for some biassed views on why the French side is best!

A little information: I'm a software developer, my wife is an English teacher and we have 2 dogs.

Phil

Re: French or Spanish Pyrenees?

Posted: Sun 22 Dec 2019 18:02
by Kate
Welcome to the forum Phil.
French side any time for me.....but I suppose it depends on lots of things; which language you speak fast, what your interests are.....
Bon courage with whatever you choose...or maybe I should say ‘animo’. It’s a great life on either side of the border!

Re: French or Spanish Pyrenees?

Posted: Sun 22 Dec 2019 18:29
by phila
Thanks Kate,

According to French friends I'm ungrammatically fluent ("un peu robotique", though) and about the same in Spanish ... but no Catalan.

It's early days and we need to explore some more.

I'll send another PM later explaining that you and I were once in the same class at school and that you were also a colleague of my Dad's ...

Re: French or Spanish Pyrenees?

Posted: Thu 26 Dec 2019 14:21
by Sus
Hi Phil,
we also looked at both sides and our "biased" opinion was that it gets too hot during summer on the Spanish side even in the mountains, also the country side is very dry/arid. I think you would also need to be fluent in Catalan, not many people in some villages even speak any other languages, Spanish is not going to make you many friends... We have some friends in Gerona and Barcelona (Catalans) and they said that integration can be difficult. In the end, we just felt that the French side offers a better mix for us and our French is much better than our Catalan. But we also wanted to be close enough to easily get over the border, either over Coustouges or Col d'Ares. I think it also depends on how close you want to stay to the coast, there might be a better mix, it was way too busy for us, either side of the border :-) Hope you find your house either side! We also rented for a while and that really helped us to narrow down our choice. Good luck!

Re: French or Spanish Pyrenees?

Posted: Thu 26 Dec 2019 17:44
by Sue11
Another important consideration for us was which food you prefer! I much prefer French food and eating times, Spanish are very late, tho you probably adjust if you’re living here all the time. We pop over the border regularly, but don’t regret buying on the French side.

Re: French or Spanish Pyrenees?

Posted: Fri 27 Dec 2019 12:48
by phila
Thanks very much for the replies, so far. Exactly the kind of input we were looking for.

Of course, we need to get over there and refresh our memory sometime soon!

Re: French or Spanish Pyrenees?

Posted: Mon 30 Dec 2019 15:39
by BobChambers
In terms of integration there's no contest, always the French side.
People kindly refer to Catalans as proud and independent, my description (perhaps unjust?) would be isolationists with no quarter given to outsiders.
I'd rather be in solitary confinement than live in the mountains on the Spanish side.
That's my experience having lived in the P-O for 12 years. Better to be in a place more "french" than "catalan".

Consider around Céret, Amélie les Bains or Prades. All offer a "mountain" setting with access to the higher mountains and also the coast/Perpignan.
The higher mountains/villages are beautiful to visit but all year round do they offer what you want in terms of shops, restaurants, social events and visiting other english speakers?

Re: French or Spanish Pyrenees?

Posted: Mon 30 Dec 2019 16:08
by Merisin
Regrettably I can only agree with the comments made by Bob Chambers concerning the soi disant "Catalans". A friend lives in a quartier inhabited almost exclusive by Catalan sympathisers. She describes an inward looking and unfriendly attitude towards those they view as outsiders. She and her husband are both French.

Given the current political situation over the border I would hesitate to settle there under any circumstances.

Merisin

Re: French or Spanish Pyrenees?

Posted: Mon 30 Dec 2019 16:41
by Madeleine
phila wrote:
Fri 27 Dec 2019 12:48
People kindly refer to Catalans as proud and independent, my description (perhaps unjust?) would be isolationists with no quarter given to outsiders.
- I think it very much depends on the Catalans - I have been made to feel welcome here in Amélie by most people and have managed to become good friends with a couple of Catalans. It takes time to get beyond pleasantries but that is the case in a lot of areas. But I do know people, both French from away and British who have had difficulty integrating with the locals particularly in some of the more remote places like Prats and Saint Laurent.
I would always choose this side of the mountains but I speak French and love the Vallespir. Life is a bit more expensive here than on the Spanish side but you can always get into Spain if you want to.

Re: French or Spanish Pyrenees?

Posted: Fri 03 Jan 2020 09:05
by Sweaty Betty
Totally agree with the stability of the French Catalan region combined with all the wonderful services here. And of course the friendly expat community :D
Renting is the best course so you can "try before you buy".
Give me a shout if you are looking for a place as my friend has a little place suitable.
Happy French New Year.

Re: French or Spanish Pyrenees?

Posted: Mon 06 Jan 2020 13:50
by phila
Thanks very much, we may well be in touch about renting (we have 2 dogs so that needs to be factored in), it won't be for a while as we still have jobs and other stuff to wrap up in Scotland.

I hadn't thought about what our welcome could be like in Catalunya. One of the couple we know is a Catalan native speaker so he may have another point of view, but it sounds as if France would be better for us.

Happy New Year to all!

Re: French or Spanish Pyrenees?

Posted: Fri 31 Jan 2020 17:23
by Owens88
We have a place in Vernet les Bains that could be rented out. A dog used to live in it but I do not have a written endorsement from him. He seemed happy enough.