Ever since I was a young adult I’ve been fascinated by the idea of uprooting to follow a new life abroad, particularly one that’s inspired by the place and a new way of life rather than job opportunities or political turmoil. The phenomenon of Britons moving to France has a long history. More recently, Britons have migrated in particular to regions such as Brittany, Normandy, Dordogne and Provence. But English voices can be heard in out-of-the-way pockets of France too. I’ve spent years researching British incomers in a département that borders the Pyrenees – Ariège – a little-known area of south-west France with some beautifully wild and remote corners.
People said Don’t do a PhD! although it was one of the best things that I ever did, enabling me to research deeply into my interests and come away with a doctorate. But the academic world is too limiting for me, so I’m following my interests and stepping out to a wider audience. There are links to my mixed-methods linguistics book and journal papers on the Academic Publications page, for those who are interested. For an audio summary of my research, listen to the podcast that I recorded for the BrExpats research project.
From now on I’ll be sharing thoughts from past and present for every kind of reader. You’ll find these as regular articles on the Blog page.
I’m lucky to be able to spend my spare time hiking and cycling around the Ariège Pyrenees. The Illustrated Ariège walks page outlines some of my favourite Pyrenean hikes. There are plenty of walking books and online route sites in French, and I’ve linked to these where relevant, but there aren’t that many in English. I’ve discovered most of my walks by looking at a map and aiming for a particular feature or ridge, or from local word of mouth. New walks will be added from time to time.
The Ariège images page gives a flavour of the immense variety of Ariège landscapes: the high mountain ridges above the wooded valley sides, the glacier-gouged cirques – straight out of a geography textbook! – the rustic architecture and the cascading waterfalls. And, because this is the internet, there’s a page dedicated to photos of laid-back Ariège cats.