Karen

Life Before Gascony?

I lived in Paris for sixteen years where I worked as a translator, in Advertising and in Teaching – setting up a language school for business professionals studying English.
Life was “Parisian” – Paris! – the the city where all my first experiences took place, from learning to drive, to getting married, to finding my first job, to having my first baby.
La Vie Parisian was all I knew of France – and I loved it. It is an incredible city and one to which I will always return.

Why Gascony?

My first job in Paris was in La Défense – on the 31st floor of a skyscraper. As a country girl from Cheshire I had grown up in an idyllic area with sheep on the hills and cows in the fields. I loved the city but found myself dreaming of a house in stone in the South of France. My favourite hobby was buying a newspaper called the PAP with adverts all over France – including the Gers or Gascony.
I would leaf through it and dream of owning a field or a vineyard or a tree! – whilst living at the time in a 27m2 studio in the Chinese quarter.
Years later, when looking to escape the city in search of space and sunshine I remembered the old dream. Only the prices had shot up by then and everyone else seemed to have discovered this undiscovered part of the world too! Oh, for a “Tardis” – and the chance to travel back in time!

How has Gascony changed you?

In a rural area such as Gascony you must be resilient and look for ways to survive.
There wasn’t enough work in teaching business English so I had to re-train if I wanted to eat.
I quickly learnt that if you don’t make things happen yourself no-one will come banging on your door with a job. This is a place of tradition where for centuries little had changed.
In other words, you might have to dig deep within to create your own business. If there isn’t a vegetarian/organic restaurant, why not start one? Or if there isn’t an international theatre group – why not begin one? In many ways Gascony is still a place almost locked out of time and the modern world, and so a brilliant place in which to explore all kinds of crazy ideas.

What have you most enjoyed
about setting up Bliss?

The freedom to be creative. To try new things. To be different. To play with an image, a logo or a brand and to develop it, to the point where at first it felt as if Bliss was only an extension of my own mad creative dreams and now I feel it has flown and exists outside of “me” and belongs to all of the team. I could move on – but Bliss would still fly, because it has an identity now.
There were certain things which are integral – concepts which if the agency were to become a franchise would be part of the Bliss ethic – Creativity, Strong Visuals and Text. A sense of place and story in the text. A magazine -style approach.
But most importantly – putting people first. This sounds like a throw-away line, or a cliché, but it isn’t. I want to sleep at night and know we have made the lives of our customers better not worse. It is better to lose a commission than to compromise integrity and this is non-negotiable. What is lovely about the team we have today is that we all share this philosophy. None of us were estate agents before, and none of us identify with the tired image which is sadly attached to the world of real estate in France. We have all been « around the block” in other lives and we know the kind of international service we would expect as home buyers ourselves.

How do you see the world
of real estate in the future?

We are experimenting with new forms of media for 2020 – and thinking of ways in which an agency can showcase its properties in an age where anyone with an ounce of talent can take a photo on an Iphone and pop it online.
Innovation and Professionalism will keep the role of an estate agent relevant over time.
It is imperative we keep abreast of the new changes in property law in order to advise and protect our clients and in order to offer a unique and inimitable advertising experience.

What advice would you give to someone moving to Gascony?

Make sure that you have the funds in place to survive. A pension for some – for others still needing to work, a solid business plan.
It requires money to live in rural France, just as it does anywhere else in the world, and a nest egg can soon disappear.
Big old Gascon houses require funds to run and to restore – and yes, you do need to heat the house and insulate the roof! Winters can be cold.
If you intend to work here, then you will need a serious plan. Check out the feasibility of your idea before throwing all your money into a property.
I speak from experience!
If you don’t speak French, throw yourself in the deep end! Be brave! Take a course. Make non-English speaking friends. Join a club.
It is the best way to learn and to fully embrace the wonderful and enriching experience of living abroad.

Outside of Bliss?

I run literary retreats and I write novels.
My first book “A Stranger in Paris” was published in the UK by IMPRESS in December 2018 under my pen name Karen Webb.

Buy on Amazon

The editor

Book 2 will be published in spring 2020.

Literature has always been a major part of my life – and Bliss has been heavily influenced by this.

In the future we hope to bring you more articles and blogs on “Life in Gascony” in our magazine section.