Written by Sarah Hendrickx

Lifestyle

So long, adieu, auf wiedersehen, goodbye

In our expat abroad Sarah Hendrickx’s last column, she’s giving you tips on how to get the most for your euro when buying overseas. Effects of Brexit notwithstanding.

cat peering through gate, somewhereSo this is it, guys. We won’t be doing this again.

In my final written piece for Standard Issue, I thought I’d share a few nuggets of obsessively gleaned knowledge on where to escape to either on a temporary or permanent basis.

As some of you who have follow my smug, foreign bumblings will already know:

1. I am autistic.
2. I live part-time in Portugal.
3. I am obsessed with overseas property.

Now, I know about as much as the entire British government about what this darned Brexit business will bring, so don’t blame me if you spend your hard-earned savings/credit card limit on a bolthole in Biarritz which then becomes only visitable for 10 days a year on a 500 quid visa once Mrs May has pissed everyone off.

(May looks to me like the awkward, uncomfortable-in-her-own-skin girl at school who was moderately good at netball. Even my eight-year-old grandson has got the measure of her: “She doesn’t look like a president [sic]; she looks like a headteacher.” And not a very scary one, at that.)

In the absence of any sense or knowledge, let’s assume that you are stupid/smart enough to chuck some money at Europe in order to have some nice holidays, retirement or just find somewhere to cry in and beg the locals for forgiveness when it all goes horribly wrong over here. (I voted Remain; can you tell?)

I am a realist when it comes to thinking of places to hang out in foreign climes. They need to be easy to get to and easy to pay for. The first thing I would look at is where you live and how easy it is to leave there.

If you live near a ferry port, think about Normandy, Brittany and how far you are willing to drive south for a few days away. Property prices are very good value in these areas, mostly because it’s not much warmer than here. Think Cornwall with crepes.

house in the mountains
If you live near an airport, find out where it flies to, how often and how much for – prices rocket in school holidays for tourist type destinations but can be super-cheap in the winter. Sites such as www.skyscanner.net are ace for this. They allow to search for ‘Everywhere’ which is just fab.

Think about flight times. Gatwick to Nice is about 1hr 50 mins, Birmingham to Barcelona is 2hrs 10 mins. Don’t think for a minute that you can afford to live in Barcelona or Nice but your shack in the hills/cupboard in the ‘burbs has to be accessed from somewhere.

Don’t forget to add the journey time in on the other side and how you will make it – hiring cars can get pricey in high season and public transport is not always great if you’re heading somewhere rural.

“You may also want to consider the weather at the times of year that you want to visit. Portugal is fantastic in spring and autumn but way too hot for about four months in the summer and pisses down in January.”

My pad in Portugal is a 35-minute drive to Gatwick, a 2hr 20min flight from Gatwick to Faro plus a one-hour drive once I arrive. In total door-to-door is about eight hours. In my opinion, that’s a bit long for a weekend break but OK if you can stay for a week or two at a time.

Bordeaux, on the other hand is a 1hr 10min flight and then an hour or so into Aquitaine (glorious sandy beaches and pine trees) or Dordogne (stunning villages and lots of meat). Google Maps is your friend here. Once you have finished this little fun-times exercise you should have narrowed down your possibilities a bit.

You may also want to consider the weather at the times of year that you want to visit. Portugal is fantastic in spring and autumn but way too hot for about four months in the summer and pisses down in January. Check out historical climate data on sites like www.wunderground.com. (Yes, I am a fucking nerd, get over it.) This will narrow things down a bit further.

And what about price? Where are the bargains to be had? In short, the best value for money in many European countries in terms of size v cost are in rural villages where the population has wandered off to the cities in search of employment, resulting in supply outstripping local demand.

kitchen wth orange decor
In France particularly, lesser known regions such as Lot-et-Garonne, Hérault and Aude can yield some sun-filled summers not far from the Med and the mountains. In some of these regions, you can find a village house for under €50,000 – sometimes much less, but you’d expect to do some work for that.

Spain is a similar story. I found a three-bedroom apartment 48 miles inland from Barcelona for €23,000. In Bulgaria, you can get a four-bedroom house for that; in Crete, a small cottage. I could go on… and on… and on…

My time and my words are up. It’s been a blast, really. If you ever make it, send me a postcard or something. I’d love to know where you went and how infinitely grateful you are.

@sarah_hendrickx

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Written by Sarah Hendrickx

Sarah Hendrickx is a writer, author, autism specialist and occasional standup comedian. She lives part-time in rural Portugal where she tries to make friends with geckos and grows broad beans. Her book about moving overseas, How to Leave the Country is available on Kindle/e-book. She blogs at www.bicyclesandbiscuits.com.