LONG summer holidays in Villefranche du Périgord meant a fresh start in France was like a homecoming for one Englishwoman.
Tamsin Sutton, 33, spent school holidays and Christmases in the Dordogne visiting her grandparents and had seen the slow change of the village.
And when she decided to set up her own home with her husband, Andrew, there was only one place it could be.
“My grandparents retired to Villefranche about 25 years ago and ran a small business so I often visited and have seen the village change quite a lot,” Tamsin said.
“There used to be more shops, I remember two small, tiny little dark shops on the corner of the market square and there was no bypass road then.”
Tamsin came over in 1992 to help run her grandparent’s business, but her grandfather’s death shortly afterwards meant she had to help in the closure of the company. It was a difficult time.
“I was a single mum with my first child who was two at the time so I’d spend nine months in France, taking him to school and help sort things out with my grandmother,” Tamsin explained.
“The rest of the year we would be back in the UK, it was a hard and I stuck it out but eventually came back to England.”
A few months later Tamsin met Andrew, they married, and his love for the area soon mirrored his new wife’s and the couple decided to head for Villefranche in 1999.
So with three children in tow, no real work prospects and just an understanding of the language the family made their home in the bastide town.
“My first experience of French was working on a building site with brickies and joiners, and they soon took to me,” Andrew, 36, said.
“And I remember getting told off my Tamsin because I wanted her to buy me some cigarettes, she said no do it yourself, so I went into the shop and the assistant spoke English, which was great.”
Now with four children the Sutton family are looking forward to new business opportunities and this summer completed an official course in setting up a company.
They have already launched one web site, with another in the pipeline, and feel part of the community they are living in.
“At Halloween the school children carried paper lanterns, can you imagine that in the UK, two year olds with a candle on the end of a stick,” Tamsin smiled.
“So they marched through the village and the shopkeepers gave them sweets, before they frightened everyone in the old people’s home and then had a big party.”