About

Vanessa Couchman

Occitanie, France

I’m a refugee from corporate life. I took a first degree in History at Oxford University longer ago than I care to remember. Early on, I worked in publishing for 10 years. I then took an MBA at Warwick Business School, went into public sector research and finally decided there was more to life than the four walls of an office. My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in Southwest France in 1997.

Having run my own business writing for clients for 20 years – and also contributing to magazines about French life – I now focus on writing novels and short stories (see my separate writing website).

I’ve published two novels so far in my Tales of Corsica series: The House at Zaronza (early 20th-century Corsica and World War I) and The Corsican Widow (18th-century Corsica and Marseille).

My third novel, Overture, the first in a trilogy set in France and covering the period 1898 to post-WWII was published in 2019. I published a prequel novella to the series, Augustine, in 2020.

Many more novels jostle for position in my head.  

When I’m not doing any of those things I like food and wine; yoga and walking (antidote to the first interest); music – anything by Mozart, especially Don Giovanni, or Chopin; gardening; and researching the fascinating history of the area where I live and of the people who once lived in our house.

You can contact me here.

46 comments

  1. Hi

    My name is Joyce, I am a marketing executive at expatfinder.com which is a leading expat information and services website.

    I saw on your blog that you are and expat. I wish to interview you to further share some of your tips. The questions are mainly about the housing, the daily life etc.

    It just takes 5 minutes (or more depending if you have lots to say 🙂

    Of course, if you accept we can add a link to your blog or some of your website.

    If you are interested to participate at this project, please send me an email at interview@expatfinder.com.

    Like

    • Thanks for the contact. In fact, WordPress put your comment into the spam bin and I’ve only just found it. An easier and surer way to contact me is to go to the Contact tab in the top bar. That is pretty sure to get to me – and that’s what it’s there for. I will reply by email to you request.

      Like

  2. Hi Vanessa and thanks for visiting and following my blog. Compared to you I’m a newbie expat – just two years and I’ve never regretted a moment of it. I’m living just on the borders of Aude and Ariege so you can’t be far away. Good luck with the blog, I’ll follow it with pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for following me back. Glad to hear you’re enjoying life here. We know the Aude a little since we spent a couple of holidays at Bize-Minervois before moving here. Our 19 years here have gone in a flash! I expect you will find the same. Look forward to reading your blog, too.

      Like

  3. Congratulations, Vanessa! I have nominated you for a Liebster Award. I think the hard work you have put into your blog deserves recognition. You can find out more about the award on my blog.
    It’s now up to you whether you choose to accept it. I hope you do.
    All the best, Graham

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What an interesting life! I’m stopping by after reading Jane’s review of your new work of fiction. Somehow she found me in rural Indiana and we keep track of one another via the Internet. I am a former newspaper reporter and editor and homeschooling mom with my first novel in the works. And, I’m 61. So, you can imagine how encouraging your foray into fiction is to me! I’m looking forward to reading your book. I’ve been to England several times, but never to France. I hope someday to change that! Thank you for sharing your life with your readers.

    Like

    • Thank you for your comment, Ingrid. It’s good that one can be in contact with people on the other side of the world! I hope you enjoy my book – and that you get to France one day. And good luck with your novel.

      Like

    • I’m honoured, thank you! I had one of these a couple of years ago but lost the badge when I changed blog theme. I’ll pop over to yours and make my grateful (but not tearful!) acceptance speech.

      Like

  5. Hello Vanessa, You may remember me from Macmillan days in Basingstoke! But I retired from all that 6 years ago. We own a house in the Spanish (or, rather, Catalan Pyrenees) and although we do not live in it we spend much time there. I do enjoy reading of your experiences which are in many ways similar to ours, especially the unexpectedly cold winters.
    One of my retirement occupations has been to translate into English the diary of a Spanish Civil War veteran who lived near our village and which was published locally a few years ago. He is, or was, a short while ago, still alive and I have discussed the book with him. He was exiled with the Republican forces when Catalonia fell to Franco in January 1939 and ended up in a refugee camp at Septfonds which I am sure is near you but I can find no trace of it. Do you know anything about it? I do know the French were not proud of their record in looking after Spanish Republican refugees and may have conveniently erased all trace. Any thoughts?

    Best wishes

    Alastair (Gordon)

    Like

    • Hi Alastair,
      Nice to hear from you. I have replied by email with what I know – which is not a huge amount – but will certainly pass on any additional information I get.
      Best wishes,
      Vanessa

      Like

  6. Hi Vanessa,

    I am writing a blog post about Toulouse and I found some very nice pictures on your site. Can I use some of them, citing your site as the author? My blog is http://da-scoprire.678voli.it/ (in Italian language) and I am writing about various cities, mostly in Europe.

    Thanks,
    Debora

    Like

    • Hi Debora,
      Thank you for asking. Yes, you may use the photos provided you credit my site, as you indicate. Please let me know when you have published your post about Toulouse – I’d like to read it. I understand a little Italian.
      Regards,
      Vanessa

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  7. Dear Vanessa,
    I was a bass at the Puycelsi concert and also father of the organist. I am treasurer of the SW France Oxford University Society and wonder if you would like to join. We have a website at
    ousswfrance.co.uk which gives a good idea of our events; It would be good to have you as a member and I’m sure you will find a number of new or old friends among our members.

    Richard O’Neill

    Like

  8. Hi Vanessa

    I’ve been reading your blogs for many months and love your area of the country, so much that we are planning to move there from the UK mid September, we have sold our house (fingers cross) and now need to find a winter rental just for the two of us while we house hunt and check out what it is really like in the winter having spent many summer holidays there. You don’t happen to know of any winter rentals in your area do you? I am finding it exceedingly difficult to find much available there.

    Thanks for any help/advice you can give.

    Like

    • Hi Sherrie,
      Right now, I don’t know of any winter rentals but I will ask around a bit. Sometimes gîte owners are happy to rent their gîte out over the winter but you need to bear in mind that they might not be well heated since they are only for summer occupancy. If you’ve been reading my blog you’ll know it can be cold here in winter!

      Another option is to see if people might want house sitters for a couple of months in the winter when they go off to warmer climes. There are various websites that bring people together for that purpose. A couple of reasonable ones are House Carers and Mind my House. You could try registering on those.

      There are also a lot of people who live here only in summer and who might be prepared to let someone live in their house for a couple of months. You could try putting a notice on Taglines, which is a news/events blogsite for Tarn-et-Garonne, Tarn, Aveyron etc. Run by Val Johnstone.

      If I hear of anything that might interest you, I’ll email you directly.

      Good luck!

      Vanessa

      Like

      • Don’t forget the Trusted Housesitters website – we were lucky enough to land a five month housesit in the Midi Pyrnees through there and there’s plenty of other housesits in Southern France on the site.

        Like

  9. Help Vanessa. My husband and I moved out to France in 1989 and quite by chance on holiday, found St Antonin Noble VAL and Septfonds having come from Lot et Garonne. We happened on the Fete de Battages and have been coming to the area several times a year since. We have also been members of the aeroclub of Septfonds and have landed there on several occasions. We too have tried to find the dolmens having taken that same track to get to the airfield. Today is May22nd and we were in St A last week! I found your comments while trying to get info on the monument at the side of the road from St A to Montricoux. A fascinating area and one we really love.

    Like

    • Hi Alison, nice to meet you and I see you are following, for which many thanks. This is a beautiful area with plenty to see. I found one dolmen but have no idea where the other 14 are at Septfonds! I expect you found my post about the French Resistance, which included the Maquis d’Ornano monument on that road between Saint-Antonin and Montricoux. Worth a look when you are next over this way.
      Best wishes,
      Vanessa

      Like

  10. Hi Vanessa
    I just read your blog and found it interesting. Please let me tell you something about myself: My name is Michael and I run a small company offering international relocation services for people moving around Europe. What we are looking for is a blogger like you who can write an article (kind of a guide) based on your experiences while living in a foreign country for those who are planning to move to the same as you country.

    If your article (s), if helpful, unique and interesting it will be published on our website http://www.europeanrelocations.co.uk .

    The information we would like to be included in the article are:

    • information about local culture and customs
    • practical information about finding accommodation and jobs
    • and possibly some information about local officialdom and immigration policy

    You might like to write it in English or other European language. You can also support your article with links to the third party sources of information.

    Ps: If you already own a collection of interesting articles we would like you link them to our website. We will obviously pay for it.

    Hope you can help

    I look forward hearing from you.

    Michael

    Like

  11. Ravie de trouver votre blog ! Ancienne habitante américaine de la Bretagne, repatriée aux USA depuis peu, je trouve que la vie compagnarde en France me manque énormément. Mais je crois que votre blog m’aidera avec ça ! Merci de prendre le temps de l’écrire.

    Like

    • Merci de votre gentil message. La France doit vous manquer. Je sais qu’elle me manquérait si je revenais en Angleterre – quoique pour le moment nous grelottions de froid! Cela ne peut pas durer.

      Like

  12. Hi Vanessa, I’ve nominated you for my Forget me not Award. I enjoy reading your blog, and love your photos. Keep writing, reading, enjohying music and food and life, and most of all recording your memories.
    Cheers, Kate

    Like

    • Thanks so much, Kate, that’s really kind of you. I’ll come over and get it when I have a moment. I have another award as well that I have to pass on to 5 other people – you are on my list. Will be in touch soon.

      Like

  13. Hi Vanessa,
    I read your response to the Kick Off 2012 with Project 365… I am quite new to blogging, but have posted 135 blogs since starting on 27 August 2012, 134 of them since I set myself the challenge to blog every day since 2 September 2011 (I didn’t know about the WordPress challenge). My life goal is to blog something worthwhile and interesting for others, for the rest of my life, as I am following my own journey of dementia.
    I agree there are lots of bloggers out there who use blogging as their medium, but who perhaps would be better served to use a social networking site instead.
    I’ve enjoyed finding and reading your blog via the Daily Digest.
    Cheers,
    Kate

    Like

    • Hi Kate,
      Thanks for your comment. I perhaps expressed myself a little harshly in my response to the WordPress post about Project 365. However, I was rather cross with them for encouraging people to blog when, as you say, they have other ways of expressing themselves. I really felt that some blogs deteriorated when people followed the challenge to post every day without having something to say. You have set yourself a worthwhile goal and fall into my category of people who do have something to say; and I wish you all the best on your own journey.
      Best wishes,
      Vanessa

      Like

  14. I can’t seem to find your contact email. Basically I wonder if I could tap into your local knowledge, as I’m looking to locate a large quantity wooden wine boxes. Obviously the supermarkets would be a first port of call, but I wonder if the high-end vineyards would have a surplus.
    Any pointers would be gratefully appreciated.
    Seasonal greetings
    Ross McCulloch
    rossmcculloch@hotmail.com

    Like

  15. Hi Vanessa,
    Our blogs appear at ‘ A taste of Garlic’, and I would like to send you an email about our new online magazine, but feel that this is not the place to get in touch with you about it. Could you please send me your mail address?
    Thanking you in advance,
    Kind regards,

    Caroline

    Like

    • Hi James,
      Thanks for telling me about your network. In fact Catharine had already asked me and I haven’t yet had time to do anything about it!
      Regards,
      Vanessa

      Like

  16. Hi Vanessa: I just finished reading your Top 10 Survival Tips article and really liked the “tone”. I am writing because I am hoping to get information on an affordable tax preparer who could give me an estimate on what my taxes would be after I (hopefully) retire in France. (I am a resident of the USA.) I also would like to know if it is possible (e.g. after living in France for 5 yrs) to get onto their health system.
    I am learning the language and doing gobs of research, but objective and accurate info. can be hard to come by.
    Many thanks for your consideration and time.
    A

    Like

    • Hi A, thanks for reading my blog and I hope you found the Top 10 Tips helpful. I can’t really help you directly on either of your questions (taxation and health system) since I am an EU citizen and the rules are probably different for US residents. However, as a first off, there are a couple of websites you might find useful:

      www[dot]internationalliving[dot]com – is aimed specifically at US citizens looking to live abroad and there is a lot of helpful info on the site. They also publish a monthly magazine.

      www[dot]expat-blog[dot]com – a forum for expats of all nationalities. If you go to the France section you’ll find blogs by Americans living in France. Some of them might be able to help.

      You don’t say what region you hope to move to, but you could see if there is an American Expats Association there(there certainly is in Paris, but I can’t remember the exact name). Try Googling it.

      I hope this helps and good luck.

      Vanessa

      Like

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