‘People in the Lot don’t care if I’ve been on TV’

Award-winning English TV producer, writer and housewife Samantha Brick says that before she moved to The Lot area of south west France, she barely knew where it was. Now she raves about the idyllic region and tells The Local how life among the rolling hills keeps her grounded.

'People in the Lot don't care if I've been on TV'
English writer and TV producer Samantha Brick at her home in Gindou, in The Lot. Photo: Courtesy of Samantha Brick.

Writer and producer Samantha Brick became a global name in 2012 after her article on the Daily Mail website, entitled “There are downsides to looking pretty: Why women hate me for being beautiful” went viral. It was not long before the name Brick was trending globally on Twitter.

Life has since been a little more tranquil for the former Celebrity Big Brother contestant, thanks in no part to the peace and quiet of living in the picturesque Lot region of south west France. Here she reveals to The Local some secrets about the area.

Where are you from Samantha?

I’m originally from Birmingham in England, though I lived London from the age of about 18 to 36.

So how did you end up in the Lot?

Well, I’d visited a few places in France over the years – Paris, St. Tropez and Cannes, for my TV work. But before I arrived here, I think I’d have given you a blank look if you mentioned ‘the Lot’ to me. I had no idea where it was.

However, back in 2007, a girlfriend of mine from London invited me to come and stay with her there.

And what made you stay?

I had a totally unexpected, whirlwind romance with a Frenchman when I got here, and I very quickly decided to move here permanently, and I’ve been living here since September 2007.

What’s the first place you always take visitors in The Lot?

I have a ritual. Whether it’s film producers or simply friends, the first spot I always take anyone is to my absolute favourite restaurant, the Auberge de la Place, in Cazals. It has all the typical, traditional French food, like duck and seafood, but their real specialty that first-timers have to try is the steak frites.

And then?

Well, if I’m showing off, I’ll take friends to a place called Prayssac, which is a little town in the Lot that’s like our Notting Hill. It has all trendy little boutiques with clothes you can’t find anywhere else in the world, and a lively rural market.

What about somewhere you keep all to yourself?

That’s a cheeky one, but I’d have to say there’s a little place in a small village called Dégagnac, called the Auberge Sans Frontières. It’s like a lot of old-fashioned French restaurants – when they’re full, they’re full, so it can be difficult to get a reservation or find a table. But when I first arrived here, I tried their scallops and completely fell in love.

How does the Lot compare to the rest of France?

The main thing is that the people are very different, and I’ve had to adapt myself to them. They’re really down-to-earth, and they don’t care if I’ve been on the telly, or I know Kelly Brook, or any of that. And they’ll tell me so. What matters around here is how much land you own.

They follow the seasons carefully, there are still a lot of rural rituals, and family is massively important. And there’s a lot to be said for that.

What do you miss most about home?

You know what I really miss? The camaraderie of English girlfriends. One thing I’ve noticed is that French women don’t seem to have that same spirit of inviting you on a night out.

You don’t really see French women sitting around and laughing in cafés, or sharing gossip or sharing secrets. And I do miss that.

What advice would you give to another expat thinking of moving to the Lot?

I’m going to assume they can speak French, because that’s essential. It’s a buyer’s market at the moment, so actually you’d be pretty likely to snap up a good bargain for a home here.

However, do your homework on the area you’re thinking about, and definitely meet the neighbours before you move in. You’re not just moving into the Lot, you’re moving into a community – and whether you like it or not, your neighbours are going to be an important part of your daily life.

Finally, do you plan to stay there?

Yes I do – for the foreseeable future anyway. From time to time I think it might be nice to move a bit further south, but honestly I’d miss the scenery here too much.

Also, my husband’s parents live just 40 minutes away, and it’s very important for us to stay here for that reason, too. 

Samantha Brick's memoir of moving to France is out now:
"Head over Heels in France: Falling in Love in the Lot" (Summersdale) is available in paperback and Kindle.

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Tourism minister: Book your French ski holiday now

France’s ski resorts will be open for business this winter, tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne has promised - but no decision has yet been taken on whether a health pass will be required to use ski lifts.

Skiers at a French Alpine resort
Photo: Philippe Desmazes / AFP

“This winter, it’s open, the resorts are open,” Lemoyne told France 2’s 4 Vérités programme.

“Compared to last year, we have the vaccine,” he said, adding that he would “invite those who have not yet done so to [book], because … there will soon be no more room.”

And he promised an answer ‘in the next few days’ to the question of whether health passes would be required for winter holidaymakers to use ski lifts. “Discussions are underway with the professionals,” he said.

The stakes are high: the closure of ski lifts last winter cost manufacturers and ski shops nearly a billion euros. 

This year ski lifts will remain open, but a health pass may be necessary to access them. The health pass is already compulsory for après ski activities such as visits to bars, cafés and restaurants.

COMPARE The Covid rules in place at ski resorts around Europe

Many town halls and communities which depend on winter sports have found it difficult or impossible to make ends meet.

“It’s time for the French mountains to revive,” Lemoyne said, pointing to the fact that the government has provided “more than €6 billion” in aid to the sector.

Winter tourism professionals, however, have said that they are struggling to recruit for the winter season.

“Restaurant and bars are very affected,” by the recruitment crisis, one expert told Franceinfo, blaming a lack of urgency from authorities towards the winter holiday industry.

“We are all asking ourselves what we should do tomorrow to find full employment in the resort,” the expert added.

Post-Brexit visa and work permit rules mean that ski businesses have found it difficult to recruit Brits for short-term, seasonal positions.