After four years living in Oslo, we decided to leave Norway and move back to France, in the area of Valbonne Sophia Antipolis, north of Cannes, what the French call “La Cote d’Azur”. It will be our first time living in France, as a couple and family, as my husband left his home country in 2000 and I did in 2003.
You might have seen our House Hunting adventures on Instagram. Now is time to sit down and share why we are making this big move, which might be our last after changing country 3 times!
1. Nice is the 3rd busiest airport in France
The reason why we came to Oslo was my husband’s job, at KBN, the State Bank in Norway. In January 2018, he left and started a job at Fenixys based in La Defense, the business district near Paris. For one and a half year he’s been travelling 3 days a week, either to go to his office or on client site in London, Utrecht etc…
Flying from Oslo is OK, but you don’t have that much choice in departure and arrival times, so we thought about choosing a bigger more convenient airport for those destinations. Nice airport is ideal to fly back to Paris with their half hourly shuttles, it also offers lots of flights to London and Northern Europe in general. You also have direct flights to New York, Miami or Dubai if you wish to travel a bit further.
2. The weather is exceptional
Lots of sun, mild winter, it will be a big change from Oslo! You can even swim late October:
3. Close to the Mediterranean Sea
I love the sea: swimming, snorkeling, strolling on the beach. Our eldest son developed a passion for sailing! From our new house it will be 20 min to Villeneuve Loubet Yacht Club and 30 min to that of Antibes. He can sail from April to October.
4. Close to Ski fields
So what do you do from December to April? Skiing! The first slopes are 45 min away and for seasoned skiers you can drive 1,5 hour to Isola 200 and Aurons. We love skiing. When we came back to Europe, we’ve been flying every year to Kinderhotels in Austria. Going forward we can just drive for the week end!
5. Good International Schools
The reason why we chose the Valbonne area is because of its free public schools with International Sections. Kids from both International and French section are mixed in a class and the International ones spend 6-8 hours extra studying their section language including litterature, poetry, drama. That means that the population of those school is quite diverse, with kids coming from all parts of Europe but also the Americas and Australia!
That’s important to us. The kids were born in Sydney and have never lived in France. We didn’t want to end up in a place were no-one could relate to their situation and multi cultural upbringing.
After a lot of research on the Internet, talking to friends and friends of friends, we set eyes on two middle schools: College Niki de St Phalle in Valbonne and College Cesar in Roquefort-les-Pins.
As such, those schools catchment areas would determine where we live. If you are in the same situation, here is a precious document I found, detailing for the whole area (departement), which street goes to which school: Carte Scolaire des Alpes Maritimes
Of course it is a priority for me, and for us as a family. Provence is where lots of flowers but also fruits grow. Heard of lemons from Menton, melons from Cavaillon? Last April, we went down to find a house and bought a whole kilos of amazingly sweet and tasty strawberries from Carpentras for only €8,9 a kilo! In Oslo it’s what we pay for greenhouse Dutch strawberries.
We can’t wait to eat local in season melons, watermelons, peaches, apricots etc… We also found supermarkets with a whole fresh fish shop and butcher section. They also have two full aisles of organic produces. As an example, almond milk there is half price vs Oslo.
Restaurant wise, Nice is full of small gastro-pubs and bistros. Totally fell in love with this one, La Movida, with a terrasse on the first floor over looking the Promenade des Anglais, a massive cocktail selection and nice tapas like baked truffled camembert!
We found two bubble tea places in Antibes, but we are still yet to find a good Cantonese restaurant with Dim Sums. Recommendations anyone?
First when my husbands asked me last June: “Why don’t we move to Nice?”, I answered back: “I’m tired of moving. I’m happy here. Sell me the idea”. This is what he did. He grabbed the tablet, browsed seloger.com and showed me villas we could afford. 200 sqm with land and a swimming pool! How can you not resist?
It’s no wonder why Provence and Cote d’Azur are such a popular tourist destination. In addition to the beach and sea, there is the countryside and all its historical villages, art galleries and museums. Every week end we can drive and discover a new place.
9. Be part of the community
We loved living in Oslo for it’s safe, clean, not over crowded and easy. Upon arrival, I took two months intensive course and reached a A2 level, I can order at restaurants, get by in shops but I can’t follow the local news.
At home we end up watching the French news or listening to France info and are more interested in what’s happening in our home country, where our friends and family lives. So back to France we will be more in tune with what is happening around us and we could be more involved too as we have full voting rights etc…
10. I get to keep my job
The beauty of working for a tech company is the flexibility of working hours and location. At OneStepCheckout team is already distributed so it’s not adding much complexity that I perform my job remotely. We keep talking as a team via Skype or phone, deal with customers via email and fly to various Magento Events around the world.
What I will miss in Oslo
Oslo tap water is so good. I find it even better than bottled mineral water such as Evian. Tap water in Oslo is also everywhere. In coffees, bar and small restaurant you will always find a jar and glasses available.
Here we walk to school, to the city center, we catch the bus to the beach. We don’t even own a car. In Valbonne, people often have two cars as house are spread and there are no pavements along the road.
Because you can walk everywhere and the streets are clean and safe, you can let children go to their friends or to the supermarket by themselves. In the Valbonne area they will have to take the bus. It’s not even flat enough to ride a bike to go places.
As a friend cleverly pointed out, we invent the life that suits us and make the most of what we’ve got. We are so fortunate to have jobs that allow us to live almost anywhere we want. It won’t be holidays every day. Husband will be away 2 days a week, but things get so much easier than in Zurich now that the boys have grown!
Turns out I’ll be living in the very same village as Phoebe from Lou Messugo who’s done an excellent job promoting #AllAboutFrance on her blog!
33 thoughts on “10 reasons why we are moving to the French Riviera”
Congrats to the both of you! Sounds very exciting and rewarding at the same time. Hope the transition will go smoothly and that everything will be settled in a timely manner. Hope I’ll be able to visit you guys soon.
Thank you chi Thy. It is indeed a bit stressful as we are selling our apartment and buying a house
Une autre bonne raison de descendre sur la côte d’Azur est de venir vous voir alors! Bon déménagement. Kim
Oui! S’il y a des vols directs pour Nancy, Il doit y en avoir pour Strasbourg !
Bonne chance pour cette belle nouvelle aventure!!
Congratulations Thien Lan and Emmanuel! We have been to Nice on holidays and liked it a lot. You will have an amazing time living there! Xx
Thank you Nadya!
You are very lucky to have been able to keep your jobs. We also live in Valbonne from Canada but we are still searching for work. Perhaps we will see you in the square sometime. I have 2 kids 9 and 11. Enjoy the area.
Thanks Tania! All The best to find work in the area!
Bonjour Thien Lan,
C’est avec grand plaisir que j’ai découvert votre blog il y a deja quelques semaines…Nous sommes aux USA actuellement et une nouvelle expatriation direction Oslo se dessine pour nous à l’été 2020…J’arpente donc internet, car comme souvent, c’est surtout la question du logement qui me turlupine 😉 Mais où allons nous encore poser nos valises ??? appart, maison, grand, petit…. Puis je permettre de vous poser qqs questions em mp ? Un grand merci d’avance… et bonne préparation pour ce nouveau projet sous le soleil niçois 😉
Bonjour Florence! Avec plaisir! Toutes les offres de logement sont sur finn.no et sur Facebook il y a des groupes type ” les Français en Norvège”
What a fun adventure you have ahead! That’s an area of France I’ve never visited, so I look forward to your upcoming posts. 😉 #allaboutfrance
Thanks Diane! No time to write but I already have some good pics on Instagram ! #lazy
What an exciting adventure! Living in the south of France sounds like a heavenly idea to me and those villas with pools are calling my name. I crave all that sunshine living in the UK! #allaboutfrance
Yes we are very lucky. Hope you get a similar opportunity then! Thanks for your comment!
We moved to Valbonne nearly 16 years ago now and have no intention of leaving. Life is great here for all the reasons you wrote! You’ve picked a great place to live! Niki is a good school. My eldest is in the International section there. 🙂
Oh, the tap water is good here too!
Welcome to the area!
Thank you Lisa! Good to hear! Hope to see you around soon like at ANZ events?
Do you mean Australia/New Zealand? I don’t tend to do any expat stuff but it’s be nice to meet up for a coffee sometime, maybe with Phoebe too! 🙂
Sounds like a plan! It is so funny that Thien Lan is moving to RLP, having “met” here on #AllAboutFrance a few years ago. Can’t wait to meet in the flesh.
What an exciting adventure!! Good luck with the move. The villa looks very nice. It sounds like you have a lovely community.
Thank you Usha. The villa is not the one on the blog 😉 but nice nevertheless.
All great reasons that I totally agree with, you’ve chosen the best place to live IMO! Looking forward to meeting you in la rentrée. Thanks for linking to #AllAbotuFrance and good luck with the move.
Thank you for your post! Our family is considering a move to the Valbonne/Mougin area this summer, for a similar reason – we both travel a lot for work and the Nice airport is well connected. It is very good to learn about the international section at public middle schools, as I’ve read pretty disparaging things about the French public schools on other blogs. I wonder if you know anything about the primary schools? My kids are 2 & 3. We are also looking at the few bilingual Montessori schools. Thanks!!
Hi Layla! Glad you find it useful. We visited les Colibris, English speaking Montessori school for our 8 year old. They take younger kids. We really liked it but it was a bit far for us with lots of traffic to Sophia Antipolis in peak hours and it’s €10k a year
As for the local public primary school, it took 2 weeks and some bribing for my 8 year old to stop crying. And yet he speaks fluent French. Depends how adaptable and resilient your kids are. But in Valbonne it’s much more international than Roquefort les Pins.
That sounds. all very interesting. Did. you. use any relocation company? I am looking for one in. the area.
Hi Jennifer! Because we are originally from France, we could do without. We booked a couple of real estate agents to tell us the exact location of houses, and we asked friends who live in the area
and you are?
This blog post clearly explain why you chose the French Riviera and what you will miss from Norway (did it turn to be true in the end? :)), but I am more interested to know why your family left Norway.
I couldn’t find a contact form, that’s why I am writing this comment. Are you available for a really quick chat? Thanks!
Good question Thomas. My husband changed job and ended up working for a company based in Paris with clients across Europe. We liked Norway but not speaking the language and not being able to vote and be fully integrated to the local community, we felt limited. That why we looked a our options.
And yes, a look back into the last 12 months is long overdue!