One of the factors to consider if you are buying a house or property in France, especially if it is a holiday home that you are looking to buy, is the weather. Due to its size France has a wide variation of climate conditions, and for this reason it pays to visit the region where you are thinking of buying at different times of year to get a feel for the seasonal weather conditions.
France lies in the southern half of the temperate climate zone, and can generally be categorized as having a maritime climate, with weather patterns partly influenced by the surrounding bodies of water. This maritime climatic effect declines the further towards the centre and eastwards one travels, where the weather becomes more effected by continental climate factors.
The prevailing westerly trade winds, coming in from
over the warm Gulf Stream Drift and the Canary Current help keep
the winters in western France mild, while also bringing rainfall at any
time of year. In south western France, in the summer, rainfall is
less common than in the north west, and is frequently experienced in
the form of sudden rather violent thunderstorms, sometimes accompanied
by high winds.
Northern France, as you would expect, has weather very similar to that of Southern England with Brittany and the Basse Normandy area and surroundings experiencing quite high rates of rainfall. The winters in this area are generally mild with infrequent frost and snow, and the summers warm. North Eastern France is broadly similar although generally experiencing slightly colder winters and less rainfall than, for example, Brittany at the north western corner.
Whilst in general the weather will be warmer throughout the year the further south you buy your French property, there may be particular regional conditions to be taken into account.
In the Mediterrainean coastal regions for instance, although usually blessed with dry, long, hot summers, they have the mistral. This wind, blowing mainly from a northerly direction, and funneling down the Rhone Valley is particularly strong and cold and can effect the departments of Var, Provence, and eastern Languedoc, at any time of the year: although it is most common in winter and spring. Languedoc also has the tramontane, another cold northerly wind.
As mentioned, due to the warming effect of the winds from the sea, regions nearer the coast don't have as low temperatures in winter as those nearer the eastern central land mass of France, so be prepared for long, hard winters if you buy a house in the mountainous regions of east central France where the continental weather factors and altitude are more in play. Of course, if you are buying a French property to take advantage of the skiing, this may suit you down to the ground. Conversely, in the summer, some inland regions of France can suffer from an overwhelming, stiffling, humid heat. If that sort of heat is not your cup of tea, you may be better off buying a house nearer the north or west coast, where the summers are cooler and the heat can be ameliorated by sea breezes.
It does seem, over recent years, that the weather in France, as elsewhere, is becoming much more changeable and unpredictable. A sucession of poor summers in some regions were followed in 2009/10, for instance, by a particularly long and bitter winter with North and Easterly winds prevailing over most of France. In late winter a particularly violent storm, with winds in excess of 100mph, swept across the mainland: killing over forty people. Perhaps these are some of the early effects of climate change, whether man-made or otherwise, or maybe the weather has always been this unpredicable; only time will tell.
On a more local level, it is possible to find areas or towns that have their own micro climate. I have visited Granville in Normandy for instance on a sunny but bitterly cold, (in the stiff north east wind,) Febuary day and nearly frozen to death one moment looking at the view from the northern side of the point in the old town. Later, sitting in the sunshine outside a cafe overlooking the harbour at the base of the south side of the point, I had discarded my coat and sweater and was pleasantly warm in my teeshirt. At other times of year, Granville can also be bathed in sunshine when the rest of the Manche penninsula is shrouded with thick grey clouds.
The only way to really find out conclusively about the climate in the area of France where you hope to buy your French property is to visit and stay there as often as is possible at various times of year. A great excuse for lots of French holidays!
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Acknowledgements: images used on the left in the text area are mainly from morguefile.com, my thanks to biberta, missyredboots, rosevita, doctor_bob, cohdra, mconners, kairily, clarita, scott. m. liddel, and anyone else from morguefile whose image appears here. All the images in the right hand column on each page have been taken by me during my various travels in France and are copyright of buyahouseinfrance.info.