Written by Melissa Rindell
“A friend of the owner wanted to retire and was looking for someone to take over her association, teaching children English,” Elisabeth says.
For the Liddiards it was perfect. Simon is English and Elisabeth, a native of the Bordeaux area, was looking to return to the workforce after taking time off to bring up her children. They agreed immediately and have been involved with The New School Association ever since, Simon, as President, and Elisabeth, as a teacher.
The Liddiards met in England through an ERASMUS program at the University of Humberside. After graduation, they spent six years living in London, where they started their careers. Elisabeth worked in marketing for fashion sportswear companies and Simon in advertising. A job opportunity for Simon brought them to Paris in 2000.
“I loved living in England,” Elisabeth says, “It was easy to find a job, make money, find a place to live. And I liked the work culture. It was more relaxed, more genuine, more straight to the point. But I was really happy to come back to France. I always thought I would start my career in England and return to France for family and I really enjoyed coming back to the French way of living, the quality of products, especially food-wise. People are still cooking here. They’re still buying fresh products. In England, everything is pre-packed.”
After 14 years in Paris, Simon started contemplating changing professions.
“It was a fun, creative environment but hard work with long hours, and very stressful, ” Simon says of his time in the advertising industry, “And after 20 years, you’re not going to do a great deal that’s new. I kept hearing stories about people who had changed occupations and were enjoying new experiences and we were at a window of opportunity with the age of our children that we could move geographically without changing their education.”
Simon’s interest in wine tourism and the proximity of Elisabeth’s friends and family made Bordeaux a natural choice. Simon took a year of sabbatical and got his Masters degree in tourism and hotel management. He went on to work with the Bordeaux Tourist Office to create a jogging route and Urban Wine Trail. Inspired by a tasting room in Santa Barbara, the Urban Wine Trail allows people to experience the wines of Bordeaux without ever leaving the city, through an organised wine-bar crawl.
Passionate about real estate, the Liddiards also started investing in Bordeaux properties. One of the properties they invested in is a building on rue St. James, which they co-own with friends from business school. Un Chateau en Ville is housed in the commercial space. Un Chateau en Ville features all the wines of Chateau Lestrille and is a boutique, tasting room, and restaurant. Today, Simon works at the vineyard in Saint-Germain-du-Puch, where he oversees the boutique, tour program and event space.
Like many ex-pats, Simon has his fingers in a lot of pies and his love for real estate, lead to a position as an estate agent for Leggett Immobilier. Leggett is a British real estate company founded in the Dordogne 20 years ago, who initially specialised in clarifying the muddy water of French real estate for foreign buyers.
“Leggett is a family run business that advises clients on property rather than straight selling. I liked their approach as well as the strong focus on teamwork amongst the 500+ agents in France. The Bordeaux area is extremely interesting to work because it is not homogeneous, making it appealing to a number of different types of buyer. It also helps that it is dynamic and a real melting pot of French people from different regions as well as a high number of expats and foreigners,” Simon says.
Elisabeth’s efforts are more focused. She works full-time at The New School, which offers English classes for children 3-17, in Le Bouscat.
“It’s a great pleasure to wake up every morning and look forward to going to work. I love working with children and really feel I’ve found my true vocation. Feeding young ones and teenagers with English is very satisfying!” Elisabeth says.
In addition to classes during the school year, The New School offers educational holidays in North Devon, through a partnership with Country Cousins.
“Parents kept asking me for recommendations on exchange programs, so I started doing some research,” Elisabeth says. “Country Cousins is family-run and has a history of over 65 years, so I sent Simon to check it out.”
Simon has fond memories of a language exchange he did in La Rochelle when he was 14 and 15 and was eager to make that experience available to the next generation.
“I talked to a lot of French parents who had negative experiences with UK exchanges, so it was important to us to find one that had the quality we were looking for. Country Cousins is akin to what I experienced when I was young. It’s well organised and the activities range from surfing to theatre to sports. At that age, it’s important to make it enjoyable, because that makes kids want to go back and then it becomes their choice to learn.”
Country Cousins offers immersion programs ranging from 1-3 weeks for children as young as 8, during Spring and Summer vacation and a June program for “élèves de 2nde.” The New School is also offering an Acting in English Intensive from June 17 to July 5 in Le Bouscat for élèves de 2nde.
“It’s funny but if we hadn’t bought our house we might have a very different story to tell,” Simon says, “Elisabeth thinks she would still have ended up teaching English and I would still have envisaged real estate at some point, with or without wine! Life is sometimes helped along by chance encounters, the key thing is to embrace them.”
About the author:
Melissa Rindell moved to Bordeaux from New York, where she worked as an actor, playwright and director. Before that she was a sports journalist for the Associated Press and did public relations for the Sydney Blues of the Australian Baseball League, Boston Red Sox, United States Olympic Committee and International Management Group. Melissa has been living in Bordeaux since 2015.