What’s not to love about BBC2’s new property-search show Escape to the Continent? It’s got beautiful homes at prices that seem incredibly cheap to your average Briton.
It offers the possibility of swapping your suburban existence in rain-soaked England for life in a château in France.
Take Hilary and Joe, the couple I saw quit their three-bedroom semi in Sheffield for the rural delights of Poitou-Charentes. Under the guidance of former Pop Idol judge Nicki Chapman, the pair viewed four homes in the region. With a budget of up to £500,000, they were looking for somewhere that also offered some sort of business opportunity, such as gîtes.
First, they went to the village of Availles-Limouzine, in the east of the region, where they viewed a beautiful converted barn that had two further barns with planning permission for conversion. At just £408,000, husband Joe was sold, giving it a score of 11 out of ten.
Inevitably, given the premise of such shows, house number two proved even better – scoring a resounding 13 out of ten from Joe. Again, its price tag of £363,000 seemed a bargain.
The third house was an actual château, complete with turrets. At £422,000, it also came in under budget, and was being run as a chambres d’hôtes. However, it was clear that the house required far more upkeep than the couple could commit to. On this one, wife Hilary put her foot down.
Finally, we came to Nicki’s ‘mystery house’, a secluded property dating back to the 1400s with a waterwheel that could generate a reasonable income for the pair. Located on the banks of a river, they could also have run various services for tourists, such as canoe hire or biking holidays. And all for £513,000.
What’s nice about these shows is to see the looks of delight and disbelief on the faces of the participants when they realise they can afford homes like these.
As for Nicki Chapman, if you watched the show with the sound off, you wouldn’t have the first idea what she thought. She appears to have had so much Botox and filler pumped into her face that registering any kind of emotion is beyond her.
That’s almost as entertaining as the rest of the show.