By Silvia Marchetti | CNN

Ditching the US and relocating close to the French Pyrenees wasn’t part of Taylor Barnes’ life plan.

But as the cost of living in the US increased, and the Los Angeles artist, in her 60s, struggled to find an affordable space where she could support other artists, she began thinking about a new life abroad.

In 2021, Barnes, who is divorced with one daughter, moved to the medieval village of Saissac, in the Aude region of France near the Montagne Noire mountain range.

‘Visually inspiring’

Taylor Barnes at the Chateau de Saissac(Taylor Barnes via CNN Newsource) 

“I considered, among many things, where I would like to live out the last quarter of my life,” Barnes tells CNN.

“I felt the village was visually inspiring, surrounded by forests of oak and pine trees, so many wild bird species I can’t count, and two rivers running down the gorges on both sides of the castle.”

Relocating to another country is rarely simple, but Barnes felt this remote spot in southern France would be an ideal place to hold her residency programs, providing artists with a place to flourish and feel inspired.

“In the US, real estate and cost of living was rapidly making the possibility of an affordable program impossible,” she says.

Barnes, who has spent her entire life living near the ocean, says she felt an “emotional resonance” when she first visited Saissac in 2018 and the village’s pristine surroundings reminded her of coastal California.

Built on a granite outcropping, Saissac offers spectacular views of the Pyrenees – the chain of peaks dividing France and Spain – and the valley below. An ancient medieval castle anchors the village to the mountain, creating a fairytale vibe.

“France felt like home,” she adds, explaining that the view from Saissac has the same “emotional impact” for her as the limitless view of the ocean. “It also looked like home; the topography is very similar to northern California.”

To limit the chance of any unnecessary delays during the relocation process, Barnes hired a consultant to help her navigate the system, adding that it was the best money she’d ever spent.

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“He helped me get my visa, my phone, my bank account, the insurance on my building, and answered pressing questions about taxes and anything else that came up,” she says.

Cozy hideaway

Artists must apply with a specific project before being accepted onto Barnes' residential programs.(Taylor Barnes via CNN Newsource)
Artists must apply with a specific project before being accepted onto Barnes’ residential programs.(Taylor Barnes via CNN Newsource) 

In 2019, Barnes bought an abandoned crawfish restaurant and transformed it into a residency, 3.1 Art Sassaic, where artists could stay and share ideas.

The building, which dates back to the 1900s, was remodeled to offer her guests maximum privacy, with space to hold cozy dinners and events.

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