Twenty years ago we rented an apartment (in the Beaujolais) and I spent three years exploring every corner of France to find our home. I found the best way to discover France was by rail and stay in local B&B to get the feel of a town or village (and masses of information from the owner) – for us Languedoc was the perfect region with sun, civilization contentment and opportunity, and we have lived here for seventeen years, moving only once, a few kilometers down the road, to a larger home so our parents could come and live with us and our family.
We now run a guest house and many people staying with us do exactly what you suggest, rent a studio or stay as our B&B guest for a few days or up to several months, to understand the region and what it has to offer – many of our guests have now bought homes here and others decided to look in other parts of France.
The only way to discover France (or anywhere I guess) is to live in a community and make it your “home” – as we say on our websites – “stay with us, from one day – to a lifetime” – My advice is to choose one region, go there and stay awhile – every village will have a unique personality so sit in the cafe – talk to the secretary in the Mairie, ask the boulanger about the town and avoid the estate agents – if you don’t fall in love with one place – try another region – if you find your ideal spot, stop looking and your new home will reveal itself
Tony and Carole at Villa Roquette