I suspect that John would have been a "Land Agent" at the time, collecting Rents etc.
Also that the family is recorded as "On .... farm" rather than simply the address.
I have no experiemce of French Records, apart from general background. From that it seems that they are not centralised and very few are available on the Web.
You should try locating the Marriage and/or Death Recors for those two boys, as particularly the Death Record may have more details.
That sojourn in France does suggest that John Sims had the confidence and education to move there for a period.
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