A Canadian in France

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Remember a few weeks ago I chatted about introducing you to some expats who have set up their own businesses here and have made France their home? Well today I am really excited to get this started and to introduce you to Leanne, who is Canadian. She has lived in France for many years with her French husband, Sylvain, and together they make artisanal soaps. These are soaps that are handmade with only pure natural ingredients, soaps that look so good and smell so divine one almost wants to eat them!

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This entire interview is so enriching and filled with such good advice it will have you mentally packing your bags, if you don’t already live here!

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We first met Leanne and Sylvain in 2008. We were sitting outside the local café enjoying a cup of coffee in the autumn sunshine; it was market day in the tiny picturesque town of Sauveterre de Bearn in the Pyrenees Atlantique. Leanne and Sylvain were selling their soaps at a small stand and they wandered across the road and sat at the table next to us. By chance, we were introduced. In some ways it seems like only yesterday.

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Firstly, how did you meet Sylvain?

Far away from both of our home lands! On a Caribbean island where we were both living and working many years ago; we actually met on a boat (he was the Captain, of course).

Did you speak French at the time and did he speak English?

I studied French immersion in Canada from 12 to 15 years old but it was deeply buried in my subconscious. We “met” in English, which Sylvain speaks quite well and my full time French came when I moved here.

When did you come to live in France full time?

In 2000, so 16 years ago.

Had you visited France as a child and did you ever imagine whilst growing up you would end up living here?

The only other time I had been to France was on a school trip when I was 15 years old. Wow, did we get up to a lot of trouble on that trip! Strangely, I remembered only a few years ago that – after that trip – I had said (to myself) that one day I would live here.

How easy was it to adapt to life in France when you first arrived?

I was lucky enough to have ONE English-speaking friend, who was my savior. I realized much later how lucky I was to be surrounded mostly by people that did not speak English. We lived in a small flat in Bayonne and were friends with all the other residents. We had coffee chez Claude, aperitif chez Christophe & Antoinette etc… because of these people my very rusty French progressed quite quickly. I made the decision, upon arriving here full time, to speak only French with Sylvain. Best decision! It was tough for about 6 months, feeling like the girlfriend with not much personality sitting smiling in the corner 🙂

Even though you are married to a Frenchman, do you still consider yourself Canadian and a foreigner or do you consider yourself very much French?

I think and dream in French sometimes! I have wholeheartedly adopted the French way of life, but will always consider myself Canadian at heart. I feel lucky to be both.

Together you have built the most amazing eco house, can you tell me a little more about it, was this Sylvain’s idea?

9 years ago, after failing to find that perfect old stone house to renovate, we decided to build. Being from a “young country”, I didn’t see the charm in the usual new builds you see in France. After some research, I found the Straw Bale / Earth Plaster technique and we adopted that immediately, but at first for purely esthetic reasons. Thick rounded walls and a rustic look. The whole ECO thing swung into full gear quite naturally during the 18 month build and we ended up going quite far in that adventure (composting toilets and all!). We have solar panels for hot water that keep us going, without using the electric back-up, from May to October. The house is heated with only a central wood burning stove which makes it all very inexpensive to run.

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Are you enjoying living in an eco house?

We love it! It is a very comfortable house for our family and business.

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages?

As mentioned the running costs are low due to the solar panels, insulation, wood stove and composting toilets. We spend less than 200€ per year to heat the house (150m2) and are usually too hot, and rarely too cold. The house breaths as well; we can cook fish in our open kitchen for example, without having an extractor fan. A small disadvantage is maybe that bugs like our house too! Though as we are in the countryside that may be the case for others as well. The house resists rain and humidity very well, though during an exceptionally severe storm bits of our earthen plaster have been known to end up on the ground. We are on top of a hill so we’re very exposed to the elements.

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When did you first decide to make soap?

Very quickly after arriving in France 16 years ago. I started the company with an Irish friend named Edina and when we decided to go our separate ways professionally I carried on the business with Sylvain on board. I have always been a fan of artisanal soaps and was very disappointed with what I found here in France, especially with the reputation French soaps have worldwide. After a lot of research we found that very little soap was actually still made in France. The “savoir faire” had been almost completely lost. We were the only soap makers making Cold Processed soap in France at the time and are proud to have participated in bringing hand-made quality soap back to this country. There are now over 100 small Cold Process soap-makers alongside the very small handful of “savon de Marseilles” producers that still exist.

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I know you have taught soap making in other countries, can you tell me a little more about this?

As well as our courses here in the Southwest and Paris, we usually offer one course per year in Belgium. Next spring we have one planned for Bruges. Further afield, we have taught our course in Switzerland and Canada. I also had the wonderful opportunity to participate alongside 7 other European soap makers in a project in Port Harcourt Nigeria. We taught 2500 people in 2 weeks under a tent in 40°C heat with 95% humidity ! A little bit hardcore but a great experience… There is much work to be done in Africa and Asia, where domestic soap making skills have been lost and people are using our (low quality) industrial products when they have everything they need to make their own amazing quality soap.

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Setting up small businesses in France is notoriously difficult, have you found this to be the case, or has it been relatively straight forward?

Yes, it is complicated and I admit that without Sylvain it would have been much more complicated! He has a background in management and accounting, so that has been very handy indeed. As well as our main Soap Making Course that we have been teaching for eleven years, we now offer a business course for new soap makers wanting to set up a small Savonnerie.

What are your goals for the future?

We have written 2 books on the subject of soap making. Who knows if there may be another in our future, maybe on another subject ! We are very “live in the moment” people so my goals today are to maintain the level that our business is at and keep my family happy and healthy. I don’t need much more than that. Our economic model has always been based on reaching a comfortable level of revenue and work load and maintaining that. We are not looking for growth. Time is the most precious thing that our professional life has allowed us.

Were the children born in France, and if so, do you have any advice for mothers-to-be?

Both children where born here. My advice to mothers-to-be would be to stick to your guns about how you want your birth to take place. Hospital births here are quite medicalized (compared to Canada) and I didn’t feel like I had much say. Same with breast feeding. Look to other mothers for support. Visit hospitals and clinics as for my second, I stumbled upon an amazing public hospital that were very open and innovative.

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What advice would you give anyone coming to live in France?

Learn to speak French! Be wary of immediately surrounding yourself with fellow expats (do that later). This happens so naturally but you really need to find your French friends first. Don’t be shy about speaking French, they love your accent no matter how many mistakes you make 😉 I also think we can really contribute to preserving French traditions before they fizzle away with world domination! Go to the market (not the supermarket), buy direct from producers and get to know them. Eat a proper meal at lunch and eat all meals sitting down with family or friends. Go to your local café on a regular basis, read the paper and drink a nice coffee. Slow down, remember why you came to live here… 🙂

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Well what can I say, I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. I have always found their passion for life so inspirational. If you would like to learn more about their amazing soaps or purchase them online you can visit Leanne and Sylvain’s website, Aroma Nature here.  It is in both French and English.

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137 thoughts on “A Canadian in France

    • Thanks Elizabeth, I find their story and their lifestyle so inspirational, I simply had to share it and it was a great way to start off this series of interviews which I shall continue over the coming months. Have a great day too. Susan xx

  • The best and most interesting interview I have ever read on a blog, together you have covered every interesting aspect of life as an expat and life in France. I shall be saving this and rereading several times.

  • You are quite right. Leanne is chock full of good advice for immigrants. Her language skills will be far in excess of what mine will ever be, because I speak English at home and spend the summer speaking English to clients. In a bid to improve, my advice is join a couple of clubs. I find that French club members are delighted to have you on board, you have an immediate link and goodwill because of shared interests and they will speak French to you because you need to fit in to the club activities, not be the odd one out (I know exactly what Leanne means about being the boring one in the corner in the beginning!). It was several years before I realised that half a dozen members of my botanical club speak reasonable English. They never do with me, but they brought it out when my sister visited and came on an outing.

    I salute her work with the soap making. It’s the sort of thing I check and there is way too much palm oil being used for my liking in so called traditional soaps. The Nigerian workshop was interesting.

    • Hi Susan, very good advice, the only way to ever really learn the language is with total immersion. Hence the fact that children pick it up so quickly as soon as they start school. Although we speak English at home the rest of my entire life here is in French; schools, tennis, friends etc and so if I don’t speak French I simply don’t speak except to my family – it was a fantastic way to force me to learn, to make errors, to be that boring one in the corner, as Leanne said, who said nothing, to be the one who feels a fool because I said the wrong thing accidentally, I’ve been there and done all of that! I salute her soap making skills and their lifestyle, both equally fascinating. Susan xx

  • Very good interview, but most of all I am intrigued by the house, how long did it take to build and how long will it last? I have seen this type of house on Grand Designs on TV, are the running costs so low because it is so well insulated? I would love to know more, another blog post perhaps about them perhaps?

    • Bonjour Amanda, Yes, that is correct… the main reason for the low running costs is the fact that the house is so well insulated. The amount of water saved by having composting toilets is amazing and we use solar hot water for the dishwasher and washing machine. We “self built” the house with a few volunteers in about 18 months.

    • Thank you Lisa. I think mainly it was a logical continuation of other lifestyle changes I had put in place over the years, mostly how I eat and keep healthy. Using essential oils or homeopathy before running off to the doctor, eating organic food and cooking more. What goes ON my body seemed like a good next step 😉

      • I think we all tend to forget the amount of chemicals we put on our skin daily, makeup, suncream, soaps etc. A personal question but so you also stick to natural makeup and face products too, do the chemicals really affect us and get into our bodies? Half of me says yes but the other half says if it was so bad how come 95% of the population uses regular makeup!

      • For the little makeup I wear, I do use a more natural brand and especially for creams or lotions and suncream. I have learned so much about the cosmetic industry since doing this and its often pretty shocking ! In most countries (USA included) ingredients that are “suspected to have adverse reactions” are left on the market until that is proven, which could take years. There are always many scientific studies showing the harm that can be done, but they are not “official” studies. To prove that these chemicals do get into our bodies Professor Philippa Darbre released an “official” study years ago now proving that Parabens (the most common preservative) DO pass through your skin, enter your bloodstream and are stored in your tissues. She continues this study today to prove a link between the paraben filled breast tissues and breast cancer. In the meantime, I don’t feel the need to carry on using things I’m not sure about when many options are possible. Use rosewater and a mix of vegetable oils and essential oils instead of face cream, soap for shampoo and shaving etc. . . I think the reason I’m still in the minority is simply the power of marketing and the faith we all still have in it. Sorry for the longwinded reply, but you touched one of my sore spots 😉

      • Hi Leanne and Lisa, I am really glad for your long reply Leanne, it was really helpful and informative and this is a subject that interests me immensely too. The problem is as you say the natural makeup/face cream/body lotions and potions market is so minute compared to the regular market. I use only organic skin care Products. I am fascinated by essential oils but feel I don’t know nearly enough about them. Actually I just picked up a leaflet today at the local Bio supermarket advertising an essential oils workshop at the end of this month, so I might finally get to learn something! Susan X

      • I read that parabens have been around in skincare since the 1950’s. Although many people say the evidence is inconclusive there must be some truth in it otherwise why would so many mainstream companies be advertising products as “paraben free” they are not organic but they do quite obviously see this as a problem. The problem is most of the time, we, us humans, are guinea pigs.

  • Thanks for sharing this fascinating profile of a fellow Canadian in France (other than the French husband, very different from my own!). These soaps look fabulous and I am heading over to the website now…. 🙂

  • What a lifestyle And what a beautiful place. The house is so pretty with the soft edges and robust color. When I was younger I went to live in Germany for five years, following the love of my life there, but I too was the one who sat alone unable to communicate. For a year I felt isolated and lonely, I was working in a kitchen but rarely spoke much. Then I decided it was no way to lead my life and I began to try and start conversations with my co workers, they helped me, there was lots of hand movements but we got by, we communicated somehow and slowly I learnt the language. So I say yes, in any new country the most important thing is to speak their language, you live in their country after all .

    • Hi Shari, so very true. It’s the number one thing I say to anyone when I am asked about living here, ‘learn the language!’ Their lifestyle is gorgeous isn’t it and I love the colour of the house too, so glad you enjoyed the post. Xx

  • Soap? What good is soap? How do you cook it and why do I need it? Oh, wait, my wife is saying something……ah yes, of course. Fishermen always need soap – I’d forgotten that bit 🙂

    Great story as always, wonderful interviewee and very interesting subject. I shall send Mrs Phil over to the website to buy some. We do use hand-made soap here in Kent, bought at a local farmer’s market, so it will be very interesting to compare. The house looks fun too, similar to a cob house from the west country. I wonder if the materials are at all similar. Very interesting, Susan – thank you.

    • Phil, We have a local fishermans “wife” that lives around here and she has all her husbands co-workers that put in orders for our “Chef’s soap” that is made with coffee and gets rid of strong odours on your hands ! I’m sure you will find some similar soaps to mine in Kent, and keep an eye out for the Coffee one !

    • Hi Phil, we all need soap as in something to wash with, but something without soaps and the harsh chemicals! Do go over and buy some of Leanne and Sylvain’s, it is fabulous. Even fishermen need soap, Roddy will vouch for that!!! Susan xx

  • What a wonderful couple! The soaps are amazing and the story so romantic and joyful and actually oozing reality. I so agree that you must surround yourself with French friends when you make the move …. I live in an area where bring English is unusual so it’s easy but I remember my mother in law cautioning from Provence in the 80s that so many were moving across and sticking to the (albeit upmarket) Expat ghettos. I wonder how many stayed …. Thank you for introducing us to this lovely family – I may even be inspired to sign up for a soap making course 😊💫💫

  • Thank you for this! I loved this interview and look forward to reading the others that you have planned for us. I am also enjoying the comments/conversations going on below your post. Like Leanne’s outlook and attitude about living, your followers have shared some important insight as well. It has made me think about where I live in a way that I had forgotten. . 🙂 “Slow down, remember why you came to live here.” “…speak their language…” & more! 🙂

    • Thank you, I do agree, sometimes life just gets taken for granted, we get into routines, everything is busy and rushed. Sometimes, just sometimes it is good to stop and look around and to slow down, we need to take time to actually really enjoy our lives and I find Leanne’s lifestyle so inspirational, even though I live in France, I too am guilty of doing everything in a hurry and forgetting why we came here sometimes! This gentle reminder is good! Susan xx

  • What a great post, such an aspiring lady. I truly agree with her on needing to learn the language, it makes your life so much richer, yes it’s nice to meet people who speak your own language, but not as needy as making native friends. It was certainly a must for us as a family when we moved to France 26 yrs ago. Not easy for my husband and I, but we managed, still not perfect, but we knew we were understood when we could tell a joke in French and our friends laughed.

    • Hi Barbara, I think the number one requisite along with learning the language is being able to laugh at oneself when we make mistakes! I have made a fool of myself more times than I can count but in the end does it really matter? I found this post really inspirational too, a gentle reminder that we have to stop, slow down, look around and really enjoy the reasons we came here. Another beautiful weekend ahead, hope you have a lovely one and not too much packing! Susan xx

  • This post sounds so much like a lot of the people who live on our island. Straw Bale houses are very beautiful. The rounded corners that are possible in innovative ways. As for the soap…we use handmade soap made in a very similar way. This interesting couple would fit right in here on SaltSpring Island. I love the fact that there is a Canadian connection.
    Look forward to meeting more interesting people and sharing parts of their lives Susan

    Ali xx

    • Hello Ali, Thanks for the memories ! I am originally from Port Coquitlam, BC and spent many summer holidays on Salt Spring Island as we had a sailboat . . . One of my favourite places 🙂

      • What a small world. I guess you remember the market. Only make it….Bake it…or grow it. You would not recognize SaltSpring now….it’s gone upscale…sad in a way.

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    • Thanks Ali, I am quite fascinated by straw bale houses and the gentle shapes, there are so many possibilities with house building these days outside of the normal. There are so many aspects to Leanne and Sylvain’s lifestyle that I find inspiring, it was only natural that I share it with everyone! Susan xx

  • Susan, I loved this whole post. I can almost smell the soaps and I love the eco house. I’m looking forward to meeting more people. Now if I were just meeting them in one of the small cafes….

    janet

    • Hi Janet, a long lazy coffee or lunch sitting outside at a table on the pavement, watching the world go by and chatting and learning more about inspirational lives, sounds like a perfect setting to me! Trust me the soaps smell divine. Susan xx

  • What a fascinating and informative interview, the soaps look wonderful and I can imagine the fragrances are too. Great advice for newcomers to France and although I don’t live there, (more’s the pity) I have just bought a small holiday home In Vendée and intend to speak as much French as possible. Thanks for your visit to my blog, yes I visited Charente Maritime last year, (Ile de Ré and La Rochelle) and no doubt I will again as I’ll be visiting more often. Btw where in Sussex are you from?

    • Hi Fiona, we were in Bretignolles sur Mer for a day this summer, only for a tennis tournament so didn’t get to see much of the area apart from driving through. When you visit next head a little further south and come down and see us, we are about half an hour south of La Rochelle. My family farmed all around Lindfield and Ardingly. Are you a Sussex girl? Susan xx

  • Great insight into how us ‘foreigners’ find our feet in France. I would definitely agree it is so difficult to start a business in France compared to England but your friends have done so well. I chuckled about the bugs too: the mice and bugs seem to rule our life! I wouldn’t change it though 🙂

    • Thanks Amanda, I thought it was really interesting and so inspiring for anyone who wants to live here and for those that do live here and perhaps have forgotten just why we live here! There is nothing that easy about businesses here I agree, I just took it one day at a time and refused to get overwhelmed by the paperwork and constant requests for more information! We have had a relatively bug free summer, maybe because of the lack of rain but hardly any mosquitos at all this summer and very few wasps compared to last year and don’t get me started on mice, for a farmer’s daughter, I am quite pathetic, I hate them, I have a complete phobia against them, they scare the life out of me! Roddy knows if I see one his life is ruined until the problem is sorted! We bought two kittens when we first moved here and they live in the barn, in considerable comfort I might add, they come into the house all day long but at night they are in the barn and they hunt, and what hunters they are, we have never had a mouse in the house, fingers crossed and I hope I haven’t just jinxed this!!! Xx

      • My eldest dog just won’t do cats as we had two when we got him and they terrorised him! We’ve had almost zero wasps but hornets by the bucket and flies everywhere despite every trap! As for mice, the dogs just look at them and walk off. Let’s hope we have a pest free winter Susan! xx

      • We haven’t had any hornets yet either, fingers crossed, but now the figs are ripening way faster than we can eat them they will start to arrive. So long as they stay around the fig tree (which is ginormous) that is fine! We have two mousers in the cats and also Evie, the young Jack Russell would kill any mouse that dared to come near the house. Having said that, there was one, the first I have seen anywhere apart from dead in the garden that came halfway through the French doors into the kitchen in July at some stage, I was sitting at the kitchen table and saw it out of the corner of my eye, I screamed so loudly the little thing turned and hotfooted it out again terrified. I doubt it will ever venture in the direction of the house again, if indeed it hasn’t met it’s match already with our very good feline friends!

    • They are a really lovely couple and of course they live in such a beautiful area, the one thing I do miss now that we are no longer down there is the hills, but I don’t miss cycling up them much! Xx

  • What a nice post, on many levels. I’ve been a fan of straw-bale building for some time, so I’m always happy when I see that someone has used it, wish it were better known.

    • Thanks Emm, I have to admit I do agree! I have watched several programmes where people have made straw bale houses and of course I have seen Leanne and Sylvain’s although only the finished product, not whilst they were building it sadly, we got to know them too late for that. It is something that really fascinates me and a building method I am trying to learn more about. Xx

    • Thank you, don’t worry I would never forget the cats and dogs and the chickens, they are so much a part of our lives, how could I! I’ll do a post with them all in very soon! When are you in Paris? Susan xx

  • Isn’t it surprising. We see France as a land of tradition and imagine plenty of artisans, and yet something as basic as soap making is a dying art. Great informative post Susan!

    • I agree, what a lovely post. The other half will be sending off for some soap, methinks, she is well into that sort of thing. I also agree about the land of tradition too, but then, it shouldn’t be a surprise really. France has always been a hotbed of civilization, right back to a time when art was finger-painted onto the walls of caves. Whenever we visit I must say we always find something new, but old, that makes sense of something I never understood the origins of. It’s true all across Europe of course, and I always think there is much to be rediscovered than has already been lost too. In some ways the modern world is terrible for shrinking our knowledge of traditional methods, but yet so exciting in many other ways. It’s a real conundrum that I feel will have a sad ending.

      • Hi Simon, it is all about balance isn’t it. Finding a way to mix old and new, taking the very best of the ancient traditions and adding modern day knowledge and technology. Both can go hand in hand and I think there is a definite movement towards this. Xx

    • Very true and also rather sad, there were a lot of artisanal things that were slowly decreasing in this modern world and a need for everything to be cheap and instantly attainable. But I think people are now more aware and the old methods are making a comeback. I certainly support anything that is local and made locally. xx

  • A lovely post Susan, as were the previous two which I have only just read! I loved your summer reminiscences. We’ve had a good warm dry July onwards which has meant getting on with our garden and learning Hencraft! (Boo has laid 7 little eggs since 1 September!! – Buffy and Florence still waiting…).
    I think you’re right – artisanal things are coming back..There is a general desire & need in people to feel that they are eating well and of course one only has to look and smell freshly made products to be smitten. I was in our local farm shop yesterday and while waiting for some of their freshly made tomato salad, in came a man carrying 2 boxes of freshly baked loaves!! Oh the aroma! I asked where he came from and he came from a village that I drive through regularly and I didn’t even know he was there! He doesn’t have a shop, just bakery, but opens for locals on a Saturday morning when he bakes some extra bits and pieces. Yesterday he introduced me to a new Carrot and Courgette loaf – delicious! I have to be careful with white bread, but not if it’s fresh baked bread – must be additives in other bread.
    And there is a draw for people towards the countryside, that getting back to simple basic beautiful things and a slower pace. Your friend is right – remember why you moved to France/the countryside etc and listen to that inner voice!
    Only one thing – you said ‘unfortunately’ autumn is approaching. I know you don’t mean that!! Because of all people you will gently let go of summer and find the new joy of softer autumn days, gorgeous warm colours, those mellow fruits and mists and a gradual move towards cosy times indoors – still with family and friends. I love autumn (when it’s a proper one here!) – just wondering how I’ll cope with henkeeping when it’s pouring with rain and blowing a gale though!!! 😦 Have a lovely weekend.

    • Hi Marian, wow 7 eggs, you must be so excited, not long and the other two will be laying. I truly believe there is a movement back towards a slightly slower pace of life, a more natural existence and certainly towards a healthier more organic lifestyle. You’re right I love autumn, but I do adore summer, I love eating every meal outdoors and the garden and the general fun of these warm long light filled days. Of course once autumn really does arrive, once the fire is lit again and we are picking up endless leaves I shall enjoy the long dog walks, putting on a jacket again and feeling the chill on our faces. Seasons are good for us, each one makes us appreciate the next. The beauty of hens in bad weather is they force us to go out, when we might have remained huddled inside we have to don wellies and coats and get outside and that has to be a good thing! Hope you have a lovely weekend too, I think you have some good weather in store xx

  • I’ve always been interested in soapmaking and how it can help contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle, I think you’ve convinced me to give it a shot Leanne! The house is absolutely stunning as well.

  • The patterns achieved with artisanal soaps are always so beautiful compared to supermarket bars, I’m a ceramicist and have always loved experimenting with marbling textures in my studio and your soaps do it so well!

    • Hi Lily, the patterns are incredible, they always look edible and they smell divine too. What sort of work do you produce in your studio? Our eldest daughter has always been very interested in Pottery but she has never managed to find any night classes whilst she is at Uni. xx

  • Thanks for sharing such an inspirational post – I found their story fascinating! I am also a huge fan of artisanal soaps and only use organic soaps myself, which look similar to the ones in your photos! 🙂

    • Hi Sarah, I know what you mean, but these soaps really do both look and smell good and also are a real treat to use. So happy to have inspired you! Hope you have a really lovely weekend. It’s meant to be another very hot one here. Susan xx

    • Thank you, do go over to their website, it is really interesting and their soaps are fantastic. I always love hearing other people’s stories and how they have coped with moving countries and I really enjoyed being able to share this. Hope you have a lovely weekend. xx

  • What an inspiring story! The soaps look so ‘delicious’. The eco house sound so fascinating too. It’s amazing what can be achieved with imagination and hard work. Thanks so much for sharing Leanne’s story. 🙂

    • Hi Syliva, The house is amazing! straw bale houses are gaining in popularity in Europe and I can see why. The soaps look delicious and smell divine. Hope you have a truly lovely weekend. xx

  • Terrific post Susan. Not long ago, such stories would have been picked up by local newspapers, but where have they all gone, along with the alert and hard-working journalists, living locally and hoovering up the local colour, who were their lifeblood? So it’s entirely appropriate that French Oasis should pick up the slack and, given your rigorous journalistic approach, not only to Leanne’s soaps but also to gently teasing out fascinating stuff about her life here, it seems that ‘local colour’ is in safe hands!

    • Thanks so much Jim, I really do appreciate your very kind words and coming from such a professional as yourself. It’s easy to write here, such stunning scenery and so many unusual/good things to write about. Have a lovely weekend, profitez bien du soleil x

    • Thank you Mollie, their soaps smell and look divine, good enough to eat! Enjoy the rest of the weekend and thanks for coming over to the blog and for taking the time to comment, always much appreciated! Susan xx

  • I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and am delighted to see that Leanne and Sylvain have carved out a very lovely life for themselves in beautiful France. Love the house, and their soaps are clearly superb. Also many good tips for anyone considering moving to France permanently. Thank you so much – and hope that you are enjoying a lovely weekend…janet:)

    • Hi Janet, they are great tips and it is such good advice for anyone thinking of coming to live here and also for those of us already living here, a reminder, to stop and appreciate exactly why we are here and try not to get too caught up in the rush of everyday life. Their soaps are divine and so is their house! Have a lovely Sunday. Xx

  • What a fabulous interview! I would absolutely love to make cold-processed natural soap but am terrified at using lye. Only have tried some melt & pour with goat’s milk but probably know the products quality is not what I’d prefer. Congrats to your friends. Given our political upheaval this year in the US, maybe I can migrate your way and learn from a real artisan and enjoy the good life a’la the French way! 😉

    • Ah yes the elections, perhaps best not to get political here! Anytime you head across the pond let me know! It is a very different lifestyle I cannot deny that, I have lived in both the USA and Europe and life is slower, more relaxed and somewhat simpler here, it is easier to get back to basics! Hope you are having a great weekend xx

      • Being originally from Germany, there is a part of me that wants to return to the simpler way of live even without politics. 😉 I’ll definitely let you know if I’m able to visit. Always a treat to meet face to face bloggers whose work you admire and enjoy. ღ

      • That would be fantastic, do let me know. Having lived in the States I really apprecaite the quieter slightly slower pace of life here, it is, as you say, just a little simpler, the children notice it too and prefer it, which has to be a good thing! Have a great week 🙂 x

    • Don’t be frightened of the lye ! Just force yourself to give it one go and you will see how “not scary” it is. Don’t forget it is sold in the hardware store for any one of us to use to unplug blocked drains. The soap you will make is worlds away from Melt & Pour as far as quality goes. Good luck to you 🙂

  • Toot Toot! Just little old me rushing in late trying to find a little spot to park my comments. I loved, loved this post and the comments are a great bonus. You have what they would describe at our blogging conference as an engaged readership and thoroughly deserved to the both of you, a wonderful, informative and thoroughly lovely post.
    Wren x

    • Early, late, it doesn’t make any difference! Just great that you came at all!!! I do strongly believe that the comments become very much a part of the post, they are an extension that continues the story in a way, we learn so much from chatting to one another and that is what I hoped for when I started the blog, a community of like minded people, we don’t always have to agree, because that would be boring! I can imagine your conference was fascinating. Hope we get to hear all about it in detail! Susan xx

  • Wow!!! What a treat to meet your friends and to learn about their amazing business and lifestyle. I am smitten, and would adore to have that blue and cream bar of soap in my hand, taking in long delicious breaths, this very moment! It looks divine!! What a tremendous glimpse into their adventures and lives. Thanks for always sharing these wholesome lifestyles that are so connected to the earth. Lovely people, lovely earth, lovely lives. It lowers ones blood pressure and brings us into the moment just to read these tremendous shares.
    Thank you again!!!

    • When I read stories like this, as you say, it makes us look at our own lives, it makes us concious of the necessity to slow down a little and enjoy what we have. Sometimes we all need a reminder just to appreciate what we have. Hope you are having a truly wonderful week. Xx

  • Really enjoyed this post, thank you. Loved hearing about the soap making (I’m a big fan of hand made, cold pressed soap) and tips on moving to France which we will keep to hand! I’ll be checking out the soap making courses and seeing if Leanne runs any here on the West Coast in Canada in the future. Even better would be to attend one in France!

    • Thanks so much, I love Leanne’s soaps, they are really special and I know they are so well made. It was such fun to write about her and I have to admit being an expat myself it is always very interesting to hear other people’s stories and to then be able to share them. We all have our ways of coping in foreign countries, which of course you know only too well, and I think sometimes it is fascinating to be able to chat to other expats too. Susan xx

  • Great Interview Susan, thanks for sharing this with us. I will be checking out Leanne and Sylvian’s soap company. Bon weekend ! ~Carmen

  • Very interesting! I’m sort of obsessed with handmade soap so I’ll have to try theirs out. We are Americans living in Brussels and I just love reading about other expats experiences. Thank you!

    • Thanks Ashly, do buy some of their soaps, they are absolutely fabulous and feel so nice on the skin. Hope you are enjoying Brussels and if you come to France do let me know, would love to show you around. Xx

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