Time to Stand and Stare

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Finding the time to ‘stand and stare’. It seems like only last week I was lamenting the end of the summer holidays and somehow the children and I were trying to get back into the school routine of early mornings; bundling everyone into the car on time, usually while someone is carrying their shoes and someone else has a drooping backpack half-open with books threatening to make a bid for freedom. We’ve just about got organised, the daily drill has almost fully fallen back into place and now here we are eagerly looking forward to the two week autumn holiday known as les vacances de la Toussaint. 

Time flies, and as the days zip past, I sometimes feel we see little more than what is right in front of our noses, whether it’s the computer screen, the piles of paperwork, laundry (oh, the endless laundry with a large family), more paperwork or the garden that is crying out for some attention and a house that is bellowing ‘clean me’ even louder.

Earlier this week I had my eyes opened a little in a different direction. You know when you drive a terribly familiar route, one can lapse into auto-pilot, not even really seeing the  traffic, but lost in your own world and thoughts. I had a trip like that on Monday, driving home from school, with the car quiet and empty, just me and Evie, my constant companion. It’s not a long journey, just ten minutes or so, but it’s amply long enough for me to be alone with my thoughts which is something of a rarity in my life. Ahead the road was blocked; a combine harvesting the corn had broken down and the few cars that used the road were being diverted. I was sent down narrow lanes I had never driven before and by and by I passed an old farmhouse unknown to me, just opposite was a field full of sheep, something of a rarity as we don’t see many around here. What’s more, they had recently been shorn, and with the sharp chill of the mornings this week I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them, thinking they must be feeling cold without their wooly jumpers to keep them warm. I was annoyed I had forgotten my camera; Monday mornings are even more rushed than normal as everyone seems to always get up a few minutes later after the weekend! I only had my phone but I stopped for a second, snapped away and promised myself I would come back.

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Of course, one of the many things I love about writing this blog is that it has opened my eyes to so much around me, to places and views that before I would probably have passed with just a cursory glance. Now though, I find myself permanently on the look out for new things, and I imagine how they would appear to someone who doesn’t know the area, or perhaps to someone who has never visited France. Anyway, the next day I gulped my morning coffee, left my paperwork in a neat pile until I returned, hung the laundry on the line to appease some of my guilt, and then sneaked off for an hour or so to explore with my camera.

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First I went back to photograph the sheep.

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and then I turned around to an old unused barn behind me.

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I seemed to see wood stacked in readiness wherever I roamed.

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I drove down familiar and unfamiliar narrow streets

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and I checked on some houses that I have watched being slowly renovated all year long

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One particular building, below, has been a work in progress for what seems like forever, I found this photo I took when the builders first moved in.

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It’s an important village house of some standing, originating from around 1750, and although it’s been a major restoration process it seems the end is nigh. I am still undecided about the red shutters though and I’d love to know what you think? Perhaps it’s because I am addicted to the more subtle tones of greys and blues.

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I then I came across this archway on the outskirts of another village

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Intrigued I parked and wandered inside, conscious that I was probably trespassing but keen to know more.

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A little google research when I got home told me that what at first appears to be a ‘folly’ is actually a pigeonnier that once belonged to the L’abbaye de Montierneuf. Most of the ruins which date back to 1072, are situated on private property, scattered amongst the adjoining houses and after 20 years of restoration work are apparently soon to be opened to the public. The pigeonnier was classified as an historical monument in 1951 and the archway was registered as an historical monument in 1941.

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Leaving behind the mysterious pigeonnier I went for a walk, the temperature was perfect, neither too hot nor too cold.

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But as is my wont, I lingered a little too long. I should have been clock-watching as Millie came out early from school and so returning to the car I took what I thought would be a shortcut. It wasn’t! Furthermore I got distracted by this little chap who the moment I stopped came up to the fence to say hello. I felt so guilty I didn’t even have a mint for him, for I have never in my life met a horse or pony that doesn’t like mints, but I did give his face a good rub, entwining my fingers in his comical mane which stood straight up like a wire brush.

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Of course I was late picking Millie up; fortunately, or unfortunately, this is a far too common occurrence and she was not in the least bit perturbed. With a scant amount of homework to do that day she was more than happy to come and do some further exploring with me and together we set off in the opposite direction to home, not knowing where we were going.

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We found some ancient sandstone cliffs

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and an old communal wash house, long since disused

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and we skipped down a couple of narrow alleyways with great curiosity, never knowing where we would end up.

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In the midst of nowhere we came across a modern barn, its south facing roof covered in solar panels, an increasingly common occurrence in rural France as farmers make ends meet. With grants, tax credits, interest-free loans and other benefits, solar power is a viable way to produce additional income, whether one uses some of the power for domestic use, or whether one sells it back to EDF (Électricité de France) for five times the amount you pay for your domestic units. It’s a win-win situation, apparently.

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The next morning, I grabbed my camera before leaving with the children. No, we weren’t early enough to be able to stop and take photos, but I did hand it to Hetty, beside me in the front seat, and I gave her a thirty second crash-course in how to use it. We all knew the sun would blind us as we reached the brow of the hill and I slowed the car just a fraction (not much as, surprise surprise, we were on the verge of running late) and she clicked away through the windscreen as we raced on towards school.

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By the time I had dropped them off and returned, the ‘light’ was mostly all over and the clouds were already closing in. Timing is everything!

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I stopped and snapped away nonetheless. Not every day can have blue skies, and not every photo can have perfect light; but even without those attributes we can surely still appreciate what has stood for centuries, and what we take for granted is of course actually history, and there are so many scenes in France that could tell a thousand stories if only they could speak.

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282 thoughts on “Time to Stand and Stare

  • A special thank you for your blog today. Feeling a bit blue because of a “dust up” with a friend, photos of lovely places, even if neglected help. Those shutter are a bit too bright for me.

  • I agree with GB, I am having a miserable start to my day and your post has cheered me up. You are right, we need to be grateful for all the little things around us. I am pulling myself together now and will continue my day in a much better frame of mind!

    • Thanks Jane, we all have bad days, but sometimes it really does help just to find some very small things to focus on and realise how lucky we really are, at least that’s what I do. Hope you had a good day in the end xx

      • Who would have thought your blog about France would end up making so many of us feel better about ourselves.

      • I had no idea that it did, but I am really pleased that it has. Anything that puts a smile on someone’s face and makes life just a little bit better is good in my opinion. I hope you are having a great day x

      • Thank you Jane, I am definitely a glass half full person, there is plenty to be grateful for and I do believe in making the most of every single minute of the day! have a lovely weekend xx

  • Having all my daughters grown and flown means that I do get much time to indulge and both here and in FRance I indulge my inner Pinocchio by going off-piste ALL the time. Your discoveries journaled here are absolutely gorgeous. I particularly love the little fellow with the New Romantic hair that looks as though it has recently been blown dry by an 80s throw-back coiffeuse! 😂 The red shutters are an interesting point. I too love the soft greys and blues but it is a matter of the stone. Certainly on that house I think red is wrong but on a richer stone the red can look quite magnificent. It is, surprisingly, a much earlier pigment. In fact here it is the first colour recorded on barns and houses even pre-dating white. I just rather think it doesn’t work with your local stone …. only an opinion of course. That pigeonnier is a gem. I love the fact that immobiliers always describe them as ‘joli pigonnier’ (I’d love to know why). Toodlepip to you and enjoy the ‘me’ time when you can 😊 xx

    • Red looks fantastic down in Basque Country, but like you I am not sure against the mellow Charentais stone, it is just something we don’t see around here normally. There are pigeoniers everywhere here, lots and lots of them, and you are right they are always described as joli!!! If your girls are away and you ever get lonely in France I can always lend you a couple!!! Xx

      • I totally agree, I could only lend you one at a time, I’d miss them far far too much otherwise!!! I know people say teenagers can be difficult, but I love the teenage years equally as much as the toddler years, the baby years and the 9/10 year old years, I would really be very hard pushed to say which age I like best, in truth I love all of them each for different things! Xx

      • I always think that teenagers and toddlers are out of the same bag except bigger. Those epic emotions and the absolute emphatic knowledge that they are the first to discover whatever it is! Children at every stage are wise and wonderful creatures if we let them be …. yours are fortunate that they are allowed and cherished. As for me – I ache for my girls every day but I know that the deal was that I let out the apron strings gently teeny bit by teeny bit until they were ready to fly and to be there with warm arms when they stumble along their paths. Xx

      • I have heard many people say this, we never had any real toddler tantrums or teenage tantrums so I can’t really draw any real comparisons. I guess we are lucky! Children at every stage are so very special, I adore them all, probably why we had five!! I feel your pain I really do and lucky them that they know you are always there and of course they will always return xx

      • Luck is when preparation and opportunity collide so I would suggest you have just been very good parents who were prepared to go with them rather than be intractable. Another conversation entirely but the wisdom passed on to me by an Irish friend and father of three many years ago. It worked for them and it worked for mine. Its probably also a matter of temperament to an extent – and if one, as the parent, just accepts that the child is expressing them self and they have the perfect right to do that in their own way then it is not a tantrum or a terrible teen but a wonderful human being communicating their needs. My father always said that the vast majority of successful communication is in listening …. If one listens and hears what is being said then the chances are that the frustration won’t build up in the child to the extent that they become belligerent. Xx

      • I couldn’t agree more, and when we listen it’s amazing what children have to say, young and old, they have a real voice. I think we can actually learn a great deal by listening to youngsters, I mean those of 8 or 9, they see things for what they are in a far more basic down to earth vision than how perhaps we perceive them. Our children join us for dinner whenever we eat with friends, we all talk together, conversation spans generations, no one speaks specifically to the children in a childish way, we all just talk and the children join in, they have no fear whatsoever of chatting with adults. Anyway, somehow we have managed to digress to a totally different conversation!! xx

  • The unused barn looks patched and repaired. Maybe a new life is in store for it?
    There’s a guy down the road from us who has been repairing an ancient stone house–more like building it, since there wasn’t much to start with–for 12 years. It is looking like a house now, but still far from done. Such patience! And to have such a vision or goal!

    • Maybe, but it’s really too small without a lot of additions and I think it was patched because the door looks as if the wall above the door had completely collapsed. It looks as if the work was done quite a few years ago. There’s a farm nearby and I would be amazed if they do anything with it! I would never have the patience to spend 12 years renovating a house, I admire anyone who can do that. Will you be able to have a look around when and if it is ever done? xx

  • I love red shutters, red doors, red anything. For me, this depends upon the final finish of the building.
    Be sure and let us see the completed make-over. Isn’t it a wonderful experience just to wander and look.
    One of the “inexpensive” joys of life.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Sharon Kay in Missouri

    • Hi Sharon, definitely one of my favourite things to do, it’s a real treat just to head out with nowhere in particular in mind and nothing to do except discover new things and places, even just to see how things have altered with the seasons, there is always something to look at. When the house is finally finished I shall indeed post some more photos, it has been renovated by a local builder, I know he won’t live in it as he has a fantastic house he has renovated for him and his family, so it will either be let or sold, hopefully I shall be able to view it! xx

  • What a glorious part of France you live in. Love it.

    One thing did occur to me; I have this vague recollection that the French don’t have trespass laws in the way we do in England, so you can pretty much amble anywhere you like. Hence, of course les chasseurs charging all over the place. Worth checking out. I would hate to think of you ending up in the slammer. Apart from anything else we would all miss your delightful blog.

    • Ha ha, thank you. Of course now I have just spent a good half an hour browsing through google trying to find out if laws do exist or not. It seems there are mixed opinions and I can’t get a straight answer, most people just say go and speak to the Mairie. A lot of properties have privacy signs and I wonder if with one of these the trespassing laws can be upheld? this obviously needs much further investigation. xx

      • Hi Susan, I’d be too worried about being shot by an irritated farmer or meeting one of those famous farm-dogs the French countryside is famous for. I’m sure I read somewhere recently about a driver who was changing a wheel in the country when he was killed by a myopic hunter who mistook him for a boar, and suffered no ill consequences because of it. Ouch!

        Don’t mind the red shutters too much, not a colour I would choose but no cause for a cross word from me. Lovely pics as always – love Evie looking out the window! By the way, you know EDF runs most of our UK electricity, now, don’t you?

      • Hi Phil, I did read about the man shot whilst changing the wheel on his car. They hunt all around here and we always avoid the woods on Sundays at this time of year, just to be on the safe side. The red shutters are growing on me and they will mellow with age. I did know that EDF is big in the UK now, I wonder if this will change with Brexit? Xx

      • I wonder about Brexit too, it will be most bizarre to go across the Channel with the missus when we’re out of it. It won;t be the same easy-in, easy-out process it currently is. We shall have to hope you are still taking us there instead, twice a week🙂

  • Lovely trip off the beaten path. Must admit, the red shutters seem a bit stark to me: screaming, “See me”, which is likely the owners intention. Enjoyed the photos–love Rod Stewart, the pony version:). And nice job, Hetty, for catching the sunrise.

    • Hi Mary, Rod Stewart indeed but a great deal fatter! I must admit I thought Hetty did rather well considering we were doing 60kph! The house is owned by a local builder who did all the work on it, he won’t be living in it but I don’t know if it is his plan to rent it or sell it, I was just most surprised by the red, his own house is far more subdued! xx

  • Two photos down from your lovely sunrise, the perfect faded blue shutters.Of course they may only be that perfect in the light at that time of day. I’d love it if you would go back and take more photos at different times of day … oh wait, you have a life! And laundry to do. And meals to cook. And children to take and retrieve from school and tennis. And a blog to write.
    But that shade of blue is so lovely…sigh.

    • Hi Patricia, actually that’s a fairly easy thing to do as it is just a minutes detour on my daily school run. I think they are always that delightful blue colour, a colour almost impossible to achieve from paint alone, it takes years of sun and exposure to the elements. I will see what I can do. xx

    • Thanks so much Penny, I love the red shutters down in the Basque country but we don’t normally see them here, and certainly not on old houses built of the local Charentais stone so they were quite a shock! But I am slowly getting used to them. The children all adore them! xx

  • I have to agree with another comment, that once the kids are gone there is too much time with your thoughts. Enjoy the chaos, it ends quickly. Living in a place where 1960 is old, I enjoyed your tour of all the old buildings. Are the villages deserted?

    • Hi Judy, I do enjoy the chaos and the noise and I am certainly not ready for empty nest syndrome yet. I try to treasure every moment I spend with the children and we do do a lot together. So glad you enjoyed the post today, no the villages aren’t at all deserted, but when there are no shops you rarely see many people walking around. In the bigger villages with a bakery and other shops you see far more people. xx

  • The serendipity detour of sights and sounds can feed our spirits when we need them most. Your wanderlust through unchartered places brought smiles to my face and heart. Thanks ever so for sharing those journeys. ღ

    • Thanks so much, I love sharing our little area of France, it is truly a lovely place to live and there is just so much history and so much to show everyone and I am so happy you have enjoyed it. xx

  • It seems an equal vote on the shutters, personally I prefer the calmer more natural colors and find these a little bright. Such a lovely post today Susan.

  • Love the red shutters! Next year they will be toned down and even more beautiful. Thank you for the photos of your wanderings! I never get out of Paris when I visit France but enjoy photos of the countryside.

    • Hi Jennie, you are right, once they have been exposed to the elements for a while the colour will mellow a little. Next time you visit Paris, do try and explore a little if you can, even if only for a day, there are so many wonderful places very close to Paris but that feel totally different to the city. xx

  • Oh to be in the car with you experiencing everything so near to your home. I would love to see inside the abbaye once it is restored as I loved the pigeonnier

  • This post vividly reminds me of my time when I lived in Lutry (Romandie – Switzerland, right at the border of Lac Léman or Lake Geneva as it is wrongly called) – I could go out every/any day and would come back with a cropper load of photos, different lights, different shades, little BIG things, a leaf on a stone, the lake shimmering with brilliant drops or angry with white crowns…. and I’m becoming very, very homesick.
    I do like the red shutters, we must know that that vivacious red will soon enough (in a very few years) fade to a tired rusty red which will go beautifully with the stone walls – just wait and see. We mustn’t always judge every book by its cover but the number of books I’ve bought because of their cover….
    The pony has won one of the new Dyson hairdryers (a pop of some €450 only) and it was the model of the day
    You do lovely, lovely paintings of your surroundings, and like in so (too) many places we have been driving through travelling back and forth over the years, many (even most) of the buildings are no longer in daily use, are falling slowly apart which always saddens me unproportionally to my possible interest. The number of times we have been driving through forlorn villages only around 5-7pm and not a single window was lit up in the whole village. I myself couldn’t live so far away from ‘our civilisation’ and yet, and yet, closed down boulangeries, butchers, the only shops miles from the villages and often streets in a dismal condition – there IS poverty, and probably more than we’d like to think, even in sort of touristic regions. I adore your doggie; he takes a huge interest in your driving and again, that makes me think of mine, long gone (and not replaced because we couldn’t – at present – give it the time and care we’d find necessary {a pet is not only for Christmas!}) and your girl is very lucky indeed to be able to grow up in such a peaceful and tranquil environment.
    Thank you so much for your blog – you spread joy around you….
    Kiki – just outside of Paris (missing the water, but enjoying the green of our valley)

    • Lac Léman, so so beautiful. The red shutters are growing on me, they are just unusual here but I do adore them down in the Basque country. The house has been renovated to a really high standard, can’t wait to look inside! I agree with all you say, so many villages have a great many derelict houses. We are lucky our village is thriving, I don’t know of any unlived in houses, the bakery is busy and actively supported by all the locals. Unusually here the French also buy the old houses and renovate them and live in them as opposed to leaving them either to the foreigners or unoccupied whilst building themselves a new modern house, we are the only foreigners in our village! Evie loves coming with us, she’s only just over a year old but a fabulous companion and very good for one so young. Hope it hasn’t been too cold with you this week, the chilly weather has certainly taken us all by surprise, thank goodness it is warming up by the weekend!

  • This post vividly reminds me of my time when I lived in Lutry (Romandie – Switzerland, right at the border of Lac Léman or Lake Geneva as it is wrongly called) – I could go out every/any day and would come back with a cropper load of photos, different lights, different shades, little BIG things, a leaf on a stone, the lake shimmering with brilliant drops or angry with white crowns…. and I’m becoming very, very homesick.
    I do like the red shutters, we must know that that vivacious red will soon enough (in a very few years) fade to a tired rusty red which will go beautifully with the stone walls – just wait and see. We mustn’t always judge every book by its cover but the number of books I’ve bought because of their cover….🙂
    The pony has won one of the new Dyson hairdryers (a pop of some €450 only) and it was the model of the day😉😉😉😉
    You do lovely, lovely paintings of your surroundings, and like in so (too) many places we have been driving through travelling back and forth over the years, many (even most) of the buildings are no longer in daily use, are falling slowly apart which always saddens me unproportionally to my possible interest. The number of times we have been driving through forlorn villages only around 5-7pm and not a single window was lit up in the whole village. I myself couldn’t live so far away from ‘our civilisation’ and yet, and yet, closed down boulangeries, butchers, the only shops miles from the villages and often streets in a dismal condition – there IS poverty, and probably more than we’d like to think, even in sort of touristic regions. I adore your doggie; he takes a huge interest in your driving and again, that makes me think of mine, long gone (and not replaced because we couldn’t – at present – give it the time and care we’d find necessary {a pet is not only for Christmas!}) and your girl is very lucky indeed to be able to grow up in such a peaceful and tranquil environment.
    Thank you so much for your blog – you spread joy around you….
    Kiki – just outside of Paris (missing the water, but enjoying the green of our valley)

      • I think I know why…. and PLS if you can, delete one of the two posts….
        Where I live we are ‘blessed’ this year with several power line cuts, not the power cables in general, but the one for the phone/internet/skype/etc…. this happened now for the past few days and since we are with ‘Free’ which is finally not so free at all and several friends yesterday told us the same story, we know that this time we are connected alright to our server but the server-provider (thus Free) is in some trouble. It is normally called Slamming (unfriendly take-over by a rival phone company) and we are interrupted for hours on end and everything we prepared is getting lost (or not in this case, amazingly enough…). So, there…. right now we’re back on so let’s get this out before we’re cut off once more…..

      • This all sounds like a nightmare, but I do know some people who live about an hour away who are with Free and I know they were experiencing terrible problems so that all makes sense now. Hope it sorts itself out, is it easy to switch to a different provider?

  • Yes….all wonderful..I love old stone walls. We trespassed today also. A magical courtyard…the door was slightly ajar. What else could we do but walk in….

    Ali Xxx

  • You have a very charming way of transporting us all to your corner of France. I hope you continue for a long time.

  • Quell wonderful blog. Always look forward to your next one. Red shutters, not so much.
    Enjoy the autumn holiday with the family.

  • This is another post ..exploring in France what could be more thrilling. Your pictures are just beautiful and the area you live wonderful .
    As for the red shutters…. I too lean toward a softer color grey or blue grey.
    I’m waiting to see colors changing in beautiful France. I think nothing is more lovely that seeing the changing of the color guard with the leaves. Thank you for sharing your love for life and living through you words and pictures

    • Thank you so much Freda, I wonder if we will get much fall colour here. It’s been such a strange year weatherwise and I have a feeling that it may all be rather short and sweet and that they leaves will turn and fall very fast. It has been very chilly this week, unusually so, but is meant to warm up again by the weekend and next week. You can be sure if we do get some lovely autumn leaves I will share them! Xx

  • What a beautiful little story, it’s so wonderful when the places we live in keep giving unexpected enjoyment even when we think we know them.

    • Hi Lily, so very true, we think we know all the villages here and the area and yet there is so much more to discover, so much more to explore and so many places to go and see. With so much history it’s always so much fun to photograph and share. Xx

  • Another great tour around your beautiful area, I feel as if I am getting to know it quite well and yet I also feel there will always be more to discover.

    • Thank you Shari, I hope there will always be more to discover and more for me to share with you, I am amazed at how little we know of the area ourselves really, so many fascinating places to see. Xx

  • Susan, lovely blog today. Before my mother died we would hop in my car and drive down unfamiliar roads just to see what we might find. So, I appreciate your meanderings around and about, on familiar roads or not. Thanks for transporting me to your corner of the world today. Great photos too!!!! Hmmm, wonder how much the builder will sell the red-shuttered house for? I might be in the market but I must admit I’d probably change the shutters to blue.

    • Hi Kathleen, I did that very same thing with my Mother too, such wonderful memories and lovely times. If you are seriously looking at buying a house in this area do send me an email, susanourfrenchoasis@gmail.com If he does decide to sell rather than rent I shall certainly post about it and hopefully take a look inside. His own house is gorgeous so I imagine this will be too. xx

  • What a magical post.I feel as if I had accompanied you on those meanderings. I am so pleased you left your pile of jobs.In a few years time, when you look back on this post, you will feel the thrill again of all those discoveries, and you will not remember the housework or paperwork you ignored that day.
    What a great thing for the children too. I can imagine how much they would learn from these random drives down lanes and wandering through the countryside, discussing history, follies, aesthetics ( no to the red shutters ) the importance of renovation sympathetically, solar power, architecture, agriculture and more. The real education happens in these hours – so pleased that your daughter didn’t have much homework that day.
    Susan, do not leave home without your camera and make sure you loiter with intent on the way back.

    • Hi Francesca,I’m rather happy I left everything and headed out too there is just so much to see and thanks to this blog I have a great excuse to go out and explore! Millie is passionate about history, unusual in one so young, so she is a great companion when I do little trips like this, she is as keen to explore as I am and is frequently far more knowledgeable than me! I do agree with you though, there is so much more for children to learn in life than just what is taught in the classroom. I shall try and remember my camera, always, now if only I could find more time to loiter!!! xx

    • Hi Jessica, it is a fabulous place to explore and drive around. The villages always look deserted, especially at this time of year, unless there are shops or at the very least a bakery you won’t see many people! Xx

    • Thanks Cindy, hopefully you will come and see it all for yourself! In the meantime I’ll do my best to offer some reasonable armchair travel! The red shutters really do shout out “look at me.” The first time I saw them I was in shock, I was so surprised, but already I am getting a little more used to them and I do believe they will mellow with age! Have a great weekend. Xx

  • Susan,
    I love exploring alone…in fact I am actually doing it more and more as I get older…
    It was funny when I saw the red shutters. I thought “I like them” but I came back down to reality when I saw the traditional blue tone…Your wonderfully written and photography is a treasure! So many “nooks and crannies” circling our beloved France. Have an AWESOME Friday!
    Stephanie Anderson❤️

    • Hi Stephanie, I think it is good to be content with one’s own company, I get very little time alone but when I do I love going off walking or exploring. With me the red shutters were the other way around. When I first saw them I thought NO, you are too out of place and too bright, but already I am getting used to them and I know they will slowly mellow with age. It’s very chilly here this week, quite a big shock to the system but it is meant to warm up nicely for the weekend. Hope you have a great end to the week. xx

  • A wonderful tour of your region of France. How I love those old buildings and pastoral scenes. I much prefer the blue shutters to the red ones, but perhaps they, too, will soften in the sunlight and become more in tune with the landscape.
    Blogging led me to take more interest in photography, and, like you, I am always on the lookout for interesting things to see and photograph. Some of it is for the blog, but it’s really a new way of looking at life, of paying attention and enjoying the moments.

    • Hi Lorrie, thanks so much, it is such fun just to look and imagine the past, oh I wish the walls could talk, the stories and secrets they could tell I am sure. I quite agree, blogging has certainly led me to being a great deal more interested in photography and it is a new way of looking at things, it really has made me appreciate so much more around me. Xx

  • I have been ‘with’ you for such a short time . . . one thing I have learnt, besides a heap about France and living in the land, is that I always find peace, utter peace and an awful lot of good sense, meandering up and down the byways of your adopted country with you . . . thus this time around on an overbusy day . . . . thank you for ‘centering me’ and allowing me to read about such a lot of people who just feel comfort in ‘talking’ . . .

    • Thank you so much, it may be a short time but I am so happy to have you following along. I think you have hit the nail on the head, living here, one really does feel a great sense of peace. I drive the same ten minute to school and back every day, twice a day and very often three times a day if someone finishes early, and yet each and every time it still fills me with a sense of calm, I love the roads and the farming country and the old house and villages I pass through, I never tire of looking at them. As for the ‘talking’ that is the best part of all of this. It is time consuming but it is so very worthwhile, building up a community of like minded people and getting to know everyone, I couldn’t wish for more. Have a great weekend xx

  • What a great little scenic tour – thank you! The ruined abbey looks fascinating, I’m just thinking what a fabulous guest suite you could put in the pigeonnier (though of course I can hear my mother telling it would be desecration to do so). We look forward to seeing the detailed tour at a later date.

    I’d buy the house, definitely, and then paint the shutters a shade of pale green. Everyone does ‘blue’, but the girlfriend and I also like green, and it’s then so easy to say “the house with the green shutters” if there are none else about!

    • Hi Simon, the pigeonnier would make the most perfect little guest house, I totally agree. We have friends who were looking at buying a house with one and planned to do just that. The problem with green shutters is so many of the houses around here have green shutters and blue shutters, so maybe they have got something right, it is the house with the red shutters, because no one else has red shutters, say that and everyone instantly will know which house you are talking about!!! Xx

  • Thanks for taking us with you on your local travels Susan, I cannot get enough of rural France. I’m not so keen on the red shutters but they do get the house noticed! Like you say they will mellow in the sun and will probably then look charming. Bon weekend.

    • Thanks Fiona, rural France really does have a special kind of charm I cannot deny it. England has the same as you know, but it does tend to be a little more crowded! Hope you too have a great weekend. Susan xx

  • Your opening photo is truly contest worthy! Your friend Evie is quite a companion!
    How wonderful that you took the time to go exploring – how many of us do that these days? You found so many ancient structures, really showing and sharing France with us, yet again.
    I am soooooooo intrigued by the iron “X’s” and such added to the outside of the buildings. I wonder if this is for reinforcement? Decorative? Or reinforcement done in a tasteful decorative manner.
    Love the journey through the narrow paths. I cannot get over how many villages you find – amazing!
    Absolutely loved this tranquil exploration this morning. Thank you !!

    • Thanks so much, Evie has grown into such a great companion, one call and she is out of the door and into the car with me without hesitation! The x’s are indeed for structure and reinforcement, hence the fact that there are so many here! I am sure there are many many more villages to discover! xx

      • And, surprisingly, as I am not usually a fan of red, I really like the red shutters. I know……I shouldn’t, but I think they work with the light stone????
        Possibly they are an original color? If the restoration was as painstaking as it looks?

      • No the original colour was peeling greying white paint I recall, but these are certainly new not restored. They are growing on me, probably because I am getting used to them! xx

  • I always wonder: why is it the little french villages always look deserted? the shutters are often closed, you do not see a lot of people on the streets, often no children. Where is everybody?

    • Hi Annika, good question! When I went exploring the children were all in school as it was during the day. Many of the villages are very small, they do not have shops, many don’t even have a bakery, there is therefore no reason for people to walk around, the elderly will usually stay in their homes and gardens and the younger people will have gone off to work. Many of the houses with windows directly onto the road will keep those shutters closed for privacy and to block the noise of the traffic, they will have their shutters open on the far side of the house away from the roads. They were of course built centuries ago when the roads were just tracks for horses and carts but now with cars and trucks it is much busier and much noisier. xx

  • And now I see that you answer all 88 comments! How do you find the time to do all this?? Anyway, these images are just wonderful. Buildings in France are so full of texture. I miss it all already!

  • Personally I don’t like the red it seems very out of place with all the other lovely houses you have shown us. I would buy that pigeonnier in a heartbeat.

  • What a perfect day you describe (and photograph!) I love this sort of aimless rambling and agree that, by writing my blog, I am seeing my world differently. Your photos are really wonderful–a great eye for detail!

    • Thanks so much, isn’t this just the best thing about blogging, it opens up an entirely new world to us, we see things with a fresh pair of eyes, what could be better than that! Have a lovely weekend xx

    • Thanks so much Amanda, totally agree, my photography before was a snapshot on holiday and photos of the children, now I am constantly learning, so much so my husband even bought me a new camera as a complete surprise for my birthday in the summer. A very sophisticated one that I am only just learning to use, I am slowly getting daring and taking it off automatic and starting to use some of the many many features! In truth even if it’s on auto I give the impression that I know what I am doing as it is so professional looking, or at least I think I do!!! Have a great weekend xx

  • Ahhhh, you make to long to leave the city behind and head to the farm & ranch lands here in Texas (or ITALY!), I love the sheep photos especially and would have worried about them too. I even cover my dogs up at night & they’re on my bed !!!

    • Perhaps you can have the best of both worlds, a mixture of the two!! It has been really unseasonably cold this past week, much much warmer today, but still it seems like a most unusual time of year to sheer sheep! You’re dogs sound as if they are true friends, just as they should be! Xx

  • I ABSOLUTELY ADORED THIS POST!YOU SO remind me of MYSELF!When we lived outside of FLORENCE,ITALY I would do the same thing!ROAM before picking up the BOYS at school!I have BOOKS of my photos………that are JUST LIKE YOURS!ANIMALS, flowers and laundry on the line and old, old houses and barns!
    YOU ARE LIVING MY LIFE that I SO desperately wanted………..but will NEVER BE!
    BRAVA!
    XX

    • Thank you, it is a good life, but surely you lived this lifestyle in Italy? I cannot deny it is also a wonderful place to bring up the children, of course there are all the everyday chores in life that don’t alter wherever one is, but we do our best to make the most of all the incredible things here. Xx

      • I DID AND THAT LAUNDRY NEVER ENDED!NO DRYERS IN ITALY!THEY THINK IT IS BAD FOR THE CLOTHES AND they do not make electricity!The ITALIANS IMPORT THAT from FRANCE so costly to have a dryer!
        The SISTER IN LAWS would say “Where have you been?”MY response……..where haven’t I been SO Much TO SEE!!!!!!!!!

      • Ha ha, I still think dryers are bad for clothes!!! I don’t like them at all, I do use ours when I have to, but only with some reluctance, I also use it for guest towels so they are soft and fluffy, me I prefer my towels stiff from the sun, strange I know, but hey ho!!! So much to see indeed, time you headed back over the pond and most definitely time we met! xx

  • I am speechless at the amazing historical riches which surround you. You go on a little drive and you’re surrounded by centuries (!!) of history. I am beyond picking a favourite photo. I LOVE this entire post.

    • Thanks Paulita, it is a luxury because I have precious little time to do it, so therefore when I do I enjoy every second of just wandering with no agenda and not knowing where I am going to end up! Xx

  • That winding village street, oh my. Lovely pictures, and I have a real sense now of what your mornings are like.
    Red tends to fade in the sun, so those a-bit-too-intense shutters should tone down fairly soon. I’d prefer them in a color closer to terracotta.

    • Hi Emm, just add lots more jobs which all need doing at the same time as well and then you have it! Always busy, sometimes chaotic, always happy, or at least I try and make it that way! The red is a little too bright for me, but over time I know it will fade with the elements, it was just quite a shock when I first saw them, I never imagined they would be red! Xx

  • Hi there:

    First – I agree with you – blue shutters are my preference – the red just doesn’t look right. Second I absolutely LOVE the photo after the pigeonnier one – it makes me think of Lords of the Rings and Hobbits – just beautiful and ethereal, and lastly there are never photos of people in the streets in your village – it all looks so deserted. I’m sure it’s not of course. Your blog is my favourite weekly treat – keep them coming. Joan in Mexico

    • Hi Joan, Thank you so much, I am so happy and touched that you like the blog so much, this is what makes it all worthwhile for me. As everyone has so rightly commented, the shutters will fade with time! Now as to the photo, quite by chance I passed the little lane. I pulled over and decided I had to go for a walk, it was just so beautiful. The lane led down to the marais (the ancient salt marshes), it was a perfect walk and a great find. The villages I usually take photos in are very small, most don’t even have a bakery, let alone any shops at all. It is nearly always during the mid morning when children are all at school and people are at work. The elderly in their homes or gardens, there is no reason to be wandering out in the street if you see what I mean! But the villages are very much alive and thriving. It’s an interesting comment though and one several people have made so I will post some photos soon of some slightly larger villages where people are around, where there is life and action! Have a wonderful week in Mexico xxx

  • Great photos and I’m on the blue-grey range myself for shutters/doors. Mine at the moment are a horrible dark green but are nearing the top of the to-do list. Sadly, in the village many of the lovely old shutters and doors have been replaced with my no. 1 peeve – white uPVC. More grants and other inducements, I suppose.

    • Thank you so much Sheila, you and I are in total agreement about the white pvc! They haven’t really come here yet in any number, I do see the occasional odd one, but thankfully very very rarely. I can see why they are so easy to use and popular, but they lack any form of charm whatsoever. Having said that when we go away and have to go around shutting all of the shutters it takes forever and sometimes I think oh to press a switch and have it done!! xx

  • Love your blog Suzie, there are some fab photos. Yvonne and I really love France and your photos reiterate why we love it so much, and particularly your area of France. Looking forward to seeing you all again next year xx

    • Thanks so much both of you, it has been stunning here this week, after a slight cold blip last week it is back to the low 20’s, chilly mornings and evenings and beautiful sunny days. Perfect weather xx

  • Oh, this is lovely, Suzie. It is amazing, the history of these villages and rural areas over here. Thank you for leaving the paperwork behind and taking us on a tour. I agree, the blues and greens are my favorites, those red shutter look way too sharp! Looking forward to exploring more with you!! xo, ebh

    Here’s a link to my opening post in exploring the alps on the Côte d’Azur:
    http://www.splendidmarket.com/2016/10/horsing-around-alps-st-agnes-france.html

  • I love this and it is so inspirational! We are planning a round the world trip starting next summer and we want to spend some weeks in France. You are giving us grist for the mill. Thank you!

  • Loved reading this today. France is such a beautiful historical place. I fell in love with France and Paris so much that we are going back to France in August. If only I could live there. Thank you

    • Thank you so much and so happy you found the blog. It is a beautiful country and every day I feel lucky that we live here and are able to raise our children here, they love it too! Have a great trip back in August next year, where are you returning to? Enjoy the rest of the weekend and thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Susan xx

    • Thanks so much, if you mean the actual site where they stormed the Bastille, we are a long way away, about four hours by car! Hope you will continue to enjoy future posts about our life here in France. Have a lovely weekend xx

  • I’m torn on the shutters as they appear to match the roof and yet they do seen a bit garish. Your photo series is very interesting, love all the history in the buildings .

    • Thanks so much, I am torn on the shutters too. At first I hated them, but already, as I have got used to them, I find them more acceptable, I am sure in a year’s time after they have weathered a little I won’t even give them a second glance and at least it will always be known as the house with the red shutters! Xx

    • Thank you, this is indeed real life France, the bits that often you don’t see on holiday, this is what it is like to live here. So glad you enjoyed it and thank you for following along and taking the time to comment. Hopefully you will enjoy the future posts just as much. Xx

    • Thank you so much, I think sometimes we do have to take the time to appreciate all that is around us. Where are you in France? I think we are very lucky to live here and to be able to raise our children here. Have a great week x

      • A beautiful area of France, my family used to own a small holiday home many years ago in the southern Aveyron, near Camarés. Hope you are enjoying this gorgeous late October/beginning of November weather. xx

      • I am indeed as I’m sure you are, too. Great walks, lots of vitamin D, and winter preparations – pretty soon trotter, jarret, beouf bourguignon, daube etc. xx

      • Ahh yes, comfort food. Brilliant blue skies and sun again today but a distinctive chill in the air and a drop of several degrees. I don’t mind, I can take the cold, it’s the grey damp days I don’t like! Xx

      • Same here – but Monday’s being predicted as cold as the end of December. Prepare your comfort food – mine’s gonna be shin, trotters and chick peas with olive oil nans! xx

      • I saw that, there were even flocons of snow forecast an hour or so inland from us, brrrr. We won’t get too cold here on the coast, but having said that it’s meant to hover around 5C. I remember the snow and heavy frosts in the Averyron, stay warm, stock on wood and for me lots of hearty soups and crusty bread! xx

  • Hello there, thank you for your so vividly written post! I must say you have a fine eye for taking interesting photos of the French countryside. I sooooo adore them all! I remember France with fondness, memories of rustic, old-world, elegant country houses and chateaux. I’ve been on pilgrimages quite a few times, traveling from London to Paris, Rome to Paris by train, then from Paris to the Pyrenees, Lisieux, Paray-le-Monial, Nevers, Chartres, Nice, etc.! Everything about France and its people never fails to impress. That’s why I kept coming back. Bravo, mon ami écrivain!

    • Thank you so much, it’s easy to take photos and write when there is such a good subject and here there is always something interesting, I can quite see why you keep returning. Hope you enjoy following along in future posts. Have a great week. Susan xx

  • Tese pictures looks really nice. It makes me feel I wanted to visit it. I am on my travel now and the place that we visited s a sceluded area and the people there are very nice and it makes me feel that I also wanted to live there, traveling is really nice, seriously.

    • Thank you so much Timi, I really do appreciate it and welcome to the blog. Do be sure to check your emails tomorrow as I am posting a fabulous annual giveaway as a thank you to all my readers. Have a wonderful end to the week and thank you for taking the time to comment and for the Facebook share. Susan xx

    • No the skies are not always blue Debra, but they have been for the whole 2 weeks of autumn holidays! Rain forecast tomorrow afternoon, for once everyone will be happy, we have had none since you were here, apart from literally maybe a day! I am still watering now!! xx

  • It’s environments like these that really make me want to explore the world. On a similar note, I visited London just last week (I’ve been there plenty of times before) but this time we decided to take a trip along the canals in a tour boat. It was remarkable, because for the first time I saw a different side to London. Instead of being surrounded by traffic and buildings, you were surrounded by nature. It was hard to believe that you were in London at times and what made it even more remarkable was that sometimes, you were just next door to busy streets. It was a truly fascinating experience.

    • What fun, it is always interesting to see places from a slightly different perspective and having spent many years in London I know viewing it from the water is quite different to walking the well trodden streets. I love walking in London’s many parks too, again quite impossible to believe one is in London half the time. So happy you have found the blog and hope you enjoy following along and thank you for taking the time to comment. xx

    • What you say rings true to me. We live just outside of Paris for well over 8 yrs and the ONE trip I take all of our friends – always – is the boat cruise on the Seine. It’s a very peaceful hour of viewing the beauties of Paris without fear of getting run over, no pollution by the tremendous traffic, and you see sights you cannot when you’re on foot or on a bus. It’s the very best tour of Paris, and you pass under all those famous bridges – everything is told by bilingual guides (students who make some pocket money) – very very relaxing, peaceful and instructive.
      We try to do that very same thing in every place with a river/stream/sea/lake – and we have never regretted a single trip we took.

  • What photographs! What beautiful discoveries and what stories you could weave in and around those old buildings! I loved this and wish I could keep all the pictures close by to glance at whenever I like, they are so enchanting. I admit those shutters…….are my favourite red. ❤ Jeanne

    • Thanks so much Jeanne, if only the walls could talk, imagine the stories they could tell us. The shutters don’t seem to stand out so much anymore, probably because we have all got used to them! Have a lovely week xx

  • I really enjoyed your pictures. I’ve never been outside the US and I just took a mini trip! Thank you for sharing such wonderful photos.

    • Thank you so much, I truly believe in appreciating the simple things around us and I hope we are encouraging our children to do the same, hopefully people realise that a bike ride and a picnic is every bit as enjoyable as a theme park and a McDonalds! Xx

  • Just to echo the many (many!) comments on here already – what gorgeous photos and a fantastic piece! Totally agree with you about a blog/writing enriching how we look at everyday life.

    Stuff that I would normally breeze past, I now take the time to research and learn about. Its education for education’s sake which is something often lost in today’s mile-a-minute world. Anyway, look forward to reading more from you!

    • Great to have you following along. Blog’s certainly do enrich our outlook on life, there are so many things I now stop to look at in depth that before scarcely warranted a passing glance. I have had great fun looking at your blog, I particularly love the walk from Hassocks to Lewes, my family are from Sussex and I was born there, so I knew all of these places well. Hope the weather holds out for you this weekend, no matter how perfect the scenery I do think walking is always better without the addition of rain! X

  • Amazing! I feel like taking ourselves out of auto-pilot is one of the hardest things to do because we are not conscious that we are even in it. So glad that you were able to snap out of it in that moment and really take in all of what life is really about. It is also inspiring to hear that by starting your blog you have found yourself being more conscious. I hope to achieve the same. Thanks for the great post!

    • Great to ‘meet’ you and thank you for following along and for taking the time to comment, always much appreciated. I think it is hard to let go, just to appreciate ‘being’. It is all about the simple things in life and realising that they offer so much, that is what I hope most of all for our children. Good luck with your blog, it has indeed opened up so much for me and I am so grateful for the way it has made me open my eyes. Have a great end to the week. Xx

  • We have 2 dogs. One is a 2-year old Golden Retriever, Rufus. The second came in a week ago, a 2 month old Husky-Dalmatian mix, named her Neela. Rufus was ‘trained’ by my sister, and I do not approve of her methods of disciplining: she yelled too much, she beat too much. It is far too extreme for my taste, and it ended up making him a dog that is overly friendly and easily excitable. And now, since I got Neela, she is trying to do the same thing to her. I have forbidden her from interacting with Neela, but this puppy does nip. Neela and Rufus are never on the same floor since I had this disagreement with my sister and I am feeling miserable about it. Any help/advice that could show me how to sort this issue?

    • Gosh I have no idea really. I always find talking is the very best solution to everything. Maybe both of you take both dogs for a walk and then talk and discuss and sort things out by both listening to each other. Sorry I don’t think I am much help!

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