The Fabled Good Life

 

unspecified-5I am really excited today to introduce you to another British expat, Kathryn Dobson, and her family, who live in the Vienne in Central-Western France. But although they moved here for the good life and have surrounded themselves with numerous animals, their lives are far from ordinary. They live in a small chateau and own a hugely successful magazine that they publish here in France.

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First of all can you tell us a little about your background and your extremely high flying career?

It really wasn’t very high flying but I was lucky to work for several American corporations who gave me a sound training in all aspects of business from sales and marketing through to logistics and change management. I also spent some time near Newcastle in the UK working for a small business so had lots of different experiences over 15 years after leaving university. We ended up living in Northumberland where Jon and I had bought our family house and just had our third daughter when, over the course of a couple of months, we both faced redundancy. At the last minute, we were offered the opportunity to move to Geneva and our life on the continent began.

When did you move to France and more importantly, why France?

We first moved to Geneva in the summer of 2002 but found the Swiss way of life very restrictive with our 3 kids (aged 5, 3 and 1) and two dogs. As Jon was now a house husband, he wanted something to do (apparently three girls under 6 all day wasn’t challenging enough!). The ‘frontalier’ had just opened up, allowing us to live in France and work in Switzerland as we were EU citizens, so we jumped and bought our first house in France. It had been a long-time dream of mine to have a ‘house with a view’ and waking up looking across to the Alps and Mont Blanc was amazing. While I went to work, Jon set about renovating; structurally the house was sound but it needed completely updating and we converted the attic too. Over the next 3 years, work demands became heavier with a lot of international travel and our family life suffered. Our middle child had been critically ill, helicoptered to intensive care, and we started to re-evaluate what we were doing. One day we woke up and decided it was time to find the fabled ‘good life’.

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Why did you specifically choose the Vienne?

We knew we wanted to stay in France – the girls were at school here already and we wanted them to become bilingual and culturally flexible. Working in international businesses showed us the value of these skills that money could not buy. So we set about finding somewhere where we could afford to purchase a small holding, the summers weren’t too hot, and we could get back to the UK to see family. We started looking in the Limousin but couldn’t find anywhere that ticked all our boxes, then one day Jon rang me and told me he had found the house. As we didn’t come via the usual route from the UK and as this was before the days of social media, we didn’t realise that we had found a house in the centre of an area already popular with Brits!

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So we all love to know about renovations and how we each choose our homes, did you buy a move in ready house or one that required lots of work?

Our house is officially a chateau although a very small one! It has two towers and an enormous footprint of barns.  Before we arrived, it had been left empty for many years after being rented out for 25 years so everything had gone, it was just a shell.

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Who did all the renovation work and how difficult was it?

Like so many renovations, it was a labour of love. We allowed ourselves two years to complete it. At first Jon came over for a week or two weeks from Geneva while I worked and looked after the kids, before we moved over lock, stock and barrel 11 years ago. We lived in one room to start with, employing local French artisans to do the stonework, plumbing and electrics. We (mostly Jon!) did pretty much everything else including putting up ceilings and plastering throughout. The joy we felt moving the bath and telly out of the kitchen still makes us laugh.

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How hard has it been to adapt to rural French country life after living such a busy stressful life?

It hasn’t been hard as it was always a dream we shared. I found the solitude more difficult than Jon but we are on a main route so only 40 minutes from two cities, plus we have good internet which helped. We were able to raise our own animals and grow our own fruit and veg while the girls were young which was really important to us.

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When you came here initially did you plan to retire and relax and enjoy the French life or was it always the plan to find a big project and work?

Retire?! No never, we were too young and had 3 hungry mouths to feed so we knew we had work at some point but we were lucky to have time to enjoy the kids and our situation first. I started freelancing and set up a couple of associations to keep busy and we started from there.

So how did you come to buy a magazine?

I still wonder! Like so many things, a chain of events that we couldn’t have foreseen ended up with us owning Living. Originally, we were working with some friends on launching a local newspaper and together we had taken on Living from a mutual friend. They then dropped out overnight and we were thrown in at the deep end.

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Did either of you have any background in publishing?

Not at all. Funnily, Jon originally trained as a printer but that was a long time ago and he had gone on to have a career in sales. I was in marketing for much of my career so these backgrounds prepared us.

Has it been easier or harder than you thought to produce such a great magazine?

We’ve had to learn on the job, our first edition was incredibly nerve-racking. We were lucky to find some experienced professionals in the area, Roger who is our features editor lives two fields away, while our graphics team lives 20 minutes south of us. But our previous lives have served us well, Jon has been amazing at drumming up the advertising that pays for the magazine, while my background means I understand the market. We work incredibly hard and every tiny mistake that makes it into the magazine is still painful, but the fear of it not being good enough is less now. Finding the advertising to pay for the magazine is the tough part, and will continue to be given the economy, but then it is the same for all small companies in France. Running a business in France has never been easy!

Can you tell us a little about the magazine, I know it has a big readership both amongst locals and tourists and has so much useful information within.

Our goal with Living is to remind people why they are here. It is so easy to get ground down by the bureaucracy, the language barrier or all the politics today that we forget to go out and look around. Just like Our French Oasis, we want to encourage people to get out, try new things, integrate and enjoy life here. Every edition is upbeat, looking forward, featuring places that we love with beautiful photographs. We want to celebrate life here and aim to have something for everyone, young or old, working or retired, in each magazine. As it’s free, everyone can pick one up and we know we have a growing French readership too. Our recent survey suggested we have about 120,000 to 150,000 readers of the magazine while many others around the world read our online edition. Estate agents tell us that you can always tell a house owned by an English-speaking person by the stack of Living magazines on the coffee table, often going back years!

I know you are quite heavily involved helping refugees in France, can you tell us a little more about this and how any of us can help?

I first became aware of the Jungle mid 2015 when the conditions were really starting to deteriorate as more refugees arrived. I wanted to do something; for whatever reason these people were in a terrible situation between France and the UK, our two homes, and needed help. I set up a group on Facebook to see if local friends wanted to join me thinking I would drive to Calais with a trailer of donations. Then the photo of toddler Alan on the beach was circulated. Overnight we had 1500 members and we were no longer talking of just one trailer. We ended up organising van loads of donations and now are a network of individuals across France helping in a host of ways. Some are helping individual families now settling in France, others send containers of aid to Syria and elsewhere, others donate money to specific projects in Greece or further afield. Volunteers have helped in the north of France and continue to help in Paris. The group ‘France and Beyond’ now has over 2,500 members and helps people to find how they can make a difference, sharing projects and association details. Every drop of kindness Is important and our aim is to grow into an ocean. So, if you want to know how you can help, just join the group and ask.

And what about Brexit?

As a family, our EU citizenship has been invaluable and we’ve seen through our refugee work just how a united EU is important for peace. I’ve never been a political activist but felt that I needed to help the battle to protect the rights of Brits in the EU (and EU citizens in the UK) once the Leave vote came through. I offered my services to ECREU, a group of experienced lobbyists. I am their official cheerleader, promoting the group on social media to gather as many members affected by the change as we can. Numbers are important when looking to influence politicians – we now have over 6,500 members and are recognised by the government as an important resource for them.

Do you think your children have benefitted from the French school system, what are the most positive things for them about living in France?

Our aim was to make them bilingual and culturally flexible and there is no doubt this has been achieved. Through one of the associations I founded, Accents, we made sure their English was kept on a par with kids in the UK, and now 2 of the 3 have passed their Bacs, so academically the French system has worked for them. While the French education system is far from perfect, we recognised its issues early and tried to overcome them. As music and arts are lacking (especially in rural areas like ours) we were able to find an opera group locally that they would go to for 4 weeks every summer and tour with. As a result, our eldest is now studying to become a stage manager. Our middle daughter has always been academic and very ambitious and so used her languages to get into a top Dutch business school where she is now studying for an IBA with 500 other international students. One of the criteria was fluency in two languages so growing up here opened the door for her.

Lots of people dream of doing just what you have done, exchanging successful careers for the quiet life in the French countryside. What would be your advice to anyone considering such a move?

Be realistic. Renovations cost money so take care when buying. Think carefully about whether you really will enjoy this type of lifestyle, it can be hard, repetitive and constant – the dream is harder to find on a dark winter morning when the water for the horses has frozen! We haven’t had a family holiday in ten years as we have too many animals to leave. That said, the upside is that we have been at home to wave our children off every day and here when they come home, we can go for days out whenever we want to and there are so many places to go. Like everything, it does involve compromise and you have to be sure you want to live with these compromises. We’ve been through lots of ups and downs, enough to write a book, but we wouldn’t change a thing.

Finally, to really enjoy the lifestyle here what do you think are the most important things to take into consideration, and to do?

Without a doubt, learn the language; it opens so many doors. And don’t be afraid. I’m a great believer that there are more good people than bad and if they see you trying, they will step in and help. Sometimes the only barrier to success is our own confidence – step out of your comfort zone and the sense of achievement is exhilarating!

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I hope you enjoyed meeting Kathryn and her family and reading a little about her life as much as I enjoyed sharing this with you. She truly is inspirational and the magazine really is a great read as well as a fabulous source of information which is why I wanted to tell you all about it because I have a feeling many of you are going to enjoy reading it, it is free, it is in English and you can find it here.

125 thoughts on “The Fabled Good Life

    • Absolutely, I think there are a lot of compromises which have to be made when one lives here, but they are good ones and so long as one is ready to accept the changes and prepared to make compromises it is a wonderful rewarding life. But it is not always easy xx

  • A great success story that demonstrates the power of acting on an opportunity combined with hard work! I like that you highlighted the reality that these journeys are never all rainbows and unicorns. There are often hard compromises that need to be made, but stories like this continue to whet my appetite for living in France. I better start brushing up on my French 😉

    btw – I love the 3rd photo with the girls in the upper windows. Imagine! A chateau – with TWO turrets!!

    • I love the two turrets! Life here is certainly not always easy and yes, there are compromises which have to be made. It is a wonderful life, I cannot deny that and we love it, but as Kathryn points out it’s not for everyone and one had to have very realistic expectations. For us anyway life is far more simplistic and basic, our few days away skiing is our only holiday each year, but I wouldn’t change a thing! xx

      • Wow 500,000 sounds absolutely enormous to me. A medium sized town to me is Rochefort which is 26,000!! La Rochelle at 130,000 is big and Bordeaux at 250,000 is absolutely enormous!! How right you are, no one size fits all, I think our village is a good sized village at just 600!!!

      • I come from a small town, but live in a very large city. I think I could easily adapt to life in either.
        For me, the perfect combination would be to live in a small community with easy access to a much larger centre.

      • Totally agree, the perfect solution for me too. We wanted to live in a village and not in the middle of nowhere and we wanted to be within a very short drive of what we consider a good sized town with good infrastructure. For us that is Rochefort, 26,000 people, and we also have Saintes and Royan both of a similar size within 20 minutes also and then all the coastal towns in between and then plenty of larger things further afield. It works well for us! I think if I lived in a really big city I would want to be city centre, I spent seven years in London and loved every second of it, but it was pre husband and pre children days!! xx

      • It’s interesting that you’ve mentioned living in the city core during pre-children days.
        With greater frequency, I’m wistful about moving downtown into the core again now that we are empty nesters … or moving out of the city completely. I could easily go either way … although the lifestyle would be dramatically different depending on the direction one went!!

      • I could actually go either way as well. I absolutely adore country life, but I think if one lived in a big city, in the core as you say, there are also a great many things to appreciate. They are completely opposite lifestyles, but both have advantages. Of course in an ideal world we would have an apartment in the city and a nice little country pad for the summer and the occasional weekend, well we can all dream a little!! xx

      • In my dream world too! I would definitely have the apartment in London, because it is a fantastic city and the country house here! Dream world is a good world!! Xx

  • What a fabulously uplifting start to the day for me. I always look forward to Thursday’s and receiving your post in my inbox, it’s like waiting for a rare treat and i never know what I am going to get. Each post is always so different and yet each one is as captivating as the next. Well done to you.

  • Sadly I never heard of this magazine and if I had, I would MOST CERTAINLY been a collector too. It sounds wonderful and I’ll check it out. Also, I would like to congratulate this family from all my heart as they have been incredibly courageous and innovative. I can’t even imagine two parents loosing their jobs at the same time AND having three young children….. To think that sometimes we think ‘we have a problem’!!! Thank YOU for this sharing too – I normally am not too keen getting to know even more wonderful people when I find it difficult to ‘stay together while living abroad’ with those of ‘long standing’ like all the family and friends from several countries but this has really lifted up my heart! It’s one of those miserable (weather-wise) French days where you can hardly believe we’re in March – only checking out my myriads of primroses, daffs, helleborus, some courageous camellias proves that indeed we are not in November – so any joy is welcome!
    I’m a bit surprised that the family didn’t like it in Switzerland, but then WE Swiss don’t consider Geneva as part of Switzerland…. so maybe they were just the same as we of Swiss origin are (just kidding, of course)! Thank you for this insight and report.

    • I knew everyone would enjoy Kathryn’s story, because she is inspirational, life in France is not always easy as you know only too well, it really is what we make of it and there are certainly compromises which have to be made. We had a grey morning but the sun has finally peeked through and it is very mild, around 15C. Our camellias are not yet flowering, so you are ahead of us there, but we do have daffodils, hyacinths, primroses and endless blossom. Have to look on the bright side! xx

  • ha, no wonder I don’t know about LIVING…. it’s only for those fortunate enough to live in the ‘right’^area…. 🙂
    Now that I’ve taken note that…. “The leading English language magazine. Now covering Poitou-Charentes, Dordogne, Vendée and Haute-Vienne too!” I have no hope in the world to ever be part of that growing community to collect all editions of Living 🙂
    Shall have the occasional peek and dream on – and then come back to Ile de France, Switzerland, UK and further…

  • As I live in the wrong part of France too, up in Brittany, I am delighted to see I can read this online. What a fabulous magazine and interview.

    • You will so enjoy the magazine Zoe, it is a wonderful read, there is so much information and so many great stories, anyone who loves France will love it, even if you are not in the actual area of coverage! xx

  • What an AMAZING woman and what a wonderful story. I have only read ‘Living’ once when I was idling at Limoges airport for one of my daughters arriving from England and I was horribly early. I remember it was extremely good. That is by the by … really this story is winning on so many levels and has echoes of your own. By which I mean – here is a family reassessing what is important and diving in – hard work, heart-ache but so many positives clearly derived from it. And she just keeps taking things on … as my father used to say ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person’. I feel refreshed, inspired and raring to get on with life after reading that … thank you so much Susan! Xx

    • I felt exactly the same way, just full of energy and raring to go. She is so inspirational. Life in France is about compromises, it is not easy, but it is what we make of it and it can be a very fulfilling and rewarding lifestyle. Do read the magazine online, it is very well written, lots of great articles and information. I am, by the way, still dreaming about your fabulous apartment! Did Storm Zeus visit you over there? xx

      • I think the C word ‘compromise’ is essential to make a go of life anywhere and I would morph it seamlessly into the F word ‘flexibility’ … armed with those too and our favourite P word which she clearly has by the shipload, ‘positivity’ and you won’t go far wrong. I think the people that feel they are being ‘done to’ or who expect Little Britain but with better food and more sunshine or whatever it is that floats their particular boat, are bound to be on a loser here or anywhere else in the world and would do well to remain Johnny Foreigner on their hols and not try to immerse in the culture. Zeus was a dampish squib here – heavy rain, snow lower than normal but not in the city and high winds but nothing that anyone could possibly complain about compared with your side and the centre. I have yet to find out what, apart from heavy snow, effected Cantal and we have just had to cancel going this weekend as we have a jolly nice dinner invitation and we don’t want to be rude and decline 😉 xx

      • Well who could refuse a nice dinner invitation, sounds like a great weekend already! CFP, CPF, PCF, PFC, FPC, FCP whichever way one looks at it, it has to stand for something that sums the whole French life, wasted far too long toying with these three letters in my head, have to take the dogs for a walk and consider it some more!! Carefully planning France, not quite right, hmmm still thinking! But yes, you are totally right, Little Britain is always a failure in my opinion and integration is the only way to really enjoy this varied and interesting country. xx

  • Thank you for the introduction to such an interesting family and to Living, which I wasn’t familiar with. I have to admit I’m quite jealous that they have a magazine! What a dream. Having run a newspaper edition, I can imagine the amount of work involved, but how satisfying to do it for oneself.

    • It’s a great magazine, well worth reading even if you are not in the actual area it covers and I quite agree, incredible to own a magazine, I know it is a tremendous amount of hard work, especially around publishing time when they are rushed off their feet, and it is a real family effort, they all get involved. xx

    • Yes do, you will not be disappointed, it’s a great read. I think Kathryn is so inspirational, she makes me want to get up and get going and she makes me want to go out and achieve things! xx

  • Excellent interview, and a fascinating family. I have to say I loved the “before and after” photos of the kitchen the most! Looking forward to reading the magazine online. I wonder if they would ever consider doing some special editions that would highlight other areas, like my beloved Normandy?

    • What a great idea, hopefully Kathryn can answer this herself but I know she is super busy with publishing at the moment. I will certainly mention it to her also. I loved the bath in the kitchen, as I am sure you know we all do what we have to do to live here! xx

  • I am always interested to learn how expats survive France, it seems there are a lot of very hard working people there who do whatever they can to live the life, but I have never heard of anyone starting a magazine before. Good for them and thank you for sharing their story.

    • Hi Trish, I am always interested too in learning how people support themselves here. It seems we all go to great lengths to support ourselves and our families. It is not always an easy life, there are plenty of ups and downs and plenty of compromises that have to be made but the reward is a very good life. xx

  • Thanks for a great story. I really admire people who can shakeup their lives and completely change direction. Compromising is what life is. This wonderful family is an inspiration.
    I’m now going to check the online edition.

    Ali xx

    • Life is full of compromises, I totally agree, I make them every day, and I am happy making them, life is truly what we make it. I seem to juggle a lot at the moment, but I’m getting good at it!! They are totally inspirational, it urges me to get up and do more. xx

  • So cool! I have always wanted to end up in a place where I could live somewhere out in the country with all my animals, grow my own food, live a simpler life. Get inspired. Create. Be closer to God.

    • I totally agree with you, this was our dream too when we came here, all the things you mention and the simpler life is the starting point to it all, the rest all slots into place. xx

  • Such an interesting and rewarding post, to learn about Kathryn and her family, and what looks to be an exciting magazine LIVING. Knowing what it takes to publish a magazine, I am greatly in awe of Kathryn and Jon, and how they are living the life they desire for their family, and at the same time inspiring others in their region to get the most out of life! Thank you Susan. xo

    • I totally agree with you Lidy, I have never had anything to do with publishing or magazines but I know from Kathryn how much hard work is involved. However, as she says there are positives, she gets to be with the family, see her children growing up, which has to be worth so so much. Life is indeed all about compromises, but I love the inspiration in this story and all they do. xx

  • So good to hear of people that do really embrace the good life, I am sure it is the way forward no matter what country we live in. I enjoyed reading every word of this and found it really encouraging, thank you Susan and Kathryn.

    • Until quite recently, every new person or family who came to live in our village was given a pair of chickens by the Mayor as a welcome to the village gift. I think this sums up perfectly the values placed on the importance of living a sustainable lifestyle, it’s a shame it all stopped. We have certainly thoroughly enjoyed the move to a slightly simpler way of life here and all that it involves, it is not always easy but it is certainly fulfilling. xx

  • I have just spent a lazy two hours reading the magazine online, now firmly bookmarked for the future. I am not very good with technology and computer stuff but as I don’t live in France it’s the only way I am going to get to read this! Great post and thank you.

    • There is much to be said for being able to read magazines online. You don’t have to be a computer whizz kid and well done you for following the link and reading what you wanted to. Now you can enjoy each new edition. Have a lovely, relaxing, end to the week xx

  • A huge thank you to Susan for her kind words and everyone for their lovely comments. It was fun doing the interview and looking back over the photos of the last 15 years – how time has flown! We never really felt that we were doing anything out of the ordinary, just grabbed opportunities as they came along. But walking the dogs tonight Jon and I reflected on our life here and how happy the family is, sometimes it is good to stop and be reminded how lucky we are. I do agree that compromise, flexibility and positivity are all important but I’d also add a good dollop of stubborness! I’ve got to get the next edition of the magazine (which Susan has omitted to say her family star in!) to press in a couple of days so I need to get my nose back to the grindstone but just wanted to say thank you 🙂

    • Ha ha Kathryn, I guess English modesty comes to the fore again, I hate mentioning things I do like this! I do agree though, sometimes when we stop and look back at what we have achieved it does us the power of good. Times changes hugely and life goes on, I think the best thing is to try and grab each and every day and make the most of it and I do agree one has to be just a little stubborn to live here! xx

  • So many thoughts crossed my mind as I read this post, Susan, but really, most of them have been said already. I’ve always enjoyed books like “Under the Tuscan Sun” (and sequels) as well as “A Year in Provence” and others like these. But one thing I realized is that many of the things that sound amusing to read would have been far from it to experience and not having a good command of the language can make it even more difficult.

    Either being retired with enough money or having a job that lends itself to a different living situation is essential, too. My husband’s IT job has, until recently, always necessitated being at a specific building and as he hates long commutes, we’ve lived in suburbs. You also have to decide what is essential to health and happiness. For instance, I really would like to live in the mountains, but I also “need” a decent library somewhere nearby, because books are as air to my life. We’re also at a time and age of life where we’re not likely to take on a complete renovation of a house.

    Finally, it’s easy to romanticize others’ lifestyles or to consider lives “ordinary.” We never really know, which is why these interviews are so interesting, getting a glimpse of someone else’s choices and how they worked out. Who knows? Maybe someone will realize their life’s dream because of it.

    Enjoyed this so much, Susan. Thanks. I’ll take a look at the magazine as well. There are magazines that sound somewhat similar in the States called “Edible _______” (whatever city.) They highlight food, farmer’s markets, and other good things and are lovely and inspirational to read.

    Cheers!

    janet

    • You’ve hit the nail on the head here, often I think people fantasise about life here. It is fabulous, don’t get me wrong, but there are certainly a lot of ups and downs and a lot of compromises have to be made, or at least we have had to make a lot, but in return we live what we consider to be a really lovely, relatively simple, lifestyle. I would love to live in the mountains, Roddy absolutely has to be near water, I love water too and so the coast it is. When my family is happy I am happy, I am lucky and I couldn’t ask for any more. Just reordered Under the Tuscan Sun as I lost my old copy, so many people have mentioned it recently that I cannot wait to read it again! I think you will enjoy the magazine, it is full of information and lots of snippets of life here too, I neglected to add that I write a regular column for it, out of good old English modesty of course, but I really do enjoy the magazine. xx

      • I loved the book of “Under the Tuscan Sun” but loathed the movie, which had virtually nothing true in it. Ah, well. I have a blogging friend who lives a very spartan, rural existence in the mountains of Arkansas. People may think it romantic and it certainly suits her and her husband, but I know a little of what they go through and it’s very hard work! Also, if you want to rehab, you need to have skills in that direction or have time to work at it. My husband’s a great IT guy, but not as good with that sort of work.

      • I can imagine what hard work it must be. We sometimes watch programs about people living off the grid, on the one hand it seem like totally romantic lifestyle but when they show the downside one really realises how tough it is. There are always two sides to everything and this seemingly perfect simple lifestyle is indeed hard work! xx

    • Janet, I have given up having ‘every comment’ sent to me as I couldn’t lead my normal life any more (and that’s a huge compliment for Susan’s blog!!!!) but I just have to say that I fully agree with you on the book AND the film…. Rare are the occasions of both book and film ‘matching’ and sometimes (probably even rarer) I watched a film and than later on bought the book…
      I too am an ardent reader – I simply cannot live without books (real books) and only my failing eyesight will eventually hinder me going on reading until the end of my life. I now devour some 3-4 books per week and even I myself don’t know HOW I do this. We have a large-ish house and a pretty large garden, do a lot of Christian work, have constantly friends visiting (Swiss couple, living just outside of Paris) – but I do sleep far too little…. 🙂

      • Ah, a fellow book addict! 🙂 I’m exactly the same. But what a wonderful addiction. I’m so thankful for libraries, because I certainly couldn’t afford all the books I read. I love real books, but for traveling, I dearly love my Kindle (or Kindle app on my iPad.) No other way I could take hundreds or thousands of books with me any other way. So nice to meet you. I’ll be on a layover in Paris on my way home from another part of France later in the year and I’ll wave. 🙂

      • Oh Kiki, what a lovely compliment, thank you so so much! I never expected the comments to explode like this, it takes a lot of time replying and as a result I get far too little sleep as well. Normally replies happen for me the wrong side of midnight! But I wouldn’t change a thing, as these are what make it all so meaningful in my humble opinion, the interaction, the back and forth, it makes it personal, not just something written on cyberspace and forgotten! Sun is shining beautifully here and set to last all week, hope you have the same xxx

    • They live a lovely life in a lovely little chateau, but I also know that it is very hard work and has involved a lot of compromises, but that hard work means they are all together as a family. xx

  • What an interesting interview. I think so many dream of living the life in the French country side but not much thought to how hard it could be. What a wonderful and loving family. Their home is beautiful and I know it must be a wonderful place to call home. Thank you………

    • I totally agree, it seems like a perfect romantic lifestyle and indeed in so many ways it is, but it is hard work too and a lot of compromises have to be made. This family is so inspirational and I love their story. xx

  • I can’t think of a better way to live ones life but to live doing something one truly enjoys; added bonus the family is right beside them. Nothing is ever perfect…I’ve lived long enough to know that but Oh My Goodness Susan and Kathryn…Both of you are living out my dream. I can only imagine the “Labor of Love” and “Energy” that both of you have gone through since relocating to France.
    Kathryn I need more time to read your magazine. I will set some time to browse through them this coming weekend. I can tell by a quick look that I already ‘love” your special touches that “Living” celebrates. I can’t wait to see Susan and Family in your magazine.
    Susan, love this series. Thank you so much! Enjoy the weekend. Still daydreaming about my “Chateau.”

    • Of course nothing is perfect, there are sacrifices to be made and compromises, but it’s all about making the most of things and really appreciating each and every day and enjoying the simple things, everything else then is an added bonus. That’s the way I look at things! I am going to have to drive you past your chateau when you visit, it is the most gorgeous village with a good restaurant too!! I don’t know the owners sadly so I cannot arrange a tour! xx

      • As I have said before “We are Blessed.” I am walking right beside you when you write “but it’s all about making the most of things and really appreciating every day and enjoying the simple things…” As I get older these words ring “truer and truer” to me.
        BTW I Loved “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “A Year in Provence.” 💐

      • Ah yes, as I get older I learn this more and more, it really is about appreciating the simple things. If you had told me that when I 23 and living in London I would have laughed, but now, five children later I really do appreciate tiny little things, oh gosh, does this mean we are getting old!!! xx

      • Please Please tell your Mayor to bring back the 🐔! That is ABSOLUTELY one of the most precious 🎁 for welcoming new families into any village! ❤️ this! 🙂

  • What a great interview. It’s so good to hear of people grabbing the reins on the way they want to live. I’ve bookmarked this magazine and will be exploring it further. Thanks for the great story!

  • Wonderful and clearcut history of another family’s successful travails in France. Every bit is interesting and inspired. But most of all I am deeply touched that there are people able and willing to understand what the word ‘refugee’ means and how it affects very ordinary people and especially children. I grew up as a war child, I was a refugee and a boat person thru’ no fault of mine or my parents. My parents later put every ounce of their time and strength into action in a strange country far away from home just to give me an education and a beginning . . . it thrills me beyond compare that there are still people in this world unafraid to reach out their hands and offer humanity . . .

    • Aside from the fact that I thought everyone would want to read about Kathryn and the magazine, one of the main reasons I really wanted to share her story was because of her work with refugees. I admire her so much for doing this and for making a difference, no matter how big or small, every helping hand is a step in the right direction. I hope more people will read this and joint he Facebook page and help to make a difference because these people didn’t ask to lose their homes, it was through no fault of their own, it is just this cruel world we live in xx

  • What a great story – puts so much into perspective. And Amy is shaking her head at Kathryn’s hectic lifestyle. The two of us want to know where she gets her energy from, too! I think we’ve come across Living before – perhaps in a gite somewhere, but we wish it all the best for the future. Thank you so much for the insights – both you and Kathryn.

    • I think energy breeds energy! I know reading this again it certainly makes me want to get up and get out there and do more things and I don’t have enough time in the day as it is! Today we have brilliant sunshine and it is forecast to be 21C so I will be trying to make a start on the jungle of our garden that looks much the worse for ware after the winter! xx

  • What a wonderful post about an inspiring family! I love the bravery and “make it work” attitude that Jon and Kathryn display. Such an amazing example for their children and your readers. Another great addition to your series! Thanks you!

    • Thanks so much Anne, I knew everyone would like this story, because it really does go to show that with a lot of hard work we can achieve so many dreams, but that life is also not one big fairytale, we all have to make compromises and there are plenty of ups and downs along the way. Hope you have a lovely weekend xx

  • Another fine find for your ‘expats in France’ series, Susan! But oh my! What a life they’ve led…..it makes my existence on the edge of the shingle here seem a little mundane, though to be fair i am not sure i could ever have coped with the chateau and its eccentricities! Wonderful post, thanks to all involved!

    • I could have coped with the chateau for those two towers, they are just divine and I know the children would love them! I am sure your life is every bit as exciting, you live with nature and the elements like many of us rarely experience. I gather it is thick fog in your neck of the woods this morning, hope it soon clears and that you have a lovely weekend xx

  • Such a great interview! thank you. I’ll have to go check out the Living’ magazine. Have a great weekend.

  • What a great interview. I think many people believe that life in rural France is romantic and easy. This proves you can have the gorgeous chateau and the lifestyle but also how hard it is. Well done to Kathryn and her family

    • You have completely hit the nail on the head Linda, it is possible to have the perfect lifestyle here, whatever perfect means, but it is also hard work and it certainly doesn’t come without sacrifices along the way. Hope you have a lovely weekend xx

  • I have friends who live in Italy, they bought an old property in rural Tuscany. It’s beautiful, it seems like a dream, but they work so hard just to make ends meet. They love their life but it is physically and mentally challenging. It’s never as easy as it looks.

    • I watched a Grand Designs program all about a couple who bought an incredible shell of a property in Italy and how they rebuilt it using the stone that was left abandoned in the grounds, they did it on a minuscule budget, doing everything themselves and with the help of friends. It looked like the most perfect romantic dream but it also showed what incredible hard work went on behind the scenes. But then doesn’t that just make us appreciate what we have even more, when we have had to really work hard for it. It’s never easy, but it’s a good life. xx

  • We really enjoy reading ‘Living’ and your articles in it Susan. I am always interested in someone else’s journey and I absolutely love the kitchen. That sink is amazing! Katherine and her family have done a fantastic job at throwing themselves into life here and the fantastic magazine.

    • Thanks so much Amanda! I am always fascinated too listening to how other people survive France, what they do, how they make a living and where they choose to live. I love Kathryn’s story, owning a magazine is certainly not the average way of working here! Hope you are enjoying this truly beautiful weather xx

  • They have done such a bewusotful job renovating, oh what it must be like to have the chance to redo a small chateau! Wonderful job

    • Oh I so agree, after we renovated our house I said “never again” but rather like childbirth one forgets! Now if someone gave me the chance to renovate a small chateau I would jump at it! Xx

    • I totally agree and as you well know, France really is what one makes of it. It is not always easy that’s for sure and compromises have to be made, but with hard work it is a great lifestyle! Hope you had a lovely weekend xx

      • One has to accept there will be ups and downs, and in nearly 20 years here we’ve had both, but I don’t think I’d want to live anywhere else now. Saturday was glorious here – over 20C, lunch outside, gardening in shirt-sleeves. Sunday reverted to type, but at least I could get on with some writing. Hope you had a good time despite the Sunday weather.

      • I agree entirely. Friday and Saturday were both around 22C here, yesterday started out ok but by mid afternoon the rain was bucketing down! Meant to be a gorgeous week though, fingers crossed! Xx

    • Thanks so much, I think they really show the wonderful lifestyle that can be achieved here with a little hard work. It’s not for everyone but it suits them and it suits us! Hope you had a lovely weekend xx

    • They are such a great family to write about because they really live life to the full and it hasn’t all been handed to them on a silver plate, they have to work very hard to enjoy this lifestyle and that’s what makes it so special. Have a lovely week xx

  • BEAUTIFUL……….love all the details and the BATHTUB in THE KITCHEN………
    SOUNDS LIKE A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE………..
    THE GIRLS ARE SO LUCKY TO SPEAK TWO LANGUAGES as YOU WELL KNOW!
    XX

    • I loved the bath in the kitchen too, just brilliant. Being bilingual has certainly been a huge advantage for our children already, from the eldest at University down to the 10 year old, it is always useful. Xx

  • Love this family’s story and how they are living the ‘good life.’ It gives me hope I too can achieve what they have accomplished (albeit I have more than a few years on them 😇 – wish I’d pursued something like they and you did YEARS ago!). Thanks for sharing! I poked around their website and it is truly inspiring. ღ

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