For those of us in the northern hemisphere we’ve got to that time of year when we start thinking about summer holidays, or perhaps a little getaway in the spring; for those in the southern hemisphere I know it’s also a time when quite a few of you come to visit Europe. Not everyone who visits France from either direction is necessarily a seasoned hand so I thought it might be fun to take a light hearted look at some of the day to day things you might come across here. And even if you’re not travelling at all, I hope you will still find this little post enjoyable because I am a firm believer in armchair travel, and the more knowledge we have at our fingertips the more extensive our dreams can become.
Before we go any further though, we have to remember the golden rule – to enjoy the reasons why you wanted to come here in the first place!
This could be why you love reading about France of course, not to hear the complaints about things that don’t work as you would like, but to embrace the things that don’t work like clockwork. This is what turns France into a whole new adventure, so follow the motto – “Vive La Difference!”
France has come a long way in the past two decades. I remember coming here in my 20’s and like most visitors, there is still a lingering memory that the plumbing left a vast amount to be desired; visiting a public loo was to take one’s life in one’s own hands, an occasion of terror where one exposed one’s nether regions to the dark recess between your feet. Known elsewhere as a ‘Turkish toilet” or a “Squat toilet”, these forms of sanitation still exist in France to this day, though thankfully they are few and far between. My second adolescent memory of France is of lumpy mattresses which I swear were filled with horsehair, and pillows that even at the unbreakable age of 18 gave me a crook in the neck. As I said, France has come a long way since then, and we should all be thankful that this is now in the past, a state of affairs that I hasten to add is part and parcel of every country’s history.
Travelling around France is remarkably easy. The country is well served by domestic flights and excellent high speed trains, but I personally prefer to drive. The autoroute is a network of high speed toll roads. Remember to slow down if it is raining as along the 130kph routes the speed limit automatically drops to 110kph when the weather turns sour. Be warned there are plenty of speed cameras! If it’s nearing lunchtime have no fear, France’s delightful motorway stops offer not only somewhere to refuel the car but also a shop and café where there is typically a selection of filled fresh baguettes, salads and other goodies. There are always tables inside and outside. Decent coffee, bottles of wine and, I’m happy to say, clean loos round out the experience and a 5 minute break can easily turn into a lost half hour before one returns to the rarefied and dignified speed of the outside lane.
Once you’re close to your destination or if you have plenty of time on your hands it is far more fun to turn off the autoroute and take the smaller country roads.
No matter where you are the smaller roads are far more scenic with bridges spun like cobwebs across the south’s deep gorges; vistas of green, purple and blue variously unravel before you as you wind between castles, vineyards, slow languorous rivers, and no journey is complete without either the reflective turret of some chateau on the skyline or a quaint village with stone houses and shutters in an array of colours.
Whilst driving through any village keep your eye open for the boulangerie
and I urge you to buy your bread here. There are many reasons for doing this, the flour your baker will use is of a much higher quality than the supermarket will have in their offerings. The baker’s bread will almost certainly be baked on the premises and it will be fresh, three times a day. But far more important is the experience; entering a French bakery is a delicious assault on the senses, the smell, the sights, often there will be patisseries, chocolates, and local delicacies. Above all, a good boulangerie is the heart of a village or town, providing not just something to eat but also a focal point where the locals exchange gossip and even if you don’t speak French it’s fun just to stand and observe!
Supermarkets used to all close religiously for lunch, around 12.30pm, and they didn’t reopen until mid-afternoon, most often at 3.00pm. However more and more now remain open throughout the day, certainly in the larger towns. Some are “non stop” (two English words which have found a home in the French vocabulary) and most are nearly always open on Sunday mornings until midday. Closing times in the evenings vary, often around 7.30pm but in seaside resorts during the height of the summer this can be much later. Inside you’ll find both wine and spirits on sale; you can buy whisky, vodka, brandy and gin but you won’t find something like a simple box of Advil! In fact the first-aid section in supermarkets tends to be very small, and it is just as the name suggests, first-aid only. In our large, modern, open all day supermarket, the Pharmacy section is limited to this size:
For that box of headache tablets you need to go to the pharmacy.
The typical French pharmacie is a real treasure trove and will dispense not only pills but also some fabulous skincare brands. Those in the know stock up when they visit France, La Roche-Posay, Avène and Filorga are my absolute favourites.
You will also find homeopathic remedies, aromatherapy essential oils and some dietary supplements – what you won’t find are row after row of multi vitamins (you won’t find these in the supermarket either, I don’t actually know where you will find them as I have never seen them en masse here). But you will find endless tonics, teas and tablets for aiding digestion, for keeping you slim, for losing weight and for tackling cellulite! You will also find all the usual things one would expect in a pharmacy plus a veterinarian section, mostly for the health of cats and dogs.
Once you have stocked up with everything you need at the supermarket, and you have skincare products and sun cream from the pharmacy, you’re good to head to the beach. Here you’re free to sunbathe topless if you wish, and no one will bat an eyelid, but it is definitely way less fashionable than it used to be in the heyday of Saint Tropez. Indeed, the only ladies I ever see topless these days tend to be much older, the young cover up, probably better aware of the dangers of over-exposure than the older generations! But you’ll see plenty of ‘speedos’ on the men, tiny teeny weeny little bottoms that leave absolutely nothing to the imagination, I am not sure quite which was the biggest eye-opener to our children when we first came here – the topless women or the male form squashed into a minuscule triangle of fabric, with both their eyes were out on stalks! There are also plenty of nudist beaches, clearly marked, should you so desire. Surprisingly, or not surprisingly I have no photos to illustrate anything here, it would be rude to stare after all!! But rest assured, seek and you will find; hidden coves and secluded beaches away from the madding crowd.
It would be remiss of me not to mention one of France’s greatest treasures, which is the weekly market in practically every town and village. There is absolutely nothing to compare with the experience of walking a street laden with colourful stalls, surrounded by the chatter of shoppers and stall-holders. Meat, fish, vegetables, pastries, charcuterie, fruits, bread, pickles, flowers and preserves, everything you need for the kitchen and larder can be bought from here. You can also get fantastic advice and recipes from many of the sellers, who are keen for you to get the best out of their produce. But remember, you will only find what is in season, you won’t find melons in November or Asparagus in August!
Take-away food is not so common, there is of course McDonalds and in the larger towns other food chains but that’s not what you want to come to France for. The take-away you really do want to experience are the pizzas bought from small vans with real wood fired ovens inside. They are a popular sight now in provincial towns and villages, appearing on certain days each week and feeding a loyal clientele that appear like seagulls at the appropriate hour. Their tall chimneys belching smoke provide a welcome respite from the kitchen. The best pizza we have ever eaten in France came from a wood oven in a van in Provence, where a large lay-by filled up four nights a week with customers who would drive from far and wide. It took us sometime to cotton on to what was going on but we soon became regular customers too!
I could go on for hours and hours, it’s a huge topic and I know I have only just scratched at the surface. From time to time over the summer I shall add some further stories on the subject but I’ll finish with a few amusing reminders, and as we’re in France, quite naturally these are related to food!
Remember Lunch is at lunch-time; 12 until 2 are the regular hours. If you turn up at a restaurant at 1.50pm, no matter how hungry you might look, it is highly unlikely that you will be served! Aperitifs are the done thing in the evening and always remember not to drink until everyone has a full glass. Dinner is often a long slow affair and rarely eaten before 8pm. And here’s the funny part, I have to turn a blind eye to everything that was drummed into me about table manners whilst growing up… in homes and smaller restaurants you will often keep the same cutlery for both the appetiser and main course and don’t look startled if French friends leave their knives and forks where they put them down, half scattered across the plate when they have finished. It’s an English tradition to put them in a pair neatly. Rarely will you get a side plate for bread and mopping up juices with a piece of baguette is totally acceptable. None of this is a lack of manners, it’s just the way it’s done here; although I still make our children put their knife and fork correctly when they have finished, some habits are just too hard to break!!
164 thoughts on “A Few Things You Need to Know about France!”
and don’t drink & drive there
Yes of course and the fact that you have to carry your own breathalyser in the car!
I did not know that
Yes, you have to carry one in the car along with a fluorescent jacket, warning triangle etc. It really is rather sensible. Xx
I am planning my holiday already, on a wet, grey day I want to escape to the French countryside more than ever now!
It is actually beautiful here today and again in the mid 20’s, but if it makes you feel any better, we have rain forecast for tomorrow! Xx
I became a huge fan of French skincare brands when I first started visiting France over a decade ago. Some of the brands are I feel a well kept secret and I have even found the girls in the pharmacy will offer plenty of skincare advice on what to buy, it’s definitely a thing not to miss when visiting France.
You are so right Sarah, many of the brands are not well known outside of France at all and those that are tend to be way more expensive in other countries. Definitely well worth stocking up on whilst here and picking the brains of the pharmacist too. Xx
Ah, a quick trip through France is always a treat, Susan! Sorry for not being around for a while, but all is well here and by the looks of it all is well with you and the family. Lovely photos, the missus says its time we crept back across the Channel while it’s still safe. I feel a shopping trip to Dieppe coming on, before the masses take the top deck over. I agree with all your sentiments and would like to add one of my own – do not attempt, as I did once a very long time a go, to see if there is a spare room at the Hotel de Ville.
Ha ha, yes I remember being fooled by the Hotel de Ville also, and for anyone reading this, the Hotel de Ville is the town hall, not the Town Hotel! Hope you do make a trip across the channel, a little wine trip before those lovely long outdoor summer evenings! Xx
Lol! Made me laugh out loud for real!!!
So glad, anything that makes us laugh out loud is good! Hope you are having a lovely weekend xx
The lovely idiosyncrasies of a foreign country, this is why we travel!
You’ve hit the nail on the head, this is what we love so much about being abroad, it would be so boring if everywhere was the same, we wouldn’t feel as if we were in a foreign country and that is half of the fun! Xx
Loved your post. Even though I live here, it felt like I was taking a little holiday while reading it, something I really needed today being cooped up in a small room supervising my puppy that was just spayed. Great read!
Oh Nadia, not too many days left now. Hope you have been able to get outside and enjoy this fantastic weather, it was 25C here today, quite beautiful, we ate supper outside for the first time, under the stars with candles all over the table and it was warm, incredible for March. But tomorrow it is meant to rain!!! Xx
Unfortunately no, I was cooped up inside with Micha but I know there are more to come after this weekend so am looking forward to that. And by then Stuart will be over his tick bite fever he caught while hiking hopefully.
Oh no, you have been fabulous though and I know she will thank you in her own doggy way! Much cooler here today, a shower overnight, but so far today it has been a mixture of the odd brief shower and sunshine. I believe that after the weekend we have lovely weather in store once again. I cannot believe Stuart got bitten by a tick, hope he feels better very soon, I am always checking the children after they have run around in long grass out walking. Is there Lyme disease where you are? Xx
Yes there is but he got bitten by two while on his hike in South Africa and also got bitten by dozens of other little critters. And he was spraying anti bug spray but does not seem to have done the trick unfortunately.
Oh no, Roddy got bitten by a scorpion once, he had a fever for several days, he went to the doctor, who just said there was nothing to do but it would pass! Hope he feels much better soon and have a lovely weekend xx
Lots of really very useful information here bundled up in such a fun package, true to your unique style, love it.
Thanks so much Shari, there are so many other things I could write about, this was just for starters! Xx
This post brought back such wonderful, vivid memories. It’s been far too long since our last visit. Merci!
So glad Angela, I hope you can put that to rights and make another visit again at some stage. It is such a huge varied country, there really is something or everyone. Xx
I long to visit France one day but in reality it just may never happen. But you, my dear have just treated me to a day as an armchair traveler. Merci for the vacation. xx-hb
So happy Holly, because arm chair travel really is fabulous. Who knows perhaps you will get the chance to visit and if you don’t then thank goodness nowadays we have Internet and we can learn so much about so many places from the comfort of our own homes. Xx
I imagine shopping is frustrating for Americans. I live in a big city and there is always a store open. But, I think starting with the right mind set, slowing down would be refreshing.
I would imagine it could be, yes. I actually have always grown up with shops being closed on Sunday’s and I do really like it. It would never occur to me to go shopping on a Sunday or after 7pm now. In the UK most high street shops (not supermarkets) close around 5pm or 6pm, when I go back there that now takes some getting used to, however they are open on Sunday’s until, I think around 4pm. Slowing down is refreshing, it’s really just what one gets used to. Xx
This was excellent. I really enjoyed reading this. Please do tell us more. I need to get to France.
Thanks so much Brenda, I really hope you do get to France, I will so enjoy sharing more snippets over the summer, there is just so much to talk about! Xx
What a lovely read this morning, it was a little travel adventure about a country I long so much to visit.
So glad you enjoyed it Peggy and I really do hope you do get to visit, it is a wonderful varied country with something for everyone. Xx
This post was not only informative, but also delightfully entertaining. If you’ve not considered writing a travel guide, I highly recommend it! Now, I’ve got to get the image of teeny tiny speedos out of my mind. As usual I love visiting France with you, and never leaving my chair.
I second that, one of the best travel guides I’ve read for ages, factual. It oh so funny and personal too. Loved this post.
Thanks Bev, I think personal experience is always the best when writing about anywhere, there is always so much to talk about when it comes to our life here and this was a starting point on some of the foibles and intricacies about life here! Xx
Thanks so much Debbie, I thoroughly enjoyed writing this and keeping it lighthearted. I have laughed all day at the speedos, so many people have left such amusing comments about them and how they have stuck in their minds that I just find myself smiling! Hope you have a lovely end to the week, it has been beautiful here, today was 25C, nearly 80F, but tomorrow rain is forecast and a big drop in temperature! Xx
Love your description of the beach code of dress, What a fabulous way to start the morning, laughing til I cried. I have a mental picture that I just can’t shake and its not altogether pretty!!
Well at least it made you laugh! I can tell you, I have laughed and smiled all day long reading this comments! It’s an imagine I can’t shake either now!! Xx
Armchair traveling is the best with no onerous TSA agents to have to endure. Such lovely photos of your adopted home…it does inspire me to arrange a trip and transport myself in person though. ❤︎ With such a lovely country one must bring a sufficient supply of memory cards for their cameras.
Armchair travel is fantastic, but also it gives us plenty of opportunities to look at places, decide where we want to go, what we want to do etc without even leaving our homes. Hopefully when we do then get to our chosen destination we can then enjoy it even more having done plenty of research. Hopefully you will get to come here soon. Xx
That makes two of us. 😇
I will help you plan your trip! Xx
I will take you up on that offer! 😍
It would be a pleasure. Xx
Just a beautiful and interesting post! France is one of my favorite countries. Love the French way of life…
Thanks so much, it is such a varied country with something for everyone. The lifestyle certainly suits us. Xx
I am sharing this on my Facebook now, ‘what you Really need to know about France!’ Thanks for the wonderful travel guide today. Now I just need to convince hubby we need a vacation in France, maybe the bit about topless sunbathing will swing it!! Just kidding!
Ha ha! Hope you do convince your husband though, a trip here would, I am quite sure, be fabulous. So many different places to visit, the choice is endless. Thanks so much for sharing on Facebook. Xx
Once again you have given me a wonderful trip to part of France. Thank you so much –your descriptions take me right to the area and pictures are fantastic. I have been to Paris and Cannes etc on a bus trip but never to the wonderful country side. You now make me feel like I have. Unfortunately I am unable to travel due to me age but please keep on writing and taking pictures so that I can once again feel that I am there. I too live in a wonderful country Canada and have travelled from coast to coast. Keep up your fantastic writing. Regards Betty.
Thanks so much Betty, you do indeed live in a wonderful country, I have many distant cousins who live in Canada. I love Paris and Cannes, Provence is always beautiful at any time of year. Hopefully now you can enjoy plenty of armchair travel, it’s a great deal cheaper anyway and with none of the hassles! I so enjoy writing these posts and sharing them and our life here and thank you for taking the time to write and comment, it means the world to me xx
May I add a few of my own observations?
Travelling by car, rental or own: The highways/motorways ARE expensive, but you always get clean toilets (not always toilet paper though and somebody has to alert the staff!!), we LOVE having our picnics because you’ll have gorgeous sites with tables-benches, sometimes even BBQ, often playgrounds and space to walk your pet, often you get plenty of trees and SHADE (so important in the hot season). We sigh when we pay but we do love the comfort of those places. Also, it’s considered a major SIN not to move back immediately after overtaking another car. We even learned that you can (and might) get fined if you stay on your middle lane for long.
Boulangeries: YESSSSSS – already the window shopping is an experience not to be missed. I think in my 9 yrs in this country I have had two bad experiences with bakeries. The one was a cheating sales woman in a bakery not far from us when we were house-hunting and bought a wonderful baguette. So that part was fine…. I said to my husband that she had a funny way of putting the money in my hand, she sort of pushed it. 2hrs later we went back because our baguette didn’t make it to last and we needed another one. The woman had a shock to see us a 2nd time which gave ME a funny feeling. Having bought our bread we went home and next morning I went for another errand to the market. THEN I realised that she had given me Rubels instead of pieces of 2€ (2!) They are the same size and when you’re new in a country you might overlook that as so many € countries exist now. We contacted the real estate dealer and told him that we would never buy in that town because of that sales lady. The other one was along a trip through villages and it was just bad bread. Apart from that we had tons and tons of fabulous and outstanding bakery products and very often you can now even get a tiny table in a corner and a lovely coffee. Praise the Lord 🙂
Restaurants: What I had to learn is that you NEVER put your serviette/napkin on your knees before you’re actually starting your meal. If you eat bread before the starter, you don’t use the serviette…. And you always just put the BROKEN not cut bread you take out of the panier, simply next to your plate, whether it’s hygienic or not is not a question…. that’s how it works! And you have the legal right to ask for a ‘caraffe d’eau’ for free!!!!! For this France is magnificent. Even learned that (in theory) every restaurateur is legally obliged to give a thirsty traveller a glass of water without him feeling pressed to buy a meal. When the waiter asks you about ‘what sort of water you wish, bubbles or not, brand or whatever’, you may calmly order your ‘Eau Château Pompe’ or Eau du robinet (tap water). Don’t be shy in this respect. Wine is horrendously expensive – at least in Paris – and we hardly ever have more than just one glass – and don’t be surprised when the sizes vary widely. A glass is a glass, if it’s not clearly marked you can pay easily €6-8.50 for a glass of any size they like. At one place we asked for the house red and we got glasses as big as mugs, in others they hardly give you more than 1.1-1.2dl….. So a large caraffe d’eau is helpful. A shandy is a ‘panache or panaché’. Coffee standing up at the bar is often extremely cheap – but of course after a meal you are not moving over to the bar but have your coffee at the table. We often don’t like the coffees (from past experiences) and we pay & leave, then go to a bistro/bar/counter and have a brilliant short one for €1-1.30.
One thing I saw in your photos which repulsed me in the late 90th/early 2000…. going to places like Cotignac was outstanding but when we saw how all the cables were hanging any which way from windows, houses, roofs, across trees and lanes, we were so shocked that we still talked about it years later. NOW I live in a very fancy and well-to-do town and guess what?! Yes….. same problem here.
Markets NEED our custom too; if we don’t go and buy there, they’ll disappear. We have such a profusion of sellers that we do have unseasonal products too – so good for your local market which seems to live up to what they should be. Products from nearby, no travel miles (airplane, cool-trucks, ships) and not what I fell victim to last Sunday. I saw lovely aspargus and assumed they were from France, they didn’t have a tag or it had slipped behind – anyway, I asked for my lot, got it and then somebody said: Oh they look great and fresh, are they French and the seller said: They are Greek!!!! (I carried them away in shame but they were absolutely magnificent all the same – we only discussed for about 15′ how much the environmental impact was costing….. !!! 🙂
Hi Kiki, the autoroutes are expensive, agreed, but as an English person I always rather prefer that I pay for the roads I use rather than the road tax which everyone who has a car has to pay, it seems fairer to me. So true about moving over to the right after overtaking, it makes sense and I’ve always done this but I didn’t know that you can be fined if you don’t! I can’t believe you were given rubels instead of euros! A couple of bakeries in local villages here now offer coffee and they do a roaring trade. I agree with everything you say about restaurants and as for the cables, they suddenly become so much more obvious in photos! I know exactly which photo you are talking about and I looked at it several times and thought shall I include it or not, because of the cables!! We actually don’t have many in our village, some have now gone underground, we are truly becoming a modern village and we have fast internet, or at least fast for France!!! Only white asparagus here so far, but not long, cannot wait, love love love asparagus season! What incredible weather, we ate dinner outdoors tonight, I am still almost in shock, 8.30pm and sitting outside under the stars in March, sadly though it is forecast to rain tomorrow!! Xx
Sadly I cannot comment on the speedos but I got the picture perfectly clear, lol 🙂 🙂
And even more sadly I now cannot get rid of it!!!
You have made me laugh and laugh with this comment. In fact I read it briefly whilst standing on the tennis court and giggled out loud! It’s an image that just won’t go away!! Xx
This post answers the question why we keep retuning to France….year after year. Yes to everything you said Susan. This years adventure is being planned as we speak. And the speedos….yes….you know that your not in Kansas when at a beach.
Oh the speedos Ali, as several people have said, now I have the image firmly back in my head I can’t get rid of it, I have smiled at this so much today!!! Xx
Hi there, just catching up on e-mails and, sorry to remind you again, but felt I must add a little something to the subject of the dreaded ‘speedos’! My son-in-law was horrified when he first discovered that ‘les petits slips’ had to be worn at the swimming pool and he was obliged to ‘borrow’ a pair before being allowed in. He has now bought his own pair that he considers more-or-less sufficiently decent!!!
I forgot about the rule at public swimming pools, I should have added that one! Our son, who was 14 last year, went away camping with his best school friend and their family last summer, they went to the Ardeche. One of the things we had to buy him were a couple of pairs of speedo style swimming trunks for the pools. Apparently the reason board type shorts are not allowed is for hygiene, no one can tell if they have been wearing these shorts all day long or not, whereas with speedos, it is obvious that they have been changed into just to go swimming. This was the reason we were given. We managed to get him a pair that was almost acceptable to him, although we all had plenty of laughs at his expense! This also reminds me that when he was much younger, 5 or 6 and had a year of swimming with his class at school here in France, he had to wear speedos then too, somehow it didn’t seem quite so bad at that age! Xx
Thank you for the beautiful tour! I will be there one day & hopefully will now be prepared.
I so hope you do come to France Deborah, it’s such a beautiful and varied country, and there really is something for everyone. Xx
Really love this post. Great atmosphere. I must say that the toilet “holes” are almost gone in the US. I used to have to use one myself when visiting my grandparents. Here in East Tennessee they are called “outhouses”! Keep up the great work!
Thanks James. I had no idea that you had this type of toilet in the USA as well. I remember cringing when I saw one and fortunately I have not seen one for many years now! Plumbing has obviously come a long way on both sides of the pond! Xx
Oh! I am not a beach person, faired skinned, so I won’t have to worry much about the topless, but I am a big coffee w/ cream lover. Lol!
Deborah, it can be quite tough to find a good coffee with cream here, I have learnt that small strong black coffees are usually a much safer bet! But, that said, there is one café, which just happens to be my favourite, in Rochefort that really does make a fabulous long white coffee, the best I have had in France! Xx
Stunning photos …especially the beach shot. I was pleased to read that you recommend the pizza van as there is one on a Saturday evening in the Place du Marché at St Christophe… I shall be in the queue. Only 5 weeks now !
Hi Fiona, I am sure vans vary from place to place, but the couple that we have tried have both been really good. One word of warning, when you turn up, you might have a long long wait as we learnt. Apparently people book them in advance, a repeat booking as it were. So the van arrives and starts serving at for example 6pm. You arrive at 6.30pm and there is no one there, but the guy tells you you will have to wait at least an hour if not more, because he has all his pre-booked pizza orders to fulfill for set times first! It might not be like this, but just so you know!! Five weeks will pass by super quickly and then it will be May, one of my favourite months in France! Xx
That was very informative and i look forward to the other snippets throughout the summer! It all sounds so much more sensible I think. Seasonable vegetables, a village bakery which is the hub of the village, it is all just what we need to get back to in the UK. Thankfully, there are more and more artisan markets, farmers markets and countryside entrepreneurs emerging all the time – we are rising to the challenges! I am totally amazed at what some people have done to be able to make a living in the countryside and I take my hat off to all their hard work. And so many more younger people wanting to move out of the cities, which is a good thing as our countryside needs to continue being invigorated with new life. Sorry, I’ve gone off track a bit, but you know what I mean! France is a vast country with so much rural countryside and where perhaps things have not changed all that much (apart from the loos which had to go!!!) and there are therefore more people living that good country life and who remain in touch with nature and the seasons. I think everyone should go and live in the countryside in a village community as a part of their life experience!! It enriches the soul! Have a great week Susan and I hope this gorgeous spring weather continues, it’s bliss!
I too am always quite intrigued at the lengths people go to and the incredible diverse ways people find to make a living in the country, it is far from easy but it is a great lifestyle. What a fabulous idea, that eveyrone should have to live a rural lifestyle as part of their life experience, it would certainly do far more good than harm and yes it does enrich the soul. The spring weather is fabulous, it was 25C here today, we ate dinner outdoors for the first time, almost unheard of in March to be sitting outside under the stars at 9pm and to still be warm! Alas, tomorrow it is forecast to rain, but then I believe it looks good again for the next two weeks. The hens are laying like mad, hope yours are too! Xx
I have read that younger people are also moving out of the cities here in Australia as well. In some locations markets do a good trade but in other areas they fail,people get used to supermarkets.Teaching our grandchildren about seasonal vegetables is an uphill task. France is exceptional in its approach to food but the UK on my more recent visits has improved no end. I am still waiting for Australia to catch up although in some locations it is very ‘foodie’ just not where I live. We are still trying to get our three daughters and partners to relocate back to Europe, not a lot of success thus far although two are willing to travel back and forth. I know people in the Northern hemisphere are looking forward to Spring,a lot of us here are breathing a sigh of relief that Autumn has arrived.
What a delightful tour of France today. I last visited back in the 60’s, before you were born, I imagine. We stayed in Normandy in little guest houses and I can tell you the beds really were from a bygone era even back then, there was one bathroom for four bedrooms and an old iron tub. The toilet was next door and actually quite decent! But what we lacked in comfort we made up for with the food and the pleasure we got from our travels every day. Sadly we never returned as my husband passed away and although I remarried my second husband didn’t like to travel. I am too old now, I’m 85 this summer, but I read every one of your posts on my daughters computer and I love them all. You’re living my dream life, enjoy every day.
Thanks so much for telling me all of this Betsy, what a wonderful trip it must have been. I am sorry you never got back here, but you do sound as if you have so many treasured memories, I hope you have lots of photos too in albums that you can take out and look at. I am so happy you get to read my posts with your daughter and that you took the time to comment, it’s wonderful that we can all interact with each other and it means I can wish you a rather early, Very Happy Birthday for the summer. Hope you celebrate in style! Xx
I’ve always found what supermarkets stock in each country so interesting, I swear British ones are the most inclusive. America won’t stock liquor, and France won’t stick ibuprofen! So strange, yet fascinating insight into the culture!
So very true. I love walking around supermarkets in foreign countries. I remember the first time I ever went to the States, actually I was in Hawaii and spent ages walking around Walmart, I had never seen anything like it in my life before! Whenever we come back to the UK, I love browsing Waitrose or Sainsburys, noting that so many things from my childhood are still on sale, the packaging has changed a little, but not a lot else! Xx
You do what I too LOVE to do; in fact, one of the major benefits of regularly visiting several countries, is to bring back the stuff I liked in said country and also bring our friends there stuff they cannot get in their home country. I must have offered TONS of Swiss chocolate, cheese, Nusstorten, saucissons etc., French echalottes, fleur de sel (although I VASTLY prefer Maldon salt myself and I make sure that I buy a decent sized pack for my mini-metal boxes with sliding lid for the breakfast eggs!), again cheese and naturally wine – from UK I bring so much stuff that I might need a ‘remorque’ soon to get all my hauls home! Actually, I’m running out of my favourite Earl Grey tea and am quite mad that our friends had to cancel their visit planned for now because they would have brought my tea…. Waitrose & Sainsbury; here I come (not yet….)
Ah yes, the necessity of things from home. Marmite of course!! Izzi comes here on Thursday so we will have our little fill of English things, the children put in their requests, usually sweet related, a couple of good magazines for Roddy and I, Country Life and Tatler, things we absolutely can never get here. Then when we go to the UK we of course take wine and cheese and saucisson and whenever we have skied in Grindelwald then yes, always Swiss chocolate! I actually think it is rather fun to enjoy some things from home every now and then. Waitrose, sigh, I do love Waitress!! They do the most fabulous delivery service, so every now and then I do an online shop for Izzi and have it delivered to her and surprise her, she is after all a poor uni student and so I buy and send her all the things she wouldn’t normally buy for herself, it is such fun! I am not sure who gets the most pleasure out of it, me ordering it all or her receiving it! xx
Even run down’s look precious in France and have been there only 4 times I love love love this country. Their history,
the versatile landscape, the language (which sounds so wonderful snobby) and not least their food and their capital
city…something magical is in the air when you arrive in this part of the world.
I think you are right, and oh so true, even ruins and empty houses, quite forgotten and unloved do look gorgeous! But surely it is the same in Spain too, I love Spanish architecture and I also love Tapas bars and paella! Perhaps we should swap places!!! Seriously though, I do feel lucky every single day here and at this time of year when the weather is so fantastic what is not to love! Xx
Oh, this post reminded me of a fun story my middle school French teacher told us about driving in France. She was already a teacher and took a driving trip around France on her own. She had some sort of problem with her car, and when she pulled up to get it fixed, realized she knew absolutely none of the words for anything to do with a car beyond basics – and she didn’t know all of those! Thankfully, she managed to make herself known because she clearly spoke the language, but she definitely came home and learned all the car-related words she could!
Also, this post makes me wish we had a real French bakery nearby. How wonderful would that be?!
It’s funny, we think we speak a language fluently until we come across a situation we have never been in before and suddenly we realise there is an entire specialist vocabulary that we don’t know at all! When we first moved here I became quite an expert at building terms, and could name virtually everything in the builders merchants! Next I had to learn all the plant names in French, all of the things they simply don’t teach us at school!! French bakeries really are the best! Xx
The plant names get me all the time – not just in other languages, but in English, though in a slightly different way! I’ll find myself in somewhere (say, Australia) that is far from home, and suddenly I don’t recognize any of the plants or know any of their names. My poor relatives and people I meet are constantly bombarded with questions – what’s that plant? what’s that bird? Meanwhile, they’re both annoyed and often bewildered, because they don’t know the names of what I’m asking.
I know exactly what you mean, having lived around the world a little. I used to know all the plant names in English, or at least a lot of them. Then we moved to New Zealand and suddenly there were a whole host of plants I had never seen before, I came across Mauri words, ferns, trees, with the most fabulous names, I can remember them all but I have no idea how to spell them so I won’t embarrass myself here, but my favourite was the Pohutukawa tree. Now in France, I have to put my brain hard to work to remember the English plants again, but then I have to learn the names in French! Oh well, I guess it keeps the brain active!! Have a great weekend xx
It keeps the brain active in a way that I love – I don’t think I would ever be able to learn all the plants (even just those around me), but I will never get tired of trying to do so!
Yes it does. I am still learning the names of plants in our garden here, in both French and English. In fact I am trying to find out what a certain large leafed ground cover plant it. Always so much to learn as you say, which is good! xx
My problem lies with the names of herbs…. and some spices…. and more often than not I simply CANNOT think of the chèvrefeuille (honeysuckle, lonicera) and daff (jonquilles)….. or birds & beetles, help!!!! And of course, when I’m really mad, I can’t think in French at all! 🙂
Birds and beetles always confuse me and when I get flustered it all goes wrong! Then I get back in the car or wherever and of course it all comes flooding back to me, too late!!! xx
You remind me of so many of the things I love about the French countryside. Anyone who reads your posts is going to be tempted to take the first flight out to Paris and beyond.
Thanks so much, I know that most people can’t just jump on a plane, but I remember long before we moved to France how I felt when I read articles about life here. I would become so impatient and just long to be here. Even now sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe it is all true, it’s a great lifestyle and a beautiful country and we are very very lucky to be able to live here and raise our children here. Xx
Lucky you are.
Thanks! Have a great weekend xx
If I could draw I would send you a cute cartoon of your kids with their eyes “out on storks” on viewing the beach Adonis. Don’t you love it when your computer auto corrects?
I have a vivid memory of going to a sales conference eons ago at a resort deep in the backwoods of the Canadian North where two French guests from our international division joined the crowd around the resort pool sporting the tiniest triangles of shiny fabric ever witnessed before or since. The expression on the faces of our American Boston Brahmin bosses was priceless. Every other male in the vicinity was clad in the board shorts favoured by males of that era regardless of age, rank or physical condition – and most wore shirts too! Given that the two French gentlemen were not in the first flush of youth and clearly of a sedentary nature, the cumulative effect made one glad to be wearing sunglasses. I’m fairly sure the episode was what in the company jargon of the day was referred to as a “CLS” (career limiting statement.) Strangely, the usual pictures of the poolside BBQ were missing from that year’s company magazine.
Oh how funny, I read this through twice and never even noticed, yes I think we have all been victims of auto correct on more than one occasion! But wouldn’t it make a great cartoon, sadly I can’t draw either! But it’s rather funny as we are surrounded by storks here at the moment, it is stork breeding season, maybe because I had been writing about them in an email to a friend that the computer auto corrected to that, who knows!! Oh how this made me laugh, I can picture it precisely. Again here it is nearly always the older men and many are not in great shape, the young where long shorts, the old wear these tiny tiny things that are so so tight! Glad I have brought back memories, now you have to get the image out of your mind!! And I am off to personally auto correct!!! Xx
This is so funny, I can really picture it.
Funny, the knife and fork thing! Like you, I had the neat ‘side by side’ thing drummed into me as a child, and the random way they are left at the end of a meal took some getting used to! Lovely photos again – thank you. Can’t wait till I’m back in that part of the world soon.
Our children lead a double life, when they are at school and when they are with friends they leave their knives and forks like everyone else and when they are at home they put them neatly side by side! When are you here? We have been having such fabulous weather, everywhere is just looking amazing, I do love this time of year. Xx
I arrive in Poitiers on July 13th, then we are off to the Dordogne a few days later for a week or so. Apart from a week with a friend in August, for the rest of the time I’ll be in either Poitiers or La Rochelle. (I fly out on September 1st.)
Fabulous, so looking forward to meeting you xx
Same! Not only your blog which is of interest, but of course your Kiwi connection!
Absolutely, we’ll have much to chat about!
The weekly markets and drinking wine at the cafe always call us back. What I did find disheartening last year in Paris was that since one can not smoke inside restaurants etal, all sit outside and puff away for hours. Ruins my meal.
I do agree with that, although I have to admit I do think people are definitely smoking less here, still way too much, but it’s not quite such a big thing as it was a few years ago. But sitting at a table outside and then having someone smoking next door is really not at all pleasant, it would quite ruin my meal too. Xx
We are going to France and the UK soon and one thing I am not looking forward to is the smokers.Australia has come a long way and nowdays it is rare to see anyone smoking anywhere and it is prohibited in all eating areas inside and out. So we have to brace ourselves for the smoking onslaught and the smell.
Virginia; I have Australia envy, reading this! I sometimes would love to sit outside (although I wd have to be in the shade) but can’t because of the heavy smoking going on… Well be welcome in France AND UK…. and should you pass through Switzerland, you wd be especially welcome!
Such glorious pictures and your wonderful descriptions absolutely capture our imaginations!
Even recollections from our twenty-ish years are similar(though by now I am happy to remember them this well when recalling what I had for lunch last week is often a challenge! 🙂
Just a joyful part of the world,paricularly when we follow in your inspiration and look for the good in all,and then simply wrap our arms around how blessed we are.
Thank you for reminding us!
Thanks Natalia, it is a lovely part of the world, but like anywhere, there is good and bad, I just prefer to highlight the good things and I am very much one of those glass half full type people and I always look on the bright side. The funny thing is I can remember the lumpy mattresses and the dreadful loos but I cannot remember what the men were wearing on the beach when I was 20! Perhaps that’s a good thing, I am sure it was probably speedos!! Xx
Thanks for transporting me back to my homeland, Susan. It made me smile. This year we are going back at Christmas. We’ll have to rug up but the family get together will be huge!
So glad you are going to be coming back again at Christmas, I can imagine your Father must be so happy. It might be cold but there is something quite fabulous about big family gatherings in winter with fires and long walks and then coming back inside and being warm and cosy! But I can’t get too excited about it, I need to enjoy Spring and summer and all this fabulous weather first!! Xx
Wonderful post, and one of my favorites!
Thanks so much, One of the best things about travel, and one of the reasons why we travel is to experience different things, different cultures and different situations, so it seemed like a fairly obvious post for me to highlight one or two of the things and to keep it fairly lighthearted and amusing! Have a great weekend xx
There is so much good information here and the comments offer a wealth of information as well. You paint a beautiful story of life in rural France.
I always think the comments add as much to the blog as the post itself, everyone always has such interesting things to say, more helpful information and lots of amusing things too! Of course, there are ups and downs with any life, it’s never easy, but I do believe in looking on the bright side and focusing on the good things! Xx
Sweet! You make me want to drive around France. I would bring my own Advil. And I would probably be sitting in every boulangerie available. Yum.
The good thing is many of the boulangeries are now opening little snack areas with tables where you can sit and have a coffee and enjoy a pastry or a filled baguette! It’s the latest in thing here! Xx
Susan, thank you for a great informative post. It is always so wonderful to find out “tidbits” about 🇫🇷. And yes…in my dreams I spend hours in a French Pharmacie. Wow…you just can’t beat them!
For the Boulangerie all I can say is Magnificent! :)🍩🍰
The markets are simply wonderful…My Favorite is Isle sur la Sorgue. I bought a touching painted picture of four men in uniform…and for my daughter’s condo I was able to find 12 etchings of VERY OLD Château’s for almost nothing last summer. I framed them and put them behind her couch. The wall turned out quite nicely! 😃
I also love St Remy’s. I will miss Isle sur la Sorgue (I am disappointed about that) but will be able to do St Remy when I stay there.
Thank you again. This post was VERY helpful.
I can’t believe Friday is upon us. Two weeks in Sanibel coming to an end…🌅🐟🌴
I agree, I can spend ages just browsing in the pharmacie, there is so much good stuff in there! Those etchings sounds fabulous, it’s amazing what can be picked up for next to nothing, and without frames carried back so easily across the pond. St Remy is utterly beautiful, not such a big brocante area around here, more small local village affairs at the weekends, but they are fun all the same and occasionally something fabulous turns up! Cannot believe your holiday is almost over, happy times! Xx
Oh you lucky, lucky girl 🙂 Thank you for your kind reply to my comment…. And don’t we just LOVE Isle sur la Sorgue AND St Rémy – and I’m sorry for you that you’ll have to leave lovely Sanibel – all good things come to an end 🙂
Beautiful shots of France! It is a charming country and the food is amazing!
Thanks so much, it is a hugely varied country with so much to see and do and something for everyone! Xx
Really enjoyed your tips. We have a business here at home and are constantly meeting people from all over the world. Our French visitors were keen to explain the gastronomy and etiquette of their native France. Delightful conversation and a delightful read today from you! Merci.
Thanks so much Sue, I love discovering different cultures and I always find it fascinating that what might appear rude to one culture is totally normal to another and what’s more it’s fabulous that with the Internet we can now share all of these cultures around the world. Have a great weekend xx
I love this post. So many memories. However, I don’t feel as positive as you do about motorway aires. Except for the unserviced ones. We used to try to have the makings of a picnic so we could make our lunchtime break in one when travelling long distance. Such havens of peace and tranquility. We had two favourites: Aire de la Coulerouze near Limoges, which I wrote about here: https://margaret21.com/2012/05/04/gracious-aires/, and Widehem, near Boulogne, which was actually in the wrong place usually for a long break. And oh! How I miss French markets.
Perhaps we have just been lucky, we have only ever stopped at really good ones, quite by chance! I remember when we first came here years ago and stopped how amazed we were to find a motorway stop that was actually nice! You just can’t beat French markets, although I love British Farmers Markets, the problem is they tend to be less frequent and often only in the summer months. Roddy misses the stands selling home made game pies! Xx
When in England, and if near the Lake District, do go to Tebay Services. All good, locally produced food, a decent shop selling local produce, and a nice gift shop with small choice of books too. I gather they’ve opened one up in Gloucestershire too. And farmers’ markets are nice, but no better than run of the mill French ones on the whole. Have a lovely weekend! xx
I will make a note of that, thank you. My mothers side of the family are all from Cheshire and the Lake District, it sounds perfect. Talking of these, I have never understood why the French have not added cafes to their garden centres, or at least they certainly haven’t around here. All sorts of gift shops etc but no cafe, I know in the UK they are extremely popular! Hope you too have a lovely weekend, much cooler today, down to about 15C and showery, meant to be lovely next week again xx
Definitely think the lunch hours take a lot of getting used too. When you want to get something done you always have an eye on the clock. I just wonder when French people get their errands done. My lunch hours used to consist of going to the post office, getting shoes reheeled and a bit of shopping!
I agree with that, always clock watching, 12 noon closing time seems to come around very quickly for those of us who have been brought up with shops open non stop. Here all the useful shops, like the places where shoes can be reheeled etc are situated in the supermarket malls and are open all day so I guess this is when the French shop, but if I have a big shop to do, I always go at lunchtime because I can guarantee everywhere is empty, with literally no more than a handful of people in the store, so perhaps no one does take advantage of this!! xx
Totally agree Susan! We always do our big shop close to 12 as the French love to stand and chat in the shops!
We are in total agreement then, it is easy to nip around at that time and there are never any lines at the checkout! xx
I enjoyed this post so much. It reminded me days spent driving through the French countryside with my sister, times that we loved! My husband and I enjoyed driving around Normandy, stopping every time something grabbed our attention – which was quite often! It’s such a beautiful country and my “roots” are there in SW France. I hope to go back next summer to do the Mont Blanc hike!
I have spent so many wonderful hours and indeed days driving throughout France, with family and friends, I have to admit I find it, probably, my favourite country to drive in, outside of the big cities the roads are relatively empty and there is just so much to see. I am fascinated that your roots are in SW France, which part, now do you live in Athens, family in Athens?? A Mont Blanc hike would be amazing, I have never done that although I have flown a two seater aeroplane round and round all the way to the top of Mont Blanc, I used to have my private pilot’s licence and a group of us from our local flying club spent three weeks flying around France, those were the days when I worked in London before children!!! Have a great weekend xx
My great great grandfather, Sicaire Jambon left Barbezieux as a 19 year old headed to the US and wound up in the swamps of So. Louisiana with many, many other French transplants. He married a girl whose French Acadian family was run out of Nova Scotia by the British in the mid 1700’s. They, too, landed in So. Louisiana and became what are now called Cajuns. Fast forward – my Louisiana grandfather met my Georgia grandmother right after WW1, they married and eventually wound up in Georgia, her home. I married a boy from Athens, GA, our home now and the rest is history!
Four years ago my sister and I set out to find Barbezieux and our roots. What a marvelous experience!! After that we had other adventures driving through the French countryside: the Dordogne, Provence, from there up through the Alps to Annecy, over in to Burgundy in search of a long lost “cousin” who has a vineyard near Pouilly and Fuisse, and also through Normandy. Absolutely unforgettable adventures, meeting lovely people and visiting lovely towns and villages. I will always defend the French when people say they are snobs. Not so!!! Whenever she and I looked lost, someone stepped up to say “can I help?” I’m very proud of my French heritage and only wish I’d started my search for ancestors many years ago.
OMG, flying over Mont Blanc must have been amazing!! I hope you are still flying high over France! My sister and I took the cable car up from Chamonix to Aguille du Midi. I looked down and saw people hiking along a trail toward a stone hut and I said “I don’t want to be up here – I want to be down there on that trail hiking with those people.!” That started my desire to hike the Mont Blanc trail. So that is my plan for 2018 – you are welcome to join us! This May/June we’ll be hiking in Spain on the Camino de Santiago. Once I get the Camino and the Mont Blanc hike under my belt I may be content to hike in No. America . . . maybe!
I do plan to return to Barbezieux for more research. With the help of someone who speaks French!!
Gosh how fascinating, I looked up Barbezieux and could only come up with Barbezieux St Hilaire, which is not so far from us at all on the edge of the Dordgogne/Perigord, would that be the right one? How absolutely fantastic that you and your sister were able to do these trips and I do agree the French are so helpful and friendly. Would love to join you on your hike, but not sure my children would like me to be away for so long and neither would Roddy!! This year’s hike will be fantastic, but I don’t think even after Mont Blanc next year that you will stop at these European one’s, there are some fantastic walks in the UK which I could highly recommend too! Hope you are having a fabulous weekend xx
Yes, that’s the correct Barbezieux! Very small, only about 5000 people. It was wonderful knowing that my sister and I were walking the streets our ancestors walked even though now paved. We visited the cathedral where they worshiped and that was very meaningful and emotional. We hoped to find a cemetery where some ancestors were buried but were told there was no marked burial places. My husband and I visited that part of Nova Scotia where my Acadian ancestors lived and died until the mid 1770’s when some went to Louisiana and some returned to France. To me, there is something more special about finding those foreign roots than finding the local ones.
Our Mont Blanc hike will be only 8 days if you change your mind . And you’re right…I doubt I’ll be through with hikes in Europe. I’ve always wanted to do the coast to coast hike in the U.K. and am more than happy to take your suggestions for others.
Hope you are having as beautiful a weekend as we are here in No. Georgia!
What a great shame there are no marked burial places, I am surprised there is nothing in the cemetery and no records. I can imagine how incredibly special this must be for you, if ever I can help please let me know. So kind of you to offer for me to join you on the Mont Blanc hike, perhaps another time, but thank you so so much for the offer. A bit of a mixed bag weather wise here but still a lovely weekend. Hope you enjoy the end of your Sunday xx
Thanks for such a sunny, food-filled tour on this gray and rainy afternoon. Enjoyed it immensely 🙂
I think I’m ready for a freshly baked baguette with a nice creamy cheese and a glass of wine. That would be perfect!
If it makes you feel any better it was rather a grey day here too with plenty of showers around and a huge drop in temperatures from yesterday when we were 25C, so close to 80F and today down to 15C (nearer 60F)! Last night we ate our first evening meal of the year outdoors, sitting under the stars with candles on the table! Today, we had the fire alight in the kitchen!!! Have a great weekend xx
In other words, a normal spring 🙂
Your post brought back so many funny memories for my time spent in France. One of them is of shopping in a French grocery store, when they make an announcement that they are closing for a two hour lunch break and me running down the isles throwing food in my cart. Another is using the dreadful stand up toilet. Glad to hear that there are a lot fewer of those these days.
I enjoyed reading this post immensely.
So glad to have brought back so many great memories Jennifer, they sound hilarious and I always think it is such fun to look back on things like this, at the time we may or may not have laughed but later we always do! I’ve certainly run around the supermarket at the last minute before, being the last one out the door and receiving stern looks from the checkout staff and the people already closing the grills and locking up! Hope you have a lovely weekend xx
Okay….I’m so delighted….in every way. Let’s start with “tiny teeny weeny”…., well said, …..and on to ” squashed into a minuscule…”. You are brilliant and quite funny.
Now, in all seriousness, the photo taken in La Rochelle(?) may be the sharpest photo I have ever seen. What camera please? Truly incroiable!!!! (Did I just make that up?)
Enormous, since I’m sticking to the size theme, thanks for this truly fun visit into “a day in the life.”
I have laughed so much over the teeny weeny, it has brought back all sorts of memories of the summer!! Not sure which photo you are talking of, but thank you so much. Camera is a Panasonic LUMIX, Roddy bought it for me for my birthday last summer and I simply love it, but I am still very much a novice with it, it is capable of huge things and I have to learn a lot more! For Christmas he bought me a new lens for it, so I feel like a professional when I use it, even though I am very much a point and shoot very amateurish amateur! Hope you are having a lovely weekend xx
Less than 2 months until my trip to France. Hurrah. But I am SO glad that those one-hole toilets aren’t around any more and toilet paper doesn’t feel like a brown paper bag. What else? I love those little roads, bakeries (bread and pastries), and pharmacies. I love that pharmacies can tell you whether or not a mushroom is poisonous or not and that many have their own tisanes. Have to look for those skincare products on my next trip. Tiny Speedos? Not at all, no matter what country!! TMI!! I love the markets of Provence, although the ones I’ve seen in the area where my s-i-l lives now aren’t very good. And yes to pizza vans, too, as well as those rotisserie chickens!
I agree with everything you say! And definitely to the rotisserie chickens as well, our little bakery in the next door village to us has started doing these on a Sunday and they sell out very quickly, it is now necessary to pre-order them! It’s just the French version of takeaway and they love it! Xx
When I was in Europe in the mid-seventies, I had my first rotisserie chicken near Versailles. What a delicious, eye-opening experience that was!
I can imagine, I can remember having my first one ever in France also! A bakery in a nearby village which does them really does make the most delicious ones, they only buy free range local chickens and the marinate them overnight, they are fantastic! The best part is they take so much pride in them. xx
I loved rural France. It has its own character and all the better for it. It’s sad, but inevitable, that modern ways are taking over reducing everywhere to a similar state of blandness. Supermarkets for instance. Even in Australia we could easily believe that we were still shopping in England. Everything is the same.
Supermarkets really are very similar the world over, I agree. I love that the boulangerie is still such an important part of daily life here, although I know most bakers are having to diversify in order to make ends meet, many are now adding a couple of tables and chairs and serving coffee to go with their pastries and several are also selling filled baguettes and all sorts of takeaway food. The supermarket, whilst fantastic, is also tough on the smaller shopkeepers. Hope you are having a lovely weekend xx
Back in the early 1960s, my family was traveling through France on our way from Germany to Barcelona (camping, of course–we had a huge, heavy canvas french tent that was orange with a blue top). Among our gear was a portable toilet–basically a small camp chair with a flimsy toilet seat with a blue plastic bag underneath held by rubber bands. No one wanted to christen this rickety item. But then, our car broke down in a very remote area of France and we ended up camping in a forlorn place where, of course, it was pouring rain. My sister and I desperately needed the loo, but when we discovered the campground’s dark and dirty Turkish toilet (as you described), there were screams and a race back to dig out our portable toilet to see who would could get to it first. I have lots of happier memories of France, but this particularly comic event lives on in family history.
Thank you so much for telling me this story Mary, I laughed out loud and can just picture you and your sister running for the portable loo. Those old Turkish loos really were horrendous, I can still picture one that made my skin crawl! I am pleased to say that French plumbing is now as modern as anywhere else!! Xx
What happened to bidets? When I first went to France in the early 60s and still in the early 70s, every hotel room had a bidet. Now in older hotels you can sometimes spot where the bidet was once positioned or even the closed off plumbing. Where did all the bidets go? Don’t travellers in France make love or wash their smalls any more?
Ha ha, how this made me laugh! I guess times change! Being British I never grew up with bidets at home and actually I have never given them much thought, until now! Interestingly there were none in the three bathrooms in the house here when we bought it and it has always been owned by French people. I also have not seen any in our friends houses, also all French. Personally I think they have gone out of favour because now more and more people have proper showers installed in their bathrooms and whereas in the 70’s most French bathrooms had a bath and a bidet which meant people could wash their private parts without the need for a full bath, now most people take a shower instead and the bidet is no longer of such importance, at least that is what I think is probably the reason! xx
You are almost certainly right. Though it may say more about the quality and clientele of the hotels that I could afford back then.
But as someone who hates showers (they were unknown in my English childhood) and yet still reluctant to shell out for the extra cost of a hotel room with bath, I do rather miss the bidet. And they were far more convenient for cleaning muddy shoes than a shower or a wash-basin.
And what happened to all that porcelain? Is there a bidet grave-yard somewhere or a place that recycles them into garden ornaments or flower containers?
I know just what you mean, I grew up without showers too, like you we just didn’t have them when I was a child. I did a little google research into bidets and their decline. I read that in England in the 70’s they were a real status symbol, the avocado bathroom suite and a bidet meant you really did have it all! I think there must be a bidet grave-yard somewhere and oh the stories they could tell, including of course the most ingenious things they were used for other than what they were meant for!!! xx
Love this post and the photographs. I know my husband will have his eye glued to the camera when we come and visit next month. Better the countryside photographs than the hundreds he took in the museums mostly of a religious nature and although some are wonderful after awhile they lose their interest. The villages and fields are what we love the most as well as the bakeries, interesting they are starting to offer a coffee as well.
We are all so looking forward to meeting you. I shall point you in the direction of the bakeries with coffee and the best places to visit. Everywhere is starting to look so wonderful, the road up to the village has literally changed in the past week, now all the trees are green, every day the children and I comment non stop to and from school how pretty everywhere looks. It is such a wonderful time. I know you are looking forward to cooler temps and autumn but we really are excited to be eating outdoors and relishing this warmer weather! xx
Lovely. I feel like I’ve had a quick visit to your beautiful country. Thanks for the wonderful tour.
Thanks so much, I hope to give you many more quick armchair travel tours! It is such a beautiful time of year. Hope you have a lovely week xx
What a splendid introduction to traveling in France. Although I’ve been twice to Paris (with a couple of day trips) I long to make my next journey one where I get more into the country and the wonderful people. I loved the markets (and in this post really appreciated your description of the pharmacie because I never got to one, though they were everywhere! Your photos are fabulous and this post a total delight! Merci! ~jeanie from Marmelade Gypsy
Thanks Jeanie, you really must visit France again and see some of the more rural areas, the towns and villages in the country, it is quite different to Pairs and yet equally lovely in its own way. The Pharmacies are fabulous wherever you go, some are bigger than others but they are always a treat. I will help you plan you trip next time you visit! xx
Enjoyed your post, and thought I recognized that red pizza truck from a village in Provence with a view of Mont Ventoux? We were there with our French goddaughter and couldn’t believe the stone oven they had in that little truck.
I thing they have very similar pizza trucks all over France, this one was actually on the West coast in the Charente Martime. However, we had possibly the best pizza we have ever had in France from a similar one which was in Provence, but in the Var near Bandol. I too am always fascinated that they have a real fire in a truck, so authentic! Xx
We loved Provence (like everyone else). I wrote about it in the beginning of my current blog. We just can’t figure a way to live there full time. Would have to come back every 3 months to renew visas and all… Are you full time?
I love Provence too, as you say, don’t we all, but I also love it here, second sunniest region in France after the Mediterranean area so can’t complain! We are here full time yes and have been for a long time. xx