Where Opposites Attract

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They are a world apart, complete opposites, like chalk and cheese and yet they go together so well, existing side by side in perfect harmony. Where one might add a little glamour, put on her sparkling jewels, high heels and strike a pose, the other will stick to her tweeds, her sensible shoes, twinsets and pearls. Yet they are still the best of friends and neighbours, living contentedly side by side as the days turn into nights, the weeks into months and the years into millenia. 

For I am not talking about people at all, I’m thinking of two particular places, the coast and the country. Both attract their fair share of tourists and both have their own unique charms. They watch the ebb and flow of tourists in the summer, and enchant each and every one in their own special way. But which do you choose? The sand and the sea,

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or greenery,  horses, sheep and cows?

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It’s a hard choice, but that’s the beauty of the Charente Maritime; you don’t have to make a decision, you can have both – you really can have your cake, and eat it too. We live in the country in a small French village and yet we are just fifteen minutes from the coast. Our particular area has a coastline that’s lined with sand dunes and pine forests, there is ample parking amongst the trees and then it is a simple stroll or cycle to the beach.  We are lucky, we really do have the best of both worlds.

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Of course each has two sides. The coast has the rugged wild areas where the surf pounds the rocks

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and the country has it’s wonderful market towns where elegant houses, many with ornate carvings and beautiful wrought iron balconies, dominate the streets.

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So, if you feel the call of the ocean, you can walk for miles along open stretches of beach on the Atlantic coast, or you can enjoy one of the many seaside towns; breakfast, lunch and dinner can be taken on a terrace overlooking the water. Along the way you can browse in a few shops and generally feel rather chic.

One of the things I find most appealing about this area is that although many of the properties along the shore boast price tags well in excess of a million euros, there is still a feeling of normality. It feels safe. One can walk without a care in the world.

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At the suggestion of some French friends, we enjoyed brunch on Sunday with them in one of my favourite places, Pontaillac. This is a small area on the west side of the Royan, away from the bulk of the summer tourists but still officially a part of it.

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France as a nation seems have taken le brunch (they’ve kept the English word) to heart and adopted it as very much a part of the Sunday routine. It’s a time to be social and meet with friends, and in our case the chosen restaurant was brimming with like-minded locals.

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Our friends have been raving about the brunch served there for ages and it’s taken a while to find a Sunday morning when no one had anything planned. Being French and aware of our varied experiences, they were very keen for us to join them and experience a meal so out of French character. Whilst the view out to the sea is an obvious draw,

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IMG_8214so too is the menu; a typical full English breakfast is offered, along with a basket of croissants and pain au chocolat, fresh seasonal fruit and tea or coffee. For those not quite so keen on the full English there was a choice of pancakes, patisseries and fruit, or a four-egg omelette with croissants. After three hours of fitness on the beach, it was just what the doctor ordered!

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By the time the afternoon arrived, we had chatted for hours over our very leisurely meal and we headed back for a completely different sort of entertainment, a visit to a local brocante in a village close to home.

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Within seconds of leaving the coast one is back in the country and amidst bucolic pastoral landscapes.

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Leaving the boulevards and shop-lined pavements of Royan behind, the road-side verges are soon full of wild poppies and wild oats, self-seeded beside fields of wheat, barley, young maize and sunflowers.

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These small country brocantes are usually held on the edge of a village,  with the venue of choice often the school play-ground or sports field. At this time of year there are signs advertising the day and location of brocantes at many road junctions; you just have to keep your eyes open and you’re often spoilt for choice.

Your average small village brocante  is normally a simple matter, but sometimes I might be lucky and find something that I just have to snap up for a bargain price –  but locally where we are it’s a fairly rare occurrence. Most are far more like a typical car-boot sale, or general yard-sale, something covered by that wonderful vernacular French expression, the vide grenier;  in French this literally means ’empty your attic’, and that is exactly what a vide grenier is; a day when old toys, clothes, tools and records can all be sold, amongst an odd assortment of just about anything else that the person selling has no use for anymore, and no wish to keep either.

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Whether they are advertised as a brocante or vide grenier, here they tend to both be the same! I tend to visit for the atmosphere, because I love wandering amongst the make-shift stands, bumping into friends or people I might not have seen for ages, exchanging kisses and having a chat; it’s very amicable and very social. You know it is a French occasion when lunch comes calling, and the hubbub of noise dwindles as tables are set out under umbrellas and each stallholder and their family moves their focus of attention from selling to eating, to tables that groan under plates of charcuterie, cheese, fresh baguettes and the omnipresent bottle or jug of wine.

On Sunday there was one man selling a vast collection of wines and spirits. I imagined they were bottles he had obviously collected over the years, and they were quite an intriguing lot.

P6400764What amused me most though was the home-made looking bottle labelled Premier Secours –  ‘First Aid’. I laughed and asked him what was in the bottle. A secret brew, he told me; something he made at home that could cure all ailments. Hmmmm, I think most likely after drinking the contents first-aid in another form will almost certainly be needed!

 

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We also found a stand selling fresh apricots and cherries.

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As is always the way here we were offered a taste and of course we said, “Yes please!”. He selected an apricot and cut it in half, some for me, and some for Gigi – everyone is always most generous. It was delicious and we bought three kilos to take home for just a few euros!

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We didn’t stay too long, and after an hour of wandering around we made our way home. Stopping to take a few photos, we looked back in the direction of the village where we had just come from. All that was visible amongst the trees was the distant view of the church tower. I couldn’t help but think that aside from the cars and the actual things on sale, the occasion was something that probably hadn’t changed much for decades, a summer’s day in the simple country way of life. It had been a far cry from the morning’s brunch and yet the two complimented each other perfectly, definitely a match made in French heaven.

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114 thoughts on “Where Opposites Attract

  • You had me there for a moment, I thought, oh no, please don’t let this be one of those posts about the perceived idea of French Women, they are always so false and bore me stiff! But no, to my delighted surprise it was another perfect post!

    • Ha ha, no I don’t think writing about fashion is my thing, I like to silently observe but would never dare make any public comments! So glad you were happily surprised! xx

  • How lucky you are to have both sea and country.
    Wow! I was surprised to hear they serve brunch near you. Most definitely not here. Restaurants open at noon for Sunday lunch. I find it so interesting that we are so near and yet life can be quite different.

    • I was too, but it’s hugely popular here, it’s quite a cosmopolitan area and people really do embrace foreign trends. Variety is the spice of life!! What amused me most was they originally had baked beans too only apparently that was something that had not been so popular! xx

  • I note that the abricots et cerises are from Ardèche … closer to here than to you. That’s the thing, isn’t it? The really real thing – France has it all. Winter, summer autumn and spring there is something to satisfy every palette. For me, as you know the mountains are the pull. But I love the sun kissed gardens and meadows in summer and occasionally I do want the coastline. I lived for a while in Juan les Pins … its pretty beachy pretty. Charente Maritime is the second most touristique destination in France and it’s not hard to see why. You don’t need to sell it hard – it is, as you so adeptly weave, a perfect place to stop and go no further xx

    • I know I noticed straight away that they are from the Ardeche! I didn’t ask him but assume he is travelling around this area. Our cherries are over in the garden already sadly, they go so quickly! The mountains too are a pull for me, I am not sure if it was just me on my own which would win, sea or mountains, it would be a tough choice, perhaps mountains and lake, then I would get the water, so long as it was big enough for boats! The funny thing is although we do rely heavily on tourism here and there are plenty of tourists, and the coast does get busy, very busy, it never seems unbearable or like it cannot cope, traffic can be slow on the coast road but never impossible.Email when you have a moment!! xxx

      • Lac Laffrey then or Annecy or Chambéry, even Aix les Bains. The thing is we settle and we nestle and we strive to thrive and you are … that is priceless :). Email will follow. Promis!

      • Or Lac Leman, I could certainly live close by! I think I could actually be happy anywhere if all the family are happy. We all love the sea, the ocean in the winter, the fun of summer picnics on the beach in the summer, but then when we go to the mountains everyone wishes we lived there!!! xx

      • That measures a good holiday for me, when one plans in one’s head and with the children, the house we would buy, what we would do, it’s a game we have played a great many times in a great many countries and locations!!! But then on the flip side, it’s always great to be home again and that says so much too. I guess we are just very lucky! Xx

  • There really does seem to be something for everyone. Me, i would choose just as you have, country with the beach and coastal towns within a twenty minute drive, that for me is my idea of heaven!

    • I think living just a tiny bit away from the coast allows us to have a large garden, room for chickens etc which we probably wouldn’t have if we lived right on the coast, so it is the best of both worlds! xx

  • What a beautiful day it looks like you had, very jealous of your brunch and beach day! Would personally always go for forests and greenery!

    • I love how we all have our favourite places, the sea definitely calls to me and to Roddy too, neither of us could live without water relatively close, and yet I know many people who just love the country, forests and mountains. Each to their own and what a good thing we are all different! xx

  • What a charming day, full of many delights! You are, absolutely, in my idea of heaven! In the country but with beach nearby. Both surroundings feed the soul, though in different ways, don’t they? So glad you had such a lovely time. xo

    • It is absolutely my idea of heaven too Anne, I love the country, I love that we are able to have chickens and the peace of the farming country around us and the tiny country lanes, but I also love the coast and the sea and walking barefoot along the sand, I love it all, and am so lucky to be able to have both! xx

  • Yes please….all of it. I seem to be both a country mouse, and a city mouse. I do really believe the country would come out ahead though. Here we have mountains and huge trees and beaches that are very different from yours…. no sand. A city is a ferry ride away.
    I’m glad I get to experience it all……even France.

    Did you receive my email Susan?

    Ali xx

    • I think I will always be a country girl at heart, but I do like to be within a reasonable distance of the city and also the beach. As you know I grew up taking ferries, they were very much a part of my life. I think you certainly have the best of all worlds, plus you get to come here too!!! I did receive it and I will reply, just been a little swamped this week. xxx

  • This is so wonderful Susan that you are blessed with the best of both worlds. And to be so close to the ocean is magnificent! I love the water too but also love the countryside. I didn’t realize you are in somewhat of a touristy area. hmmm I’m wondering what the house prices are like in the small villages countryside. I’m thinking it would be great to have a home that I could have and then rent when not around.

    • I have to admit I do think we have the best of both worlds here. The coast is huge popular in the warmer months, tourism being the number one industry and the Charente Maritime coast being the second most popular tourist destination in France after the Mediterranean coast. It is true that the house prices in the villages within twenty minutes of the coast are much higher than those further inland, head an hour inland and you can certainly get a lot more for your money, but at the same time you can’t just take a quick drive to the coast for a walk! Properties here are always in demand for rent in the summer months. xx

    • What a great memory Brenda, when were you staying in this area? The huge expanse of beach at Royan, stretching all the way down to St Georges de Didonne is lovely out of season but it can get so crowded in the summer. Pontaillac can too but there is just something about Pontaillac that I love, always one of my favourite places! xx

  • Lovely read, I have been to a few local Brocantes in France, very much as you describe. Love the first aid tonic!

  • I loved your photos of the countryside, they filled me with such a sense of calm and I agree they could be from a painting 100 years ago

    • There are often times when I am driving in the country here when I think so little has changed for decades or even centuries. It is incredible that I can be just 20 minutes from the hustle and bustle of the coast and yet on a tiny backroad with not another car or person in sight. Perfection! xx

  • Country and mountains for me! I love the sea but I am a little afraid of it too- probably as a result of living on the east coast of yorkshire where the autumn gales blowing off the sea are a powerful reminder of how tough nature can be. Here I’m about an hour from the sea but we have two wonderful swimming lakes within 5 minutes. A day by the sea…yes; a lifetime…not for me. As ever you give us such wonderful photos. What an eye you have for a piccy.

    • Thanks so much, I will always be a country girl but having grown up on the Isle of Wight, I have always lived very close to the sea, it was a part of my daily life, the smell of the salty air, I think that for me is hard to live without now! But you are right, the sea and nature can be so tough, I know only too well the utter tragedy when fishermen are lost at sea and how it affects our whole community, it is certainly not the perfect ice cream on the beach existence we tend to think of when we imagine the coast. It sounds as if you have a great solution! xx

  • How lucky you are to be able to appreciate each world to its fullest! It truly does seem like a wonderful place to live.

  • I grew up on a bluff overlooking a bay (northwest Florida aka The Emerald Coast aka The Redneck Riviera). The vista was expansive, the house was nestled amongst centuries old live oaks draped with Spanish moss. Our beaches are sugar white, squeak when you walk on them and can be blinding in the bright sun; depending on where you are along the coast the water varies from bright turquoise to a dull olive, It is interesting that when this is your point of reference it is so easily taken for granted, especially when you are young. After college I moved to Dallas. We had one tree in our yard, a pitiful little crape myrtle I planted myself. It always seemed to struggle and never thrived. It took me a minute to adjust my vision to see the beauty in the heat and flatness of that place. We currently live in an Atlanta suburb on the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest. The (most times) fun, and unexpected, outfall of this is that we seem to be in critter-wonderland. We’ve had squirrels (flying and “domestic”) and raccoons in the attic, possums in the basement, regularly see hawks and geese overhead, foxes wander through the yard, more rabbits and chipmunks than you can count, an actual bear one time, I’ll not talk about snakes but they are there also. We have one tiny patch of sunlight on the corner of an acre yard deeply shaded by 100’+ tall poplars and hickorys. The trunks on most are so large I can’t reach around them. I pack as many flowering plants as I can in our little spot of sun (I might be a little envious of the cowslips shown at the top of this post. Those look lush and happy; they are sold here as container plants, the climate isn’t friendly to them otherwise). Like you we are able to enjoy the benefit of both – beach and country. In both locales there are days that are achingly perfect – when the sky and the humidity and the temperature and the view just can’t be improved. I try to take a moment when I realize I am in the midst of that and catalog it – a resource to be reflected upon on a day less perfect. What I have come to love about your posts are the reflections that grand and glorious has its place but is no more important or fulfilling than simple and serene. Thank you for continuing to share your perspective and the beautiful images.

    • Thanks so much Steven for sharing so much of where you have and are living. I know a little of the Florida coastline, but more the East than West coast, but I can imagine that blindingly white sand from holidays spent further south down the west coast of Florida. I have never been to Texas but I have visited Atlanta and the surrounding area. Your backyard sounds like a haven for wildlife, I can’t believe you have even had a bear there! I think wherever we are it’s just important to appreciate it. When I am in the country, I cannot think of anywhere I would rather be, likewise when I am walking barefoot along the beach in summer or hiking across the sand in the depths of winter, bundled up against a freezing cold wind, I think this is the best place on earth! In truth I think I could be happy anywhere so long as my family are with me and they are happy! xx

  • I just wish I cd be nearer ‘the’ water, IF we need to stay in France, it would be Lac d’Annecy or Châlon s/Saone in the East, the West doesn’t come into the equation as all our family is in Switzerland, so we wouln’t go any further west than we are already. The south is out of question for the heat, Bretagne is def where our heart aims to BUT it’s just too far from everything we need to access. I’m rather a (very moderate) city girl having grown up in Zürich but felt most at home in the blessed normality of South Devon, my paradise is located at Lac Léman (Lake Geneva, a name we hate because it’s so wrong….) in Lutry, a delightful village where ‘going places’ took me 2′ on foot to the boat jetty, 2′ to the bus stop, 5′ to the train station. Large train hubs were to be had in Lausanne and flights going from GVA airport…..
    If I can’t have that, it would have to be rather quiet, with close access to water, a river, a lake, a sea 🙂 Got that?!
    Your location seems rather the cherry on the cake, really – except that I wd fear that it is too quiet for me. We like going to concerts, visiting places and entertain & visit friends and family.
    But I also freely admit that the more I read about your idyllic placement, the more I love it.
    OUr 23 friends who came for choral lessons on MOnday told us (the new ones anyway, all the others knew the place) how absolutely wonderful our home here is and yet….. I wd give it up in a heartbeat if I could sensibly return to a place closer to water. Strange…. but so is the human mind!

    • The call of the water is strong isn’t it. I grew up on an island and I have always lived with salt laden air, I would miss it I know if I was too far inland. I love that you always go back to South Devon as your best place, I can certainly understand it, it’s hard to beat, but Brittany is so similar. We are not that quiet here, that’s the beauty of where we are, we are just ten minutes from Rochefort which is wonderfully busy all year round, not just in the warmer months and then half an hour away we have La Rochelle, if we feel like being really grown up! In the summer the coastal towns offer just about anything and everything! The human mind does indeed work in strange ways! xx

      • I totally loved La Rochelle and Saintes and have very fond memories of the one time I visited there. Saintes has this wonderful music festival which we wanted to attend to for many years and never quite made it! Although, I have to say that La Rochelle was very busy even though we didn’t visit in ‘high season’ 🙂 If I remember correctly, we stayed in a lovely B&B but it was so long ago….

      • La Rochelle is always busy, but I rather like it, I love that it is buzzing all year round, so many coastal areas in France become almost ghost towns in winter. The music festival in Saintes is huge and yet we still haven’t managed to go either, always we have something else on at the time, last year we made a concerted effort but something cropped up! So many places for you to visit, next spring I hope! Xxx

      • … count on it – it’s all in the pipeline. But not ‘making’ it to Saintes is a minor sin!!!! Having said what I did about La Rochelle, oh we loved it alright – but it wouldn’t be for everyday!

      • La Rochelle is super easy once you know your way around and know the tricks of parking easily and where to go to avoid the crowds, then it is perfection! Xx

  • I’m a real city girl, having grown up in Liverpool & working in London through the 1980’s. I now live in Edinburgh & have the best of all worlds! It’s a small, manageable city with lots of entertainment, but under 30 mins in a car (or in my case, a bus!) there are beaches & lovely countryside. Now if we just had the weather it really would be perfect! Pouring down today, tourists looking very wet & bedraggled…..

    • My wife and I have a pact that, if at all possible, we would like to spend a year in Edinburgh before we “depart”. We have been several times and loved it more with each visit. Our children still talk fondly about a particularly bitterly cold Hogmanay we experienced – drunk Scots, literally wearing nothing but kilts and shoes, dragging a longship through the street oblivious to the cold while we were wrapped like mummies trying to pull warmth from the torches we carried and the bodies of the throngs surrounding us. The wind was fierce, eyes watered, cheeks and noses were bright red. It was quite a grand time!

      • I have to barge in here and say “do it” if you possibly can. I have spent several New Years in Scotland and they have always been the best I have ever known. One side of my family are all Scottish and if we didn’t live in France it is where we would certainly be. xx

    • I think you live in a perfect place Janet, except as you say, the weather can be more than a little disappointing! By contrast it was 35C here today and everyone was moaning it was too hot. Now we are in the midst of a quite violent thunderstorm, plenty of thunder and the heavens have just opened and it is pouring here too!!! xx

  • whilst living some steps from the Mediterranean I would rather decide for the greenery . Seclusion is my
    priority as I grow older though I also enjoy the activity in a city but just for some days and then back to the cows

    • I tend to agree, I love the city, but just for a visit and then I am happy to come home to the peace and quiet and serenity of the countryside. The quiet village roads where I can walk unhindered and take in all around me. And the when I need a buzz of activity I just head to the coast! xx

  • I am amazed that anyone can sell alcohol at a brocante, I am quite sure here you would need a licence, vive la France!

    • I have no idea what licences one needs here, but I would imagine, selling bottles of wine that one has collected is totally acceptable! It was certainly an impressive collection and one he was rightly proud of. xx

      • By the looks of his laid back posture he appears to have consumed a good bottle for lunch!!

      • I thought the exact same thing! I hated having to stir him to ask a few questions but he was very cheerful and more than willing to chat away and discuss his bottles! Xx

  • So many lovely photos, what a tough choice, I love them all but am always drawn to the sea. Le brunch looks fabulous!

  • Just when I think I’ve settled on an area to move to (Languedoc, Carcassonne or Uzes), I read something that makes me think again! Where were the city pictures taken? The buildings are lovely.

    • You will have to come and visit! the first two city pictures are in Rochefort sur Mer which sits on the River Charente and is about ten minutes away from us. A lovely buzzing city all year round. The final photo is in Marennes which is a coastal town also very close to us. Plenty of gorgeous architecture here and also just half an hour north in La Rochelle or half an hour inland in Saintes, we truly are spoilt for choice! xx

  • Once again a delightful post! You painted the picture of the contrast between coast and country perfectly! I find that the reverse can also be quite true, especially along parts of the French Atlantic coast. Some of those beaches are so rugged and windswept it seems as though nobody has set foot on them in years; while in the middle of the countryside one can find perfectly attended houses and villages, and amazing boulangeries of course! Can’t wait to see what you think of next!!! Xxx J

    • Thanks Josie, you are so right in that the reverse is also quite true, there is nothing quite like a windswept deserted beach in the depths of winter, with not a soul in sight and the ocean crashing against the rocks and pounding the sand. We are lucky there are still plenty of wild spaces to be found here. It’s certainly a land of contrasts! Xx

    • Thank you Gigi, it’s funny I saw your comment and I thought it must be our youngest daughter commenting for fun! But I also knew she was fast asleep at the time the comment came in and that this is not her email address! So I am delighted to find another Gigi reading the blog! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and hope you have a wonderful weekend xx

    • The roads through the pines which are closed to cars are fabulous, a great place to cycle, as they are well marked and one can literally go for miles and miles all along the coast, the longer we live here, the more we realise what a special place it is. As for the brunch, it was delicious and most unexpected, but the French seem to love it! Xx

  • A jealous ‘hmmph’ !! On this late Friday morning Sydney and outskirts are already emptying for the Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend which coincidentally will add another ‘official’ year to my age . . . . would not mind one iota if my genie [who always seems to be outside the call-circle when needed 🙂 !] could transport me sort’of ‘up-you-way’! Choice given: land over seas altho I too was born within the salty winds. Of all possible meals love the Sunday brunch most tho’ somehow would have thought the culinarily brilliant French would have added a few more irresistible dishes to the menu! And a ‘market sale’ – try and keep me away!!! Thank you for a lovely beginning to a birthday I happen to share with Prince Phillip . . . oh, well, it shows, we both regularly put ‘our foot in it’!!

    • Ahh another birthday in June. We have just had our eldest daughter’s and now I see you are just two days away from Roddy, obviously a very special week, and a VERY Happy Birthday to you for tomorrow. Hope you have a wonderful day. I still can’t decide if I would choose land or sea or mountains if I had to choose, just as well we are where we are, I don’t have to choose! When I am back at home I cannot imagine anywhere else I would want to be and yet when I am at the beach looking at some of the lovely houses on a perfect day I imagine how I would love to live right there! Le brunch is fabulous, so happy that they have taken it to heart, I think it shows what a cosmopolitan area this is. I guess they have kept it simple on purpose. Last orders for brunch are 11am and then they move onto the lunch menu at 12. Once again a very very Happy Birthday to you xxx

      • Thanks – I have never made much out of birthdays: am the same person the day after as I was the day before 🙂 ! But have always loved being a Gemini!! And it is fun saying ‘hello’ to Mr Google today with all those birthday candles flickering 🙂 !! . . .Do hope Roddy thinks the same way . . . . ands DO hope it will be a happy and fulfilling one in all aspects of his life in the months to come . . .

      • I think today is the actual day for you, we’ll just about over now, but only just beginning here, so even if you didn’t do much, Happy Birthday once again! There is something about Geminis, it’s funny, I never talk of being a cancerian and I don’t know anyone else who talks about being a Leo or Aquarius or whatever, but every Gemini I know, and there are a lot of them, starting with Roddy, then Izzi, our eldest, then cousins, friends and more friends, (all clustered around the first ten days of June) each and every one talks about being a Gemini! Is Roddy a true Gemini? I don’t know, but he is the most caring, kind person I know. Anyway, hope you are having a lovely weekend. We have Australians staying at the moment and it has been such fun to hear so many of their stories, I feel as if I have learnt a lot about the country and oh have we laughed a lot too! Xx

      • Happy, happy birthday to you EHA & RODDY….. I have two nieces with their b’days in June, a wedding anniv plus 7 friends – a busy month for having babies, albeit in many different years!!!!

  • Another charming day in the life! I felt as though I were there. Now I’m craving fresh apricots!

    • Just ate fresh apricots for breakfast along with a handful of red currants picked straight from the garden, yummy. I am painting the picture of everything here in the hopes that you will come and visit very soon!!! Xxx

  • I’ve also never heard much about brunch elsewhere in France – you are lucky! But most of all to be blessed by that fabulous country location not far from the ocean. Profitez-en!

    • I am guessing Le brunch has taken off here as it really is quite a cosmopolitan area, and I am told it is not just in the summer months, the restaurant is open year round and serves brunch year round, very much catering to the locals! I have to be honest and say it was the location that first drew us to the area in the first place, we wanted to be within twenty minutes of the coast but we also wanted somewhere that didn’t just pack up and become a ghost town in winter. It seems we got lucky!!! Xx

  • Susan,your post today is pure nirvana!
    What a gift to be in this place in life,especially at your time of life!
    Precious moments made now and recalled with love and gratitude later on.
    Eleanor Roosevelt once said that ‘ every day is a gift;that’s why it’s called the present.”( very much respect this lady!An inspiration,to be sure!)
    Thank you for reminding me!

    • Every day is a gift, I shall remember that, especially when things aren’t always going well and perfectly! Yesterday we roasted at 35C/ 95F only for the evening to end with a dramatic thunderstorm and some much needed rain. This morning the garden smells so fresh, life is indeed fabulous. I remind our children of this every day! Xx

      • Same here, tremendous storm, the heavens zig-zagged with wunderful lightnings, thunder first rumbling closer and then bursting nearly my eardrums – Hero Husband blissfully unaware, me at the window and recalling the times when we lived nr Zurich (CH), me on the large balcony overlooking Lake Zurich, in one arm my screaming child and in the other my trembling dog…. trying over and over to explain to son that this is not something to cry over but a wonderful performance of mother nature. We saw the lightnings flashing into the lake, the clouds rushing across the sky – I saw beauty where he saw horror…. my poor little darling dachshund wd have needed some extra hands to hold over his long ears – she was terrified of all noise. I remembered how beaten up I felt in the mornings with hours outside, and funnily enough I feel the same today….. Only it’s not a frightened child and a fearful dog to keep me but the 2.5h standing in the church yesterday for a first of two dress rehearsal for our upcoming concert….! A bad back, and standing there in my flimsy espadrilles, singing with control and attention – and whack, my muscles in the legs nearly fail me and my back feels spineless. Now guess what I preferred of the two likened experiences?!
        Have tons of cherries and no hope in the world of getting them down. The ones on the young tree I can reach but they are so tiny (and wonderfully dark red nearly black) that the stone makes 90% of the fruit – and they are so delicious! I also bought yesterday 3kg of Spanish apricots with ruddy red cheeks, small ones, so they promise to be tasty. Our dessert of the day will be a tart with an organic puff pastry and those lovely fruit. The rest goes in the freezer for winter delights. Aaaah aren’t we just the so lucky ones! 🙂

      • Aren’t we lucky indeed. Our cherries are over, whatever type ours are they are always the first to ripen and the first to finish in this area! But we have plums to look forward to next, the tree is bursting with them and locally there are apricots galore, the markets are brimming with them at great prices. We ate our first beans from the garden last night and lettuce too, the simple things, but we are so so lucky! The storm was quite violent last night but very short here, Bentley is always utterly terrified, Evie couldn’t care less! The rain pelted down and this morning the garden is extremely thankful, the sun is out, the birds are singing and everything is watered and happy! So hope your back and legs feel better, I can imagine you sing to perfection and am sure the concert will be a huge success, it will be worth it, because of the pleasure you get from it quite obviously and the pleasure so many others are going to find listening. Xx

      • My morning ‘ordeal’ was to chase away the two pairs of huge magpies away…. they make such a racket, and a disorder and they scare EVERYTHING away… even all the neighbours’ cats don’t come over any more!!! The cherries are now colouring the trees beautifully in red and black but the fruits remain unatteignable to us!

      • It’s so sad that our cherries are now over, but I am watching the plums slowly ripen and we are eating our first French beans from the garden and lots and lots of tiny wild strawberries. When one thing ends another begins. Xxx

  • This is what I long for when we retire to France in two years time. Those endless country lanes with no traffic, here they are overrun way the 4×4 brigade who’s cars never see any mud!

    • Ha ha, I love that description and it is oh so true in many places. It is easy to find a country lane here that literally only sees one car a day at most! But what is most incredible is that this is just a stone’s throw from the coast, literally twenty minutes inland and all is calm and quiet. That is why we love it here so much. Xx

  • How lucky you are to have the best of both worlds in your doorstep. Me, I would choose the coast any day, I need that salty air and to hear the sea, it soothes my soul.

    • I do understand your reasons Sharon, I have always grown up close to the sea, that salt laden air has always been a part of my life. I love living just a little inland, but I also feel so relaxed when I walk along the beach and listen to the waves and the water gently lapping at the sand in the summer or crashing against the rocks in the winter. There is nothing quite like it. Xx

  • We are definitely soulmates! Walking the sands in any season takes me to my private secret world, where I am alone with my thoughts, it’s where I go when I need solace.

    • I know what you mean, I find the sound of the sea utterly mesmerising and am fortunate enough to be able to walk along the beach a couple of times each week, it is one of my favourite places. Xx

  • Sea and country are part of my life in Maine and like for you, they are separated by minutes. Wandering a brocante is my idea of a fun way to spend some time and who knows what treasure might be waiting!

    • Sounds as if we have a great deal in common, a lifestyle equally shared amongst sea and country is just perfect. An afternoon brocante is fun, I never expect too much and when I find something it is an added bonus and I am always thrilled! Xx

    • What fun, where was the house, do you remember? It’s a very special department, not known by many tourists to France, but certainly one that is full of surprises with the fabulous Atlantic coastline. Xx

  • Interesting post, lovely photos as per usual…..all just reminds me of why Neil & I just love that area so much & cant wait to return to lots of those lovely places & hopefully discover new ones!
    Such a beautiful & contrasting area Charente Maritime…..well portrayed Susie x

    • Thanks so much Yvonne, we were just chatting about you this evening and saying how you are coming in September, the fig tree is already bursting with tiny fruits awaiting your arrival! We are discovering new places all the time so should have plenty of fresh ideas for you. It has been very hot here, 35C yesterday and then the most enormous thunderstorm overnight which cleared the air, today was a far more pleasant 25C! Hope you have a wonderful weekend xx

    • I have been having apricots for breakfast every days, they are fabulous at the moment, right at their peak. I’ll follow this by a handful of red currants picked straight from the garden, life is good! Xx

  • Susan, Yikes good thing that I don’t have to make a “for real” choice. I do ultimately think I would choose to be a Country Mouse, though. I like the “French Markets and small French Villiage Architecture. I like seeing horses, sheeps and cows roam the countryside. I could not give up the Brocantes; the intimacy of the French countryside (the beauty…the history that lies within each story told). I have never felt the nescessity to live in the Paris. Instead, I would have loved being the Country Mouse; living what I percieve to be a idyllic life in a small village in the Charente Maritime region. There I go…agian… daydreaming again. Happy Weekend! 😉

    • You made me daydream just reading this, and then I thought, wait a minute, that’s the life I lead!! Yes, this is just what we all love, this life in a French country village, Millie, at 17, said to me just yesterday, how this is perfect and that made me so so happy. Then when we want a little bit of retail therapy and a little bit of excitement we have beautiful cities so close by, and a choice of several, then we have the coast and the beach too, we don’t need Paris at all, we have it all right here! So looking forward to you visiting one day so we can share it all with you. Have a fabulous Sunday xx

  • Salt for me, Susan – the two of us here wouldn’t have it any other way, even if it’s contrary to what you do – you see, we thoroughly enjoy a Sunday lunch in a country pub, then two hours picking strawberries at the farm down the road, and then eating them on the shingle by the shed, salt breeze cooling us down again. My favourite part of summer, almost. You have posted some wonderful moments here though…..

    • Sounds like absolute perfection to me, country pubs are something I do miss, there is nothing quite like them here. A Sunday lunch with friends in the garden at a pub in a good village is always the best. Strawberries on the shingle sounds like a close second, and that is something we can do here, nothing quite like that salty air as you say, couldn’t live without it. Xx

  • You have pretty much described my perfect day Susan. Although an hour or so north of you, I love the area my holiday home is in for the same reasons you love your area…. rural but with the coast close by.
    Haven’t seen brunch on offer anywhere my way, am interested to know if your French friends were brave enough to try the full English?

  • I really admire your writing and photograph! I am speisifically the description of the photos, and the focus place scene.
    I must admit your a wonderfull writer and a photographer.

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