Town or Country ?

24059214_761930727335667_1180675717313672991_nWhich sets your heart beating a little faster? A rural home so beautiful yet bought for a price that will make city dwellers cry or an elegant pad overflowing with period features near the shops and the buzz of urban life where you can pretty much get anything you want in a jiffy?

20953114_721277604734313_7107961372495416254_nIf you’re suffering from the January blues or just feel the need for a little escapism stick with me today. I thought we should let our imaginations run wild and indulge ourselves with a sprinkling of fantasy.

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Naturally, I am keeping things local and all in the Charente Maritime because otherwise I fear Paris may win! But whilst we might not have the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre or the Champs Élysees we have plenty of things in our favour. We have world Class shopping and dining. The Atlantic ocean, oysters and sailing. We have agriculture, vineyards, historic castles and a Roman amphitheatre. We have our Atlantic islands, the Île de Ré, Île d’Oléron, Île d’Aix and Île Madam. And still we have a whole lot more, what’s not to like? So even though this is, rather sadly, just make believe, there really is something for everyone. There are no limits and no rules except the property you decide on has to be one that would make you truly happy. You have a fairly hefty budget at your disposal so what and where would you choose? The options are endless but as we are dreaming so are the possibilities!

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Many people dream of swapping a city apartment for a large country house and the chance to live in isolated splendour, never having to venture into the big smoke again.

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Fine country houses come in all shapes and sizes. At one end of the scale there is the thirty room plus château where the upkeep will probably end up costing more than the original purchase price and it will certainly give you sleepless nights, the roof will permanently be in need of repair and the windows will rattle alarmingly in the wind.

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Or still on an impressive scale any manoir or maison de maitre will have most of us already imagining family meals in the fabulous farmhouse style kitchen and long lazy summer afternoons working in the gardens.

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However, it might be wiser to adopt a slightly more realistic approach with somewhere not so big as to be completely unmanageable yet located in a heartbreakingly pretty spot.

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The question is which is best for you? Do you want to live in the heart of a village, close enough to a boulangerie that you can almost smell the freshly baked baguettes and croissants from your front door

12745510_465141747014568_7574677285339535667_nor would you be content with an amazing fireplace, beamed ceilings and a wealth of history.12308768_439371539591589_2613474409738467397_n

Maybe a town house or flat would be the best decision, with well proportioned rooms, high ceilings and original features throughout. An apartment in an historic building can form the basis of a very elegant lifestyle and I can see the appeal of being able to wander through neighbouring streets to the green grocer, the florist and a selection of restaurants.

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Perhaps you long for something that’s neither town nor country, but rather in between the two, a little bit of both where picture-perfect little cottages vie for space in narrow winding cobbled streets where you will find art galleries and craft shops, cosy cafés and an ancient church.

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If you are a family with young children, how about a beautiful period house within easy walking distance of the village primary school?

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Maybe you are retired and want to take things easy or maybe you hanker after a complete change in lifestyle. You could step back into a forgotten age and enjoy the smell of the sea in the air and taste the salt on your lips on the Île d’Aix. Motor vehicles aren’t permitted on the Island with the exception of service vehicles and the link to the mainland is via a 20 minute ferry crossing.

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But coastal living comes in all styles and covers all budgets and if a remote fisherman’s cottage doesn’t rock your boat then perhaps a villa, old or new, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean might be more your style.

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I wonder if instead of any of the above you would rather try your hand at some major renovation work? How about a romantic wreck that needs some love? You could always camp out in a caravan, as many have done and do, whilst you build, quite literally, your dream.

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So what would you choose if you were told you were moving to France? Town or Country? Fixer upper, complete wreck or perfectly perfect?

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117 thoughts on “Town or Country ?

  • OK, I just found my NEW BEST LOVED post here…. 🙂
    I think you covered everything with this, dear Susan…. and you certainly had my interest when I read ….. Perhaps you long for something that’s neither town nor country, but rather in between the two, a little bit of both where picture-perfect little cottages vie for space in narrow winding cobbled streets where you will find art galleries and craft shops, cosy cafés and an ancient church. THIS.IS.IT.
    There is a second side to EVERYTHING, isn’t there. In my personal opinion, you can’t even start to compare – let’s say – Paris to your area. It’s like the sun and the moon – we need both to live in harmony. Jobs (sadly) are rather to be found in the Paris region than in your wonderful bucolic region, which brings a whole other ‘bucket’ filled with side effects (all or some of which we well know)…..
    I have been looking for old, history filled homes all my life but have arrived at a point where the importance of what I NEED is quite different to what I DREAM of. We shall discuss all of this in due course.
    A tremendous THANK YOU for this lovely break of my day. As you know I’m rarely online but this just popped up right when I put the iPad on – I feel blessed with your choice and love how you put everything in just the right words.

    • Yes, we need to live in the perfect place for us, for each individual, it’s very often not possible, but if we had a choice then you are right we need to live in harmony. And then, we have to make the most of what we have, there are nearly always good points to most places, sometimes we just have to go out and find them. Of course this was pure dreaming today, because sometimes, just sometimes escaping reality does us good! xx

      • You.are.so.right…. Also, dreams tend to change, by pure necessity! AND often we just have to adapt and re-shape our wishes/dream to the possibilities. And of course we all have the right (and duty! 🙂 …..) to dream because dreams are so important!

        • Rarely do things stay the same, needs change as do circumstances as you and I well know. But right now everything is perfect because incredibly we have blue skies and sunshine. We had almost forgotten what it was like, but the lights are turned off, sun is pouring in through the windows, highlighting every speck of dust, but I couldn’t care less about dust, we have sun!!!

          • I’m deeply envious…. stayed inside all day – hold on, you were replying yesterday, NO it was better than today. We had a look at the devastation (I hadn’t got the nerves for it before) and the sights gave me nightmares – but weatherwise it was mild. Since then fog, rain (drizzle, mizzle!) and now it’s dark and Novembery….

          • Hi Kiki, oh no! Can’t wait until you come down here! At the risk of sounding smug, which is not the plan at all, we had the most fantastic day again today, about 13C and just endless sunshine. We were all in the garden in t shirts, we worked and worked for hours on end, it felt so good, now of course it is lovely to sit in front of the fire, I shall be stiff in the morning! We have another fabulous day forecast tomorrow after a foggy start I believe, hopefully we can finish cutting back the old hazel and cobb hedge, then it will be February and time to start on the wisteria, it is never ending!! But the daffodils are just about in flower and loving the sun, the trees are all in bud, we have primroses and a lawn covered in violets. There is definitely hope in the air. We have turned a corner I feel. But we have had the most ghastly December and January until now, just like everywhere else in France, so so wet and windy, this has been a real treat today and yesterday! Whatever the Paris weather, and Millie was there Thursday and Friday and just loved it, I hope you have a wonderful Saturday evening and Sunday. xxx

  • Nothing I like more than day dreaming and I’ll take any one of these except maybe not the ruins, too much hard work at my old age!

    • I think the only way I could take on a complete ruin like that would be if I had the money to live somewhere else in comfort whilst the work was being carried out. Then my imagination could run wild, I must admit I do rather like the idea of being able to create the home of my dreams exactly as I want it to be but at the same time being able to work with old stone. xx

  • Oh my! So many choices but I believe a flat in a historic building would be great. Then again, a cottage by the sea sounds delightful too.

    • I lived for several years in London and I loved it, there certainly is something wonderful about being able to walk places and I think flats really can be fantastic especially when they are in historic buildings, I imagine one with a beautiful wrought iron balcony! But like you, I am also drawn to a fisherman’s cottage on an island, it’s a tough choice!! xx

  • Such a fun question, but honestly, too big a decision to make! I’d take any of the properties above (wonderful photos as ever Susan). I am a city girl at heart though, so my choice, if funds were limitless, would be an apartment in Paris, then a little house in Provence maybe. I’ve never been there yet, but it is on my bucket list, but I’m sure I’d love it if the photos are anything to go by. Although an apartment in New York would be wonderful too, or maybe a villa in Nice, or somewhere by the sea…… One thing’s for sure, I need to win the lottery! Although I do already live in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, but it’s fun to dream. xx

    • Don’t we all need to win the lottery, I think I would certainly buy a city apartment somewhere, because like you, I do like cities. It would be fabulous to have the best of both worlds. You do live in such a beautiful city, are you right in the centre? I haven’t visited for years, in fact I think the last time was when I was still working in London prior to children, but half of my family are Scottish, albeit from the Islands and we keep saying we must take the children to visit. xx

      • I do live in the centre, in the Stockbridge area, about 15 mins walk to Princes St. I’m very lucky as I bought my flat 21 years ago, as I couldn’t afford to buy here now! As you know, I’m off to Paris in April for 3 whole months, but now you’ve fired my imagination for Bordeaux too. I must find out how long I’m able to stay in France without papers, as also want to visit friends in Nantes this year. They moved last Autumn from Paris, & my friend is missing Paris terribly. I loved this post & reading every ones replies, it’s lovely to dream isn’t it? If you do ever come to Edinburgh, the kettle will be on for you, so you have to visit! xx

        • I can imagine that prices have probably sky rocketed in the city centre. It would be such fun if you found time to explore Bordeaux a little whilst you are here, if you do let me know, perhaps you can break the journey and stop for lunch with us on the way? It would be any easy trip to combine Nantes and then on down to Bordeaux, at least it is all in the same direction, sort of! I can imagine you are getting excited already. Time will fly! xx

    • Ahhh, now you are talking! A beautiful chateau would be amazing, but yes I think a gardener and a housekeeper would be vital, I cannot even begin to imagine the upkeep without having plenty of help, it would be impossible. xx

    • I think that is probably one of the most popular searches for foreigners coming to France, followed by a house in a village with a boulangerie and good amenities and with a large garden too! I do like to buy something that needs a little work as then we can really put our own stamp on it and have things just as we want them and land is always a bonus. I would love to have a little more so I could have a horse again, but then we can never have everything we want! xx

  • Give me a cottage by the sea, a bike, a paintbrush and my books and I would be happy forever. If I close my eyes I can smell the sea sun taste the salt, you have me dreaming alright. This was a perfect post on a cold dull winter day. You are a treasure thank you.

    • I always find there is something fabulous about living by the sea, even more so in winter than in the summer, of course the salt laden air and wind and rain means windows have to be cleaned on an almost daily basis, but that’s ok, it is a fair price to pay for living on the coast. xx

  • No more restorations, no more wrecks for me. Since I am being selfish, I will have both, a small apt in a busy town and a medium size maison to escape to.

    • I can see just where you are coming from and since we are dreaming, yes I would love to have an apartment in a good sized buzzing city, La Rochelle would suit me perfectly but Bordeaux would be even better! xx

    • Sometimes it is really good just to dream a little and the weather has certainly been utterly horrid here too! In fact just scrolling through photos to find some for today had me dreaming of summer, flowers, lazing in the sunshine, it had me longing for spring! xx

  • Dear Susan, So many beautiful choices. Whenever we visit Europe we look at deserted farmhouses and think about restoring a piece of history. Instead, we brought Italy home and built a Palladian inspired country house in a small artist community in central Utah. That was 20 years ago…no regrets, not even for a minute.

    • Probably a great deal easier to build something at home than to try and renovate something thousands of miles away and the best thing is that you have no regrets, that is just the best, to enjoy and love everything that you have. Plus you live in a beautiful State. Lucky you xx

  • I’d love a small fixer upper in a delightful stone village… and since it’s a fantasy, all the structure and mechanicals will be in tip top shape, just needing some thoughtful re-arrangement and a lick of paint and lovely textiles. I’d fill it with well chosen brocante furniture I’d restore or creatively re-invent. The garden would have great bones and just need some pruning and new plants to make it a charming dining or reading spot. There will be a small potager for fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs. The boulangerie will be around the corner near the cheese shop and the fish market will be an easy walk. I’d also be twenty years younger and twenty pounds thinner in this fantasy…
    And an hour’s train ride away, I’d have a small pied a terre in a bustling city with theatre and music and great shopping. I’d also speak passably good French … well, it’s a fantasy right!

    • Patricia, that sounds like the most perfect fantasy! I second everything about the village, the house and the garden and I would have the pied a terre in Bordeaux which is about an hour and a half from us, the most beautiful city with all the theatres and restaurants one could ever want but too far to go there for dinner and return home here, so an apartment would be perfect! xx

  • When I decided to move to France, I had to think about this. Okay, I had been thinking for years, but suddenly I had to decide. I went for the “slightly more manageable” maison de maitre — solid roof, walls and foundation, but nothing else. If I had had a realistic estimate of the renovation costs, I would have gone for an apartment in Paris. For what I put into this place, I could at that time have gotten a pretty nice one. Now I’m glad I didn’t.

    I’m at the edge of a village maybe 45 minutes from La Rochelle. It was an ill-informed stumble, to be sure, but I’m happy with it. In Paris I feel a bit rushed and a bit claustrophobic. Out here, I can relax. I find that I can focus on things; this is definitely the place to be, if I have a project. I don’t have to count every square meter of space. My dog lives like a dog; in Paris he’s a fashion accessory. I have a sense of community here. Though my close friends are in Paris, when there I am basically anonymous. Here my banker, the guys who run my favorite restaurants, etc., all know me by name. It’s nice.

    I’m finding that living in a village suits me quite well. Granted, my Paris and La Rochelle runs allow me to cheat a bit. Still, on balance, it’s good. The Dalai Lama says you should want what you have. Anyone who has been to my now-renovated 5-bedroom house would laugh all day if I said I was happy to want what I have (well yeah, why wouldn’t you?), but hey, I want what I have. I would do the same thing again.

    • Isn’t that just the best way to be, to be able to say we want what we have. Those are very wise words and I can honestly say I too want what I have. Aren’t we the lucky ones, but like for you too, it has been a lot of hard work to get here. I hadn’t realised you were quite so close to La Rochelle, we are about 35 minutes south so perhaps one day we really should meet there for lunch, it would be around half way each. When I need a city fix it is a very easy drive and quite possible for a lunch or a morning or even just an hour, which really does make living in a small village in the country so very perfect in my opinion. xx

        • Sounds like a great plan, let’s make it a firm date in the spring, before the crowds arrive, but once it is lovely outside! Have a great weekend, we actually have sun this morning so fingers crossed it might start to dry up a little! xx

    • Now you are really talking, imagine if we could buy them all and then share them around, so that everyone had a decent roof over their heads. That is the stuff of dreams, but they are good dreams to have. xx

  • COUNTRY……..FIXER UPPER!
    THAT was MY DREAM when we lived outside FLORENCE, ITALY!
    I have given up on THAT DREAM and created MY own FARMHOUSE here in the STATES complete with a ROMANTIC GARDEN………………..(that means overgrown and not perfectly manicured!)
    I LOVE the OLDER HOMES, BARNS and CASTLES……………
    YOU are LIVING MY DREAM!
    KEEP GOING!!!!!!
    XX

    • Thanks so much, older homes are perfect but they are not for the faint hearted, I know all about leaking roofs and leaking windows! Now the romantic overgrown garden is exactly what I love, we are twins on that front! The french tend to prefer far more manicured perfection so ours has become more English but loved by the French who visit, it’s all quite amusing! xx

  • I don’t know whether others get the same impression, but, to me, so many places/buildings in France look rundown and the worse for wear. My first visit to France was in 1955 and, Yes, a lot of places were still suffering from the war – so many don’t seem to have changed in the 60 years since then. One can see it in some of your photographs, a general feeling of decrepitude to varying degrees. Here in Spain, there are still many older buildings that have adobe (mud) walls but they are kept looking in a reasonable condition, by being repainted (whitewash) every year.

    Other properties here have been “reformed” using “block and beam” (a framework of reinforced concrete beams with infills of precast blocks) coated with a waterproof rendering and then painted with a plastic emulsion which lasts seven years or more before repainting. All in all the properties look in far better condition.

    • A coat of paint can do wonders can’t it! You have raised a rather interesting question, I wonder do the Spanish take more pride in the outside of their properties or does it just seem like that because so many houses are painted? In the past few years I have visited northern Spain on the Atlantic coast and there, the houses were much the same as they are here, we saw plenty of properties that certainly looked as if they needed a little TLC. However, I know what can look run down to one person can look charmingly romantic to others, I thought the photos I included were a fairly good example of a cross section of properties found here in the coastal Charente Maritime and I don’t think any look run down or shabby to me, except perhaps the fishermens cottages but they have the salt spray to contend with which makes anything difficult and of course the completely derelict renovation projects xx

  • I’d choose the “somewhere not so big as to be completely unmanageable yet located in a heartbreakingly pretty spot.” Love the small size and the horseshoes on the shed doors. I want a peek at that attic space – it may be just the right size to provide inspiration for a quilter’s studio or a writer’s retreat.

    • The older I get the more I love somewhere slightly more manageable, it certainly frees up time to enjoy other things! I would imagine you could have a perfect studio here, full of plenty of inspiration! xx

  • i love any of your ideas and love all the photos…i would love a country fixer upper with a farm market, boulangerie and a few shops nearby…

    • I must admit I do like to be able to walk into the village and to be able to walk to the boulangerie, we are lucky as that is what we can do. I was brought up in the country on a farm in the middle of nowhere and ever since I have been married we have always chosen to live in a village rather than in isolation! xx

  • Oooh such a tricky and fun question! Since we are all daydreaming here, I would jump and say I’d like a country home. Country > City always. Dream house would be a quirky modestly sized country fixer upper.

    • Seeing as we are all dreaming, we can have exactly what we want, that is the whole idea. I know I would always choose a country home, but I would love a small apartment in Bordeaux, a big city but easily accessible! That would be my perfect world. xx

  • A wonderful thoughtful post again decorated with great photos.
    I want answer with some sayings….but doesn’t make a decision easier
    *to be content with little is difficult; to be content with much, impossible.
    *Quantity leads to quality
    *humbleness is the worst kind of vanity

    • Three fabulous thought provoking sayings. I have rolled these around my tongue thinking about them and you know what, they all make perfect sense. I had to think about the last one the most and I shall go to bed thinking about these some more. But I think I would switch the second one around, I prefer to say quality instead of quantity. xx

  • Although I’d love a view of water, I think countryside and river would suit me better than sea! But living in a village would be the only way and a manageable period house of some sort, with a bit of work needed ( but not too much at our age!) and enough garden to give the French Hens some free ranging space!! A boulangerie near enough to walk to maybe and, thinking of possibly being unable to drive as time goes on, a butcher and a small grocery not too far! Or public transport to get there!! I don’t want much do I? But my home would have to have character and make me feel full of joy, peace & contentment when I entered it. If only………

    • Your home sounds as if it would be absolutely perfect, in fact it sounds rather as you describe your home in England, so you must be really happy! It doesn’t have to be big for me either but it does have to feel warm and cosy and welcoming and like home. Ours is far from perfect but it is happy. xx

  • Ooooh, nothing nicer than some French property porn. While I might sigh over a country pad, I’m a townie at heart, wanting all the amenities on my doorstep and my nearest croissant, at most, a 10 minute stroll away.

    • I can think of several fabulous large towns and cities here that you would love! I have to admit, we love small village life but one of the things we really did want was a boulangerie within walking distance and we are lucky as it is literally a couple of minutes away! We also have a Sunday market now which has really brought the village together and has been so well supported. It makes me really happy to see new things starting up like this and to see the villagers actively encouraging it.xx

  • I always look at the beautiful pictures and imagine my French dream home. I would love a cozy cottage with the worn stone look and those soft blue shutters. Lots of exposed stone or brick inside too. Deep sill windows to throw open on a sunny day or sit close to with a steaming cup of tea and watch the world on a chilly winters day, with a warm fire in a charming fireplace. Something on the edge of the village so I can walk to the markets and shops, but still feel like I’m in the country too. Ah…. such a lovely day dream. Thank you for the mental holiday!

    • Lisa, your mental holiday sounds like it was the perfect dream home. You have it all worked out. A little bit of country on the edge of a good sized village, of course you would have great walks from your back door into the village itself or out into the fields and through the neighbouring vineyards. Idyllic! xx

  • When we bought our French Home, it fulfilled all our criteria; Canal du Midi at the end of our back garden, views of the Pyrenees from the front, on the edge of a small town, so not too isolated. Situated between Toulouse and Carcassonne, with a pool, I feel very privileged!

    • You are indeed very privileged, a beautiful area and you have the best of both worlds, water and mountains and amenities closely. What is not to love! We are all very lucky aren’t we, so glad you are living the French dream. xx

  • We recently proposed this question to ourselves whilst in Paris. We have the chance in a year or so to buy another property and were thinking about a South Bank apartment, as we love this city. But we love our barn too and decided that maybe better to indulge ourselves here and make it French perfect with rambling roses, those lovely metal tables to sit in our wild flower garden, an outdoor kitchen, an ornamental vegetable garden, and to spend summer evenings on the veranda after a trip to market, eating earthy food and discussing the matching of cheese and wines. Trips to Paris can now be made to eccentric or character hotels for a week of indulgent TLC. If I had been twenty years younger, maybe two properties possible, but now weekends in the City are fine. My views at home are lovely and being able to step straight outside into the lanes to walk or bike can’t be beaten.
    If in another life, I would love a villa like the one in the Russell Crowe film, with vines and a tennis court, dogs everywhere and geese to chase the postman. Or if Paris, an atelier where I made gorgeous products and rode a bike round the city, coming home with cheeses, wine, chocolate and flowers. I would have a French pug and in the evening we would relax on the balcony taking in the city sounds, whilst my husband rustled up an excellent Chinese meal. We would end the day listening to jazz, whilst pug snored. To have both would be divine – but for now I am a country girl.

    • These things you describe really are what dreams are made of, although I would omit the geese, the vines, the tennis court of course and dogs everywhere but the geese can have another home, in my experience they don’t just chase the postman! But I don’t deny they are incredible guard dogs! I think after careful consideration I would also do just as you plan to do and perfect where you are, Paris will always be there without the hassle of owning a property there. You have me dreaming of summer, imagining eating earthy food and matching wines and cheeses, sounds like my most perfect type of evening! xx

  • Oh, to dream about all the possibilities! Yes, we should all want what we have; but an escape to a beautiful place would be lovely. We have rented houses in Provence just outside the main town but within walking distance of the center of town. Being near a town with a great weekly market would be perfect. And of course there has to be a good boulangerie!

    • A good boulangerie has to be the top of everyone’s wish list! I love that we can walk to ours and we now have a small weekly market every Sunday too which has been so welcomed by the entire village, it really is wonderful and so well supported and so I hope it continues. It was initially just a trial but I have high hopes it will become a permanent feature. xx

  • Hello Susan, what a day dreamer you’ve turned me into for the past few hours. Mmmm, so many choices, but I can be brief. I need water, so that cuts things down. If possible saltwater, so I can eat my catch. Everything would revolve around that of course, so a small fisherman’s cottage on the Ile d’Aix would be perfect. Renovation or not – I’d enjoy whatever it needed to be.

    I’m guessing it as a little easier than I thought!

    • I think it is very easy, you know exactly what you want! Now finding a fisherman’s cottage that is for sale and at a price that is sensible and not vastly inflated is somewhat harder, trust me we would snap one up if we could, but people add the word sea view or Island to the sales sheet and add another nought to the price tag! But as we are just dreaming, then there are plenty of places available! xx

  • beautiful pictures, but doesn’t it feel a bit isolating to walk down the streets? I don’t know if that is the right word, but here in CA when you walk down the street in many towns the houses are set back from the street. Looking at the pics above there are either tall walls right on the street or houses without a setback so with windows closed it feels like walking down a canyon. I’m not sure as a practical matter its that much different out here, walking down a street you don’t see people in windows waving; but i just have a sense that walking down a canyon of buildings/walls has a funny feeling to it as opposed to the pictures where there are people in cafe’s and the like

    • I guess it is what one gets used to. I don’t think twice about this as it is just the ‘norm’, but we had friends visiting from America a couple of years ago who had never been to Europe before. After a couple of days of driving them around I remember them saying that they just could not get used to the houses being right on the edge of the pavement with nothing in front of them, they had never seen anything like this before. It was what shocked them most about everything they saw in France! xx

  • Just back from France where we spent 5 weeks with my family. Could not help ourselves and like Ike’s at estate agents’ windows… lots of alluring properties at a significantly cheaper price than in Australia, and so much more character! Good to dream and be brought right back there reading this post Susan!

    • It’s always good to dream! Do you think you would ever come here full time, I mean you could sail around the world to get here! I am also guessing that you are enjoying being back in the sunshine, since the beginning of December we have had the most hideous weather, November, traditionally our wettest month was nothing but sun and clear skies, less than an hour of rain all month, but we have paid the price and I would imagine Normandy was the same too, the past 6 weeks have been abysmal, soon we shall need to build an arc. xx

      • We spent very little time in Normandy – may be a week – the rest in Toulouse, the Pyrenees and the Alps. Lots of snow, some sunshine and a little rain, but overall good although cold. From -5 to 30 now that we are back in Melbourne- a shock to the system!

        • It sounds as if you were in the best place! We are so soggy here, the land simply cannot take any more water, there is nowhere for it to go and so it just sits on the surface, it has turned fields to lakes. I’ve been watching the Australian Open so have seen your weather, it’s certainly been hot! We have been so mild, 13 or 14, but I would sooner have cold and sun! xx

  • I have never been to the west coast. Like many Americans I know Paris and I know Provence and I am almost ashamed to say despite several visits I have never ventured to other parts. But your posts are inspiring, i can see I need to spread my wings.

    • Yes you must! Paris and Provence are fabulous and I can quite see the pull, but there are many other beautiful places too, it is such a varied country with something for everyone. If you decide to head over to the west coast let me know, it is quite different to where you already know but it certainly has plenty to offer and I am sure you wont be disappointed. xx

  • A small village would be perfect. A tiny garden just enough to enjoy an aperitif and a good restaurant within walking distance, that’s all I would require.

    • Not too much to ask at all. We have a boulangerie in our village but no restaurant and I think I would rather have one than a shop. It would be so nice to be able to have a glass of wine and walk home rather than always having one of us not able to have a glass of wine because we have to drive. xx

  • We bought a second home in the Morbihan last year. We couldn’t be happier, it’s a dream come true. It is tiny, just two bedrooms and no garden, but it is steeped in history in a big village. We have a baker and a butcher and two hairdressers! One day we hope it will be a full time home when we both retire and can make the move across the channel a permanent one. But for now it is all we ever wanted.

    • It sounds absolutely ideal Valerie and in a lovely department. Are you inland or close to the coast? Isn’t it funny how even the smallest of French villages seem to have a hairdresser. It really is one of those things that only happens here, no reasonable sized village would be complete without one! I think when you are older and retire you will possibly be quite happy not to have a garden, whilst they are fabulous they are also hard work and always require upkeep. Hopefully you will get to enjoy plenty of fabulous holidays in the house before you move here permanently. xx

  • Everyday, I will pick country with expansive bucolic views and room for my critters to roam.
    Just give me a smalll car to go to town on market day or once a week for supplies and a delicious treat of espresso and a delicious tart or croissant almond. Merci Beaucoup.

    • Now you are totally on the right track, a fabulous country cottage nestled in it’s own garden with a highly productive potager and a few fruit trees and you only need go to town for the market, and once you have bought your produce, chatted to all the stallholders, who of course will know you very well, you can sit and take a coffee with friends, share a pastry and watch the world go by and see how the city folk live before your return to your country idyl! Sounds like perfection xx

  • Oh yes, my favourite game. An apartment in Bordeaux please. Of course it would be tottaly renovated. I would like to keep our house here on the West Coast…six months at each property, maybe broken up to three months at a time. It would need a few bedrooms so that you and Roddy could visit. Now that would be perfect.
    Ali xxx

    • Now you are really talking. I am, as you know, completely in love with Bordeaux as a city, I will probably be shot down in flames for saying this, but I would take it over Paris any day, probably because it is so much more convenient and because I know my way around and can drive there easily and park! But an apartment in one of the historic buildings would be fabulous, renovated but with every original feature still in place. Wooden floors, huge internal shutters, panelling, original ceiling roses in each room and crystal chandeliers. I would have to have a modern kitchen so I could cook but it would not have to be big, Bordeaux is bursting with fabulous restaurants! Now perhaps we could share, pool our resources!! xx

  • Oh Lord, Susan! Have you not made all of us dream . . .Actually I can see myself in your neck of the woods – a small cottage off the main street, living in a caravan until it got fixed up: safe, secure until it all was home-like . . . . walking to the shop, honing my rather poor French, getting a pup and kittie to share the experience . . .making friends, extending myself further and further to learn and enjoy . . . I wouldn’t need Paris . . . merhinks it would be a very elegant and stylish and enjoyable chapter somewhat late in my being there. . ..

    • It sounds like the perfect plan when are you moving over?! I don’t need Paris either, as I said before, I am happy with La Rochelle just up the road and Bordeaux an hour and a half away, perhaps because they are so familiar but they suit me fine. Now back to your cottage, it would be just as you want it, heated with a central woodburner to add cosy warmth all winter and in the summer you could fling open the doors and let the outside in. Sounds like heaven xx

  • I’ll have a fix’r up in the country side with a decent garden, please..
    Oh, what fun it would be to take that little place (4th from bottom) and reconstruct it into a lovely summer home. Now, what will I need? Money! Got to work on that one…Lovey post enjoyed all of the images of the houses.

    • Ahhh yes, the one vital ingredient, money! But you know if you did all the work yourself you would save a fortune, it might just take a very long time! Besides you live in such a stunning country anyway. But it is always fun to imagine how we could completely make somewhere perfect for ourselves. Hope you have a great weekend xx

  • I would love a charming cottage just outside a not so big city…so I can enjoy both! I love to walk and we have always been city dwellers so a quieter area would be nice but I would love to walk to a boulangerie and have coffee and a treat! Thanks for sharing your beautiful country with us!

    • The best of both worlds is always a great solution! I do like to be able to walk places too, although our village is very small, we do have a Sunday market and a boulangerie and we have a school. One of the biggest excitements when we first moved here was being able to walk with the children to school, we had never done that in our lives before. The children are able to go to the boulangerie on their own and buy croissants for breakfast at the weekend, it really is so nice being able to walk! xx

    • Thanks so much Monika, it is always rather a fun game I think and one we all play very often, the children are experts at it! Now I could, in an ideal dream world, have a city apartment and a country house, but in real life I am happy with something in between with out village home! Have a great weekend xx

  • Ah to live in France! My choice would be somewhere in a village where I can drive a short distance to a train and catch it to visit Paris for a couple of days when my need requires the bustle of the city. Long quiet walks with my dogs in the country. Knowing my neighbors. going to my local bakery and getting fresh bread for the day. Yes that would be perfection. Here in Australia I was always a city girl however living and growing up in Perth Western Australia it was such a country feel. Now I have lived in Melbourne and Brisbane for many years. Then moved to Cairns and Toowoomba Qld. I now live on the Mornington Peninsular in Victoria. We have a beautiful bay on one side and ocean on the other. Mountains in the middle. I go to the city a lot for specialist appointments so that fils the need for that. I prefer the quiet idyllic surroundings anytime. However, if I could it would be a country town in France 🙂

    • But you live in a beautiful place in Australia, I have visited the Mornington Peninsular once about ten years ago and really enjoyed our time there, on the same trip we also went north to Brisbane and then spent several days in Noosa, which I have to admit we loved! A country town or village here really does give you the best of both worlds, we are lucky as we can nip into Rochefort in ten minutes and if we want something a little bigger and more sophisticated then La Rochelle is only half an hour away. One of our daughter’s just came back from a trip to Paris yesterday, 2hours 30 minutes on the train so an easy trip and one night away, I think little trips like this completely recharge our batteries! Hope you are having a lovely weekend. Of course we are glued to the Open finals in Melbourne so will think of you! xx

  • Beautiful pictures as always!

    can you recommend any guidebooks or websites that would have suggestions for someone planning on visiting this region for 4-7 days?

  • We’ve just returned from France. It was hard to leave as it always is, but this time, as well as being mesmerised by ‘our’ mountains, we rented an apartment in Montpellier for a few days. It was just as you describe your perfect place in Bordeaux – renovated with great taste and all comfort, high ceilings, heavy window drapes, chandeliers etc. We did love being able to explore everything on foot, and walk to eat out etc although after the exciting newness had worn off a bit, I could imagine that the inconveniences such as not being able to park near the apartment (pedestrian only) and the slight uneasiness that I felt walking the streets at night, or on my own, might come into play more. Nonetheless, I always stop and look at real estate. It is a fun game, after all!

    • It is such a fun game isn’t it! I spent quite a bit of time in Montpelier before I was married, I know it is considered a very cosmopolitan happening city, it was certainly fabulous back then. Next time you are here, if you leave ‘your’ mountains again, you must head over to the west coast, always some spare beds here and we would love to meet you. The apartment sounds gorgeous, but yes I can imagine after a few days not being able to park nearby and the things you mention might get a bit tedious. When do you hope to be back in France again? xx

      • I did actually look at accommodation near La Rochelle for a visit as a girlfriend lives in Thairé. It would have been lovely to meet up as, of course, I would have let you know that we were near by. As it turned out, even though we were in France for a relatively long time, it went very quickly and we only managed one away trip. My husband is saying June for our return, but I’m not sure if that is wishful thinking or not, as the school calendar here just doesn’t give us many options at that time of year. I’ll keep working on a plan!

        • That really is not far from us at all. Do let me know if you are over in June. I can imagine how difficult it is, fitting in travel is very tough with children, I know just what you are going through xx

  • I know so many foreigners living in cold, damp, isolated houses in the Tuscan and Umbrian countryside, quite a few too in SW France, who are so terribly unhappy. Some would give anything to sell up and go home. The idea is fine but in reality it requires a certain degree of resolve and lots of cash to make it work but even then – who wants to have to get in the car and drive 5 km or more to go shopping? How far away is your nearest neighbour in an emergency? (And as a foreigner, do you speak sufficient French / Italian / whatever to be able to communicate with that distant neighbour in an emergency? Do you even know them? Are they even there? It could be merely a holiday home. Also, the countryside can be surprisingly noisy. I have a friend in the Dordogne who moans year round about the farmer in the next field and how he’s always out with a tractor, harvester, plough. How about all those bugs that eat you to death from May to September sometimes even preventing you from even sitting outside in the evening? How do you cope with the succession of long, dark winter days and even longer nights? We’ve done both, country house on edge of village and now medieval town house in a village proper. I can’t describe how much my life changed for the better when we moved. I have neighbours, friends, people who knock to say hello if they don’t see me for a full day. I’m part of a thriving community. And, yes, our house has even more period features and masses more charm plus restaurants, bars, shops all a 200m walk away.

    • You know you are absolutely right. I know one or two people as well who simply cannot wait to leave, because as you so rightly say, the dream of living in a big house in the countryside is in fact very far from the reality of what the dream usually consists of. Normally it involves not being able to afford to heat the property or finish the renovations and then not speaking the language, not having any friends and feeling lonely and isolated. That very isolation that they sought in the first place is what they come to loathe the most. And then, it is impossible to sell up and recoup any of the costs as property really doesn’t appreciate in value here over a year or two, maybe over twenty years, but not quickly as you well know. I love living in the middle of a village. Ours is not a big village, but we have a boulangerie, a school, a post office and a weekly market. We know our neighbours, we have built stone steps over the wall into our neighbours garden for the children, they built their side, we built ours and the children just pop in and out. We eat regularly at their house and vice versa. We know the villagers and people we see in the street. And yes we can hear the cars when they pass, often far too quickly, through the village and I love it! I like to hear them, I like to feel there is life outside our gates. This afternoon I hung the laundry out and listened to a conversation beyond our wall, I like hearing the voices. Despite growing up in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, I love living with people around and would hate to live in splendid isolation! So yes I can well imagine how you love your medieval town house. I loved your description, it is so accurate. Hope you are also having a lovely weekend. xx

  • Gorgeous post and super tough decisions! I think I could take any one of those beauties, even the ruins, so as long as there was room for a garden and the possibility of a good-sized kitchen. Thanks for starting the day off with a lovely day dream:)

    • I agree, but I must admit I do love to live in a village. I love my garden more than anything but I also enjoy knowing there are people around. The good sized kitchen is vital, it is very much the heart of our home. Hope you are having a lovely weekend xx

  • I think the allure of a French country house is a dream of many, sadly the cost and all of the the hard work and sometimes the slow speed of French labor does not factor into the dream. Once reality sets in I think often times another choice is made. I love the idea of a little village much like yours where there is a train close or larger cities and villages but at the same time knowing my neighbors, walking to a cafe and a boulangerie. Your life sounds idyllic although I am sure there are probably things you might not like, or maybe there is nothing that you do not like. Thanks for allowing us all to escape winter for a minute and dream of another life.

    • Ha ha, I think, if we are all honest, there are little things that we don’t like wherever we live, it is not a France thing, or an England thing or whatever, life is life, it is not perfect, there are always bills to be paid, jobs to be done, money to be earnt, errands to be run and then the cleaning and laundry etc etc etc. But that is daily life, that is a part of life wherever we live in my opinion. But it is really a lovely life here, we are very lucky, it suits us well, we love having a good sized city within a ten minute drive and we love living in a village and being part of a community, we also love having the coast and the sea so close. But things do take time here and one has to get used to that, rarely does something happen overnight or the same day! Patience is what is needed! xx

  • I am fighting through the outright envy to write… SO beautiful. Thank you for the dreamy inspiration. I would definitely choose the country home in a beautiful setting. Especially since I have a “hefty” budget, as you reminded me. 🙂 But, I will say I recently saw an International House Hunters episode based in France and I was routing for the apartment in the village with market and cathedral views. So, I’m open. Lol.

    • I think they are both perfect in a fantasy world. In real life it is somewhat different and is very dependant on one’s budget! There is a great deal to be said for an apartment in a village or a house, I would like a small amount of outdoor space, but it is good to be able to walk to places and to be a part of a community, it is nice to know our neighbours and to be able to feel involved and a part of village life. xx

  • Dear Susan,
    I really enjoyed this blog post, in fact it inspired me to write my own blog post on a similar theme so, I hope you don’t mind, but I took the liberty of linking this blog post to mine so that people can see my inspiration for themselves.
    Many thanks,
    Lucy

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