What is the Fascination with France ?

IMG_9873I’m starting to think about visitors and spring and holidaymakers and travel, everywhere we go there are little signs that the tourist season will soon be well underway and I have this nagging question that I cannot ignore but I cannot answer it alone and so I thought who better to ask than all of you.But first, scroll back a week. We had snow, here in the village.

IMG_7320IMG_7322IMG_7321I am sorry to those of you who have been shovelling vast quantities of it all winter, but for us it generated enormous excitement, I wanted to shout from the rooftops, “We Have Snow!!!”  – you see, it is so rare here, this was going to be the first time any had settled for nearly a decade!

IMG_7323It started to fall softly right outside our kitchen window late one afternoon.

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P7360962It didn’t last long, of course. The following morning our -7˚C freezing temperatures had done a complete turnaround, swept away by a warm southerly breeze. Snow-crusted winter scarves and coats were ditched damply back in the boot-room and snow boots packed away once more.

I feared the violets and daffodils would not recover. Chilled to the core, their heads drooped and their stems lay frozen on the ground.

But, what a difference a day makes.

IMG_7311As the warm breeze swept through the garden 24 hours later, so the snow melted and slowly our spring perennials raised their heads from their supplication to the snow and gracefully nodded once more towards the sun; within hours they miraculously stood proud and tall once more.

IMG_7383But warmer weather at this time of year usually means there will also be some rain in the offing – a state of affairs I am content to trade in, for I will happily take a few showers as a pay-off for some balmy weather.

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On Sunday we headed to the beach, only too well aware that we hadn’t tasted salt on our lips or smelt the sea for far too long. We were quite amazed to find that seemingly everyone in the vicinity had the same idea. The car-park was as crowded as it is in the summer, with families enjoying long walks while dogs frolicked at the water’s edge. A couple of girls were cantering along the wet sand on horses. There was some muffled soul whizzing about precariously on a kite-buggy and a paraglider was floating along the wider spaces utilizing the ‘ground-effect’.

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We walked a long way, a fabulous jaunt in every way – except for the debris. The beach was littered with rubbish. It hadn’t originated from the people there that day, I hasten to add; this was nearly all plastic that had washed ashore during the winter, perhaps pollution from this very beach during the previous summer, or perhaps it had come from another country, or even another continent. It was an extremely sight, detrimental to so much and of course most importantly – to all forms of marine life. I have no doubt it will all be cleaned up before the tourists arrive en masse, but for me that was not what made us all quite maudlin – the fact remains that still not enough is being done globally to bring some end to what is a huge problem.

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Roddy informed me later that each year new rubbish ‘gyres’ (areas of ocean where rubbish builds up and rotates in an eddy of current for years on end) are being discovered. There is no longer just the central Pacific gyre, but one in the Indian ocean, and one off Indonesia has also been documented. Solutions are at hand and in development, but the planet is choking on rubbish, throttling itself at one end while at the other it belches out an industrial smorgasbord of smoke that is melting our glaciers and bringing polar bears and others to the brink of extinction. We sat in the car on the way home, young heads debating a future in which they will have to play such an important part. I hope it is not too little too late, but rather a sign that the youth of the world today recognise a problem that has been neglected too long.

Earlier this week we went to pick up Evie, our Jack Russell, who has been away having lots of fun making puppies (hopefully) but that’s another story in gestation for a few weeks time. However, on the way home I spied a half-ruined tower just off the small country road we were driving along and I took the next right-hand turn in the hope of getting a closer look. Sure enough, with a few more ‘lefts’ and ‘rights’, and a wee venture down a single-track lane,  we ended up passing right beside it. Wouldn’t this make a wonderful project? Furnishing would no doubt be a nightmare with the round walls, but what fun.

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This is what I just love about living in the country; being able to take a detour and still find places we have no idea exist.

A few hundred metres further down the road we crossed a small river and to the right saw this fabulous row of houses.

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The river runs right underneath one. This has been the wettest winter we have had for years and as there seems to be no sign of damage from it I doubt if there is ever much risk of flooding here. It’s another of those jewels in France’s pastoral crown, appearing in the middle of seemingly nowhere.

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Perhaps it was treasures like this that set me thinking about why so many people love France. I asked an American friend who was staying with us last week, because I am curious, and she could give no salient answer, just a reply that seemed to indicate a gravitational pull of indeterminate reasons – one of which was a longing to visit places where her father, in a very different world, came to do good and repulse evil.

We chose to live here for many reasons, one because we have French relatives which is always a good starting point. We also, of course, love the culture, and adore the open space. As Roddy often says, France and the UK are cousins, and have been for centuries, and it is always good to visit one’s cousins.

I am, of course, assuming that anyone who reads this blog does have a certain love of France. You possibly know the country well. Maybe you have visited just once or twice, or are planning to in the coming years. Or maybe you never will but still harbour a desire to know more about the country, and still imagine a trip here in your dreams?

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But why France? Why not England, or Italy, or anywhere in Europe? Thousands of years of culture, incredible architecture and centuries of history abound in all of these countries. And yet France still remains a firm favourite for travellers. It’s still the most visited country in the world, and there are more books written on the subject of French style, French interiors, French country kitchens, French fashion, French cooking, the list goes on and on, than just about any other country. There can be no doubt that France exerts a pull on the mind, from every angle, and I just wonder why.

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I actually started thinking about this last summer when I asked a few friends staying here the same question. I’d not thought about it much during the winter until now. Suddenly I find myself quite intrigued once more and who better to ask than all of you, because I know you have an opinion and I also know from emails and messages that you all love reading everyones comments. I really want to know what it is about France? Why do you find it so captivating, why France?

197 thoughts on “What is the Fascination with France ?

  • You’ve really got me thinking now. The climate and the language would have to be right up there for me. The lunchtime closing and the upkeep of traditions even in the 21st century. Sadly I have a new omg that I cannot be late for or I could write for hours.

    • The climate, certainly in the south and here in our little micro climate, or in the mountains if you love snow, certainly is a great attraction and the language is after all the language of love is it not? xx

  • The pride of the people, their stubborn refusal to change, I see that as a good thing. I hope the young generation of French today keep things as they are, change is good but tradition is better.

    • Things are certainly changing slowly but like you, I hope the young still learn to value the traditions of the past, family life and eating together. It is one of the things we love so much about France. xx

  • A subject I shall ponder all weekend. I have never visited France and I am in my 80’s and I know I never will. But my grand daughter was in Nice for six months last year working in a hotel as a way to learn the language. She wants to live there full time now. Whenever she visits us which is most weekends, France is all she ever talks about, it seems it is a country that gets under ones skin and then won’t leave.

    • It does just that and it never goes away. It’s a country one falls in love with, a love affair that hopefully lasts forever. I hope your grand daughter finds a way to come and live here, she sounds determined and I am sure she will. If she needs any help do let me know. xx

  • Oh my goodness! How to put this into words…I have been blessed to visit the Provence area of France twice, and just fell in love! The countryside, the natural beauty of the landscape, the history, the fresh croissants, baguettes, the polite villagers- I could go on and on…
    As an artist, I love any angle of the landscape there, all potential paintings!
    France inspires me and lets me dream in a way that other countries, though beautiful in their own right, have not. I can’t wait to come back!
    Thank you for your blog, I love your posts, and the pictures are always a treat!
    Hope this gives a little insight into the attraction of your cousin!!

  • Dear Susan,
    First of all, I love your blog. You are such a wonderful writer, and it is always a pleasure to see a new post in my inbox. I have travelled to France perhaps close to eighty times in the past twenty years. I love the language, the beauty of the countryside, the stone houses, the history in the small villages and the way of life that has continued for decades and decades. I love the food, the wine, the cheese. I love the way of life, the courtesy of saying hello and good-bye when entering and leaving a store. I love the emphasis on beauty – not of human beauty, but of art and architecture and gardens. Thanks for asking!

    • Hi Dawn, I forgot the fabulous way everyone says hello and goodbye. I suppose I just take it for granted now. I would never dream of entering a small shop without saying bonjour and au revoir and have a nice afternoon/evening etc. I love kissing friends when we first meet, I love the way the children do the same. Thanks for reminding me of this! You have visited so much, hopefully you will get to the Charente Maritime some time, if you don’t already know it. xx

      • This nearly makes me scream with envy. I would have said the same things as Dawn for all the times I visited from Switzerland or England – and living in the Paris region has spoiled it all….. Today, we were in Bordeaux, just for the one day – and it was like a youth and happiness cure. EVERYBODY was smiling, greeting, having a mo to talk about something or other, we were in heaven. So YES, it IS probably so, but you all should be blissfully aware that you are the privileged ‘few’. In many cities and places povertery creates such cynicism, an ever present love for complaining…. we, in a quite happy circle of good friends often say that the English can’t hold a candle against the French raleurs/rouspéteurs. We laugh about it but are all agreeing that it is a terribly bad habit.

        • But don’t people complain everywhere? You only have to stand in line in the bakery in the morning and listen. Perhaps it is human nature but it is indeed almost a rare thing to hear nothing but good talk and happiness. Bordeaux is a very happy city, I don’t know it that well at all, but what I do know I love and we know people who live there and adore it. xx

  • I love France because the people are very clear about their culture and who they are, and they’re proud of it. They love the rural areas where even Parisians flee in the summer. The homemade cuisine is great in all regions. There’s also a region with temperatures and weather to please anyone. I’d prefer a region with rare or no snow, like yours!

    • It is captivating, we have been here for years and have visited all of our lives before we lived here and yet we are still fascinated, it never wanes which is a good thing! xx

  • I will admit I’d rather be in Italy! But hey, I like France too. What I really love the most is reading about your family life, that’s what keeps bringing me back here every week. And oh Evie, puppies?? Oh please show us photos, please have puppies Evie, please please please.

  • I think your beautiful photos answer the question. After scrolling through them, it’s hard not to respond with, “You need to ask?” Spain and Italy have their fans, as well, but I think France’s proximity to England and the shared history of the not-always-separate countries has given France a bit of an edge with Anglophones the world over. I think France does a great job of marketing itself, especially the way French luxury brands give that aspirational vibe to the country’s image. I think France’s economic stagnation has been great for tourism and for that timeless/“most stylish grandma ever” image. Think about it: modern French buildings are often ugly and traffic in the cities is often nightmarish, as in the world over, but that sort of thing is easily edited from a photo shoot. But with the high unemployment, low wages, etc., the cities aren’t growing as fast as they could, so large areas retain their traditional charm. So there is enough reality to keep the fantasy going. The fact that plenty of expats live here who wouldn’t want to move, despite the various hurdles, helps, of course! I packed a lot of ideas into one paragraph. I hope it makes sense.

    • It makes perfect sense, a great answer and one I thoroughly endorse for everyone that reads this. I can see we are going to have a lot to chat about when we make that lunch rendezvous, hopefully sooner rather than later now that the weather is starting to get a lot warmer. xx

  • Absolute joy! Reading your descriptions and ponders about the lifestyle in France makes me want to recreate it here in Virginia. I enjoy the beautiful landscapes and architecture and very much your family’s views on simplicity in every day; yet warm, cozy and inviting. The blog is my favorite and I hope you have a wonderful Spring.

    • Thanks so much Carol, I think what made me the happiest was that you recreate this lifestyle in Virginia. It really is a good way to live, a slightly simpler life and an appreciation for what we have, rather than wanting more all the time. Spring really is in the air today, the doors and windows are open, letting a little bit of the outdoors inside. Hope it is warming up with you and that you have not had the snow that has recently hit New York. xx

  • Hi Susan,
    Thankyou so much for sharing your gorgeous holiday with us and the stunning snowy photos too.
    You have indeed raised an intriguing question that I too have pondered over for years and my dilemma is France or Italy! I have so much love and affection and memories for both and just love the people and culture and history and food, but France holds a special place in my heart that inexplicably makes me yearn to visit and oh if only, live there too! (In my next life I hope!).
    Her culture, elegance, traditions and architecture are breathtaking and Her food, markets and regional culinary specialities are mouth-wateringly amazing.
    Is it the air, the light, the baguettes, the croissants, the people or the language?
    I’m not sure, but I do know that France has that inexplicable pull on some of us that is like a magnet. Long may she pull!
    Hope to see you later in the year!
    Love Susie xox

    • She does, she just has that pull and I don’t know why. Like you I can list the food, the architecture etc etc., but I love England too, I am proud to be English, I adore our little villages and country pubs, but then I think of France and my heart skips a beat once more, it has to be felt to be understood for it is almost impossible to explain! So hope we see you later in the year too, you know where we are xx

  • I can envision us living for months in either France or Italy. Both have culture unique to them and fantastic culinary traditions; cheeses, bread, cured meats, wine … And both countries respect and live in their aging architecture rather than tear it down and build a McMansion (what we Americans call oversized new homes built in faux Tuscan or French style squeezed into tiny building plots). The way villages have visual harmony using the same limestone. You eat locally and seasonally. The emphasis put on food; growing it, foraging it, harvesting it or seeking out the best local available.

    And the history. Stones standing from the Roman era.

    • I have to agree with everything you say. But I can see why it is easier to tear down an old house and build a new one, old ones take a great deal of upkeep, windows leaks, they are drafty and expensive to run! However, at the same time there is something quite fabulous about living in an old home, can’t beat it! xx

  • My fascination I am sure starts with my genes. One day my father and I were talking and he mentioned our heritage was French Huguenot. I wish I had pressed harder, but that seems to be all he knew.
    Shortly after, Peter Mayle introduced me to France. Not literally, but through his Provence books. Then, I travelled there and to Paris. I can’t explain it, but the moment I set my feet on French soil, I was home.
    Add to that a country that knows how to work to live, not live to work, has great food, appreciates art, architecture, history, design, beauty of all sorts and what’s not to love? Or be fascinated by?
    Does that explain it? No, but it’s a start.
    Gigi

    • It explains it rather well actually, there is just something that pulls us all here and won’t let us go. I hope you can try and discover a little more about your ancestors, it would be fascinating. xx

  • I have only been to Paris and was lucky enough to go three times. First as a “poor” student, second as newly employed on the $15 a day plan (over 30 years ago) and the last time on a corporate retreat with a much bigger budget. And what I love about Paris is the art museums and the beauty of every building and cathedral.

    • Lucky you to have visited three times and in three different situations. I wonder did you have the most fun once the budget was bigger, or do you have equally fond if not even fonder memories of when you were a poor student? xx

  • Susan,
    Lovely Post. I will be getting back to you sometime this weekend. This definitely requires some thought. Happy Thursday! ❤️

  • Maybe it’s because I’m a Southerner that I understand the pull of France. If you were not raised in the South, no matter how long you live there, you just don’t get it. There is a pride of place, a genteel countenance, an ability to put people at ease that’s not found any other place in the world. I’m afraid as we age and our conscience changes to be politically correct, that that world is slowly slipping away. There is nothing like the heart of a Southern woman who knows how to correct you without you knowing you’ve been corrected at the moment but you will reflect on it, later. “God Bless your heart” goes deeper than a knife blade.

  • Susan, I’m not sure, exactly, what makes France so magical! The culture, the reverence for art, and…the antiques!! (Spoken like an antiques shop owner and dealer, I know!) Honestly, I love Europe, but le France, she has a certain magic! Then there is the food, the wine and the fashion. Oh, it’s just about everything.

  • I’ve never been, but am drawn to it as well. Perhaps the simplicity of design, the beautiful houses, the amazing landscape etc. I often picture myself getting up in the morning with sunlight streaming in the windows, hopping on a bicycle and riding it to a farmers market nearby. I fill my basket with French bread and pastries , fruit, cheeses and anything else my heart desires. Don’t we all long for a little slice of heaven and for things that we will probably never acquire? For me, it’s the simple life. The beautiful life. The unique life that appears to be France. ❤️

    • Keep holding onto that dream, I hope one day you get to visit. Make sure you rent a house or stay in a hotel where there is a weekly market and a boulangerie then you really can live out your dream. They are such incredibly simple pleasures, but wow they are so so special. xx

  • I love Roddy’s comment that the French & UK are cousins, such a lovely idea. I also love the way you greet all the shopkeepers in France, it’s so civilised isn’t it? When I was in Paris a couple of years ago, shopping with a French friend, she was horrified that I was talking in a loud voice & touching the items for sale. She took me outside & told me in France they shop ‘quietly’!! I still laugh when I think of it, but do now try to be quiet & not to handle the clothes too much, apparently this is a no- no too!
    As for the rubbish washed up on the beach, it’s heartbreaking to see, even if people don’t believe in global warming, surely we should err on the side of caution, just in case? It’s very heartening to hear that youngsters are discussing the matter though.
    Thank you for your good wishes too Susan, feeling much better now, & did eventually get a food delivery when the snow melted! xx

    • I am so glad you are feeling so much better Janet, now I am hoping you will get some spring weather too although I hear the north had snow again last night. What a winter. The rubbish really was a huge shock, there was so much of it. Shopping is an art form here I find, it is sophisticated and elegant and it really is a pleasure. I think I would be shocked if I entered a shop now and everyone didn’t say hello and goodbye, it’s a great habit. xx

    • I was amazed that they bounced back, super happy as I really thought they were finished for the year, but now they are thriving once more, just proving how incredible nature is. xx

        • Sounds as if they are similar to ours, although ours only had an inch of snow to contend with and freezing temperatures for a few days. But I am not complaining it is wonderful to see them standing tall once more, they are the highlight of early spring. Hope spring will be on the way to you soon. xx

          • I can imagine, one has to then start thinking of fire risks and drought. Much though I hate the rain I am grateful we have had so much this winter as our autumn was so worryingly dry. You are warmer than we are at the moment, it was bout 60 here today and felt wonderful although it was very windy. xx

  • From my first visit, I fell in love with the history, artchitecture, the food. May I say food again! I love just heading out for the day not knowing where I’m heading. I’ve spent most of my time in Paris, so easy to get around. Oh and the brocantes! The best. I bring home little pieces of France with me each visit. Reading blogs like yours keep everything fresh. I look forward to yours, the wonderful pictures , love your short stories too.

    • Thanks so much Candi, when we have some free time we all just love heading out with no fixed agenda and nowhere in mind, playing left turn, right turn, there is always somewhere incredible just waiting to be discovered! xx

  • I do love France and, in fact, loved it before I ever set foot on French soil. But I love Italy, too, and would probably love England if I ever got there. Thank you for reminding me that spring will come soon!

    • I love France and Italy although I don’t know it that well and of course I will always love England, I hope one day you do get to visit, London is fabulous, but so are the small villages and English country pubs! xx

  • Here it also rains on and off and the elevated sand which was already brought from far away for the Easter season
    has done the way back into the sea . nothing was left over except stones and all the mess which landed in the ocean
    before. A very sad look. But we need all the rain to avoid the annual water shortage and survive the summer months.
    And we need much more people who are aware that our planet is no fiction but a lively organism which need to be
    treated cautiously.

    • We do need the rain and I try to remind myself of that when I moan of another rainy day. Summer draughts are a very real possibility here too and no fun for anyone, least of all the farmers. We were so shocked to see the state of the beach here. xx

  • The fascination for “toutes les choses francaises” has always been there for me. I blamed my mother for singing “Frere Jacques” to me as a child! I loved the sound of the language and the idea of all the different shops vs supermarkets…though I know this is changing. I have been blessed to have been able to visit the land of my dreams twice and have to say, as much as I love Paris, I prefer the smaller country villages. My only regret is that I didn’t go there when I was young, as I truly believe France would have become my home.

      • Preferably, in the most serene little village I could find…perhaps at the foot of the Alps…or between Nice and the Spanish border.

          • My love affair with France began before I even arrived on her shores. The incredibly diverse and beautiful architecture and regions. The allure and romance of the language and cafe life. The deep history and charm of her cities, towns and pretty villages from another time. The amazing, colorful outdoor markets and cuisine. The simple pleasures of warm croissants and a cafe creme savored while people watching. The stunning array of pastries and chocolates. La politesse as you mentioned Susan. A rich culture and heritage. Amazing chateaux and old stones, seaside ports and colorful fishing villages, hold a special allure for me.
            Fountains and gardens. Fields of lavender and sunflowers. Old chapels and mills. Rolling green hills and rocky beach coves. The light.
            The artists and writers. I felt it was where I belong and still do. Thank you for your beautiful posts and photos. Bon weekend to you and your family.

          • You have described it so perfectly who could not fall in love with such a country! It certainly has so many contrasts and yet so much remains the same, the same strong identity everywhere you go, but each region has it’s own feel. xx

  • Bonjour Susan.J’ adore voir cette magnifique région de la Charente-Maritime sous la neige grâce à vos superbes photos.Votre région est encore plus belle sous son manteau blanc ! Presque mystérieuse…Si ce pays attire beaucoup de personnes dans le monde c’ est peut-être la diversité des paysages, de l’ architecture, de la cuisine, des accents etc… parfois dans un rayon de 100 km ( j’ ai lu récemment sur ce blog un excellent commentaire d’ Osyth à propos de cette diversité ) ! La Charente- Maritime est très différente de la Bretagne ( La Rochelle – Nantes = 140 km ) ou du Périgord ( Saintes – Périgueux = 145 km ) pour les paysages , l’ architecture et la cuisine. Presque des pays différents ! C’ est en lisant vos posts et les commentaires des followers que je me rends compte de cette attirance si touchante pour mon pays.// Hello Susan! I love seeing this magnificent region of the Charente-Maritime under the snow thanks to your superb pictures.Your county is even more beautiful under its white coat! Almost mysterious… If this country appeals so many people in the world may be it is the diversity of the landscapes, architecture, cooking , the accents … sometimes within 100 km ( I ‘ve recently read in this blog an excellent comment from Osyth about this appealing diversity )!For example Charente-Maritime is very different from Brittany ( La Rochelle- Nantes = 140 km ) or from Périgord ( Saintes- Périgueux= 145 km ) for the landscapes, the architecture or cooking. Almost different countries! It is by reading your post Susan and all the comments of your followers that I am aware of this appeal so moving for my country.

    • Philippe, you are, as always, so right. We find the landscape changes quite dramatically just between here and the Charente or the Deux Sevres or the Vienne and the menu changes too, fish gives way to duck. The more we discover the more we love everything about life here and I am so grateful to be able to call it home. And doesn’t it look gorgeous in the snow, a blanket of white, it was utterly magical xx

    • Goodness Philippe, I’m very pleased that I managed an excellent comment! And I must say that you probably realize that I am rather evangelical in proclaiming the diversity of France and the riches of it’s differing regions. I lived in the Auvergne (Cantal) for several years before moving to Isère- both are now in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes but there are acute differences and recently driving just a small corner (though well over 1,000 km) through Drôme, Ardèche, Haute-Loire, Cantal, Aveyron, Tarn, Aude, Gard, Bouche de Rhône, Vaucluse and back through the Drôme home to Isère with my daughter she was absolutely speechless at the sheer amount of changes in landscape, architecture and local produce as we progressed. What doesn’t change is the welcome you receive if you are decent and humble and willing to make an effort and that for me is the greatest thing about France …. she let’s me in and let’s me be part of her and that is a priceless gift in my life and the lives of my grown up children when they visit me 🙂

    • Cher Philippe; c’est exactement ce que nous avons discutés dans la voiture hier en rentrant d’une semaine de vacances dans deux régions voisines, mais avec autant de différences que similarités! Et ne parlons pas ‘bouffe’…. c’est stupéfiant et magnifique. Nous avons pris surement 5kg chacun en 7 jours; tellement il y avait de bonnes choses et une diversité encore different d’ici en Ile-de-France!
      Philippe, yours, as nearly every single one comment on this post, is pointing out and underlining all the things that make France ‘a country of choice’ for nearly everybody. I would love to know WHERE you live and I’m sure it will be a beautiful region too!!
      Bisous

  • Lovely photos. I’ve never been to France in the winter, but the photos of old buildings whitewashed by snow will make me want to book a trip one winter . . . soon. I hope the French don’t take the everyday scenery for granted. It’s mainly what I come to see.

    • I think we all tend to take things for granted when we live somewhere. That is actually one of the reasons I love the blog so much, it makes me look at things that I think I would otherwise not notice or take for granted. It was incredible seeing the village covered in a blanket of snow, so unusual, it made me wish it happened more often, but then I suppose it wouldn’t be so special and we wouldn’t be able to grow lemons, ours have suffered badly this winter! xx

  • We’ve been visiting France annually for over 50 years. Love the language and the culture. But for me the main fascination is simple: the French appreciate and emphasize the beauty in all aspects of everyday life–a simple meal, a well-tended garden, a vineyard with rows edged with roses, the display in a pastry shop window, a quaint flower shop, the pride of the market green grocer. And BEAUTY restores my soul.

    • How fabulous that you have been visiting for so long, may I ask where? Do you choose a different part of the country each time or stick to somewhere you know well? Everything you say plays a part in the reason I love it so much here. xx

    • We keep moving to see something new and are amazed that each most recent stop becomes our new “favorite place “–until the next. But there are some areas that call to us over and over. The amazing light and friendly folks of Provence, the canals and countryside (ok, the wine too) of Burgundy, anything along the Rhone, the Camargue…And now your lovely blog takes us to another “favorite place” which is all the more special because you so warmly share your beautiful corner of France and your family with us. Hugs to all from Pebble Beach in California. Merci! Besous!

      • Hi Carol, there are so many fabulous places to discover in France, just as we were so taken with Vichy and volcanic region last summer, it was totally new to us and we were quite drawn to the area. There is something for everyone and I am sure you still have a great many places to discover! xx

  • My mother’s ancestors are from France. I have been in love with all things French from an early age. I believe the love of France is in my genes and in my blood.

    • And I hope you have been able to visit or will be able to in the future. Do you know where your ancestors are from? It would be such fun to find out as much as you can about them xx

  • One thing at a time. My daffs didn’t do so well, they are not the ‘jumpy’ type obviously. When leaving on Monday morning, I broke off a dozen or so and brought them to the hostess we stayed in Bergerac. My daffs were lying every which way on the ground, broken and suffocated with no juice flowing through their snapped and buckled stems.
    The plastic rubbish – a terrible, terrible thing – we spoke about this again these days. What can WE do, every single one of us – re-using bags, never ever throw anything into the nature but only in dedicated bins and containers. There is so much horrendous suffering and terrible photos of suffocated animals…..
    Now, for the ‘French verdict’ I need some more thinking time. When I visit places like Lyon, the Savoie, Lac d’Annecy or now Bordeaux, I’m again and again so much in love with the country – but I also realise that in the end it isn’t the country, but the people who make (for me in any case) my happiness and my personal ‘beauty’. So, let me come back maybe next week …..

    • Your poor diffs, I am still amazed ours did a complete turn around, they were literally all flat on the ground. The beach was huge shock and it is terribly sad. As for France, such wise words, it is indeed the people, true friends and kindness, that is what makes happiness. xx

  • My Dear, You have answered your own question on these pages of your blog; the History and the Photos. What more could one need?

  • I lived 43 yrs. in Europe in several countries & visited France many times from Strasbourg -Paris-the Provence. . . . and since I went the first time to Provence I only go back there now—it is hands down my fav. I lived many, many yrs. in Vienna & love it also very much. There is something quite authentic about the Provence & its’ people that makes me want to live there (but for that I am married to a Swede who chooses to live out his days in the US). I have warned him that when he passes I want to sell everything I own & move permanently to the Provence & buy something quite small w/a big kitchen/gathering room w/a huge table for guests & a patio to spill outdoors where I can keep an herb garden w/flowers & friends (& manybe a Nubian goat or two). The light in the Provence is captivating, the simplicity of the “landshaft” & the people, the love of the outdoors & the sea, it is something here in the US that is superficial, but there it is authentic. Americans try to replicate the decor without embracing the lifestyle—it is a longing for a home that stirs the soul & not just the imagination. OK, back to reality.

    • You have made me feel quite nostalgic just reading this, the lifestyle and decor have to go hand in hand. Now I am imagining goats, and then I remind myself that they eat everything they can reach and there would be no garden left and the goat idea is buried once again! xx

  • Susan, I’m glad your flowers recovered. As for your question, there are just too many comments to read, but I’ve been to France so many times because my s-i-l and b-i-l live there. I love the countryside, the food, and the wine. If they lived in Germany, I’d happily visit there or to Italy or…well, a free place to stay and great company and food and drink are always a plus. I love the history of Europe as well. But I also love going to Wyoming and I have a lot of places on my proverbial bucket list. Just have a yen for travel, I guess. No, I know that. I know that doesn’t really answer your question, but just my thoughts. 🙂

    janet

    • I love your thoughts, and I love that you also love Wyoming, somewhere in your home country, that makes travel even better when you are happy to explore places at home and further afield. Hope you get to tick off a few more on your bucket list in the coming years! xx

  • Where to start – the rubbish is awful, we have to do something to help this planet before it is too late. The village looks as if someone has painted it white, it is so pretty and Evie and puppies, I can see a great many wasted hours and hopefully plenty of photos for us to drool over. As for France what’s not to love!

    • We are all so excited about Evie and keeping our fingers very firmly crossed. If we are lucky and she has puppies I am sure I will bore you all to bits with photos! Sadly the snow didn’t last long but it was picture postcard perfect whilst it did. xx

  • Some years ago a daughter and I were in Provence expecting fairly moderate temperatures and it snowed! Neither of us was prepared for how cold it got and had to do some quick shopping for jackets that would keep us warm. What I remember most is what the snow did to traffic!

    • Oh I can imagine, it would have brought it to a complete standstill, much as it does here. The problem is areas that rarely get snow are just not equipped to deal with it! xx

  • I think France has everything, snow capped mountains, beaches, rivers, beautiful countryside with their small towns and villages, wonderful cities with their history, marvellous food and fashion, it’s got it all! Avril

    • It really does have everything and there is a climate and a place to suit virtually everyone, whether you like beaches, mountains, flat pastures or hills, cities or country. xx

  • Oh Lord: if one is an only child with a totally Francophile father, one does not have a hope to be anything else! He was a military lawyer and Estonia had/has Napoleonic Law!! By the time I had come home in Mom’s arms I had been booked into the International School near Lausanne, Switzerland, with the express intention that the Sorbonne my father had not quite made would be my destiny! Adolf Hitler thought otherwise!! Since work brought me to Europe most years, France became the cultural part of the journey twixt work-a-day Germany and priceless June in England! Loved the ability to have such a choice of intellectual pursuits day-in-and-out . . . also hated the oft snobby Parisian atmosphere since I was not and am not perfect in the language . . . then found that outside the capital matters were much more approachable . . .am dying to get back, a little wiser and more mature! Into areas as yet unknown . . .

    • What a fascinating childhood it sounds as if you had, I hope you make it over to France again sometime soon as I cannot wait to meet you. I wonder if things would have been very different if you had have gone to school in Lausanne and then the Sorbonne, do you think you would still have chosen the same career and the same life? xx

      • Oh Lord, very definitely not! Actually methinks I would not have had much choice in the matter as I would have been expected to stand by my father and his career 🙂 ! Smiling and shaking hands !!!

      • My apologies, but I do try not to make basic errors . . . actually took a few moments this afternoon to find out that current Estonian Law system is a mix of Napoleonic, still vastly entrenched in Europe, and the Germanic – unlike British Law where a person is innocent until proven guilty: most of Europe finds you guilty until you can actually prove yourself innocent: not always easy, but that is how I was brought up to believer ! Dad at last count was the Prosecutor of the Higher Military Court of the country and he oft took me ‘along’ to work , so . . .

    • Eha; you are one fascinating person. Should you ever be in the I-d-France region again, do not fail to contact me. As long as we live here, you’ll be happily received by us and as a Swiss I can tell you that Lausanne (being Hero Husband’s home town) is pretty wonderful as a town to grow up in – I don’t know about the Sorbonne though. It’s interesting, this thing about lawyers – I’m a great believer in ‘justice’ but we don’t seem to get much of it when we need it….

  • Interesting post. I think the same question can be asked about every country.

    I personally have spent a lot of time in France, having gone to school there and then visiting each year since I was 16. I have also spent a lot of time in both Germany, Italy and the UK because my brother lived in Germany and the UK for over 16 years so yearly trips were always a wonderful adventure. Italy I just really liked and then kept going back. Each country has something that draws people there, the food, the history, the people, the sights, etc.

    And then you have the people who simply visit a place once, store the memories in their mind and then move on to the next place.

    • I think it can indeed, but it just seems that so much is written about France. I can quite understand people who return to the same place every year because they love it and I can equally understand those that want to try somewhere new every holiday, to experience a new culture and see new sights, there is no right or wrong, no one size fits all. I hadn’t realised you went to school here, did you enjoy it and for how many years? xx

  • The first time I visited France, I had that feeling in my chest, a fluttering, just like the feeling you have when you are in love. I have no explanation for it. I do not have family roots in France; I don’t speak French very well either. It is just a feeling that lifts me up and draws me back again and again. I have thought about both the UK and France as places to establish a second residence, but I am still drawn to France.

    • I know what you mean there is that pull, a bit like a magnet, it just won’t let go and it is difficult to pin prick the precise reason, I think it is rather a combination of so many things which all come together to make it so special. So if you buy a second home here, which area are you considering? xx

  • Well where do I begin. France, the home of my heart. Each year when we return we ask ourself why here. There is the obvious, food, wine and yes the brocants. I think the culture and the innate understanding of beauty by the people and pride of place speaks to me. Driving through the small villages and seeing the swept sidewalks that are done daily shows the pride. Each region is so different, each with its own beauty.
    Now about your snow and cold weather; it is amazing what some flowers can withstand. Our daffodils always survive anything. We never got that cold this year though.
    As for Evie, I can not wait to hear about those puppies. Maybe I shall get a chance to see and cuddle at least one.
    Ali Xx

    • Everywhere has it’s own unique charm here as you well know having travelled so much of the country now! We have had one of the coldest winters ever known here, not all the time, but really cold spells, the daffodils survived well but the lemon trees lost all of their leaves, they will come back, the trees themselves are not dead but I doubt they will produce any fruit this year as a result, Oh well, such is life! Hopefully Evie will have a good litter of puppies, it is all so exciting, if she does we will keep one, so it will be even more chaotic than usual! fingers crossed! xx

  • I started reading your blog because you were talking about horticultural topics at the time. I am really not very interested in France. Although I would not pass on an opportunity to go there, there are plenty of other places I have not been. Even if I never leave California, that would be fine. There is so much here. There are a few places that I would prefer to visit than France, simply because I do not hear much about them. I hear so much about France, that I do not need to know much more about it. Some of my favorite places (outside of California) are Oklahoma, Oregon and Arizona!

    • Dear Sir – May I humbly suggest you keep your interests and comments within the said states of California, Oklahoma, Oregon and Arizona , , , , now I am a European-born Australian and this but barely concerns me, but methinks some of your wonderful countrymen from the US would be somewhat embarrassed by your ignorant ‘ugly American’ statement !!

      • After such expression of pretentiousness, I doubt you ability to make such a request humbly. You may certainly try. However, I would not retract my statement. It is my reply to the simple question asked above. It is neither ignorant nor embarrassing to appreciate a variety of places and cultures that are not necessarily French. Your arrogance is ignorant. Your bad punctuation should be embarrassing.

        • Oh dear! Not pretentious! Not arrogant! Not embarrassed by bad punctuation 🙂 ! But apologize for that bit and also to Susan . . . . and to you since the sarcasm obviously flew too high :_ !

    • You know I am actually rather happy to see someone who just loves their own country. My father, who lived until his 90’s never went abroad in his life. He was English through and through, a farmer who loved England. He took a holiday every year, often incorporating a sheep sale or such, but he travelled the whole of the country, he always said “there are so many beautiful places to visit in England why do I want to go abroad”. Now gardening and anything horticultural interests me immensely and although I am but a keen amateur with an awful lot to learn it is something I do love to write about. In fact I am just starting to get out into the garden and get some things done after the coldest winter we have had for years. One that killed all the leaves on our lemon trees, but thankfully not the trees themselves, despite the fact I had wrapped them in winter hibernation sheets. Everywhere we go we are starting to see trees in blossom, spring is definitely here and I for one am quite happy about it, so you can certainly expect a lot more about the garden from me soon! xx

      • French horticulturists popularized some of the citrus, particularly lemons and grapefruits, back when citrus were all the rage in France. Most of the lemons were Spanish or Italian, but most of the grapefruit, or pamplemousse, are distinctly French. They were developed in the orangeries which were built to protect the more tropical specie of citrus from frost. Grapefruit were originally developed as mere ornamental trees that were more tolerant to mild frost than the parent pomelo. Well, I should not get carried away. I happen to be very fond of lemons and citrus. I grew them back in the early 1990s.

        • Fascinating, thank you. Then perhaps you can tell me, I am sure my lemons will be fine, their leaves all suffered and are all now falling off, I know they will lose every one, but the trees themselves I am sure are fine. Is there anything I should do in particular, or should I just leave them to grow new leaves and to recover on their own?

          • You can leave them to recover on their own; but they might recover better if they got pruned back a bit to concentrate resources and to remove damaged stem tips. They probably do not need much pruning, but this would be a good time to do any pruning and grooming.

          • Thank you! Most of the leaves are falling off quite naturally, I will just carefully take the rest off and give the trees a light pruning which will shape them nicely. Thanks for the advice. Hopefully they will recover quickly.

          • My mother makes an exquisite and rather French lemon pie with ‘Meyer’ lemon, which is a richly flavored hybrid of lemon and orange. When I grew citrus, ‘Meyer’ was our most popular cultivar, even though I did not like growing it as much as the others. It was the only one that was not grafted, so could be cut to the ground if it got too frosted. Well, that is probably way more information than you need.

          • Ours are Meyer lemons, today I gave them a very gentle pruning, they now are leafless and look rather sad, but I am sure they will bounce back. Love lemon tart, I make a mean one too!!

          • The flavour is fabulous and they fruit prolifically, at least when they have some leaves!! Why do you not like growing them, I know this must sound very ignorant, but is one lemon plant not like another?

          • That is not ignorant. Most of the cultivars of lemons that we grew were very similar mutants of the ‘Lisbon’ lemon. (‘Eureka’ is the same as ‘Lisbon’, but produces some of the fruit throughout the year rather than all at once. ‘Variegated Pink’ lemon is just like it sounds, a variegated mutant of ‘Lisbon’ that makes fruit with pink pulp. ‘Ponderosa’ is a hybrid of ‘Lisbon’ with a shaddock and maybe something else.) ‘Meyer’ is a hybrid of a lemon and a sweet orange, which is why it has such rich flavor. It is essentially a half-breed. I rather dislike the low shrubby branch structure. Except for the ‘Seville’ sour orange (which we grew only a few of), the ‘Meyer’ lemon was the only cultivar that was not grafted onto dwarfing Cuban shaddock rootstock. It naturally stays low and compact, so did not need to be dwarfed. Compared to other citrus, I dislike the appearance of ‘Meyer’ lemon.

          • I am learning so much, thank you. I chose the Meyer Lemon here because I read that it could withstand slightly colder winters and would be better for our climate. I have to admit we have not been disappointed as they fruit prolifically. But I had no idea that they are effectively a half breed, well one learns something new every day, thank you again and have a lovely weekend

          • They tolerate frost a bit better than other lemons because they are related to oranges. Although they are not my favorite, I do not believe I have ever known anyone to be disappointed with them. You have a lovely weekend as well.

    • I can understand that, we all learnt French at school too, it was compulsory and there is certainly a desire to go to a country where you can at least get by in a language and also to see the country one is learning about. As one language develops it is then easier to get a far deeper understanding and to interact with locals and so the attraction grows.xx

  • I love living in France and regard it as home. I will never return to UK. I have been charmed by the French, their culture, food and way of life.

    • Isn’t that just fabulous, where about are you in France? I love hearing stories of people who move here and just love it, sadly there are too many for whom the dream is not reality and they return home. Yours is obviously a happy story. xx

  • I love the picture of the chooks in the daffs! Now, hmm, why do I love France? We moved here for entirely pragmatic reasons, no great francophilia involved. However, it is now home. We feel at home, have many more friends than we did in London and engage in the community life much more. I think there is a sense of the value of traditional life here, without discarding modern ideas. I particularly love that almost everyone is really really interested in food. Where it comes from, how it’s produced, how it’s prepared — these are all important questions that can be used to engage in conversation anywhere in France.

    • I planted the daffodil bulbs the first year we moved here in the chicken garden, and now the hens always love scratching about amongst the flowers, and it always makes a pretty picture! Food is always very important, what I love is that it is equally important to the young as well as the old, it is one tradition, that despite the ever increasing popularity with the likes of Burger King and McDonalds, that is thriving and I hope will continue to do so. xx

  • I have felt a strong connection with France since I was a schoolgirl in the 70’s and even though there were decades when I didn’t visit as soon as I returned, I felt at home. I love France for all of the reasons listed above of course, but to be honest I think it’s more than that…just don’t ask me to explain it because I can’t.
    By the way, I went to Lindfield this morning, it’s still charming… although the traffic was terrible.
    Bon weekend. xx

    • I do know just what you mean, I cannot explain it either, I think it is a combination of so many things. This morning we went to a local brocante, it is just the mentality of everyone that I love, neither hurried nor pushy, just all very pleasant. I can imagine the traffic in Lindfield, but so happy that it is much the same, one day I shall go back there when we are in the UK, I long to visit again, thank you so much for letting me know. Hope you are having a great weekend with some spring weather? xx

  • Although I am tired of the snow in my corner of the world, I don’t begrudge you your celebration — it does indeed look beautiful! Just as your photos of the post-snow warm-up are beautiful. When I see photos like these it seems obvious why Americans would fall in love with France: It’s GORGEOUS. But I suspect that every foreigner who loves France has a reason as unique and individual as they themselves are. For me, it’s the paradoxical and delightful combination of seeking perfection in all things (food, manners, grammar) while reveling in the simplest of pleasures (evening strolls or a glass of wine with friends). Like your other readers I can’t quite put my finger on it, except to say that in France is where I feel most *alive.* Thank you for taking me there, if only virtually.

    • Heide, you are quite right, we all have our own reasons and they are quite impossible to explain. I love the aperitif hour, an evening glass of wine, often champagne because it is inexpensive here, is traditional and lovely and a perfect way to end a day with friends, there is just something about the way it is done that grabs me. xx

  • I have been to Paris twice, about 25 year apart. I loved it both times. My fascination with France is based on my perception of the civil nature of French culture. I enjoy the somewhat formal (at least compared to the states) feel to things – manners, attire, traditions – and I am drawn to the refined lifestyle.

  • Your photos are wonderful!! The snow is lovely……dusting the village streets!! As for the fascination with France,
    the magic is exemplified by everything,food, wine, “City of Lights”, ETC. But the true secret of France’s allure is
    that is REAL…..unlike many European countries which don their facades and gear to tourists.

    • Oh yes it is very real, we went to a local brocante this morning, it never changes the charm, the unhurried atmosphere, the delightful stall holders, it is fabulous in every way. xx

  • My love affair with France began before I even arrived on her shores. The incredibly diverse and beautiful architecture and regions. The allure and romance of the language and cafe life. The deep history and charm of her cities, towns and pretty villages from another time. The amazing, colorful outdoor markets and cuisine. The simple pleasures of warm croissants and a cafe creme savored while people watching. The stunning array of pastries and chocolates. La politesse as you mentioned Susan. A rich culture and heritage. Amazing chateaux and old stones, seaside ports and colorful fishing villages, hold a special allure for me.
    Fountains and gardens. Fields of lavender and sunflowers. Old chapels and mills. Rolling green hills and rocky beach coves. The light.
    The artists and writers. I felt it was where I belong and still do. Thank you for your beautiful posts and photos. Bon weekend to you and your family.

  • I’m certain I can’t give you a straight answer. I think we fell for the magic of the wide open spaces. Everything’s small scale in the U.K. Nothings cluttered in La France Profonde. Room to move, breath. Love your post. Where are you in France😳

  • I lived in Paris for 8 years in the seventies, travelled all over the country during that time. I have visited France at least twice a year every year since and I have led photo tours to every corner, every region, every city for 26 years. I have travelled just about every back road in search of photos for Getty and Lonely Planet. I speak fluent French. I know France very, very well. I am so lucky to have had this career. I never tire of France and never will. It is a unique combination of beauty, sophistication, civilization, a well known and cared-for history, great literature, a well educated and charming population, great roads, a wide variety of topography and architectural styles, low crime, good weather, and an adherence to a traditional way of life that we all yearn for. There is NOTHING better than waking up in a tiny cottage in an innocent French village, walking to the boulangerie, buying a baguette for breakfast and stopping in a cafe for a grand creme. I defy anyone to come up with something better that driving from one astonishingly beautiful village to another, stopping for an excellent and inexpensive lunch in one of them and then exploring the ever variable backroads for more hidden gems. France has a myriad of delights and surprises. It is less wild and unpredictable than Italy/Italians, more organized and law abiding too. I love England too (I am English after all) but England, while beautiful has traffic problems and the inhabitants always look miserable. England is not exotic. France is.

    • Beautifully put and being English too I know just what you mean, of course I love England too, like you. But there is something about France. It sounds as if you had the most amazing career, how fabulous to have done something that you absolutely loved so much. But it begs the question, which is your favourite part of France, where do you or did you find yourself returning to time and time again? xx

  • I have covered most of what I mean above in my reply to the very kind Philippe. I can add so many things but in the end it is just a feeling of belonging and being allowed to belong. The history, the culture, the cuisine, the produces, the extraordinary diversity of landscape are the initial draw but the welcome and the warmth of spirit are what make me stay. I lived in Italy in the 1980s and would have gone back in a heartbeat … it too is a wonderful country but overall I am perfectly content with the life I have here and content is the most converted of feelings in my humble opinion. Xx PS: SO happy you got snow!!!!

    • Contentment cannot be beaten and you know I share your thoughts entirely, it is the welcome we have received here and the warmth of our friends that makes it that little bit extra special. Everything else is just the icing on the cake. xx

  • This question was proposed to us by the belgians who were sitting next to us in a cafe in Coromandel on New Zealand North Island today.I said we would love to visit Brussels,but i just love France and she mentioned all the well known places in Italy to visit ,which we have visited but i have no desire to return like i have with France. I love the architecture, country villages the patisseries etc.I feel when we arrive home in Australia the long flight has been well worth it.

    • It is indeed that pull it seems to have over so many of us, not able to nail down precisely what it is in one or two words, but that yearning to return, that contentment one feels here. But I do love New Zealand too, she will always hold a special place in my heart, probably because our youngest was born there xx

  • I can only speak for some of the Brits I know who have bought property in rural France for either vacation use and / or later retirement but I believe their decision was driven by (and in no particular order): being able to find a lot more house for your money than you would in the UK; wine, food, etc quality, choice and price; better weather, especially a guaranteed good summer; the idea that in some corners of rural France, life is lived as it was in Britain back in the ’50s. (Not so sure how true that it is today unless you go way off the beaten track but several people mentioned that to me when they were house hunting ten years back); a true countryside experience.

    • I think if you head inland and off the beaten track and really into rural France that it probably still is like Britain was many decades ago. Here we are close to the coast and so life is quite cosmopolitan and I love that. But I can see why people would want to choose a rural, escape from it all lifestyle, and it is one country where it certainly is possible. xx

  • Although I live in Thailand and write on Thai lifestyle and culture, I visit friends in France most years. Really to “recharge my batteries” and to re-sample the French style of living.

    It is difficult to explain but, despite the very “lay back” approach to life in the Land of Smiles which mirrors the French style of living , there is not the same sense of openness and freedom in Thailand that there is in western countries. I have great friends here and on balance am settled and content but there is still a longing for that French atmosphere.

    The French are similar with their “work hard, play hard ethic” though Thais do not have the same sense of ambition. That’s probably the biggest difference. The importance of strong family values is the greatest similarity.

    My WordPress blog is still being developed but I have written some posts about the differences between the two lifestyles of East and West.

    • Keep going with your blog, it is fascinating comparing the two lifestyles. I can imagine being able to live in Thailand but spend some time each year in France is really just wonderful, the best of both worlds. xx

      • My dream scenario would be to live in both countries at different times of the year. But when one lives in a far eastern country I think it’s important to spend some time in a western country, a few weeks in France every year in my case, in order not to lose one’s western heritage.

        • Do you ever feel the need to go back to your “old country” or is it not that dissimilar from your present lifestyle. Are there things you miss?

          • Yes I go back and I love it when I am back there, I am English and will always be proud to be English, but I also love it here and am so grateful that the French have welcomed us into their country. Is there anything I miss? No not really. Perhaps an English country pub, but to be honest it is more the thought of them, we only visited occasionally so it is not a big deal!! xx

        • Oh Matt, wouldn’t we all?! 🙂 We keep repeating to ourselves: Wouldn’t it be just wonderful to spend 3 months or even 4 weeks of winter somewhere warmer, such as Lisbon, etc. But sadly this is not going to happen, or very unlikely. Your observations are interesting for one brother-in-law and his wife have two adopted children from Thailand. Those children brought untold changes into their ‘so far quiet and content’ life of a Swiss couple…. There is so much more out ‘there’ than we can ever imagine.

        • Ah yes I totally agree with that, it is important to keep one’s identity and I also think that by coming back here when you then return you appreciate everything so much more. xx

  • For me it started with the 1979 movie “A Little Romance” where I imagined myself to be a young girl in Paris. I also began taking French in high school. I became enamoured of all things French. I love the sound of the language, the food and it’s presentation I absorbed watching Julia Child, the historic architecture, the je ne sais quoi of French women. My first trip was at the age of 36 and have been back 3 times and fall a little more in love each time. I delight in getting a fresh baguette and tucking it under an arm, flaky croissants that few U.S. bakeries get right, selecting beautiful cheeses (I’m lactose intolerant too ha ha!), access to good and affordable wine. I am astonished by the varying terrain and beauty within its borders. I love how the ancient and historical exists next to the modern. I have read much on the formal or stand off nature of the French and maybe I would find this if I immersed myself there, but I have always had a warm experience with the French I encountered. I envy their lifestyle of family first; work second, quiet Sundays, and that life is to be enjoyed and not rushed through. I love the bisous bisous and have got my whole family doing this. I’m a mid western girl of Asian, German-Irish heritage but I swear French is in my blood! I’ve been to Spain, Italy, Germany, Ireland, and England, which I enjoyed immensely. But it is France that calls to me the most. Thanks for your lovely blog that feeds my interest in the French lifestyle!

    • Hi Amelia, which parts have you visited when you come here? It sounds as if you have a fabulous time which is just as a holiday should be. I have never found the French to be stand offish, sometimes they take a while to get to know you, they are reserved and not overly gushy and overly friendly immediately but I have always found they are polite and once you start talking they are happy to talk back. I hope you get to visit again and keep the romance with France going! xx

      • Hi Susan,
        Our first trip was a family trip to Paris, of course, combined with a Le Boat excursion in Burgundy. Then me and my husband got brave and drove a giant loop from Milan through Grenoble and down to the Drome Provence, the primary destination, then to Vence. Our most recent 2 trips brought us to the Languedoc where we pretty much sealed the deal with our love of France. Would love to see your neck of the woods in the Charente sometime as well!

        • I love the Languedoc also, it is a stunning area and I can quite see why it has confirmed your love of France. I hope someday you do get to the Charente Maritime as well, it is quite different to the Languedoc, a fairly flat landscape but it has its own charm and the weather is pretty good too! xx

  • Oh my gosh, on my previous comment I left out the village markets! How I love the fresh, seasonal produce and the smiling, helpful vendors! We are seeing more farmers markets here but still not as frequent or the variety and value I see in France.

    • Yes the markets are one of my all time favourites, just because I love the happy vendors who come out rain or shine, sub zero temperatures or scorching heatwave they still manage a smile and are still helpful, taking their time to choose exactly the right produce for each customer. xx

  • Susan, now that I’ve ploughed through the astonishing, wonderful, instructive and beautiful comments I can only add: They are ALL right about their observations, including your one ‘I’m not interested in France’ comment which made me smile hugely (and Tom is so right, he may or may not care one FIG about France – and he even confirms the opinion of many we know….)…. I don’t even wish to underline all those statements but surely the fact that this is becoming fast your most popular post shows that there is this ‘Certain je ne sais quoi’ that makes everybody sit up and having a ‘woaw’ moment when France is ment. I for one would certainly love to live in your area, close to all the good things of larger places with their wide range of culture, art, education but also close to all the natural beauty, the unique friendliness and general kindness of the more rural population…. It seems to me that you’ve found the ultimate Happiness Place and it shows in every single post and every single comment. Mille fois merci. Ton blog devrait recevoir une reconnaissance nationale ou au moins régionale. OR they could just ‘offer’ you, e.g. No taxes to pay for the rest of your life, or free chicken feed, or free education wherever for your children, or …… what would/could it be? You and your dears have become a sort of an international treasure and this should be rewarded in some way or other, me thinks 🙂

    • Ha ha, I rather like the sound of the NO TAXES part! But then I always say we have to pay our taxes because they pay for our roads and our this and our that, so perhaps I’ll go for the free chicken food!!! I just love that we love where we live, and even more I love that the French have accepted and welcomed our family, we truly are very very blessed to live here and very lucky. xxxx

  • Where to begin??! I feel quite ashamed that I haven’t visited France more in my life, when I only live across the water. Put it down to a fear of flying and lack of funds while the children were young perhaps. Silly I know. But I’m glad to say my children are travelling and my son loves a road trip through and around France. As you know, two years ago we visited Giverny with some friends, my first trip to France – can you believe it?!! It was wonderful and everything I’d hoped. So that sparked a determination to see more of this huge and varied country across the water and as you know (!) we have booked to visit France again this year, for two weeks, travelling around by car (no need for flying now!). We had to book the ferry to St Malo a day early, so, courtesy of the wonderful internet, I have discovered Rochefort-en-Terre, a pretty village on the West coast, en route to the Charente Maritime area. We are staying there one night before continuing down and staying in a lovely gite for a week – we just cannot wait!! After the CM we pop across to Saint Barbaint to visit friends, before driving up to Azay-le-Rideau, where we stay next to the chateaux for a couple of nights. We chose this place because, when I was at school, age 11, we all had the opportunity to learn French and to have a French penfriend (I loved learning French!!!) My penfried – Genevieve Vally ( where is she now I wonder?) – sent me a wonderful book about the Chateaux of the Loire, the area she lived in. The Chateau Azay-le-Rideaux captured my imagination with its round pointed turrets, just like a fairy tale. So, I thought, as we don’t know anywhere in France yet, why not stay there on the way home? After our two nights there, we drive back to St Malo and stay there for two nights. I’m looking forward to that, after reading a book called “All the Light we cannot see” by Anthony Doerr, which is set in St Malo during the war. I can recommend this book, it’s a wonderful story and tells you so much about St Malo and it piqued my interest. So, that’s our little adventure! I’m so excited and look forward to investigating the Charente Maritime and perhaps going to Bordeaux, who knows, but it’s all new and interesting and I’m sure will be the most fabulous trip. I am now also very excited to hear about Evie!!! Can I dare to hope?…… But France, why? well, it is such a vast country with so much history and character and that vast space must give it a sense of calm and stepping back to a calmer age. But being so huge, it must offer something for everyone. Whereas England (which I love) has more variety than people realise, it is somewhat more crammed into a small island, France’s variety is spread over vast miles and this also makes the journey to places more pleasant as the traffic is less dense – apart from the cities I guess. Also, France has been synonymous with style, good cuisine, local artisan foods, since the 15th century. Lous XIV was the fashion idol of the baroque age and everyone has heard of Coco Chanel, and so all these things are embedded in the country’s very being. That’s a big fascination for those from ‘newer’ countries like the US and for us, her cousins, there’s that love-hate relationship so often found in families, but which has seen our own country growing in the ways of cuisine, local produce and fashion, including the advent not so very long ago, of the outside cafe culture that already existed in France. But to experience the real thing……… ah, that’s the draw!! And I for one cannot wait for my first adventure in France! x

    • Your trip this summer is going to be so exciting. Most of all I just love the reason you are going to stay in Azay le Rideau, I don’t know it, but what a wonderful reason to go and stay there and the Loire and her chateaux is always fabulous. We are going there this coming weekend and I hope I get the chance to take a few photos! Rochefort on Terre is another place I do not know but I have read about it many times because we are just ten minutes from Rochefort, although ours is Rochefort sur Mer if we use the proper name and often the two, when one just says Rochefort, can be confused! The gardens of Giverny are of course the best of the best, it is many many years since I visited and I fear back then I really didn’t appreciate them as much as I would do now. Let’s hope you get to experience the cafe culture whilst you are here, the markets, the villages, the boulangeries and the friendly people of the Charente Maritime! xxx

  • Wow, am I overwhelmed by the wonderful array of comments to this post, which asked a seemingly simple, but in reality a very complex question. I waited too long to read this post! (Too many comments, and I agree with almost everything said!) My love for France began with my first French class, when I was 12. My first trip was as a chaperone of some high school French students, and I was thoroughly smitten with the country, its food, beauty, and culture, and being immersed in the language. My high school students had other goals on their minds! (Oh, the stories!) Since that first trip, I have gone to France at least 20 times–I’ve lost count–but not with my students. Each time, my husband and I try to spend at least a week in Paris, and two or three weeks elsewhere (Provence and the Pyrenees the most often). We always discover wonderful new places to see and things to do. I can hardly wait till our next trip!

    • You are so lucky to have experienced so much of France and what a wonderful way to have started, I can just imagine what it was like as a chaperone to the students!! Soon I hope you will also discover the Charente Maritime! xx

      • Thank you, Susan. I’d love to visit the Charente Maritime. I have loved all the comments this time. I’m currently plodding through two online French courses, both with lots of slang and casual French. When I think of my textbook French, I cringe! I sure hope that the textbooks in the schools have changed. XX

        • The textbooks have changed but I still think school is quite stuck in time here! When and if you visit you can have lots of fun going through our children’s school books, I am sure you would find them fascinating. I know that once they get into their last two years school certainly does change quite a lot and they are really treated as young adults which is nice. xx

  • Good morning Susan, I just came across this post in my e-mails – goodness knows how I have missed it. Just wanted to thank you for sharing your beautiful part of France and French life with us. The photographs are amazing and transport me back to my beloved France, a place that has drawn me back again and again since childhood. Also a recipe you shared a few posts back, a vegetable gratin has now become a firm family favourite.All best wishes to you and your family. xx

    • I am so glad you are enjoying the vegetable gratin, we love it, a simple lunch that gets served again and again. Tonight we had another of my favourite vegetarian dishes, vegetarian chilli, I shall share the recipe in a couple of weeks as it is fabulous! xx

  • If anybody is blessed enough to visit Giverny, I think ‘One is sold to France forever’…. This to Marian from England!!!! You started with the best(est) possible 🙂

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