I’ll be straight from the start. This is not a tear jerking love story which will have you reaching out for the tissues and leave you feeling all mushy inside. I haven’t caused a scandal and committed adultery and we haven’t suddenly felt the need to renew our wedding vows.
This is a different kind of love, one that involves bricks and mortar, open countryside and beaches. Fresh food, towns and villages and a language. Yes this is falling in love with a country.
This is a passion that goes back a few decades, which in itself stops me in its tracks because it makes me sound so old! It began long before my children were even thought of, to a time way before I met and married Roddy and to a time before digital photography! However, I am going to bring you in at the middle of this tale.
It was 2004. We had three children. We wanted to move to France as a family and a very large part of that plan was finding the right location. We had our wish list drawn up, we knew what we didn’t want and we thought we knew what we did want. The plan was to spend a month testing the water and to find somewhere we felt ‘at home’. Full of optimism we headed over the Channel for Brittany.
Close enough to the Channel Islands for visiting family; it seemed perfect. But nothing was quite right. It was early April and the weather was dismal. I wouldn’t normally be put off by this, you know I was brought up on a farm, a bit of rain I could take in my stride. But I was just over 8 weeks pregnant, feeling like crap, suffering not morning but afternoon sickness, (I’ve always been different and done this the wrong way round) and I just couldn’t see how we could ever settle where we were. Totally illogical, but that’s the way it was!
So we bundled up the children, stuffed our clothes and endless toys back into bags and set off for the south. We had rented a small house that looked great on paper but turned out to be on a modern estate. We were deep in the heart of wine country in the Languedoc. Big skies and beautiful sunsets. It was certainly much warmer. The neighbour, who we nick-named ‘Mrs Nosey’ seemed to spend every waking hour twitching her curtains to take a glimpse at what the English family staying opposite were up to. Whey we were a cause for such fascination I have no idea, we were only 3 children and a family of five, almost normal!
Roddy got a call from a previous employer and was asked to go and do some temporary work for him. We knew he would always have to leave to work if we moved here, it was part of the plan but these few weeks were meant to be a holiday. Things weren’t going quite as we hoped. He set off on a plane and I was left trying to work out where we would build our new life, in a strange place where I knew not a soul.
Needless to say, it didn’t work out. Roddy returned and we headed back up to Southern Brittany. The weather was amazing, we spent endless hours on the beach, the children played in the rock pools, it was divine. Had we found our forever place we wanted to settle? It seemed we had.
But then family events changed everything. Roddy’s mother became gravely ill and we returned to the Channel Islands. To cut a long story short, we did not return to France for two years.
By then we had four children and surprise surprise I was once again 8 weeks pregnant! We had settled in the South of France, in the Var. Just a few miles inland from the town of Bandol. The house was lovely, we had three acres of steeply terraced gardens scattered with ancient Olive trees. Even in February the ground was hard as a rock I remember. Several nights we had sharp frosts and our drive through the vineyards was magical. We explored all the nearby towns and villages, like Roddy’s Mother who had lived and painted here before, we fell in love with Provence.
But once again this was not to be. Work called Roddy away and we went with him as a family this time. A few months later we sold our house.
But our dream never went away, our torch had been lit and refused to be fully extinguished. When we returned a couple of years later, it was to the South West, yearning for the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Mediterranean. This time we thought we would stay forever, we now had five children and NO, there were no more on the way. Five was enough! We could rent a 7 seater car without any problem, but an 8 seater car in Europe is almost a non event. Life would have taken a turn from complicated to near impossible. Five it would remain! We were in the heart of the Bearn, the most beautiful hilly countryside anyone could wish for. Architecture was to die for, we had friends and a stunning home.
But the legendary stock market crash of 2008 affected our business enormously. Life was a huge struggle and after two years we had to make some tough decisions. There was no way we could continue to live in France and make ends meet.
But, like true love, it never goes away. There is the saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and in this case it seems it was true. Although I hasten to add my Father always changed this to “Absence makes the heart go yonder”! Anyway, we worked hard and found a way to return five years ago and here we are. What’s more we are still here! I won’t pretend that it is always easy, there are things that a great many of us have to accept when we choose this French lifestyle and one of those, again not for everyone, but for many, is a large drop in income and potential earnings. But this is a real deep love, the enduring, everlasting kind and so where there is a will there is a way. I doubt it will ever be easy. There are all sorts of clichés, “the course of true love never does run smooth” being one of them. Again this is so true, it’s difficult, it’s often a struggle for us. It’s certainly not all a bed of roses. But it is perfection in its own, very simple way.
So in a nutshell, that’s our story! And as it is Valentine’s Day, perhaps you should go ahead and be kind to yourself. I’m not offering you champagne or chocolates, or a French Château sadly but instead I am giving everyone 15% off everything in our shop with the code OFLVALENTINE from now until Monday Morning. Here is the quick link https://www.etsy.com/shop/ourfrenchlifestyle?coupon=OFLVALENTINE
Go on, treat yourself for once. xx
74 thoughts on “Falling in Love”
Happy Valentines day ♥️♥️
Thanks Nadia, and the same to you xx
Happy Valentines! ❤️❤️ I love your story. I have always wanted to go to France & learn the language, but many things got in the way. I am a young, healthy 67, eat organic & have kept to a great size. But, I can’t imagine trying to move now & learn another language do quickly to depend on. I love your home & happy for you, hubby & all your children. I hope to go to Normandy some day soon.
You sound as if you are in the best of health, I really do hope you get to visit Normandy, it is such a beautiful department, we love it there, but I have to admit we wanted a slightly warmer drier climate, hence our move to the Charente Maritime! xx
We all know “falling in love” is easy, commitment is the true test. I do believe that is what your family has found. Happy Valentine’s Day.
I think we have! Happy Valentine’s Day to you too xx
As always, your writing is superb as are your photos. I totally get falling in love with place which is why we spend part of our life in Maine.
Thanks so much Lulu, it’s so good to feel the same love day in day out, it really inspires me! xx
Loved that you shared the photos of the children at different ages. I have such affection for all of you through your charming blog. Happy Valentine’s Day and thank you for sharing this story of your family’s journey with us. xo
Thanks Anne, of course the problem is with something like this, one gets totally absorbed into looking at the old photos and the memories, took me hours and hours and I still had not actually chosen any photos at all! Early hours of the morning and we were still going strong! xx
Happy Valentine’s day! I love this story for so many reasons but mostly for its honesty. Social media makes everything seem so easy and it is nice to hear from someone that picking up and moving to France is not all “sunshine, and rainbows” that there are sometimes struggles and obstacles but if you persevere, you can overcome!
Hi Elizabeth, it’s a difficult balance sometimes to show real life and all its beauty here but also to make it real without dwelling on all the difficult parts. Trust me there are many! But always looking for the positive really does help enormously in everything in life I think. Have a lovely weekend xx
Yours is a great story and shows that your deep love for France and living here means that you can cope with the difficult bits as in a real love story. Our story is a bit like yours fell in love 44 years ago and have been here for nearly 20 years and am still madly in love. Thanks for sharing the challenges😊
It’s a good feeling isn’t it. Of course there are ups and downs along the way, but that is the same wherever we are. But contentment is a wonderful feeling xx
Love your pictures as always! Have moved several times but would have liked one time for France! My granddaughter is moving to Spain soon & hope to visit there. Some of our moves have not been so terrific either but learned something each time. Happy Valentines Day & enjoy !!!!
What fun that your granddaughter is moving to Spain, I am sure you will have lots of new memories to make together there and I really hope you get to visit often. It won’t be easy for her at times for sure, but I am sure the good times will far outweigh the bad, and that’s the best we can hope for really! xx
What a beautiful story ………….and of course.. a beautiful country !! Never stop pursuing your dreams!!
I agree with you, just keep being positive and looking on the bright side and remembering how lucky we are compared to so very many, that always puts life into perspective! xx
So perfect Susan. I understand what you mean about loving a place. It grabs hold. When we bought our small island property, many years before we moved here permanently, friends considered us quite mad. Why would any sane person move across country to live on an island in the Pacific Ocean. I feel that way about France also, but that move did not happen. Now we just get to spend a short time in your adopted country each year. In some ways it’s the best of both worlds. More time in France would be even better.
I really think you do have the very best of both worlds. I can quite understand you living on your island, it sounds like heaven to me and I know all about the difficulties of living on a small island and island life! Remember two of our children had to be born on a neighbouring island and then fly home at just a few hours old. Perhaps that is where they get their love of travel from!! xx
I so appreciate your vulnerability Susan. . . . you truly live w/an open heart–one which you invite your readers into. Having lived abroad for 43 years I can say that we are truly “kindred spirits.” I look forward to a cup of tea w/you this summer, and hopefully sharing in your love for that part of the world!
I am so looking forward to that cup of tea and hopefully a shared meal and a glass of wine, your life sounds so fascinating too. It will be great fun xx
@Sandi; I can only say (from the bottom of my heart) – You will love the even more once you got to know that special family – and you surely will try to come back ASAP after your first visit! Santé…..
WOW!!!! Six houses in France in 15 years!! Your present house is beautiful……looks huge! But you need a few bedrooms for immediate family. We bought a house in France over four years ago and are just ready to start the
renovations May 2019……Hopefully, we will get to spend a night there finally!! I had no idea that it would take this long
to begin the process……probably would not have bought it. But there are advantages to “not being a fortuneteller”
Wishing Susan and Roddy the best and hope you will share this house with grandchildren…….one day!!!
But we didn’t own all of them! Only three in this story we actually bought, the rest were short term rentals. It has been an experience for sure. Where is your house in France? Sounds as if you will have fun along the way, it will all be worth it in the end! xx
Susan, votre histoire est très charmant.
Thank you for sharing this story with us today. I had just brewed a lovely pot of English Breakfast tea and arranged a
small plate of homemade sugar cookies and then sat down for a pause this afternoon when I opened your blog and was totally entertained. I was looking forward to reading your weekly comments, but this story and the photos are so very
delightful. Interesting how life intervenes and causes us to move even when we least expect. Seeing the children at a young age in your photos helps to understand that a whole family was uprooted every time.
Well, it seems that you and your family, including pets, are now in the perfect place and enjoying life to the fullest.
Thank you again for making my Valentine’s Day so enjoyable. I hope yours was wonderful too. Patty
Thanks so much Patricia, I am so glad you enjoyed a little piece of our story of life in France! I must admit we got quite absorbed going back looking through the photos, so many memories, so many happy times. I hope you had a lovely Valentine’s Day xx
Thanks for sharing your love story and pictures. I’ve always said True Love hurts! Don’t know why when you give it your all? But, we are still together after 45yrs. Like you said it has not been a bed of roses…but we love each other. Only moved 2 times. The last house we moved from was my dream but it was not meant to be. We lost in the stock market and my husbands company was downsizing so he retired. So we had to downsize house wise also. AND NOW, I love this place after 5yrs of stay! Happy Valentine’s!
It is never easy is it, but you sound as if you have found contentment in your new smaller home and 45 years together is certainly something to be celebrated, congratulations. Enjoy the next 45 years !! xx
What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it, as I’d somehow missed how you ended up in France. You’ve proven that even the deepest of loves require work, commitment and sacrifice. But just look at the beautiful memories your family has made together, and the incredible life you’ve built through your determination and hard work. I love your blog more than ever after this post. xx
Thanks so much Heide, I really wanted to show that it’s not all plain sailing and a bed of roses, life is never easy but I truly, passionately believe, it is what you make it to be. Hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead xx
Dear Heide; you just put in words what I meant to say – and I don‘t have to mention it ‚separately‘ that it‘s comments like yours I SO MISS not to be able to LIKE, UPVOTE, PUT A BIG HEART TO IT…. Why Susan, can‘t we ‚like‘ your readers‘ comments like I can do with other bloggers? They all are on WP too, some have minimal packages but yours doesn‘t allow a STAR to readers‘ comments….?
What a sweet note, Kiki … I am so honored my words echoed your thoughts. But I’m sure it’s not Susan’s fault that you can’t “like” other readers’ comments, as some themes don’t allow it (one of the reasons I’ve stuck with my antiquated theme for almost 10 years). The inner workings of WordPress are a mystery sometimes …
I am looking into updating my theme this week! xx
I am too, Susan. It’s a big step — and a lot of work. But I think it will be worth it to me for the added functionality. Fingers crossed it’ll go fast for you, and without a hitch!
I hope so, I started looking at it, got sidetracked and haven’t had another chance!! Good luck xx
Happy Valentine’s Day Susan! I always love learning more of your family’s story! My husband works for a Swedish company, which has allowed us to travel as a family to Europe on a few occasions. It truly has given our three sons more of a world view, desire to travel, and even a deeper interest in world history. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us! Xo, ~julie
How lucky you are that you all get to travel with your husband Julie. I think you are so right, seeing different cultures and lifestyles really does give our children a much clearer view of the world. They see that life is far from easy for a great many people and I do think that it does make them appreciate what they have so much. I hope you get to come and visit France, come and say hello! xx
The course of true love supposedly is never meant to run smooth . . . yours took more turns than I knew until reading this fabulous Valentine’s Day story just now – thank you for caring to share! Meanwhile, now happily nesting where you were always meant to be, both you and the children have had some extraordinary experiences in your second home country almost none have the chance to gather . . . best for the future . . .
Life is full of ups and downs and experiences. Some people criticise and say it is very unsettling for the children to move, it is and it was not by choice entirely. But I can say that we sit around the table sometimes and remember so many times with the children, so many memories and stories to talk about, life is good. But I am very happy to be completely settled now! xx
Happy Valentines Day. The older I get the more I realize its not what you have but who you have. Good family, a home you love, sometimes it is hard, and costly, and one does without, but the soul is content. I hope you can stay in your lovely area as long as you so desire.
Exactly right, it takes a long time and a lot of experiences I think to get to this stage of life where we suddenly appreciate things very differently. I am glad I have got here and it sounds as if you have too! xx
@Jae; well expressed – and completely agree – thank you for saying what I meant too (and all my apologies, Susan, for taking over your blog once again….)
Loved knowing your story! Just beautiful
It’s been a fun ride! xx
I didn’t know the back story to your French affair. Beautiful photos of the children as little ones.
It goes back way further than this, I spent a lot of time here and drove from Paris to the south and back and up to Normandy in my little 2CV, but that’s another story! but this is the part with the family! xx
God blessed your perseverance by putting you in just the place you belong and we’re enjoying the fruits of that patience. Happy Valentine’s Day and much love to all of you.
I would like to think that this was meant to be where we are now and I like to think that along the way I, for one, have certainly come to appreciate the smaller more important things. Much love to you too xx
We have been travellers all our married life and have visited France 7 times. It was our dream to buy in France and spend much of our retirement there. In 2007 we spent months looking at homes finally narrowing it down to a few houses in the Lot and two in Provence. We came back to Australia to make the final decision and to ensure we really wanted to do this. We chose a house but before I could ring the agent in France my husband had a stroke. That was the end of the dream. He survived and is physically fine but he suffered brain damage and is now also suffering from Altzhiema. If I had my time over I would have gone earlier and taken the children to live there if only for a few years.
It is so sad what life throws at us and we never know what is around the corner. But you got to visit, you got to enjoy so much about France and now your husband is lucky to have you by his side. Big hugs xx
Pls see my private mail – and THANK YOU for this delightful, colourful, heart-felt and fascinating journey‘s tale you share with your readers. It‘s so open-hearted (can I say that?) and one feels the direct and honest thought process coming across.
Love to all of you and kisses to those who want (but I insist on Evie and ‚Rolls-Royce‘)- and no nose-twitching is allowed 😉
Just a few days to go, can’t wait to see you both again, it’s super hectic here, but fun at the same time! xxx
Happy Valentines Susan. We are reluctantly back in the Uk and haven’t fallen out of love with France at all. It’s just not our time. We are living in hope that things will change!
I had no idea, did you sell your house in France? Please do send me an email and we can chat further. xx
Your story sounds so familar . We had/have the same ongoing love for Spain and now we are again and still in our
You found your place, we found ours, I wonder what is around the corner, who knows. But for now aren’t we lucky to be where we are and happy and content. xx
I had no idea this was an on-again, off-again affair. I only knew the story of finding the current house. It sounds as though you’re in the right place! May it continue to be so.
It’s been a very long journey and actually goes back way further than this, long before I even met my husband, the love affair with France began! xx
I love the photographs that document your wanderings through France. They make me want to follow in your footsteps, at least for a few weeks. Sounds like you made a good choice – maximizing income is not the same as maximizing your quality of life.
Totally agree with you, we can manage with less but our lives are so much richer. xx
it is very good article
Thank you xx
The persistence you’ve all demonstrated just seems to me absolute proof that you are meant to be where you are, in France. Continued blessings!
I think you might be right. We just keep coming back which has to mean something right! xx
Good or bad , experiences in life makes us wiser and we learn to adapt to change
Totally agree, we learn from them xx
It’s been a long journey for you, but here you are, where you belong! It’s been a fascinating time for the family, and I’ve so enjoyed following this blog. xx
Thanks so much Janet, I hope some day you might come over and we could meet xx
It’s so true , ” true love isn’t just a bed of roses”
Very true! xx
Thank you xx