Rain or shine, summer or winter – the French market is simply a way of life. A lifestyle I truly believe that more and more people are looking for as an antidote to the fast-paced hectic world we live in. And although France can offer just that, don’t be fooled by the idealised version seen through rose-tinted glasses.
There are pros and cons to life here. There are things I love and things that can be a real bore. If you want to live a simpler more down to earth lifestyle, it is a great place to be, and perhaps it really is easier to follow this way of living here than in other parts of the world. But that’s something to discuss in length in another post. For now here are a few of the ups and downs of life in France.
I love the markets and how our diets are so in tune to what is in season. A French market is both fast paced and incredibly slow at the same time. It’s busy and bustling but each customer is allowed to talk, to discuss what might be best for their preferred recipe, to choose exactly what will be ripe and when; each purchase is allowed as much time as needed, no matter how long the queue of people waiting in line.
A prime example of French life is the boulangerie. Fresh bread without preservatives, made with no more than four or five simple ingredients, does not normally keep for more than a few hours, let alone a day. For many a trip to the local bakery is a routine not to be missed.
But this daily way of life is under threat from the big supermarkets and make no mistake – the French do shop in them, and yes, the French do buy fast food and ready meals too. Like so many places in the world the large hypermarkets have forced the closure of many village stores and local shops who simply cannot compete with the prices. But this in turn gives us a good reason to support our local village Sunday market, our boulangerie and even our small post-office. Because it would be a tragedy if they disappeared, not just for us but for the entire community; the elderly depend on them, and like most good things in a village community they continue to offer a way of life that can act as an education for our children.
France is a good-sized country with a relatively low population density and this means we can be driving up the hill towards the village after dark and see an owl swoop low over the car and off into the field beyond, and then later hear their hooting in the distance when we step outside into the garden. It means we can hear the constant tapping of our resident black woodpecker, and see the green flash of a kingfisher gliding along just above the water on a stream beside the road. But even here things are changing; the songbirds are disappearing, and the sparrows and other finches no longer visit in large flocks. Why? In many places modern farming methods have flattened the landscape into a monotone mass without hedgerows, their natural nesting habitat has been taken away, there is nothing for them to eat and they simply do not breed here any more.
However despite modernisation this is still a country where things happen at their own pace and rarely do things happen at the mere drop of a hat or the click of ones fingers. 24 hour delivery is possible at a very hefty price, sometimes. Same day is unheard of, certainly in rural parts. Lets take a classic example. Blocked drains. It’s been a long story.
Way back in the spring, we had to call out a company to sort out a huge blockage in the main drain from our house (living in a village we have mains drainage as opposed to the more common septic tank). The company’s enormous and very noisy vacuum-pipe lorry sorted it after a couple of hours, but the workman told us that we had very old terracotta pipes and their life cycle was probably very near the end. We groaned and decided to keep our fingers firmly crossed – just another of the sagas of living with a very old house.
Anyway, last Sunday one upstairs loo in our house blocked. Roddy tried to fix it without much luck. The outside drains were totally blocked and things quickly went downhill. All loos were now out of action in the entire house. The rain was hammering down, Roddy dressed himself in foul weather gear and set to work with drain rods, he worked endlessly, utterly drenched for several hours with no luck at all. I sent a desperate text to the company who had worked on the drains in May. I knew nothing would happen on a Sunday evening but I hoped at least it would mean they would see it first thing in the morning. They did, in fact they telephoned, but despite my plea of urgency they said they certainly couldn’t get out to us until the end of the afternoon and even that would mean cancelling an existing appointment and doing us a huge favour. I was suitably grateful of course.
Roddy was not to be put off. He went back to our local Farm store and bought another section of drain rods, he needed more length to get to the blockage and then he went into battle once more. I went off to tennis with our youngest daughter, at least at the club there are fully functioning bathrooms! At 5pm I received a text. Not from the drain company who still had not arrived but from my husband, who is extremely good with words, and this is exactly what I read, a smile slowly sweeping across my face which turned to laughter by the end.
“Go forth and take four talents of gold from our treasury and visit the streets of commerce to buy drink and victuals to prepare a feast of victory, for we have won the war and the Turds have fled the battlefield.
And even as I write this, my mighty majesty, our skirmishers are out on the plain, mopping up the wounded and injured, washing them away down into oblivion.
Rejoice, for history is ours, and your throne is finally restored to your majesty, for your personal, unsullied and scented use”.
So you see there are always two sides to every story. The dreamy romantic rural existence in France and the more realistic ‘how life really is in rural France’. We make do and we adapt, we work around problems. I actually believe it makes us more in tune with life, we take less for granted and we appreciate so much more. We accept, we complain, but we have no choice other than to get on with things and make the best of it. This my friends is our life in France, its not all a bed of sweet smelling roses. But would we change it, not at all!!
59 thoughts on “Real Life in France”
Love it! Wouldn’t we all love to have a poetic husband who also knows how to get the necessary done!!
Ha ha xx
Roddy has a wonderful way with words, I laughed out loud then read it to my husband who also had a good laugh. Bravo to him and please write more often Roddy!
He says a big thank you! xx
As you well know, here in the US, it’s a ‘big box” world with sweet little pockets of farm markets and sartisanal cheese and so forth that are always worth the effort and expense. We support them fully. But we do have in common the availability of plumbers when things get dire–unless you pay an annual “insurance” fee, you often can’t get one easily in emergency situations. I commiserate fully. And I laughed out loud at Roddy’s message. Bless you all… and here’s to brighter, muck-less days ahead.
And the muck less days continue, fingers crossed all is well here now, until the next adventure!! xx
Oh, perfect! That husband! My first good laugh of the day (required).
Oh what we would all give to have a “Roddy”. He is truly the best. Miss you all, so glad we get a small glimpse into your daily life. Love to you all. Debra and DJ xoxo
Miss you so much too, hope you will come and visit again xxx
What an awesome post!!! Thank you for sharing your “real life” adventures in France !!! Pics are gorgeous!
I envy you having such a useful husband. But one of the advantages of living in an apartment is that the building has many services on call, including any unblocking of drains.
Ahh yes that is a huge advantage! xx
Loved reading this! I see parallels with our life onboard our catamaran! Lots of constant breakdowns that you have to fix yourself in the middle of nowhere but a blessed life we would not swap for anything… And Roddy does have a way with words as well as draining rods!
I can really appreciate your life on board. Roddy grew up on boats, he says unblocking the drains was really rather like unblocking the head on the boat, a job he got far too used to!!! xx
Poetry in a pile of poo. I love it.
Ha ha xx
What a clever blog……from marketplace to plumbing.
Been there….done that!! We had a funny incident which crippled our only commode. Our village house was under renovation so we were left to use public toilets for about 2 weeks. All due to a bat in the commode…..funny storythat would take too much of your space!
A bat in the commode, never heard of that one before, sounds intriguing and probably could only happen in France! xx
Hi! You are right, there are pros & cons but what a wonderful way of appreciate what we have, I love your writings & stories, keep it up & most of it keep enjoying what nature offers, life is beautiful. Cheers!
We are indeed truly lucky and we do appreciate this natural simple lifestyle xx
You have chosen a lifestyle and it seems to work for you.
Yes it does xx
I do love the victory text. With luck the drains will stay open!
So far so good! xx
*inevitable laughter* Would love the market way of shopping as against the plastic-shielded ‘perfect’ trays of tasteless produce from the impersonal supermarket. Am not certain of the boulangerie . . . a baguette would disappear divided amongst your horde but living singly and eating but a slice or two daily . . . ? Most time delightedly self-sufficient I must admit having a Roddy practical, fun and so able to turn the mundane of life into joyous poetry would be kind’of nice . . .
You’re right a baguette goes quicker than you can blink here! xx
Roddy is a husband with word play after my own heart. Well done, him!! The market looks wonderful as we obviously have no farmer’s markets right now. Not long ago, my s-i-l became quite ill, only to find out that the water was bad, so bad even boiling didn’t help! It was a few days before she had water again.
Clean water is something we all take for granted and when we don’t have it we realise how lucky we actually are xx
My s-i-l’s area ran out of clean water for a time and it was terrible. They were told even boiling wouldn’t help. Also bad not to have water, period, which has happened there before as well.
Ah, St Roddy to the rescue, I would expect no less from him. Have missed reading your blog posts. I’m amazed that you have time to write.
Maybe/hopefully this October, I quick visit to share a glass of wine.
Oooh how exciting, hopefully yes yes yes to October, huge hugs to you both xx
What a meaningful post – it is good to know of the down sides too.
Like any life it has its ups and downs!! xx
I love this post. Living on an Island out in the bay we have to be very resourceful. I feel your pain.
Sounds like bliss though xx
Aaaawh – don’t we all love Roddy, the knight in his shining (dirt and muck plastered) armour, throwing out beautiful prose far better than Cyrano de Bergerac (nearby….)?! Well, I do! And I know for a fact how incredibly inventive, clever, hard working your hubby is. He is not one just to talk – he also does the job.
As beautiful, funny and interesting this story is, it also struck me, how desperate the environmental aspect gets EVEN in your blessed lands in the countryside. I get daily reports from friends in rural areas in the US, feedback from the various English countrysides, even in Switzerland we notice massive changements in the declining number of birds, growing numbers of unheard-of winter-visitors who probably had to fly much further south before, the plastic particles in everything…. Where are we heading?! And what are we leaving back for our children? It frightens me on a daily basis.
The prices for food are so much lower in your area. A baguette Tradition here is easily €1.25-1.35…. The bread we buy cost per kg between €6.50 and 8.- That’s a lot for the low French salaries. Market prices are generally much higher than super markets. So, again, who can blame those who only shop there? We have several v.small to middle sized Franprix here, very important for people w/o a car. Their prices for the same products as for ex. at Auchan are staggeringly high. Why? Because it’s an affluent town and people have not much choice but going to Franprix or the local corner shops with very little choice and even higher prices. It’s the serpant eating its own tail.
It’s good to hear from you. We are giving away, going to the Siom, gifting, packing, leaving stuff as well as friends behind….. life goes on.
Hope life is going well in Switzerland, big hugs xx
OMG, your husband is hilarious! It is indeed different to live in a rural area, wherever you are in the world.
It has its pros and cons, but I wouldn’t change it! xx
That good you can prove it to them dear
It’s good to hear from you. We are giving away, going to the Sion, gifting, packing, leaving stuff as well as friends behind….. life goes on.
We have a vacation home in a tiny borough on top of a mountain in a low population county and it is frustrating at times to get repairs, even when the electric and internet is out…cell phones rarely work there. There is one grocery store in the county about thirty minutes away. There is always a trade off to live a simple life in a beautiful place.
Always a trade off, but for me this country life wins, even with all the complications xx
Oh my, he sure does have a wonderful way with his words your husband! I really enjoyed that.
He does! xx
oh your husband gave me a laugh this morning….I needed a laugh!
We don’t have as old a house, but at 59 years it needed pipes redone as well….we were lucky…only 5 feet and a rosebush ….but I love your Hubby’s humor….what a trooper!
Best of luck to you…may your pipes be free to drain….
Pipes are still good! xx
What I did with computer, I have no idea – will finish by saying Thank You!! Please continue with pics. I’m so glad to know you have bathroom problems fixed!!! Loved the pictures as always. They are beautiful!
Thanks so much xx
We live in the country in the U.S and my husband would try to fix practically anything before calling a company to repair whatever it might be. Alas we do not have the small markets like you and oh to have fresh bread every day!
Yes calling out the pros is a real last resort for Roddy. The markets are one of the highlights of living in France for sure. xx
Oh, Boulangerie….don’t forget the delicious Fougasse with Olive. Regarding blocked drains etc…..this happens
everywhere. To be upset don’t help and be patient is quite challenging in such a situation.
Yes blocked drains happen everywhere, patience is vital, but with a full house it can sometimes be in short supply!! xx
The thing is in France even the richest man can be looked like an idiot if he lacks general knowledge. We think that culture is an important part of social success therefore we cultivate it. (And learning new things is really enjoyable)
Culture is so important, I agree and I think we never stop learning, life is fascinating. xx
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Brilliant, a lovely blog about life in a French village and how the war was won against the turds. I read this to my hubby and asked him if he would have been up to the mammoth task of turd busting. Haven’t laughed like that in ages 🤣 thank you 😊