French Village Life

IMG_0931The village has a new bakery. Well, almost. We heard the news back in February, when it was scheduled to open three months later. But Coronavirus put a stop to that, and it’s only in the past month that we’ve seen the trucks of the maçons outside the property again, and the local carpenters working hard, giving the old building a facelift. Like so many in the village, I’m excited that we will be able to walk and buy fresh croissants and a baguette just down the road again. It’s been closed for two years and its reopening is scheduled to be quite a celebration!IMG_0920

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I always feel rather privileged to live in in a village, it has its own unique way of life. Perhaps this is because I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere. But no matter what the reason, village life is special. Very small clusters of houses, what we would think of as a hamlet are called a commune here, and become a part of the nearest village.

IMG_0908IMG_0905IMG_0909 IMG_0918In the village there is a church, ours dates back to the 12th Century, it is huge and one can easily see how centuries ago it would have been a place of refuge for many during various wars. I love that we can see the church tower from our garden. The bells toll at midday and 7pm every day. In each neighbouring village the bell rings at a different time, so that in the olden days people would know the time.

IMG_0919Then there is the Marie. This is the town hall and everything is run from here at this most basic of governmental levels. In fact if you want to know anything it is always the first point of call. We’re lucky that working in our Marie is a lovely lady who has known us from when we first moved here; for she helps serve lunch to the children at the small primary school after her morning stint at her desk in the Mairie. All this before her third job each day which is behind the counter at our very small Post Office, which is only open in the afternoons. Indeed, finding her available in three locations meant we were kept abreast of every facet of village life from early on. img_3489

 

So yes, our village has a little primary school with about 67 pupils. Our youngest two girls went there when we first moved here. We also have the post office and the all important Salle de Fêtes – the French equivalent of a village hall. Throughout France these often modern and typically ugly buildings are used for a myriad of purposes, including concerts, wedding receptions and annual feasts. Your local camera club, gardening club, yoga, dance and pilates class will also meet there. Once a year in early autumn there is a mushroom and fungi display held in ours which is always fascinating.

We also have les halles, the market hall, in our village which dates back to roughly the same time as the church, so around 1100!  Recently this has been completely renovated which took over two years. They were fastidious in keeping all of the old timbers, which piece by piece were taken away and treated and repaired. It was a painstaking job which we watched on a daily basis as we passed. This is now home to a Sunday morning market selling vegetables, oysters of course, meats, cheeses and one or two local artisans selling their handmade goods. It is also where the village Christmas party is held, along with various gatherings with aperitifs and music!

p6600555Most exciting for us is probably the reopening of our boulangerie. Because all across France, les boulangeries serve more than bread, they also dish out daily news, important community gossip, and they can provoke a camaraderie amongst people who do not know each very well. We also have a Bar/Tabac, another good place for local information and Sophie who is the owner is always keen to partake in a chat. This is where locals stop on their way home from work for their evening aperitif, propping up the bar and exchanging news.

 

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IMG_0900IMG_0896Village gossip in France is not, however, always gossip. Sometimes matters of great importance are discussed. And very often everyone knows what you are doing before you really even know yourself.  What goes on behind closed doors if often cause for great speculation!!

IMG_0914IMG_0910IMG_0901IMG_0924That is the way it is with villages!  You either love them and get involved and enjoy the feeling of a real community or you hate them.

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I remember when we first moved here the rumour spread around the village was that we were secret government spies. One evening over a glass of wine our neighbour, whom we were just getting to know at the time, kindly divulged this information! In another village, I know of an American family who with their three daughters were all supposedly, according to village gossip, suffering terribly with covid-19. Merely because they kept themselves to themselves, obeyed the rules and never went anywhere during the lockdown! They were fit and healthy and totally fine! That’s how life is and I think it is much the same in any small village anywhere, not just in France! But would I change it, never, I love village life.

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48 thoughts on “French Village Life

  • A great love letter to your village. We know of course quite a few of the shown scenes and refoice with you over the reopening of the bakery! Such beautiful oics and kind words…

    • One of my favourite memories as a 12-13 year old was going to the boulangerie on a Sunday morning for “douze croissants, s’il vous plait”, waiting in line as others were greeted on the way in and out: “Bonjour, messieurs-dames; …”.
      We only lived briefly in a village, after close to 1 year –
      into the city. When I returned, backpacking through France as a 20 year old, it was the villages I missed. You are very lucky to live where you do.

  • Yes, a bakery! A village really needs its bakery and its post office. To a lesser extent it also needs a train station; as those shut down, so does the start of village life. Our big news is that the Superette has new owners, who are a big improvement on the others. Unfortunately their bread doesn’t make it. We now drive some 15 kilometres for a decent baguette, crazy, I know, so we buy a few and freeze them. I must say, your village is prettier than my village and the houses are better maintained. So, when you bring home that first baguette, please do give us a full report!

    • We certainly will – 15kms is long drive, but we’ve done a few of those for both baguettes and other things – but then country lanes are fun to travel on – especially in France on a sunny summer’s day! I think most supermarkets here in France bake their loaves out of the frozen box, alas 😦

  • Thank you for the pictures & items about village life. Grew up in a small town in Missouri so I know how “village life” goes! I didn’t like it then but have learned in passing years to appreciate! Your pictures of the buildings and especially the colors of the shutters & hollyhocks against them are so lovely. My Mother grew hollyhocks over the fence at our farm & the kittens would play in them. I love the old buildings you picture. The church looks so interesting too. Thanks again & take care!

    • Hi. I’ve been following you since I moved to a small village (St Rabier in the Dordogne) from Sydney in 2014 so understand the “gossip” factor. I bought a block of land and built a house and, not long after moving in, found out that I was intending to raise kangaroos!!! I really enjoy your blogs and stories and the have helped to better understand the French way. Thank you.

  • Oh, to have a loaf of bread or a baguette fresh from the oven would be a divine luxury.

    I would love to get on my bike and shop locally for produce or bread. I am totally envious.

    US is not set up that way unless you live in a city or a resort area. That is a very admired
    European daily event.

    Have a joyful Sunday!

  • How many live in your village? The photos are lovely. I like how you point out that living in that small of a place can be heaven or hell. I lived in a very small town in CO. Back then, the population was about 100 during tourist season. I was horribly judged, and rejected by two women my age, and with the small population, that was significant. It made my life hell and after less than 1 1/2 years I moved. My son had been singled out as well, by unfair and untrue gossip. When I first moved there though I saw how in other ways, a small town could be peaceful and supportive. I’m glad your experience is positive. I love your photos! Love, katelon

    • That’s awful, I am so sorry to hear that. And sad you were forced out so quickly. I think we are slightly lucky here and we don’t here the gossip, so we sail through life little knowing what’s under our keel 🙂 We have about 700 people in the village now – the population is starting to get back to pre-war levels. Thank you for commenting, even if it for the wrong reason XX

      • 700 is a nice number of people. I can see that given your family unit and your work that you can pretty much entertain yourself, so be more self sustained that I was a single woman and mother with child.

        I’m sorry you felt I replied for the wrong reasons. I replied to tell you how much I loved the photos and your sharing about your small town living and how it can be supportive and cozy or ostracizing and like living in a glass house as everyone knows everyone.

        Your town certainly has way more people in it than the one I lived in. I love a sense of community and miss that, and it seems you’ve found it there.

  • Glorious photos, Susan. They make me wistful for the many trips I’ve been blessed to take to France and look forward to next year’s trip, since this year is out. In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy your village. 🙂 A new bakery? Fantastique! Enjoy.

    janet

    • I know – so exciting, Janet. We cannot wait – apparently it may sell some other bits and pieces too, hopefully some local honey, for example. Hope you enjoy your visit next year, it will happen, it will XX

  • Oh, this makes me miss your Gitte & so wish we could be there to see all the natural beauty you enjoy each day! Thank you for the beautiful photos—you have a sharp eye w/a camera!
    Sending you all an enormous hug until we meet again.

  • Fantastic photos of a charming village. We are renovating a house in a larger village and miss it terribly. But we are
    stuck by laws and restrictions in the US. I felt very nostalgic seeing familiar sights in your village. If we were younger
    like you and your husband we would live there 24/7.

  • I love your photos – the very epitome of French country life. It always looks so idyllic. However, I’m a townie and while I adore the French countryside I would find it hard to live there.

  • On one of our earlier return trips to Provence, we stopped at our favorite boulangerie and to our dismay, the sign on the door explained that the baker had died and the shop would not reopen. Such a sad time for the village in numerous ways..

    • oh no! How awful, it is so sad when these little shops and stores lose the vitality that keeps them open, whether through a bereavement or a retirement. The villages need them so much, too…. 😦

  • I really enjoyed this post and the photos! I would love to be able to experience this way of life….so french🙂!

  • You had me at “fresh croissants”! I would love to buy those and eat them here. I’m also loving these pale green and pale blue shutters. We have a tendency here in the States to paint shutters black or dark green. The pale ones in France are lighter and happier!

    • Ah, traditionally it was also down to what paint was available – and colours made from local tints. But I know what you mean. And you’re right, a fresh croissant is a gift to the taste buds…thank you for your comment 🙂

  • Enjoyed your post. Have always wanted to live in a village setting. You seem to have an ideal life but I do realize that you have your ups and downs too. Here in the US life is not what it was when I was growing up. So much unrest now.Think perhaps being able to hear the news 24/7 has something to do with it. Cope by turning off tv and radio!Enjoy the weekend with your family!
    Kathy Dike

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