We are marching at full speed towards July and August, those sixty days of summer when the coast is packed with holidaymakers and visitors outnumber locals. It is the time when anyone in the tourist industry works at 100% capacity while still coping with a home life – typically this means shopping at 8.00am, before the masses stir. And yet, somehow, a sense of calm still prevails; there is still that wonderful feeling that life should not be hurried, and the little pleasures should be enjoyed to the full, complete with sunsets, sand on the kitchen floor, and the perfume of suncream in the air.
‘Curb appeal’ is a term I first became aware of in the States many years ago. Recently a very dear friend from the USA came to stay with us here, and I will never forget her shock at how so many of our village houses are right on the edge of the road. Many have no front gardens, despite the fact they are not in a town but in the country. I had never really given it much thought, as it is something that is quite normal in both France and the UK. Cottages and houses that were built alongside tiny tracks centuries ago might have once had some grass in the foreground, but as roads were widened to take modern-day traffic, so the tarmac has crept ever closer to their front doors. Read more
Which sets your heart beating a little faster? A rural home so beautiful yet bought for a price that will make city dwellers cry or an elegant pad overflowing with period features near the shops and the buzz of urban life where you can pretty much get anything you want in a jiffy? Read more
Another summer morning, time to draw the curtains, fling open the windows and let the early morning breeze fill the room. Summer always smells warm and enticing as it fills the house each day, and the instant sound of bees in the wisteria and the sight of swallows flitting past in a blur of winged shadow add to the sense of season. Read more
The weather gods have certainly been playing with us this winter and I daresay they’re not done yet. They’ve been tossing us around like a bunch of wet socks inside a washing machine, and we’re never sure quite what they will throw at us next. Read more
Finding the time to ‘stand and stare’. It seems like only last week I was lamenting the end of the summer holidays and somehow the children and I were trying to get back into the school routine of early mornings; bundling everyone into the car on time, usually while someone is carrying their shoes and someone else has a drooping backpack half-open with books threatening to make a bid for freedom. We’ve just about got organised, the daily drill has almost fully fallen back into place and now here we are eagerly looking forward to the two week autumn holiday known as les vacances de la Toussaint. Read more
When we first moved to France, I think we all secretly harboured a desire for a sort of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ existence, for a life that would be one long dreamy ride through quiet backwaters and along sun-dappled valleys until one returned at night to the warmth of a fire in an ancient fireplace set square in the crumbling wall of an old farmhouse. Read more
Lost and Found
It was Claire who found the camera, her 13 year-old bright eyes spotted it halfway across the beach at La Cible one morning in September as we had a mother and daughter cycling-expedition on the Île de Ré. We were recent summer arrivals in France, and the island had become one of our favourite spots to explore on a weekend, our custom was to cycle from the car-park at La Cible, through the old fortifications and onto a lunch on the quay in St Martin de Ré. Read more
Life is all about choices. Imagine you’re in France on holiday. You’re strolling around a local town and it’s just past midday; everyone is feeling a little peckish, and the restaurants all around you are filling up with diners – where do you go? The choice is endless……but then in your mind you recall a few wise words, whispered by a french friend many years ago, “Always go where the locals eat.” Read more
During this long hot summer we’ve had plenty of friends from abroad visiting us; not surprisingly at some stage the topic of conversation has been food, in some form or another. Almost without exception this in turn has lead to discussions about French school lunches. Despite everybody proclaiming to know that the French system is indeed excellent, everyone, without exception, has been both astounded and fascinated when I explain exactly what the children eat for lunch and how the meal is taken. The quality of school lunches in France is just so high it’s about time I explained a little more to those of you who have never stood outside French school gates!