We thought that moving to the quiet, unspoiled countryside of rural France would mean that we were less social than we had been previously in Bristol.

We could not have been more wrong!

The last few weeks have flown by in a whirlwind of a family visit, work, lunches out with friends, our village fête and catching up with our neighbours. We’ve been so lucky to be invited to so many lovely things and we’ve enjoyed them all immensely. We have found that a major difference between our old lives in the UK versus our new french life is that we have the time to choose whether or not to do things. Okay, we’re still running round like crazy trying to get things done on the house or make our various businesses work, but with us both working at home and keeping our own hours for the most part, we have the choice of how to spend our time.

We have so much more time together, living like this has been everything that we asked for in terms of being able to spend our mornings together, to be able to cook and eat out in the garden – to be able to go to bed at a decent time, but if anything it’s given us a little too much time together. Living this way in a country where you are each other’s go-to person for mother-tongue company is intense. It’s been really useful to schedule in time with other people to make sure that we don’t drive each other crazy or take each other for granted.

One of the ways we seem to chronically overshare these days has been when it comes to our respective work. With my closest English speaking person almost permanently available to me I have inevitably shared business plans and ideas with G, and in turn I’ve inadvertently overstepped the line in terms of the suggestions that I make to his business. It’s really, really hard to stay separate when the only thing to make that happen is a decision or action that you take – choosing to do things separately or learning to keep quiet when your partner doesn’t want your millionth idea on how they could be doing things slightly differently.

So yes, these last few weeks of social distraction and responsibility have been great, for loads of reasons. I got to spend some long overdue time with my brother, we had a lovely lunch with a friend talking about creative things, as well as going to our french coffee club and looking into buying goats at the local fête (I very nearly came away with two goats after some very effective selling from the French lady that I met!).

But we are now back to normal. It’s a bank holiday here in France today so we’ve done some washing, cooking, gardening and watched some TV while slowly rebuilding our energy levels.

As for me, I shall continue to try to recharge over the coming week. I have lots of clients booked in but a quiet weekend ahead where I intend to do absolutely nothing and enjoy it immensely.

Bonne soirée!

Laura

Last night I was stood in the kitchen at 1am, looking out of our long windows across the valley opposite.

I am a total night-owl with longings to be a morning person, but it’s just not happening and I’m accepting that. The upside of this predisposition towards bed-avoidance means that I get to enjoy the amazingly bright starry nights here in deepest rural France. Walking the roads around here after midnight (and I would argue before midnight on occasion!) unquestionably need a torch – but the skies are often bright with constellations that I had only once seen in the UK, on a holiday to the Isle of Wight where light pollution was minimal.

Here, we have very little by way of light pollution or any pollution whatsoever that I can discern. A friend visited this week from London and we remarked on the clean-smelling air and how refreshing it was. Considering we used to live on an A-road in Bristol, and prior to that Zone 1 in London, we know a thing or two about air pollution.

Our own contribution to the demise of the ozone layer was taken out of action this week where our village mechanic deemed our car too dangerous to be driven, and so we and our friend were confined to the house for a few days. My friend was poorly, so we kept her dosed up on cold medicine, cheese and a little wine to help her through the worst of it – and the interactions with the garagiste have not been all bad. In fact, he is a very nice and accommodating young man, but just as importantly he has given my partner the opportunity to test his French on a subject we don’t often learn much about in class (yet!). G managed to book our car in to be inspected, chase up a part and book us in for repair tomorrow morning… all in very comprehendible French! This is a bit of a pivotal moment for him, as while his grammar and vocabulary are excellent, he describes listening to be difficult so conversation is understandably anxiety-inducing.

I am different, in that I love listening to French, and talking (I’m so sorry to my classmates, I really don’t shut up) but my French teacher does hold me up as someone who seems to be able to understand spoken French well, but who struggles with the fundamentals of grammar. I have to agree, however this week we have been looking at our various tenses again, and I’m hoping that by Monday not only will I be more confident in my ability to speak in complex tenses, but also that our car won’t kill us.

Anyway, a busy, unusual few days, but it’s back the usual gardening and house renovation next week, à bientôt!

I know that my Instagram feed is often full of the usual things that one might expect to be doing when living in France, but today I’m thinking of my own personal top five:

1 Eating bread and bread-based foods (seriously, carbs are life)
2 Speaking French (yes, bread even comes before this, I am addicted)
3 Drinking lovely wine for like, a euro
4 Eating all the flipping cheese in my department
5 French architecture

In my old UK-resident-francophile-from-afar life these were truly the ways that I thought that life in France would be. That I’d be wandering through flower-lined streets of typically French houses with gorgeous shutters and lavender EVERYWHERE. And I am. It’s a joy.

But I would also add five realities about living in France for the uninitiated:

1 Winter is COLD. The days may be sunny, even warm, but if there aren’t any clouds you best have some wood for a fire that night.
2 Admin is a full-time job, particularly in these interesting times of Brexit. Have lots of printer ink.
3 Food isn’t cheap. Eating fresh and seasonally will be the most frugal way to go. Or grow vegetables, as I am planning to do.
4 Housing is cheap, but purchasing a home here is different, bien sûr! In my opinion its more organised and formal, but you’ll pay for that.
5 It would be really easy to live here and almost not speak a word of French, but for me, that would negate any reason to live here whatsoever.

I often get asked things like “how much does it cost to run a two-bed house in France?” or “Can you help me to decide if this house is right for me?”. Both questions that tap into both my frugal self, and opinionated self. But I have to take a step back from that and remind those people that living here, in whatever way you choose to live, is a deeply personal experience.

Things still cost money here. Sometimes a lot, sometimes less. It depends enormously upon our living habits and how we make ourselves happy. For me, I am (clearly) pretty happy as long as there is bread, wine and cheese. I also need some nature and see wildlife, a garden to grow things and the opportunity to speak to French people. And while I LOVE our French home and everything that we are doing to renovate it, it is not the most important thing to me. Spending time with my partnet, lovely people in the village, making friends, learning a new culture and integrating as much as I possibly can are my priorities. If that means the kitchen isn’t painted until next year I can live with that.

I suppose what I’m saying is, if you want to move to France, I would examine what it is that you value. If you need to be in a place where you have all the amenities available to you at all times, then rural France is not for you. If you can’t cope with the idea that shops close for lunch, or that you have very little power when it comes to bureaucracy (cue gallic shrug) then this isn’t the place. BUT if you are willing to learn, integrate and try, can be okay with accepting that things won’t always be quick, or perfect, or cheap (!) then it might well be!

As always, if anyone wants to ask questions you are so welcome, I love interacting with my followers – but it’s just that the big questions can only be answered by you. And that’s how it should be.

Bon courage.

L x