For the 5th year running a poll run by International Living magazine puts France in top spot. Reporting this result France 24 also comments that ‘The result seems to have split French public opinion: what do you think?’ Well here’s my contribution to the discussion..
This is our 8th year living in rural Lot-et-Garonne and here’s why, for us, moving to France was the one of the best things we have ever done.
We live in a large farmhouse part of which we have converted into 2 holiday cottages. The property sits in 3.5 hectares of land (@8.5 acres) consisting of 2 fields, a large garden and a veg plot where we also keep chickens. It’s all manageable as we bought all the right equipment when we moved in and have a sit on mower, serious strimmer, shredder and the icing on the cake our beloved Massey Ferguson. We also have space for a pool and have heated it to keep us in the swim from April to October. The views from the property are spectacular over farmland and orchards – and it is incredibly peaceful.
|Far from the madding crowd||Spectacular views|
The climate here is very similar to the UK but better! We still have distinct seasons which give a structure to the year and we still have green lawns and lush gardens – but we are more likely to have long hot summers and shorter winters. Notice I didn’t say milder winters – it can get very cold and does snow but not for long. Spring comes suddenly and from January we are teased with warm sunny days and before we know it we are outside again most of the time. May and June remind me of the best of English weather, July and August are hot and dry and warm days continue until the end of October. When winter comes along we light up the log fires and snuggle up until the temperature rises again.
|Plum trees in blossom in April||Walking in local woods in autumn|
Pace of Life
In the official guide to the Lot-et-Garonne it says ‘ The people of the Lot-et-Garonne take the time to live’ and we have found this to be true. People have time for each other and take the time to be with each other. Meal times are unhurried and are about the conversation as much as the food and wine (although a lot of the conversation is about the food and wine!). We love being directed by the seasons and following this natural rhythm is a very rewarding way of life. Growing our own veg, making our own aperitifs (nut,peach,cherry wines) and keeping chickens are all things we never found time for before.
|Food,wine and good friends in winter…….||…. and in summer.|
Well what can I say – this is one of the areas that puts France regularly at the top of quality of life polls. If you work in France you do have to pay considerable contributions for health care but the service is outstanding in our experience. Both of us have had to have short stay treatments in hospital and what amazes us is how quiet the hospitals are. You do need to take a small white van with you to pick up any prescriptions as there is always a sack full no matter what’s wrong with you.
We once had a guest staying here who kept commenting ‘It’s all around you’ at random – it made us laugh but actually that about sums it up – it is all around us. We love the distances you can drive without passing through any major towns and we love that even visits to the supermarket involve a drive in the countryside – lifts the spirits every time. This gently undulating landscape comes alive with splashes of colour from the blossom of the fruit trees through to the ranks of nodding sunflowers. It is great walking and cycling country and we love having it all around us.
|Wheat harvest||You can see for miles and miles – whoops kilometres|
This was our main reason for making the move – busy, stressful jobs that left us too exhausted to enjoy our private life. We have had to work very hard to build our holiday rental business here and renovate the property and ‘real’ work has been ongoing involving travel back to the UK and further afield, but with a good internet connection (which always amazes me when I consider how deep in the countryside we are) and good transport links this has been perfectly possible. We love working in the garden together and preserving what we grow. We both love cooking and entertaining and have met some great friends who share our love of good food and wine and are happy to give us local recipes and share their expertise. We recently made sausages and saucisson for the first time on our own without out neighbour overseeing the task – and it was fun.
|Walnut wine bottled and ready for storage||The fruits of our labours|
This is not meant to be a France v UK comparison just our reasons for enjoying our life in the part of rural France we fell in love with but when I watch the TV programme ‘Escape to the Country’ I can often be heard screaming at the prices people have to pay to live the good life in the UK – I don’t think we could ever have afforded the life style we have here in England.
We have a high percentage of people in this area living to a ripe old age and we hope to join them.