Looking back over the last few posts, I have realised that I haven’t actually written that much about our new life in France. Mainly because I haven’t actually spent much time here. Spending so much time on the road has distracted me somewhat from getting settled and making new friends (easier said than done when you get to our age).
That said, the little time we have been in France has been pretty special. We are totally in love with our new home, and can’t wait to explore all its nooks and cranny’s in more detail (we have three barns full of all kinds of gems waiting to be discovered!). Dennis is very excited about his new toys – such as the ride on mower which he just had to buy (how else would we keep the field that is our garden under control?). And it feels very good indeed to be out of the city and in the middle of such stunning countryside and fresh air – particularly when we read stories like this about our former home city.
As to be expected there are some things that are taking a little getting used to. I don’t care what anyone says about French food being the best in the world, the restaurants around here simply are not as good as they are in the UK, and there is a distinct lack of variety at the local supermarkets (friends and family take note – if you ever want to buy me a present, a jar of Indian, Thai or Middle-Eastern spice would be very much appreciated!).
And of course we are still attempting to get our heads around the language. We are trying very hard on this front – we have a private class once a week at home; attend a weekly group class in Verteillac, and we’re attempting to speak French as often as we can when out and about, but even so it is going to take us a long time before we are anywhere near able to hold an actual conversation.
Two months since signing on the dotted line for the new house, and I’ve been thinking about what I like and dislike about being out here. The list goes something like this…
Five things I LOVE about living in France:
- Our home: It’s a castle in comparison to anything we could ever have dreamed of back in the UK. It needs a whole heap of work doing it and is probably going to be a money pit, but the fact I get to wake up to this view (above) every morning makes all of that irrelevant. We love it!
- The countryside: it is simply stunning. I am really enjoying going for a morning walk before I sit at my desk. It makes for a great start to the day – even when it’s freezing cold outside – and was something I rarely did back in London. There was little appeal in getting out of bed early to walk the mean streets of east London. I feel fitter and healthier (even if I am not actually any thinner, grrr) and that can only be a good thing!
- The peace and quiet: no neighbours, no police sirens, no drunks, rarely any traffic. The only noise we experience is the sound of the river cascading over the mini waterfall next to the house, and the occasional flock of birds as they migrate to new climates. Bliss.
- Learning the language: this is going to sound a bit weird but I am really enjoying learning French. It’s really difficult, and I am rubbish at it, but it is testing parts of my brain that I don’t feel have had an airing for a while and that feels good. I will be bilingual. I will. Even if it takes me 30 years. I am going to bloody do this.
- France’s culinary offerings – specifically le vin, le pain, le fromage: I realise this is a contradiction to my earlier comment about the restaurants and supermarkets (will expand more on this below) but there is a reason France is famous for its cheese and wine – and that is because it’s so bloody good! This is, of course, a mixed blessing – particularly when you are someone that only needs to sniff something delicious to gain 5lbs.
Five things I am not so keen on about France:
- The supermarkets: Ok, the fruit and veg is always that which is in season (which I am a big fan of both from an environmental and taste point of view), and yes you can buy 53 different varieties of French cheese, and yes you can get a really good bottle of wine for less than 3 Euros. But that is where the plus points about French supermarkets end – at least around where we live. No spices; no Cheddar cheese or Halloumi; no kale, mange tout or fresh beansprouts. Not even a packet of fresh coriander for crying out loud. How on earth am I supposed to cook thai green curry, or make cheese on toast for supper, I ask you?!
- The restaurants: I am sure that somewhere in France there are some excellent restaurants. I just don’t think any of them are located near us. We have eaten out three times now and each time we’ve been left feeling a bit disappointed thanks to mediocre food, crap décor and no atmosphere. I know I’ve been spoilt over the years, but it’s not that much to ask for the lights to turned down, pop music turned off and a bit more imagination applied to the menu, now is it?
- The tax system: It is complicated. That is all I have to say on this matter. In fact I can’t say any more than that as I don’t understand it well enough to contribute anything useful – other than I am really happy to have a good accountant.
- Can’t really think of a fourth…
I may revisit this in a few months once we’ve settled even more, but for now, I think I can safely say, moving to France was an excellent idea.