We recently passed our 7th anniversary of living in France and it’s got me thinking about our lives here and how much they’ve changed – mostly for the better. However, looking back though the posts I’ve made on my blog over the last few months, I noticed that many of them could be interpreted as negative. An outsider looking in may get the impression I’m dissatisfied, which is not the case at all.
- The food – well this is France I’m talking about and how can I not put this on my top 7 list? For me the most important aspect of food in France is their attitude towards it. Walk into any supermarket and you’ll find a range of local produce – fruit and vegetables in season, lots of meats, cheeses and different breads etc. What you won’t find is rows and rows of different flavoured crisps, snacks, biscuits, cakes, sweets, takeaway and convenience foods. You’ll have a small frozen section of vegetables, fish and meat, but hardly any ready cooked meals. This I found really difficult to start with. As a working mother, I was used to convenience cooking – get it out the packet, stick it in the oven/mictowave et voila! Here, there are hardly any ready made meals (or takeaways) and the ones they do have aren’t very appetising. So I had to change our whole way of eating – and we’re a lot better for it.
- The People – we have found the local French people to be extremely kind, thoughtful and generous. Only this evening one of our neighbours knocked on our kitchen window “Dessert!” he exclaimed, offering me a beautiful patisserie boxed filled with a delicious looking raspberry gateaux. “Pourquoi?” I asked, “Dessert” he shrugged with a smile and sped of in his car before I could even ask him in for a drink!
- The Mountains – I love the countryside in this part of France. We are very fortunate to be close to the Pyrenees and there seems to be a beautiful view around every corner. I never tire of them as they are constantly changing. I love the early mornings when the mists are rolling over the fields and there is only a purple silhouette of the mountains in the distance. On a crisp, bright winters day there’s nothing quite as breathtaking as the snow covered mountains cutting through the deep blue sky when they seem so close you could touch them.
- The Wine - again this has to be in my top 7 things. I was never really keen on French wine before moving here, but now I love it (maybe a bit too much sometimes hic).. I’m sure the wine in France is much better than the French wine I’ve tasted in England. It’s no surprise really, as I expect the French send the rubbish over the England and keep the best wine for themselves - and who can blame them!
- Where it is – I love the fact that we pop across to Spain within an hour, we can drive to Italy or Portugal or any number of countries in Europe if we wanted to. Coming from the UK where we had to get on a plane or a boat to go to a different country, that is very appealing. We’re also only 2 ½ hours from either the Mediterranean or Atlantic Coast.
- The Weather – well I am British, so the weather was one of our top priorities for moving here. Spring usually starts around the middle of March and gradually the weather gets better and better. We have average temperatures in the summer of 28 – 30 C and the Autumns can still hit daytime temperatures of 26/27. This Autumn has been the best so far – we spent 1st October sunbathing and swimming at the local leisure lake. Winters are short, but can be really cold with night time temperatures of –10C, but often get up to 20C during the day.
- The Family Centred Culture – the thing I love most about France is it’s culture and the importance of family life. The local fetes are a prime example of how the French love to spend time with their family and friends, eat a good meal, drink some fine wine and enjoy the balmy summer evenings. The weekends are sacred, especially Sunday. When we first moved here I used to get frustrated with the long lunch hours and everything being closed on a Sunday and on a Monday! I used to think ‘What’s the matter with them, don’t they realise they’re loosing money by not opening 7 days a week?’, but the longer I live here the more I understand and embrace their attitudes. They’re lives are more centred on living, enjoying and sharing life with the people that are dearest to them. I really admire them for that and it’s an attitude I’m trying hard to adopt – it’s not easy, but I’m enjoying practicing!