Ideas for the winter months in France

Usually we go away to the sun for the winter. But after having had a disastrous experience with the last house sitters we have decided to sit the winter out in France. We live in a rural area about an hour’s drive from a city and so the choice of social and cultural activities is very sparse. I wonder how others who no longer work occupy the winter months when far from entertainment facilities.

Hi John,

I am impressed with 6 winters just off the Carcassonne road, but that's probably due to us coming from Australia, and being unfamiliar with the sort of weather we saw here in Mazamet last winter.

Also impressed with the animals. I think we may have walked past your goats one day.


Hi Phil,

You've raised lots of interesting points, and I guess that one of the things we "retire to France" for is to discover and perhaps, rediscover adventures and new things to do. I keep a regular weekly calendar of the things we have decided to do, the things we must do and the things we would like to do. We can easily see how our time is being used, and make adjustments where necessary. I quite frequently wonder what it is that I ought to be doing with my time, but it passes quickly enough anyway.

This year, we travelled all through the Summer, so we didn't have the opportunity to engage with the numerous activities in the area. Maybe next year? Also, we had over 20 visitors to keep us busy.

We have registered with the Trusted Housesitters, and we are getting the regular daily emails, but we've seen only one suitable opportunity so far, and they didn't reply to us. Patience!


Wonderful Diana. Let it snow indeed! :-)

That sounds like my idea of heaven!

Phil, I was just about to suggest knitting, what type of wool?

I'm not Joan, but I like this answer :-) Good luck with the parachuting!

The weir across La Vienne, literally across the road from me has been dry since may. I think the last serious rain here was in august during a storm. The present rains will be a lifesaver for the farmers - long may it rain !

I don’t mind the rain Pete. Didn’t realise La Vienne was so dry up your way. Drains bursting all over the road on the Confolens bridge tonight.

Need the rain Nico, i've never seen La Vienne so dry.

Going to gives barbecuing a miss tonight. Absolutely hissing with rain here.

Hi Joan,

Thanks for the tips.

Writing my life story would not be an option, because I have not done anything worth writing about and never think back to the past only to the future.

I read every day so nothing different.

As to inviting friends, after years and years of being mine hosts we moved here to escape spending upwards of an extra £200 at the supermarket almost every Friday because we had a full house for the weekend. Going off a bit subject, but are others also fed up of guests who just bring a bottle of duty free, stay for a week and when it comes to pay at the supermarket check-out have wandered off?

As to help budding writers very easy and willing to do so but hard for the writer to accept.

Online editing or discussion of your book idea. Never get involved in this - your idea will be used by others. Keep what you are writing about secret, secret, secret. Original ideas are very rare in the publishing world and are the main reason why you will get an agent or publisher to accept your book. If you have written a book good idea is to get it proof read by a qualified proofreader about £20 an hour and they read like rockets. They will also advise you of grammatical errors or bits they cannot understand and if you need to get permissions or need legal advice. Publishing houses have editors who have total power over the content and look of a book and that it conforms to house style. If anyone would like advice on their writing/publishing I am more than willing to freely give advice.

Having looked at some of the suggestions there are a fair number that appeal and one of the rare leisure facilities close by is a parachuting school. Thinking on it...

If you let me know what you have I’ll then consider what I may be able to use and calculate costs of postage. Thanks

Hi Fiona

If you are near, you can collect or I deliver or I can post. I am sorting it all next week and making a list of it all.

Agreed Simon. I cleaned my house before they came, but it was sparkling whhen they left.

Start a gardening club and exchange ideas.

After a hectic summer and autumn, we have just about finished clearing and cleaning up after all our visitors and have made all our preparations for the winter. New snow boots waiting in the cupboard, all the ski gear down from the loft, winter tyres on the cars, ample logs piled neatly and electric heating checked and working. All three freezers well stocked in advance of closed roads, it is the season for fondue savoyarde, tartiflette, diots and enormous sausages cooked in wine, mulled wine, fisherman's friends dissolved in Vodka (really, it's delicious), vieille prune, eau de gentiane, eau de whatever-went-into-the-alambic-during-the-season, and every opportunity to share them all with friends and neighbours. Hot choc at the local bar after visiting the bakers, meeting up at a mountain restaurant for lunch when most of the group walked there on racquets, or on the piste. Others may enjoy all these pleasures for a week or two at a time, but in our village this is winter life. A chance to get together and catch up with news of each other's families, discuss and taste the parsnips my dear neighbour grew for me but has never eaten hitherto, and the mince pies they all love but only I make. I may even visit the cinema with friends, perhaps to see a simulcast of the ballet live from the Bolshoi together. It is the season of chorales in local churches and sing-songs around the fire after dinner. I love it. Small villages may be isolated from the rest of the world in the winter, but this is why we spend so much time in each other's houses. If nobody sees us for a couple of days they knock on the door to check we are OK, and no-one drives to the supermarket without checking whether a neighbour needs anything. Summer is lovely, but winter is why we live here. Even if the dog's run in the field is followed by a warm shower to get the snowballs off her legs and feet, and the downstairs bathroom contains wet gloves on the towel rail and a snow-blower draining off into the shower while pairs of drying boots line the hall. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Reluctant to talk like many John . My dad used to tell me stories of him during the war years. He was captured at Tobruk and then spent the remainder of the war trying to escape from the camps. Every time he escaped he was frog-marched back to camp...

Great bedtime stories tho' I dreaded the ones about having to eat rats to survive and the like..

Hi Peter i have my fathers war diary and have often thought about putting it into print i should have done it years ago when he was here to fill in the gaps though i doubt he would have done,only snippets were told to me mainly the humerus incidents he was very reluctant to talk

We are on our 6th winter here in Mazamet ,well just outside of the town to be exact up the mountain just off the Carcassonne road, the last two winters have been mild but snowed in twice during previous winters and 2012 was so cold the washing machine froze for 3 weeks full of washing.Having dogs chickens and goats there is always something to do plus the house is an ongoing project .Our turn this year so 9 for Christmas dinner all expats, new year at friends in the town, coffee mornings, lunches, often so glad for a quiet day or evening in.Friend of ours does Yoga, keep fit, swimming aerobics, french lessons, walking club and all the social events put on by the individual groups themselves, so she has a very full and active social life