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We both really enjoyed living in France. Contrary to popular opinion the people we interacted with while shopping were really polite and friendly and always wished one a “Bon journée”. The shopping experiences were good too; the village and street markets, although full of character, were a bit daunting unless one is able to express one’s desires fluently, but the supermarkets are superb.

Every small town seems to have at least one, Super-U, Hyper-U, Intermarché or E. LeClerc, and they are big and modern with an amazing variety and selection of high quality goods.
The variety and scope of dairy products is mind-blowing; all sorts of cheeses from cow, goat and sheep, yoghurts, creams, etc. The selection of French wines was dazzling and we bought many kinds for about €2 a bottle, notably an excellent Bordeaux red which we got on special for €1.85 a bottle! We made the mistake of trying a local Vendéen white, which was undrinkable, and went into the pot! Otherwise the quality was faultless; even the French Jaffa cakes were better than the British ones! Sandi is still besotted with her perky little plaid French cap, found in a street market in Montmartre many moons ago, which has been worth its weight in gold during the cold, frosty winter.

Although we didn’t come across many kids, the French children are generally polite, well-mannered and respectful of their elders. The teenagers seem not to indulge in binge-drinking as they do across the English Channel. There seems to be more emphasis on family life, with the whole family having lunch together between 12:00 and 14:30 every day, and grandparents forming an integral part of the extended family. Is this the secret to civilised society?

According to local British expats, since the Brits [rosbif] moved into the countryside in their droves, things have never been the same. Apparently they presented so many bounced cheques, that the government has now made them illegal - and they shop lift. Sandi was stopped at the check-out of the supermarket one day, and asked what she had in her Tesco shopping bag. We are sure she was questioned only because the cashier thought she was British - thanks to the distinctive shopping bag - [and therefore a potential shoplifter?] In spite of everything that could sour relations, the French seem to be very accommodating to the immigrants.

The countryside is quiet and the roads far less congested than the English ones. There are only 65 million people here spread out over a very large area. One gets an impression of lots more space, and property is still considerably cheaper than in England, in spite of the strength of the euro. The French do not have to pay any car tax or road tax, but one does pay heavily to use the toll roads.

The houses, generally, in the villages are very drab and dull in appearance, and they do not have gardens of any consequence - unlike the lovely British gardens we've seen - but some of the sunrises were breathtaking.
Apparently the French are more concerned with functionality and interior comforts, than worrying about how things appear externally - not a bad philosophy, holistically speaking. The houses are nearly all built in stone with terracotta tiles on the roofs. All the windows have shutters, which often remain closed all day, giving most villages a ghost-like and deserted appearance during winter.
We did drive along a very picturesque valley in the south of France, between Rodez and Figeac, where the villages were very attractive, but this seems not to be the rule. One evening we met a young man who is moving to Bordeaux to get his family out of congested and “nannified” England. He can afford a house with a garden near the beach for what he could sell his pokey, urban flat. Although, as a modern first-world country it is heavily regulated, it is not nearly as bad as the over-regulation in Britain. The French are not as burdened with being politically correct, but you do not mess with a policeman! The yobs in the UK could learn a bit of respect for these law-enforcers!

Unfortunately the French do not have the same respect for their animals. Like the Italians they are proud to wear fur coats in public. Hunting is a popular pastime, every Wednesday and Sunday, when most farmers can be heard shooting pheasant, hares etc. Only twice a year are they permitted to shoot deer and boar. We saw hundreds of cows up to their hocks in freezing mud in mid-winter when it would have been more humane for them to have barn shelter, or so we felt. One hardly ever sees a fence in the countryside, as the stock is contained by electrified wires around the fields [the use of which is apparently banned in the UK].
So one gets the sense of wide-open pastures, unlike the patch-work of stone walls and hedges covering England and Ireland. Nowhere did we see any animal rescue shelters, such as one finds often in England.

In spite of some shortfalls, there’s a lot going in favour of living in France, and we've missed living there many times since leaving. Vive la France!

Posted by davidsandi 10:06 Archived in France

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