We moved to our French village a couple years ago now. It’s been a slow settling in, which has given us the chance to really come to understand the dynamics of village life.
Previously we were in a very rural place, surrounded by farm fields, cows and crops. Before that we enjoyed a city life. Do we have a favourite? No, not really. Though we can agree that the isolated rural life is our least favourite.
There are benefits and detractions to both urban and village life. But we think that village life, and let’s be specific here French village life, pips urban. And in saying that, it does matter what amenities the village has.
Our village has an approximate population of 2,500, give or take and depending how much of the environs you count. For me at least, this number of people seems to be a magic number. Once before, in the highlands of Scotland, I lived in a similar sized village. It also had all the amenities needed for day to day life. Which was very appreciated since the nearest other amenities were over an hour away across very bleak high lands.
We aren’t so isolated here, with the next village and train station only 5 km (3 miles) away, but we did choose our village specifically. Yes, we fell in love with the area. Honestly, it looks a bit like England here with it’s hedge lined small roads and patchwork of fields. That’s a bonus in our book as it makes it feel even more like what was home. Add in a view of a number of vineyards, plus a few white cows (known as the Charolais cows) and we are very nicely reminded we are in French village.
We can walk to everything within 15 minutes, and we do. Bank, Post Office, food shops, bars, restaurants, hairdressers and especially our delicious boulangerie (bakery) for the daily Couchoise Traditional. Like a baguette, but slightly bigger and to Pumpjack’s taste buds, much better.
During these current times this is very definitely a bonus. When restrictions come into place that limit our option to travel, being able to get everything we need by walking is truly wonderful. Not to mention the exercise that comes with it.
The size of the village is also great for dog walking. It is big enough to have the amenities, but also small enough to be surrounded by countryside. And as an old village there are many hidden walkways, wooded paths and old bridle paths around it. We can even go out the bottom of our garden and join a long distance path that extends through and beyond the village.
The village itself is very old, with many buildings dating from the 12th century. Including a Chateau. That’s not something everyone gets to say they live near. The main street and the centre are all old stone buildings. Like all natural progress, some have been tarted up to look more modern, but equally some are maintained in their historical significance.
Not all French villages are great. Like anywhere it comes down to management. We are very lucky in that ours is quite progressive. Where we lived before we saw shops closing and villages dying. Here we see things happening. It was the main reason we chose it.
Each January our town hall (la Mairie) updates us on what has happened the past year. From a new crèche and playground to buildings being re-purposed, updated tennis courts to added chicanes to slow the main roads traffic as it comes through. There always seems to be something being updated or added. There is a real sense that our tax money is being put to good use, for all ages.
Normally we would also have some form of event each month. These range from jazz festival to annual motorcycle rally, village vide grenier (flea market) to wine tastings. Add on top a pretty decent rugby team and, in normal years, there is always something going on.
It’s quite common when walking in a French village, particularly on a very hot or cold day, to have a sense that it is abandoned. Shutters are brought into use to keep the heat out or in as needed. But it can give the place a closed up feeling. What we liked about our village from the start was that, no matter season or time of day, we always seemed to see someone walking about. Children being walked to school, people walking their dogs, heading to the boulangerie for the bread or simply sitting on a bench and watching the village life go past. Our village feels alive.
And since moving here we have started getting to know our neighbours and the community in general. People wave as they drive by, or we chat in the queue for bread or for the post office. When our cat, Gigi, went missing recently, the support and concern from those we didn’t even know here was a thing of beauty. It gave us hope when we would have given up.
So, although life is never perfect, and never should be lest we forget to appreciate what we have, we can say we chose well. The more we learn about our French village, the more we like it. It suits us, and our menagerie, very well.
A walk around Couches…