We moved to our French village a few years ago now. It’s been a slow settling in, of which the last couple of years made it slower. But it has given us the chance to really come to understand the dynamics of village life here in France.
We also took the time to decide what we wanted in the place we would call home. It helped that we lived in a variety of places and locations in the past. This really helped us hone our list to what was important to us.
Previously in France 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, car dependent, 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 hours drive 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 vineyards plus a few white cows (known as the Charolais) and we are very nicely reminded we are in a ‘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. It’s like a baguette, but slightly bigger and to Pumpjack’s taste buds, much better.
During the past couple of years everything within walking distance became very definitely a bonus. When restrictions come into place that limited our option to travel, being able to get everything we needed by walking was 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. And if you have been to our Shop, you know we are very much into ‘old stuff’. It was made to last.
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 one of the main reasons 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.
And speaking of ages, that was another reason we chose our village. It runs the gambit of ages. It has schools to take children through the duration of education, so we see lots of children, of all sizes about. And we have a retirement facility, which interestingly enough also houses our theatre. Smart move to my mind. Walking down the street we can easily run the gambit of greeting baby to pensioner.
The village also tries to 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 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 their daily 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, 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.
Fancy Finding your own French village?
If you are thinking about or wishing to move to France, do take the time to determine what is important to you. It’s all too easy to fall in love with a house, or even Chateau, in France. But if its location or amenities doesn’t suit your needs, your purchase may become more of an anchor than lift you up to enjoy life here.
Do check out our Fab Findings from France Facebook Group where we cover all sorts of topics on France, including regions, health care, history, food, disabilities and more. You are welcome to ask questions that may help in your decision making about undertaking a life in France.
Enjoy a walk around our village…
If you are a francophile at heart and love anything French, here is a taste of some things you will find in our shop:
(Simply click on a picture to see more.)
Your village is really quite ideally located: close to the bigger (and beautiful) wine towns of Beaune, Macon and Dijon! I would not have thought this location so much in the heartland would be so reminiscent of English, but I see what you mean with the sloped roofs. Certainly had you moved further south to Lyon where we were the villages would have felt quite different. Like you we are now within walking distance of shops, trains and essential services in our new town in Switzerland. I think a smallish city is preferable to either big and urban or very remote.
We always knew we wished to be further south, but still in Burgundy. The Chablis area was too limited to the singular (ish) grape variety. And Pumpjack is interested in making wine from pinot grapes, in particular. We considered the Beaujolais area as well, but when looking there were no ‘doer upper’ houses we could find. They seemed to already be done up. Such a contrast too with that area to here. It’s like crossing a magic line into the Mediterranean. But super glad we decided on here as I am loving the weather for the garden. It has always been a dream to grow my own food (most of it), and now I can see we are better situated here for moderate climate. As well as variety of grape. Lucky us! It’s so wonderful to count yourself lucky, isn’t it? 🙂
Sure is! 🙏