Life in Southwest France

Welcome to La Lune, French for the moon. This is the name of the lieu-dit (locality) in southwest France where our 18th-century farmhouse is situated. We have lived here since 1997. The name almost certainly has nothing to do with the moon, but it’s intriguing nonetheless.

I’m a British novelist, freelance writer and journalist. My blog includes episodes from our French life, snippets about French history, culture and customs, and details of things happening in our area.

I try to tell it as it is and not to romanticise life in France. After so many years, je ne regrette rien, and I love living here, even if aspects of French life are still unfathomable.

I love hearing about other people’s experiences of France, so do leave a comment underneath a post if you feel moved to do so. I always reply.

To see my full profile, please click here.

If you would like to subscribe to my blog (completely free and you can unsubscribe at any time), please click on the email link in the right-hand sidebar. You will receive a confirmation email and you need to click on the link it contains in order to activate your subscription. Your email address is never publicly visible.

Life on La Lune now has a Facebook page! There, you’ll find additional photos, info and snippets about France that don’t fit on the blog. And you can comment on posts there, too, if you’re on Facebook. I look forward to seeing you there.

Bonne continuation!  

One of the fantastic sunsets we enjoy here

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Tilting at Windmills

Windmill at Saillagol

One of the things I love about living here is local people’s interest in le petit patrimoine, the vestiges of a rural life that has faded away. Groups of enthusiastic volunteers contribute to their restoration to rescue them from oblivion. Today, I dragged the SF off to visit one of these projects, lo molin de la Gaventa, a windmill outside the village of Saillagol.

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The Story of the People at La Lune

Our house, almost at the point of no return in the 1960s.

I’d love to know who lived in our house long ago. Elderly neighbours have always been hazy about this, perhaps because it doesn’t really interest them. This week, at last, I discovered a story about previous occupants.

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Very Welcome Visitors

Who’s hiding in here?

We knew they were there, because we’d heard them. But we didn’t know exactly where. They kept themselves well concealed, only moving about at night, until we stumbled upon their secret hiding place.

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The Post-Impressionists Head South to Rustic Provence: Guest Post

Arles on the Rhône, one of the places we’re visiting today
Main square in Arles

Life on La Lune: I’m very keen on art, so whenever I visit a place, I always seek out the art gallery. The Impressionists and Post-Impressionists particularly appeal to me. They have a few connections with Southwest France: Toulouse Lautrec was born in Albi, Renoir in Limoges and Suzanne Valadon in the Limousin. However, they are better known for their attachment to Paris, Normandy and Provence.

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Jeanette Gory, whose website follows in the footsteps of these artists. She’s written a post for us on Cézanne and Van Gogh in Provence, including helpful tips on visiting places associated with them. Her post has certainly whetted my appetite for revisiting their haunts (the two images above are from my visit to Arles a few years ago on a very cold May day).

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New Technology Lands on La Lune

La Lune - Shot in the dark

Life on La Lune passed its 9th  birthday last week on 14th February. A few things have changed since then, not least our ability to access the internet. When I published my first post (the present one is the 628th), we were still using a dial-up connection. After all this time, the electronic tune the modem played each time we switched it on is engraved on my memory.

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The Bells, the Bells: the Magic of Church Bells in Rural France

Paris - Notre-Dame 2

Notre-Dame de Paris, of Quasimodo fame

In Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the loud ringing of the cathedral bells has turned Quasimodo, the bell-ringer, deaf. Some of you will no doubt have seen Charles Laughton hamming it up inimitably in the 1939 film. I love the sound of church bells pealing, although I must admit I wouldn’t like to live next door to them. This week, news reports revealed that a part-time resident of a village in Vienne is taking the commune to court because he finds the church bells too loud.

As ever, this snippet inspired me to look closer to home for stories about local bells. Continue reading

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La Chandeleur: Candles, Customs and Crêpes

Corsican sunset on Cap Corse

Return of the sun

Today is la Chandeleur or la fête des chandelles. I had never heard of it before we moved to France, but I had heard of Candlemas – lovely name – which is the British equivalent. To those of you in the States, it’s also Groundhog Day. Nowadays in France, it’s an excuse for eating crêpes (pancakes), but, as ever, it has a host of traditions behind it. Continue reading

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Maigret: France’s Favourite Flic

selection of our maigret books

A small selection of our Maigret books

Before you ask, flic is colloquial French for a police officer. Commissaire Jules Maigret is probably the best-known French fictional detective, created by the novelist Georges Simenon (who was actually Belgian). When we first moved here and my French was lousy, I cut my teeth on the Maigret novels, which are not that difficult. Recently, we’ve been watching DVDs of a long-running series of Maigret stories starring Bruno Cremer in the title role. Continue reading

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Five French Weather Phrases

Winter barn

Ça caille

The Brits have a reputation for talking about the weather. Hardly a surprise, since you can experience four different seasons in one day in parts of the UK. It was a surprise to us initially that French people also talk about the weather a lot. In our region, which is mostly a farming area, the climate has always been an important matter and greatly influences the difference between a good and a bad harvest. The French have developed some colourful phrases to describe different types of weather. Continue reading

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Épiphanie, the Day of the Three Kings, in France

Galette des Rois (PhotoXpress_Nath Photos)

Now that New Year’s Eve has passed, I can wish you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful 2019. In France, it’s considered bad luck to do so before midnight on 31st December. Although we have turned the corner of the year, I will still be writing 2018 on cheques and official forms until April. Continue reading

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French Christmas Quiz 2018: the Answers

Winter 2013 - front view today

Hoping it won’t be like this in 2019…

I hope you had a lovely Christmas if you celebrate it. How did you get on with the quiz? Now is the time of reckoning. The answers are below. And there were a couple of trick questions, but if you’ve been doing it every year you ought to know that by now! Continue reading

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French Christmas Quiz 2018

Joyeux Noël

A very happy Festive Season to all my readers. Thank you for reading the blog this year and for your stimulating comments and emails. Welcome to the 2018 – and 8th – Edition of the Life on La Lune French Christmas Quiz. This is my traditional Christmas gift to my loyal readers. Something for you to exercise your brain on, once you’ve exercised your stomach. Continue reading

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Mistletoe in French Tradition


Mistletoe – abundant in our area

When I lived in the UK, mistletoe was a rarity, only to be found in over-priced bunches in garden centres during the run-up to Christmas. Moving here, I saw that it grows abundantly in our area. Some species of tree are covered with spheres of it. In fact, it’s a bit of a pest, but mistletoe is so entwined with myth and tradition, that there is nonetheless something magical about it. Continue reading

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Ma Vie Française #8: Chris Bockman, Sniffing Out News Stories in SW France

Bockman book

There’s been a slight hiatus in posting, as I’ve been dealing with some family health issues. However, this week, I’m delighted to bring you another interview in the Ma Vie Française series. Chris Bockman has been keeping his finger on the pulse of the news in SW France for around 20 years. He gave a talk at our local library recently, during which he regaled us with some of the stories he’s covered during that time. And he’s written a book about it: an ideal Christmas present for Francophiles. Without further ado, over to Chris.

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Béret Nice

Per wearing beret 2

Béret model

Along with the Eiffel Tower, the baguette and the Citroën 2CV, the béret has become a (caricatured) symbol of French culture. Thus, it was adopted by people like Ernest Hemingway, who wanted to look French even if they weren’t – and the SF who has graciously consented to model his, above. For the people of the Béarn, where the béret is still manufactured and worn, it remains a badge of identity. Continue reading

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Wild Boar


Wild boar. Not my picture – I’ve never got close enough to one. KoS [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

When we moved here in 1997, it was not uncommon to see whole troupes of these animals, of up to 20 individuals. We have also seen the occasional lone male. Since then, our sightings of them have been much rarer. For quite hefty beasts, they can be remarkably invisible. Large-ish stones overturned in the woods and shallow holes dug in the ground are the tell-tale signs. Then we know the sangliers (wild boar) are around.

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Millau: Towers, Markets and Bridges – Guest Post by Angela Wren


Viaduc de Millau 2

Millau Bridge

I’m thrilled to welcome back to the blog Angela Wren, whom I had the great pleasure of meeting at an authors’ event in Carcassonne in September. Angela is a Francophile, who has visited many more corners of France than I have, and stayed in most of the campsites! She’s also the very accomplished author of a series of murder mysteries set in the Cévennes centred on gendarme-turned-investigator Jacques Forêt. Today, she’s taking us on a tour to a town in the region which I don’t know very well: Millau. The photo above is mine; the others are Angela’s. Continue reading

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France’s Flower of the Dead


A pot of chrysanthemums decorating a family grave

For a fortnight or so before 1st November (Toussaint; All Saints’ Day) pavements outside French florists’ shops and undertakers, and whole marquees at supermarkets, are heaving with chrysanthemums in pots. But don’t be tempted to offer a pot as a gift; you’ll likely sour a budding friendship. Why? The chrysanthemum is the flower of the dead in France.  Continue reading

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Ça Sent la Rose



Roses in our garden during a happier year for them

Roses must have one of the loveliest scents of all flowers. They have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years and thousands of varieties now exist. Unfortunately, they don’t do well here in our poor soil and they didn’t like this year’s late summer drought in particular. However, a garden close by once had a roseraie (rose garden) known for its contribution to the perfume industry. Continue reading

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French Flavours: Pounti, Traditional Auvergnat Dish



During our recent visit to Cantal, we had the opportunity to taste again a dish that is traditional to northern Aveyron/southern Cantal: pounti. Before we first visited that area, 25 years ago, I had never come across this dish, not even in other parts of France. But, like many other traditional French recipes, it excites no small controversy among devotees, who argue about the correct way of making it. Continue reading

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Villeneuve d’Aveyron: Ancient Paths and a Historic Gem

Toulongergues - rear

What do you think this building is? A small château or fortified house? A barn? All will be revealed below. Autumn is the best time for walking in this area. The days are warm and sunny, it’s usually dry underfoot (a little too dry until last night) and the leaves are turning to tawny brown. Knowing that the weather was planning to change, we decided to follow a walk that I have wanted to do for some time. Continue reading

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Ma Vie Française # 7: Elizabeth Moore, Fulfilling a Long-Held Dream

pjimage (24)

Some of Elizabeth’s memories of France

This week, I’m delighted to welcome in my series of interviews another Francophile, who has a long-standing attachment to France. Elizabeth Moore, who writes as EJ Bauer, turned the distressing experience of illness into an opportunity by travelling from her native Australia to explore France. I normally ask people to provide a few images to illustrate their answers. Elizabeth has done us proud with a fabulous selection of photos from her trips. Continue reading

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Coming Back to Cantal

Cantal - Jordanne Valley

The Jordanne Valley with the Puy Mary in the distance

We have lost count of the number of visits we have made to the Auvergne, the mountainous region in south-central France. It’s not so spectacular as the Alps or the Pyrénées, but it has a charm and a character all its own. Last week, I recounted the detour we took to visit Marcolès, a delightful town in the southern Cantal, en route to our habitual destination, the village of Thiézac in the Cère Valley. Continue reading

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A Mystery Tour on the Way to Cantal

Thiezac - Sept 11 Puy Griou

Le Puy Griou, one of the Monts de Cantal

Revisiting old haunts can be tinged with disappointment. I once returned to a place where I had lived 30 years before and was saddened to see how much it had changed. Happily, Cantal has never fallen into that category. This mountainous, formerly volcanic, area of the Massif Central draws us back as often as we can get there, although our last visit was two years ago. Continue reading

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Rentrée Time

Parisot - autumn view

Autumn view

Here we are in September again. How did that happen? Surely Easter was only last week. Actually, I don’t mind. This is my favourite month of the year, perhaps because I was born in September (cards and presents welcome). We have found it to be one of the most pleasant months here weather-wise. An early morning nip in the air is often followed by mellow, even hot, sunshine, but the heat has lost the fierceness of high summer. For many people, September spells la Rentrée, a particularly French institution. Continue reading

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Return to Cahors

Cahors - across river 3

The riverside town of Cahors

I do like Cahors, an ancient city and capital of the Lot Département. Why is it, then, that we visit so infrequently? It’s more appealing than our own Préfecture, Montauban, and it doesn’t take much longer to get there. The town centre is more vibrant, has an array of tempting shops and offers a variety of things to see and do. I suppose it is a question of habit. Continue reading

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Ma Vie Française #6: Author Jane Dunning

Jane Dunning

Jane Dunning

Today, I continue my occasional series of interviews with people who have made their life in France or who have a particular attachment to it. Jane Dunning’s love affair with France began in earnest in the 1990s and she has since stayed in 100 different locations around the country, often on house-sitting assignments. I think you can say she’s a Francophile! Jane is also the author of two novels set in Provence: more about those below. Continue reading

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British, French or Irish? Or all Three?

Caylus - from above

The village near which we have lived for 21 years

I don’t write about politics on this blog. Of course, I have my views, but I generally keep them to myself. So I haven’t mentioned the ‘B’ word (okay, Brexit) in my posts so far. However, I can’t ignore it – and haven’t. With the increasing likelihood of a hard Brexit after 29th March next year, those of us who live permanently in France have some choices to make, even though the implications are far from clear. Continue reading

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A Local WWII Resistance Group: Update

Ornano sign 

Today, the causse above the riverside village of Cazals is a tranquil place with superb views of the Gorges de l’Aveyron. It’s covered with juniper and scrub oak and the only sounds are birdsong or the occasional whirr of a chainsaw. In 1943, it was even more remote and it was here that a group of Résistants, le Maquis d’Ornano, was established to further the cause and to receive parachute drops of equipment and agents. Last week, under a burning sun, our walking group visited the monument erected to mark a skirmish between Nazi soldiers and the Resistance group in March 1944. Continue reading

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Canicule: the Dog Days of Summer

Stones - barn before

How it was in August 2003

It’s either a famine or a feast. We spent the winter and most of the spring grumbling about all the rain; now we’re taking refuge from the heat. Much of the northern hemisphere is experiencing unprecedented levels of heatwave: notably the UK and Sweden, where forest fires have raged out of control. The technical explanation is that the jet stream has risen too far northwards – having come too far southwards over the winter and got stuck. This is drawing up hot air from the Sahara. Here in France, la canicule has arrived and looks set to continue for the next week at least. Continue reading

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