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

Posted in French life | Tagged , , , , , , ,

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

Posted in Customs, Food/drink/recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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

Posted in French life, Quiz | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

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

Posted in French life, Quiz | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Mistletoe in French Tradition

Mistletoe

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

Posted in Customs, Nature | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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.

Continue reading

Posted in French life, Personalities | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

Posted in Customs, History | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wild Boar

Sanglier

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Nature | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

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

Posted in Books/writing, Places | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

France’s Flower of the Dead

teysseroles-combel-family-grave.jpg

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

Posted in Customs, History | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Ça Sent la Rose

 

Roses

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

Posted in Gardening, History | Tagged , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

French Flavours: Pounti, Traditional Auvergnat Dish

Pounti

Pounti

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

Posted in Food/drink/recipes, History | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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

Posted in History, Places, Walking in France | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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

Posted in Ma Vie Française Interviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Posted in Auvergne, Walking in France | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

Posted in Auvergne, Places | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

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

Posted in Customs, French life | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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

Posted in History, Places | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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

Posted in Books/writing, French life, Ma Vie Française Interviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 24 Comments

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

Posted in French life, Rants | Tagged , , , , , , | 37 Comments

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

Posted in French life, Places, World War I & II | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

Posted in Weather | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments

The Story of Notre-Dame des Grâces

Notre-Dame des Grâces 1

Notre-Dame des Grâces

Set at the edge of a grassy plateau overlooking the verdant Bonnette Valley, this little chapel is visible for miles around. It commands a magnificent view of the countryside, with the ancient province of Quercy on one side and the Rouergue on the other. The River Bonnette is the dividing line between them. Not far away is the village of Lacapelle-Livron, the site of an important former Templar commandery. Continue reading

Posted in History, Places | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Summer in Southwest France

Villefranche market - market stalls

Summer market stalls at Villefranche

Summer is here, les grandes vacances have begun and the foreign number plates in the area have multiplied. And to go with them, a little present from the French government: a drop in the speed limit on secondary roads from 90kph to 80kph. The exceptions are roads with a central reservation and stretches with two lanes on the same side. Continue reading

Posted in French life, Places | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Saint John’s Day Customs in France

Albi - Nuit Pastel Fireworks

Yesterday marked la Fête de la Saint-Jean, which occurs on 24th June each year, although the festivities normally take place the night before. It’s a not uncommon example of a pagan celebration taken over by the Catholic Church to commemorate the birth date of John the Baptist. The origins go back to the ancient Phoenicians and Syrians, who celebrated the summer solstice. Revellers lit a ritual bonfire, symbolising purification and rebirth, and invoked fertility and abundance for the coming year. Continue reading

Posted in Customs, History | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Every Château Tells a Story #16: le Château de Saint-Michel de Vax

Saint-Michel de V chateau

Château de Saint-Michel de Vax (sorry about the cables)

What a boon the internet can be – in small doses. And we’ve had only a small dose of it recently. More about that in a later post. I can find out almost anything, without moving from my computer in la France profonde. Sometimes, even the internet doesn’t provide the immediate answer; but persistence pays off. So it was in the case of le château de Saint-Michel-de-Vax. Continue reading

Posted in Châteaux, History, Places | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Buried Treasure at Teysseroles Chapel

Teysseroles - marking out the allée

Chapelle de Teysseroles

I’ve written before about the visit of the departmental archaeologists to Teysseroles, where we are helping to restore the 15th-century chapel. This is a requirement when works are planned at a historic monument, to ensure that nothing of significance is damaged or lost. Their test dig took place three years ago. Recently, a surprise was in store for our team. Continue reading

Posted in History, Teysseroles chapel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

A French Country Wedding

La Denterie - tiny chapel

Tiny chapel at la Denterie in Cantal

                    

Weddings were in the air a fortnight ago, with the latest royal event. As is often the case, my historical research appetite was whetted. So let’s go back a century or so and see how a wedding would have been celebrated in the French countryside. Continue reading

Posted in Customs, History | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Whitsun Walk on the Wild Side

Caylus - from above

Caylus from the hilltop above

Pentecôte (Whitsun) is the time for our village’s annual fête. It’s become a tradition for Caylus Notre Village (CNV), an association that promotes and protects local monuments, to organise a series of guided walks around the commune as part of the festivities. We duly turned up at the former lavoir (wash house), one of CNV’s projects, and put our best foot forward. Three walks were billed: 18 km, 12 km and 6 km. The SF and I opted for the middle one, feeling that the longest one would be a bridge too far. Continue reading

Posted in Places, Walking in France | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Loze: a Tiny Village on the Causse

Loze - glycine

Magnificent wisteria in Loze

Sometimes life takes you over. I’ve brought out two books in the space of a month and sung in two concerts, in Gaillac and a tiny hamlet near Puycelsi, in the past 10 days. I’m notorious for trying to do everything at once, but this is not always a recipe for success. So Life on La Lune has suffered a little as a result. Time for a little TLC.

This area is peppered with attractive and historic villages. It’s a pleasure for me to visit them and then to indulge my love of history by writing about them here. I hope I can give you some ideas for places to visit if you are planning to visit, or even if you already live here. Continue reading

Posted in History, Places | Tagged , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Orchids in SW France

IMG_2961

Orchis mascula. Early purple orchid

If my memory is correct, we first saw our house here in SW France 21 years ago today. The weather was glorious, as it has been recently – very welcome after a gloomy few months. In 1997, we noticed in particular the virtuoso song of the nightingales, the clarity of the night sky and the abundance of wild flowers in the fields and by the roadsides. Among these, wild orchids grow particularly well in our region at this time of year. Continue reading

Posted in Nature | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments