20 Years of la Vie Française

Caylus - view from the hill

Our village

Last weekend marked the 20th anniversary of moving into our house in France. We had arrived in France a few days earlier, but we regard the occupation of the house as the true anniversary. This year I had a long drive home from Charroux in Vienne, where I had been attending a literary festival, while the SF was preparing for a minor medical intervention. So there were no fireworks or bunting, just a symbolic glass (or two). We will make up for it later.

In the meantime, I attended today’s virtual launch party for Pensioners in Paradis by Olga Swan, who appeared in the previous post talking about her vie française. She asked guests to think of amusing incidents or culture clashes that we had experienced in relation to France. After 20 years here, there is no shortage of those.

Najac 005

Najac, one of our local plus beaux villages, on a winter’s day

A couple of incidents stand out, both involving a local restaurant. We had lived here for only a few days when we decided to try this eatery, which was said to be good. It had the advantage of being very close by. We turned up in the evening and no one seemed to be eating, so we wandered into the adjoining bar.

“Is the restaurant open this evening?” the SF asked le patron.

Non.”

The following evening, we tried again.

“Is the restaurant open this evening?”

Non.”

The SF thought for a moment and then had a flash of inspiration.

“Is the restaurant ever open in the evening?”

Non.”

Without this light bulb moment, I wonder how many times we would have had to return before we elicited the truth. This was our first lesson. You must ask precise questions of French people, who often don’t give away what they regard as extraneous information.

Bach - Lou Bourdié sign 2

Popular hostelry in Bach – not the one in this post.

Subsequently, we ate at the restaurant – at lunchtime, of course – and the food was indeed good: rustic but satisfying. A litre bottle of red wine was already on the table when we arrived. We drank the lot. We have since learned not to do that. It’s death to doing anything in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, a French customer couldn’t resist the desire to quaff all the wine, plus a hefty digestif. He had parked directly outside the restaurant. We had parked to one side of the car park, which was a good thing, as you’ll see.

The man left the restaurant a bit unsteadily and fumbled with his car keys for a while. We watched as he reversed with great élan across the road and into the only other car occupying the football pitch-sized car park. He got out, removed his beret, scratched his head and stood transfixed for a while. How inconsiderate of someone to park directly in his path.

Alas, the restaurant closed down some time ago. A pity, it was once a favoured stop for truckers, which is always the sign of a good place.

I could write a book about similar experiences we’ve had in France. Perhaps I will.

House winter 2017

Home sweet home. Winter 2017

You might also like:

Finding Our House in France
The Ups and Downs of Life in la France Profonde
Surviving in France: 10 Top Tips

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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13 Responses to 20 Years of la Vie Française

  1. Congratulations on your 20 years – it sounds as though you have thoroughly enjoyed them!! In my early days of living in France, I was telling a neighbour that I’d visted the cheese caves at Roquefort, and got a totally blank stare of incomprehension. I tried again, and after a few minutes the penny dropped, it had to be pronounced Ro-que-forte, then everyone knew what I was talking about!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Thank you. Well, there have been ups and downs, but overall it was the right move. We have also found that if you don’t pronounce words correctly (or in the regional accent), they don’t understand.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Monique says:

    Hello, I cannot imagine you ( don’t know about SF) a decrepit!!! if you like to live in France, why not move to or closer to a city. Bordeaux is a lovely city..good wine!!!
    Monique

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Well, I suppose decrepitude comes to all of us in the end. 🙂 I can’t see us moving back to the UK. Bordeaux is indeed lovely, if a bit expensive. For the moment, we’re happy where we are, but one has to think about the future.

      Like

  3. Congratulations – I@m way behind you with only four years. I hope your next twenty are equally fun and enjoyable. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Clare Williams says:

    Congratulations on achieving your 20 years. We wish you both many more! XX Hugh and Clare.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Paulette ran the village shop for many years. Our first summer holiday (we had a holiday home for 14 years before moving here) I popped in looking for mint. I tried ‘mon-the’, incomprehension from Paulette and another customer. After a long interlude of my trying various pronunciations I told her the recipe I was using, tabbuleh. ‘ah. Manter’ she cried! Rushing upstairs to her living quarters she came back with a big handful for our dinner and a piece with a root on to plant up and keep on our balcony for next time. She still lives in the village but I have learnt to chat to her in the local accent! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • nessafrance says:

      Ha ha! This reminds me when we stayed in Paris a v long time ago. My cousin (16) and I (12) went to various shops and bars in search of mints (i.e. sweets) for my older cousin’s husband, who had a sweet tooth. We tried menthe but the boozy men in a bar (how on earth did we have the courage to go in?) shouted, “Vous voulez une montre?” and roared with laughter at their own wit. We returned empty handed. I had completely forgotten about that incident. It’s true that the folk down here add an extra vowel or two at the end of each word. Our neighbour, who is virtually unintelligible says “commenger” for “comment”. One day perhaps we’ll get the hang of it all.

      Like

  6. Osyth says:

    Happy Franceaversary and many happy returns. It is so true that one has to be specific with the French and your story did make me chuckle. As did the boozy beret and his bang in the car park! I hope you enjoyed the Charroux Lit Fest. I have been following Susie’s posts on FaceBook and it certainly looked very good indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

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