Author Archives: nessafrance

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.

Vaour and the Templars

  Situated on the edge of the former royal Forêt de Grésigne, the town of Vaour conveys a strong sense of history. This is not surprising, since traces of Neolithic tombs and later occupation can be found in the forest. … Continue reading

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Summer’s Lease Hath All Too Short a Date: La Rentrée

Yesterday, the summer holidays ended in France as children went back to school, people packed away their holiday gear for another year and workers prepared themselves for the routine of métro, boulot, dodo (subway, work, sleep). The eight weeks or … Continue reading

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20 Years of la Vie Française

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 … Continue reading

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Ma Vie Française #5: Author Olga Swan

My latest guest is a somewhat unusual occupant of this slot, in that she had une vie française but doesn’t anymore. More of that below. Olga Swan has had several novels published by Crooked Cat Books, including Vichysoisse, part of … Continue reading

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Bons Voisins – Good Neighbours

I’m constantly amazed at French people’s ability to conjure up a social event from unpromising components, whether it’s an apéritif, an improvised barbecue or a full-blown fête. Last night, some neighbours organised a repas de quartier, a neighbourhood meal, which … Continue reading

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Varen: Haven by the River Aveyron

I never cease to be amazed by the new things (to me) I discover in this region, where I have lived for 20 years. We haven’t set foot in Varen for ages and even then we didn’t stop to have … Continue reading

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Un café, s’il vous plaît

Coffee fuels the French, who have a penchant for strong black espresso-type coffee. Having to use coffee substitutes during World War II must have been a real hardship in that case. A chance remark to that effect during a recent … Continue reading

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French Flavours E and F: Two Aveyronnais Specialities

Time for another instalment of my French flavours series. I realise I have only got to ‘E’ and we’ll never get to the end at this rate, so this week I’ll do ‘F’ as well and you get two for … Continue reading

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Water, Water, Everywhere – But Not a Drop to Drink

The joys of living in a rural French commune. We currently have to collect our drinking water daily in bottles from the Syndicat des Eaux (local water board), which for us involves a round trip of about 18 kilometres. The … Continue reading

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Discovering a Former Railway Line

Do you enjoy travelling by train? I do, except of course when it’s cancelled or held up by the wrong sort of leaves or by vandals removing the copper from the electric cables, as happened to us recently in Sweden. … Continue reading

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Chèque ou Espèces? Cheque or Cash

It often takes a holiday in another country to throw into relief the quirks of the one you live in. We returned recently from 10 days in Sweden (hence the blogging hiatus), where things are a bit different from France. … Continue reading

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All Fired Up: Bread Ovens

You may have seen these small, domed buildings, often tacked onto the back of a house, in French villages. They’re part of le petit patrimoine, not significant enough to merit historic monument status but important vestiges of past times, nonetheless. … Continue reading

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Getting a (Social) Life in France

Making friends is difficult when moving to a new country. Twenty years ago, our Brummie removal men asked, “Do you know anyone here?” When we said no, they shook their heads in disbelief. If you move to la France profonde, … Continue reading

Posted in Customs, French life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Preparations for the Fête at Teysseroles

I haven’t written much recently about the church at Teysseroles, which we are helping to restore. This is mainly because not a great deal has happened. I have to admit I find the sporadic activity on the restoration frustrating, but … Continue reading

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Ma Vie Française #4: Janine Marsh and the Good Life

Today, I’m excited to welcome someone who not only lives in France, but also has visited every corner of it. Janine Marsh runs a phenomenally successful website, The Good Life France and edits a free ezine, The Good Life France … Continue reading

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Restoration of the Lavoir in Caylus

Lavoirs, or wash-houses, are features of the landscape around here. In times past, this is where the women (naturally…) did their laundry. They were normally constructed by a spring or a stream, so if the women were lucky, there was … Continue reading

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French Flavours: D is for Diablotins au Roquefort

I have been continuing my researches to bring you another in my series of recipes of Southwest France. Here’s one you’ve probably never heard of – diablotins au Roquefort. I certainly hadn’t. Easy to make, with readily-available ingredients, they are … Continue reading

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Finding Our House in France

Today is a very special one on La Lune. It’s 20 years ago to the day since we first saw our house. During our five days’ house-hunting in France, among the legion of properties we saw only two fitted the … Continue reading

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#Paris in the Springtime #2

Here’s part 2 of the story of our first visit to Paris in 15 years. We had only three days in the capital, and so we were determined to make the most of it. Our shoe leather was definitely more … Continue reading

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Paris in the Springtime #1

People often say to us, “You must visit Paris all the time!” Actually, we’ve been there only twice as tourists in our 20 years in France, and I’ve been there for the day (!) a couple of times for work. … Continue reading

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Tree Pests: Pine Processionary Caterpillars

I trained my binoculars on the tree and zoomed in. My suspicions were confirmed. There was no doubt that the beginnings of a white cocoon about halfway up were the work of pine processionary caterpillars. If you look closely, you … Continue reading

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Cattle Country

Considering we are surrounded by them, I’m surprised I haven’t written more about these mainstays of local agriculture. Perhaps it’s because I have a love-hate relationship with them, especially when marauding herds have trampled down our garden. What am I … Continue reading

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Can Spring be far Behind?

The literary-minded will notice that the title is a quotation from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘Ode to the West Wind’, written in 1819 while the poet was staying in Florence. The poem can be interpreted in various ways, the most simplistic … Continue reading

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French Flavours #3: C is for Cassoulet

I can’t allow the letter C to pass by without writing about cassoulet, the signature dish of southwest France. It’s been around for a long time and the correct recipe is the subject of controversy. What is it? A stew … Continue reading

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Ma Vie Française #3: Author Angela Wren

Today, I continue my occasional interview series with people who have made their life in France or who have a particular attachment to it. Author Angela Wren is in the latter category. Let’s find out why she finds France so … Continue reading

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Puylaroque: Tranquil Village with a Turbulent History

The panorama from the viewpoint at Puylaroque is magnificent. Beneath the rocky outcrop on which the village stands, the plains of southwest France roll away towards the Pyrénées. On a clear day, you can see the mountains, but that is … Continue reading

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Forgotten Love Letter Saved for Posterity

Sometimes fate works in mysterious ways. In this case, it saved for posterity a wonderful letter that would otherwise have been consigned to the flames with a heap of junk.

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French Flavours #2: B is for lou Bajanac

In my A-Z of traditional French recipes, I’m trying to focus on those that originated in southwest France, where we live. So I’ve eschewed boeuf à la Bourgignonne or blanquette de veau, delicious though they are. Surprisingly, I found a … Continue reading

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Beyond Time: A Journey Back to Prehistory Part 2

Last week, I started a journey back in time to look at some of the many prehistoric relics left in this region by our ancestors. This week, we’re dropping in on the artists who used cave walls as their canvas … Continue reading

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Beyond Time: A Journey Back to Prehistory Part 1

Ours is one of the more rural French regions, but transport networks criss-cross the countryside and commercial suburbs mushroom around its historic towns. And yet this part of France is peppered with the works of prehistoric artists and builders. They … Continue reading

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