Category Archives: Living

A boiler of good French character (or how not to engage a French tradesman)

When the boiler broke down last week, I wasn’t initially too worried as I have become experienced in resetting it thanks to an earlier failure. But after four days of freezing temperatures, no heating, no hot water, and no sign of a qualified tradesman willing or able to fix it, I was becoming less optimistic.

Continue reading

Ascending to the eagle’s nest at Queribus 

With a long weekend ahead of us, Tom and I decided to take the opportunity for a night away in the wine-growing region to the South-East of Quillan.

Driving east on the D117 and not in any hurry, this was our chance to do some exploring along the way, so we planned a relaxed start, a leisurely walk up to one of the many neighbouring Cathar castles, a long auberge lunch, and a mid-afternoon wine tasting on the domaine where we’d booked to stay the night in a simple gite.

When the weather dawned cold, misty, wet and windy on the morning of our departure, we refused to be put off. But it did make for a more interesting and memorable experience.

   Continue reading

Sweating the little things

Considering the complexity of moving a family around the world, I’ve been remarkably sanguine about the whole thing.

Quitting my job, organising the house, making school arrangements in a foreign language. Solo parenting for two months in a foreign country while running a B&B. None of these big and life changing decisions have ever caused me a moment’s hesitation or the slightest concern.

Instead, I find myself paralysed at the thought of changing a light bulb. What is this phenomenon that has me sweating the little things?

Continue reading

Market day on the Place de la Republique

I had been wondering what would happen to the market when the bad weather hits but recent experience proves that the market stops for nothing.

Last week, the rain was teeming down all night and it was blowing a gale, but the vans started rolling in to the square as usual, and were setting up in the dark, after 6am. Farmers and market gardeners in this part of the world are clearly made of stern stuff, even if the punters aren’t.

   Continue reading

Tom des sources

The history and fortunes of French villages are inextricably linked to their local water sources – at least in popular folklore – and this region is no different.

Writers like Marcel Pagnol in ‘Jean de Florette’ and ‘Manon des Sources’ have created something of a mystique and a romantic ideology around the important of village springs to community and livelihood, true or otherwise.

We have certainly heard many stories since arriving in Quillan, of the various local springs, and advice on which to sample depending on what you are looking for. The practice here does seem to be to prefer water direct from a source, than from a tap, or even from bought spring water.

Opinion has generally been unanimous that that the source at Axat is the one to go for, so we have been keen to test the theory. There was the just the small matter of navigating the narrowest piece of gorge road in the Haute Vallee de l’Aude to contend with.

Continue reading

Market day meets ‘Chocolat’ in Esperaza

The Sunday market at Esperaza is a much larger and altogether more bohemian affair than the weekly ones in Quillan, and attracts a large crowd of locals, travellers and tourists for its wide variety of produce, clothing, homeware, artisan and craft stalls.

There’s a definite spiritual and alternative lifestyle dimension to this market, and with the riverside location, and the gypsy entertainment, you could be fooled for thinking you were on the set of the movie ‘Chocolat’.


Continue reading

Houses I must resist: 2

Although most of the houses we have been tempted by so far have been small town houses, I continue to hanker after a garden. It doesn’t have to be big, but if we are going to be setting our flag on a piece of land in France long-term, I want to be able to sit outside at a table under a tree – or at least in the shade of a small amount of greenery.

Continue reading

Part-time living

For a moment there earlier this week I could have sworn I was back in France. I had a rare week day to myself, without any of the boys, and had decided I would go shopping. I mainly intended to wander and window shop, but I had two shops I particularly wanted to visit. One because I wanted to shop for a birthday present while the boy was away. The second because it’s a shop that you can’t possibly take a buggy into. Imagine my surprise when I found them both shut – on a Monday! Continue reading