One of the things we like most of all about France and the French is their enduring love affair with cinema. The beauty of life In Quillan (and one of our criteria for a place to live) was the local cinema just 2 minutes’ walk from home. We were there as often as we could make it and promised ourselves we’d continue with this tradition back in Wellington. So when the annual French film festival rolls around, it’s an easy excuse to indulge.
In early 2014, we took our family, including our two school-age boys, to live in France for three months.
Probably the single biggest factor in our desire to live in France was to give the boys a French school experience.
It’s now coming up for four months since we returned from the Pyrenees and already our life in France feels like something in the distant past.
There’s an inevitability about this when life in the present is so all-encompassing. What isn’t important doesn’t get done. What isn’t front of mind doesn’t get thought about.
To help keep our French experience closer to the front of mind, we promised ourselves the odd ‘treat’. Aspects of life that we enjoyed most about our trip and that would remind us of the time we spent in Quillan.
Probably the one we succeed at most is the French breakfast. Sundays are about the one day in our house that we don’t have something pressing to get up for. So we enjoy croissants and baguette with coffee, accompanied by French music most Sundays.
Less successful is the aspiration to get to more (French) cinema and to take the time for a regular family aperitif. Daily life with its relentless pace of activity too easily gets in the way.
This week our set of coffee table photo books from our trip arrived by courier though, a perfect memory jogger permanently under our noses.
Must be time to sit down for a drink and a browse…
It’s been three months since we returned from Quillan. We’ve now been back as long as we were there, and although the time has gone fast, paradoxically our experience already feels like a lifetime ago.
In fact, it feels like another whole life time. It’s quite surreal to think that, only three months ago, we were living in France, the boys attending school, operating completely in another language.
I’ve recently been reading a book written by an Australian woman who took her young family to live in France, initially for several months. Now they spend six months of every year in France, with the other half back in Australia.
I love these books and will never tire of reading them because they remind me that such a life is possible – if you want it enough. This is the life I would love. It’s just a question of whether I want it enough to make it happen.
I’ve been contemplating for some time that we are already living our lives in parallel. On the one hand, we are very much present in our lives in New Zealand – and yet we always have half a mind thousands of kilometres away in a French village. We find ourselves randomly rambling in French at odd times of the day. We dream of baguette and croissants – fresh, warm and crusty from the boulangerie.
So imagine my surprise when I realised that we really ARE living our lives in parallel – on the 42nd parallel to be precise. The Aude is on the 42nd parallel North. Wellington is on the 42nd parallel South.
In early 2014, we took our family to live in France for three months. It was great, but if we hadn’t been absolutely determined, it wouldn’t have happened. Aside from sheer inertia in the face of the relentless reality of daily family life, probably the greatest barrier to going was the cost. Continue reading
As we find ourselves in the midst of another round of property negotiations, I am reminded how much fun it is not buying a house. We had many hours and days of joy not buying a house in France. Continue reading
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
A week ago we finished our three-month-long stint in France. Leaving Quillan felt like a significant ending. I left with questions that cannot yet be answered with certainty. Will we ever return to Quillan? Years from now will we carry regrets about what we did or did not do while we had the chance? Will our children thank us or curse us for it?
In the summer the town of Quillan really comes alive, with an influx of tourists and a programme of events and activities sponsored by the local commercants around the Place de la Republique.
One of the regular features is a night market – ‘sous la lune’, which takes place outside our windows from 6pm-midnight every Thursday evening in July and August.
After two hot days in Barcelona we woke on Monday morning to rain and thunder. The rain continued for the duration of our drive home, north through Figueres, across the border to Perpignan, and west to Quillan. The storm was apparently very widespread. We heard a rumour that Madrid had hail. After arriving home in Quillan we learned from friends that the storm was severe in the Aude region, including large hail stones in places.