La Bonne Vie

Having very excitingly just booked in some family time in the South of  France for late summer, (I’d like to say I made the decision quick on this but all credit goes to my super organised sister) it took me straight back to a couple of summers ago when I spent some time in Rural France with my lovely friend Sadie.  When I come to think of it I actually think I may have invited myself on this trip, oops …But hey we had a such a fab time, full of laughter, full of fun and far too much fromage and  a few too many verre de Rosé but we were in France so,  C’est la Vie and all!

Sadie’s Papa Cliff, lives in the region Nouvelle-Aquitaine, in Foulounoux which is barely on the  map but falls between 2 communes Chabanais and Exideuil, and is situated  in the South West Central France area.   In telling me her plans for that summer and all about this area, I quickly jumped on board, booked a flight and the Bon Vie commenced.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in France over my thirty (something) years, summers in Eurocamps with my family growing up, driving from Boulogne all the way to Vias, and I have nothing but fond memories  Then  times later in life in Paris and Languedoc-Roussillon with Wes over the years. Regrettably I’ve still not quite picked up the language…..again….oops.  But like most people when it comes to France, I do seem to aim straight to Paris or the coast, so it was so lovely to spend some time in rural France and perhaps even the real France, away from the tourists, seeing a very special part of the country.   I want to say the simple life, but the phrase does not give this part of the country the credit it deserves.

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As soon as we arrived we drove straight through country roads, the laughter and stories commenced.  Reaching our abode for the next 5 days, with dogs, cats and rabbits waiting to greet us, we were surrounded by a gite galore, looking and standing as French as possible, shutters and window box delight, so quiet, so calm and so beautiful!   Old barns full of old radios, motorcycles and bric-a-brac in the countryside which went on for acres, an old clapped out Citron with journeys and stories of its own, a many a secret door way to get lost in …and of course cheese and bread for lunch, all under the hot sun.  I was living in an old French novel and so more than happy to oblige!

We spent the next few days exploring the Charente and Haute Vienne departments. The river Vienne runs through the area and is absolutely stunning.    It is also a popular ex pat area with full time residents from all over Europe as well as European and Parisian summer residents seeking a slower pace and tranquil life. A fab area for those who enjoy walking and biking,  with endless paths along the river and across the rolling countryside.  It is farming country,  so watch out for big sprinkler systems, which we didn’t seem to be aware of as we  walked along the river in to Saint-Junien to the  Patisserie  Chocolatier Faure,  to devour a morning pastry.  We got drenched by sprinklers en route and again on the way back…never learning! We sunbathed and talked and talked in the gardens, putting  the world to right  and over again,  in the way you can only do with your good friends.  Evenings were all spent eating al fresco, with bbq’s and fresh homemade food…..pain dipped in a whole garlic is to be tried I tell you. Ahh heaven!

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 One  of the reasons that this area may not appeal to some is its distance from the coast (about 2.5hr drive to La Rochelle) however a day spent at  The Great Lakes of the Haute Charente, can satisfy the biggest of beach bunnies aka me! Lake side beaches,  cafes,  restaurants,  camping,  activity centers and water sports can all be found as easily as at the beach and  we spent a day at the Lac de Lauvaud.  There is a peace and calm at the lakes that you don’t quite find at the beach. We went for the whole day, we read, we swam, we sunbathed and ate pizza, feeling sun kissed and rested by the time we left.
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The rest of our time was spent driving around and stopping off at many little towns, Confolons a medieval town that is lovely to stroll around.  Good bars,  restaurants and shops it is easy to while away an afternoon here.  Every August they have a huge international folk dance festival that is well worth a visit for those of you visiting in the school holidays. Angouleme,  is also another quaint French town, and the capital of the Charente.  With museums,  shops galore, try spot the cartoon art work on sides of buildings and shops, follow the painted wall trail.  We ate at Chez Paul and had the best three desserts, an alfresco friendly restaurant.
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The other draw of this area of France is how rich it is in history, from the medieval chateaus of La Rochefoucauld,  Saint-Germain de Confolons and Rochechouart (all of which are located in attractive towns,  with beautiful views) to the preserved museum village of Montrol Senard.  For those who are like me and into their history, with more recent history relating to the second world War.  Close to the Vichy line, the Resistance were very active in the area and one regularly encounters memorials and reminders of this time.  Oradour-sur-Glane is however the most memorable experience related to that time,  and remains a stark warning of the horrors of war. Although terribly sad I urge you to take time out to go.

 Lastly Limoges is where we flew into,  but is also a lovely city to spend time in.  We went for the morning and visited museums, art galleries, and lots of great shops and restaurants. Take a walk down the quatier de la boucherie – the old timber framed street for a trip down memory lane.  An Instagrammer’s dream.

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 In the past two years a few things have changed a little, there is now a beautiful baby boy on the scene making last minute quick escapes to rural France not so easy ….So I am so, so happy I didn’t really give Sadie a chance to say ‘no, you can’t come’ so happy that I invited myself, so happy that I booked a flight and so happy I was lucky enough to spend five heartwarming days with my friend and her very kind and oh so funny family.  I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed so much!  Summer days exploring a new part of France, to love, all under the sun with fromage and copious glasses bottles of Rosé wine, clink clinking to a long and happy friendship.  Life goes quickly, so when these little opportunities come up, oh do take them, relish them and enjoy!

So if you are debating a European getaway this British chick is flying the French Flag high, and in writing this, I urge those of you that are perhaps thinking of their next summer break, to think about this beautiful piece of France.

Bon Vacance!

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Thank you to Sadie and her lovely family for having me x
Where to stay:
Now I was lucky enough to not have to find accommodation but here are a few for different budgets.
There are lots of campsites in the region. Closest to where we stayed is right on the river, gorgeous, which also happens to be Sadie’s dad’s friends campsite…..so lots of fun will be had here I can vouch!
 Or if camping is not your thing, a few hotels and cottages are here and here.
Thank you for reading x
 Photos by Sadie and myself. 

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