“Tune out, turn off, drop in”
My parents instilled in me a love of La France Profonde during the annual Provençal family holidays of my youth. We passed through innumerable French towns and villages on our southern migration, never the same route twice, camping all the way. Coincidentally, my sweetie Alessia also has a family connection with the Ardèche, having spent many a happy holiday there herself with aunts, uncles and cousins. Years later, after many years spent in Australia, my folks came to own two modest houses in France: one in the Dordogne and the other in Languedoc. After my father’s death in 2008 my mother retained only the Languedoc property. So one way or another we’ve spent so many halcyon days in France among family and friends.
This house is in the heart of a small village of three hundred people, less than 100km west of the geographical centre of France. It is a corner plot of about 520 square metres and includes a large barn. Between the house and the garden is a well. The buildings are of classic Creuse type, constructed by master stonemasons using local materials of granite and oak at the start of the 1800s. The Bourret family who lived in this house for four generations over 170 years were Creuse farmers (cultivateurs) and masons (maçons).
Almost everyone we see here is elderly and French. Those I have met are robust Creuse village folk who are warm and friendly. They take care of themselves and each other.
We love the sense of splendid isolation – yet within reach of community; we desire to be in countryside -yet within reach of modern amenities; we want to contribute but also want to withdraw. The question we asked ourselves was this: “Where do you want to be when you retire?” The Creuse offers a haven from the travails of modern life – and a good deal more.
So finally, it is our turn to try to escape to a house in France and this is what we have been working towards for eight years. It has been quite a journey so far, beset by pitfalls and problems but very rewarding and satisfying in equal measure. For the long-suffering friends who have indulged me as I talk about little else, there will very soon be the reward of being able to share in time spent in La France Profonde.