After two years in France, I have lived in two major cities and two very small villages. By far, I am enjoying life in Provence the most. We have only been living here for four months, and I have enjoyed every minute of it.
1. Walking everywhere. I live about a five minutes’ walk from downtown, so I take the stroller and do all my errands by foot. I do not think I have ever been healthier. There are always the sounds of birds chirping and I have even come across deer grazing. I cannot wait until the lavender fields are in full bloom!
2. The weekly market. Every Tuesday I take Juliana to the market for fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese and fish. It is usually quite packed because there are businesses that take neighboring villages here for free. The people I meet so friendly and Juliana enjoys all the attention she receives, plus we get some amazingly fresh foods each week.
3. Welcoming neighbors. My husband went door-to-door to meet all the neighbors without me (I was on the phone and he could not wait) and each neighbor invited him in for a drink. He had a blast and definitely came home feeling good. I have met the neighbors on my walks with Juliana and they have been very sweet. I definitely never got this kind of welcome with our neighbors in Bordeaux or Marseille.
4. The sun is beautiful. Maybe it is just me, but the morning sun here is especially orange-ish. It seems to cast an especially noticeable orange hue on the land, making it look like I walked into a fairy tale. The rolling hills, green grass and orange-ish sunlight makes me want to take landscape photographs every two minutes when driving.
5. The countryside is stunning. Everywhere we go, we see such unique sceneries. In my area we have green, rolling hills. If you go further south towards Marseille then the hills are white with patches of green. But if you go to the east of where I live, you will see red, sharp mountains sparring the sky.
6. Feel safe and secure. When I walk around here, I feel so safe. Everyone knows each other and I feel like I stepped into the home of one great family. I love to watch the children play freely and parents sitting back without worry. There is a gentleman who always stops his car right on the road when he sees me walking Juliana in the stroller and asks me how she is doing, and even remembers her name and age. My neighbor even asked me how everything is because he saw me enter the physical therapist office with her.
Things I hate about village life in Provence. Okay, I do not actually hate these things, but they make living in a small village very difficult.
1. Small selection of commerce. We have a grocery store the size of a 7-11 gas station and a corner store that is like stepping in a shoe box. There is one boutique that sells lavender items for tourists and a bookstore, but if you want anything else, you must drive.
We go once a month to a large grocery store in a major city to pick up items like pasta and toilet paper because it is less expensive there, plus items that we cannot find in our little store. If we need to get a new computer, baby supplies, or clothes; we must drive at least 30 minutes to the nearest city. I order most of the things we need online because many stores offer free shipping – so it costs less to have it delivered than I would spend on gas to pick it up.
2. Limited medical services. We have three doctors and two physical therapists here, so that is convenient when we have small problems. But when Juliana had to go each week to a children’s physical therapist or when my husband needed his wisdom teeth pulled, we had to do that 45 minutes away. The nearest major hospital is 30 minutes away, which is a bit unnerving when you have an infant. I am always worried that if something happens, she would not make it to the hospital in time.
3. Finding people our own age. It seems that people in this village are mostly much older, or much younger than us. There is not much work in a small village like this, so it is mostly left to people who are retired. There are also some families, but the parents are still older than me and my husband. If we are going to make friends, it will have to happen when we are outside of this place. There is a very nice looking girl about my age that wanted to chat with me, but I got very shy all of a sudden and walked by her. Not good, I know.
4. People have long memories. I realized this when the neighbor told us he does not like our landlord. When he first built the house in 2009, he asked to plus in his electricity to the neighbor’s house. The neighbor, of course, was eager to help and allowed it. After one month of using the neighbor’s electricity to power up the entire house, he finally got his electricity up and working. The landlord never thanked the neighbor, or even stopped by.
This was a major mistake, because we all know that the French really value politeness. I feel that if you make mistakes around here, that people will always remember and hold it against you. I may be wrong, but it is just a feeling I get sometimes.
5. It is too peaceful. For me this is a positive thing, but for my husband, it is negative. He told me the other day that he feels like he is in retirement. I guess it does not help that our three neighbors are over the age of 60. He feels to relaxed and almost like he is on vacation. He misses seeing many people around and deciding last minute to go to the movies or out for dinner.
I enjoy the peacefulness of the village and do not mind having older neighbors. It is much better than the neighbors we had in Bordeaux! I did not enjoy hearing their parties until 3 am, or seeing bums and drunks outside our door each night.