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Country life has its ups and downs

NEARLY two thirds of French people living in cities dream of having a house in the country, says a survey for 20 Minutes

NEARLY two thirds of French people living in cities dream of having a house in the country, according to a survey for the newspaper 20 Minutes. Around 60 per cent of the population lives in towns, but 65 per cent of them would prefer not to. Does country life live up to the reality? Does it defy the stereotypes? Is it as quiet as you thought, or too quiet? Are there things you miss or would you not change a thing?

WE'VE been living in the countryside for more than 15 years. The nearest village is 4km away and the nearest city 40km. What it offers is a lot of space, clean air and fresh food from the market. The price to pay for this is near constant agricultural machinery, a cultural desert and a total dependency on the car to get anywhere.

HAVING dreamed of retiring to a little cottage with old oak beams since I married in 1966, my dream realised in 1988. My husband and I bought a small village house in Tarn and Garonne, not Gloucestershire as wished for originally. We moved here permanently in 1993.

The village sits on a hill, has no shops but a restaurant, Post Office, and an infants school. Total inhabitants of the Commune are 345. The Salle de Fete, the converted market hall, is opposite the house so we are in the middle of village life. It can be noisy at times, but our maire ensures that noise abatement rules are kept.

The nearest "town" is 8km away where we shop (Intermarche "Super" and several small shops including a bakery), bank, and consult our GP. If I want more choice of goods then it is a journey of 23km or more to a larger town or even Montauban. Transport is needed to get anywhere, but since my husband's death last August I have been using the subsidised communal minibus. It takes me to my regular shops twice a week, to one of the bigger towns on two other days, as well as to my favourite farmer's market on a Tuesday. The return fares are fair and there is a reduction if you book two or more seats the evening before the service is scheduled.

The villagers are friendly, and have been very kind during my husband's illness and since his death. Life here was all both of us had hoped for.
Since being on my own I cannot visualise living anywhere but here. Life in the country is a "dream come true".
Caroline Tocknell (82)

WE HAVE bought a small cottage in the country. But to live in France means working and when a good job came up in a town, we took it.
So we are townies, and loving it! We don't need a car to get to the shops, the post office is open 'sans interruption' until 19.00, there is a lovely square with places to eat; and there is life.
It is not as quiet. The 'bread lady' does not come round. But the streets are swept, and there is a cash machine, several in fact, just on the corner.
Lots of supermarkets, and they stay open over lunchtime.
One day we will be back to the cottage in the country. But not yet!
Terry Westoby, currently in Vitry le François.

WE TOO had the dream of a life in the French countryside but, as it is, it doesn't look like it is going to happen. While my husband is working and paying very high taxes it is all ok, the day he retires he will come across so many costs that for us the French countryside might just never happen.
I feel this is a mistake because foreigners often buy the most expensive properties and do up a lot of run down places, bringing a lot of money into the country but well, if the French think that they don't need all of us, they can keep their properties and their countryside!

They should be giving incentives to foreigners who have enough money to contribute to society and create jobs but well, instead of doing that, they chase people away (I don't think that we will be the only ones to go).
Add to that the terrible inheritance laws and you lose a lot of people. This is called short-term
greed versus long time prosperity. We had a dream, but no more.
Francisca Rigaud-Williams

WE LOVE our life in the heart of the Brittany countryside. We know and speak to all our neighbours in our little commune, who we have found friendly and welcoming. Most importantly, we have the peace and tranquility of silence - uninterrupted by continual noise pollution.

You can hear the wind in the trees, and the birds singing.
We have experienced no crime in the seven years we have been here, and there is space enough for our cat and dog to roam without fear of injury or causing disturbance to others.

On a starry night we have the pleasure of actually being able to see the Milky Way in all its glory.
We are in the heart of the country, but just a short drive, and we have the lovely beaches and coastline of the Côtes-d'Armor.
Dinan is on our doorstep, just 10 minutes drive for the occasional visit to a restaurant or cinema. In short we would not want to swap our way of life for that of a town dweller...But I suppose that depends on your priorities.
D M Dutton

IN RELATION to the city versus the country, we are the happy recipients of both pleasures. We live in suburban Bordeaux where the plus factors include walking distance to an independent cinema (with V.O), four different supermarkets, two healthfood shops and a huge Sunday market.

On the other hand, we have had the delights and challenges of renovating a disused butcher's shop in the Lot et Garonne as our maison secondaire. This is a hill-top bastide with a bloody history but no shops any more. It is tranquil and sunny, with a sheltered large garden and fruit trees. In the summer it comes to life with a night market and community events where our very international population all joins in. We love them both with equal fervour.
Anyway, being a scribbler by inclination, I can do that anywhere. My new novel touches on all of it of course.
Alastair Sharp

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