We are lucky here to have many interesting and charming guests come to stay. They seem to enjoy the valley and the French way of life, and often comment on our 'quality of life' or the authentic feel of french living.
Of course it is very difficult to analyse objectively a lifestyle that just comes naturally, but these conversations make me think about elements of our country life here, that give that authentic french touch to our everyday routine. And I have to say that it seems to comes down to attitude and atmosphere rather than furniture and paint colour.
Quiet - The first thing people comment on is the quiet - well yes, we live in a small village, on a very quiet road, in fact as our neighbour has stables, we have more racehorses go past our house than cars!
Time - how can people be busy and active and yet give the impression of taking their time? For me this is just a question of enjoying the moment. There are days when I have to run around in the car, but that doesn't stop me slowing down to enjoy the beautiful countryside, or even screeching to a halt to take a picture.
When I have guests in the cottage, there is plenty of other stuff happening too, but taking time to chat with our guests is up at the top of my list of priorities.
Pleasure - Anyone can find pleasure in their everyday life, finding pleasure is a state of mind, it's not material. For a start we can banish cynicism and open ourselves up to enjoy what we have to hand
Living well - This is not about money, this is about simple living. For example eating the right food and taking the time to appreciate. Eating, seated as a family, talking, sharing. When our children have friends to stay over here at the weekend, the moment they all like the best is breakfast on Sunday morning, at a big table, laid nicely, the fire lit, fresh bread and home made jam. None of this is a question of finance, it is just creating the right atmosphere.
If we have friends to lunch or to dinner, everyone expects to chat over a long aperitif and to enjoy a meal that will last for several hours because there is lively conversation, pauses between dishes and everybody is there to take their time.
If I had to choose one thing that epitomises French living, it would be shopping at the fresh food market. The contrast between a real farmers market and the supermarket is blatant. At a supermarket, I tear up and down alleys with piped music in the background, fill up the trolley with the same stuff each time and get out as fast as I can.
At the farmers market, I forget the list, and instead walk around to see what is on offer. I bump into people I know, chat, the vendors laugh and joke, the goods are laid out beautifully, it is a sensual experience. I walk away with a basket full of healthy food and a smile on my face.
So tell me, which bit of your day will you enjoy the most today?
Hope you're heading for a good weekend, thank you for stopping by.