How France Still Enjoys Its 4 Seasons

How France Still Enjoys Its 4 Seasons

Here I am writing article 2 for Patrick’s blog and still basking in sunshine. On Monday the thermometer on my terrace hit 30 degrees and to be honest it all felt a bit surreal. While autumn in South West France is normally very pleasant, 30 degrees is pretty much unheard of. So I was quite relieved to find out that things hadn’t gone completely bonkers when it was a bit cooler and somewhat grey on Tuesday. This morning, I started work at 6.15am and it was only 3 degrees. I apologise if I’m starting to sound like I’m obsessed with the French weather, but I guess I’ve caught that from my French neighbours.

October is the time where gardens get prepared for being largely dormant over the winter months; the grape picking continues and starts to focus on the grapes that have benefitted from a light frost and the first cauliflowers appear in the shops. The chasse (hunting), whether you’re for it or against it, gets into full swing and everyone and their dog are out searching for mushrooms when they’re not fishing. It’s also the time of year when store cupboards and freezers are being stocked up with with fresh things that aren’t so available in winter here in rural France (or if they are they’re hideously expensive or frowned upon because they’ve spent too long in an aeroplane).

In my neighbourhood, the weather not only changes from season to season, peoples habits change too and much more noticeably so than I remember in the likes of the UK. Even the big supermarkets here seem to take on a much more seasonal feel that I recall in Britain. I might be cynical, but is it not the case that shops in the UK would heavily promote and sell swimming pools cheap in winter and expensive at the end of spring time on the basis that people would pay more when they were about to reap the rewards of their investment? Is it not the case that radiators would be sold off cheap in the springtime, not in the autumn? This is not the case in France. At the moment, the shops are filled with offers on winter-related stuff that people are looking for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not extoling the virtues of the French retail market, I’m simply using this as a way of reinforcing my view that seasons are much more pronounced across the board here.

I have a young boy in my street who has grown out of his bike and he’s waiting until Christmas for his new one. As a result he’s currently sans velo, so he does bits and pieces for me in exchange for borrowing my bike. Yesterday evening he arrived at my door with two palombes (wood pigeons) that he wanted to exchange for a loan of my bike to go hunting for mushrooms today. He turned up this morning at about 7.30am for said bike and has promised me at least half a kilo of cèpes so I can make myself a delicious omelette aux cèpes tonight. It’s now nearly 6pm and I haven’t seen him yet…so maybe his venture was in vein, but either way, even at 14 years old, he’s heavily into the seasons and what needs to be done when to both profit from natures larder and to make sure that you consume and set aside for darker days.

I love the way the French celebrate the seasons and make the most of them both from a food and social point of view. Socializing is in abundance in the summer months with all the fêtes and then sporting activities re-start and people shut their shutters early to keep the cold out. It might look on the outside like hibernation when you pass through small French villages in the winter time, but life goes on, it’s just different.

For me, being Scottish means that neither my heating nor my wood-burner will be switched on until 1st November, even if the temperatures are sub-zero. Winter; bring it on I say, I have lots of warm memories of the year so far and am looking forward to it all starting again next year.

If, like Lizzy you’d like to get involved in real French life, either on a holiday home or permanently, why not get in touch?