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9th January 2019

Living in South West France

Here are some of the great things about living in South West France- at a glance

  1. The food is better in France. It really is. Don’t think for a minute that that only means when dining in posh restaurants. The quality of French food begins with a simple baguette sandwich of ham and butter (“jambon beurre”) for 3 euros. The reasons are simple – everyone has had great food all their lives. Children are not only given excellent and nutritious food at school, but are told how to eat it and share it at the table. There is no snacking at school either. Governments invest huge sums of money in the science of nutrition at schools for children.  Another reason is that restaurants that don’t serve good food for the price (people will expect a certain quality at every price point) cannot survive. Vegan and vegetarian restaurants are really taking off now too, as the interest in food keeps things cutting edge. So stop thinking right now that there is only snooty haute cuisine in France! You can have  an excellent dinner with good wine for 25 euros, and will be converted to the cheap candlelit bistro before you can say “tartiflette”. Waiters and waitresses in SW France are nearly always warm and smiley, perhaps unlike in Paris.
  2. It’s non violent. OK, people like to go on strike a lot, and throw the odd thing at the police when the latter intervene. But the sort of violence that many of us Brits and Americans are used to,  ie violence between young people in bars, street fights, domestic abuse and so on are almost unheard of. Guns are illegal here, and you won’t see one unless it is attached to a police-person. Remember that “fraternite” is one of the stripes on the flag…. you might even be fighting friendly people off 🙂
  3. You are never far from the sea. Yes, anywhere in the south west of the country is within a couple of hours driving distance from the Atlantic or Mediterranean. Why not go to the windy, wet , surfer towns of the Atlantic in the summer months to get away from the heat, and to the Mediterranean in the spring and autumn when it is quieter and more romantic. Hotel deals can be astonishing almost everywhere out of season.
  4. Cheap health care for Americans in France. Here’s one indeed for the Americans who live in fear of anything happening to them while abroad. One TEFL trainee broke his ankle during the TEFL course in 2018. His total cost for X-ray and putting on of the plaster cast? 85 euros (about 95 dollars). And they ended up forgetting to ask him to pay it!
  5. The weather. It is nearly always bright and sunny, but we still get enough rain to keep things green as you get towards Bordeaux and Biarritz. No snow drifts, no tornadoes, no hurricanes, no desert like conditions in summer. The weather keeps itself pretty civilised most of the time.
  6. Cycling. South West France has thousands of country lanes to freewheel down and hundreds of campsites.
  7. Skiing and Spain. Weekend trips from Toulouse to places like Ax Les Thermes can be had for 100euros –  bus, hotel, skis and ski pass included!  Go a bit further into the mountains and you are on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees mountains. As long as you avoid Barcelona hotel prices you should be able to save the money it cost to get there – coffee and drinks are much cheaper. People in SW France will find any excuse to pop  across the border to Spain for the day or weekend as you might imagine. Stick to the Mediterranean side for seafood Paella lunches on the beach with white wine, and the Atlantic side (San Sebastian area) for delicious pintxos (exquisite food piled onto tiny hunks of bread) with local Rioja red wine . Catalan (spoken in Barcelona) is a version of Langue D’Oc (aka Occitan language) which you will see on all street signs in Toulouse.
  8. You can sleep at night. Most French people highly respect each other’s right to no noise after about 11 at night. This may be of interest to those who have spent time in Spain! Most houses and appartments have pretty good sound insulation too.
  9. French. It’s a lovely and civilised language. Though everyone will want to speak to you in English!
  10. Little kids. If you can find better behaved 3 to 10 year olds in Europe, bring them on. Generally children are loved by all, impeccably dressed and very sweet.

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