It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.......

I have often been asked why we sold up in the UK and moved to France. Well, there were many reason, most of them small and on the face of it, pretty trivial. However, as a whole they all added up to sufficient cause for us to emigrate. Plan “A” was for just six years, an arbitrary period that we felt would be long enough to see if we really liked it, and not allow for dashing home with our tails between our legs at the first pitfall.

One of those many reasons for us moving to France was to be able to enjoy the wonderful food that is available here. If you have ever watched Rick Steins TV program of him travelling north to south through France on a canal barge, you will have had an insight into the wonders in-store for lovers of really great food. It stands to reason that the quality of each meal depends largely where you choose to dine, there are of course, some terrible places to eat, with indifferent food, poorly served in far from hygienic conditions, but they are, thankfully, a rarity.

In France I have had the very best meal I have ever eaten, but also the very worst meal I have ever had put in front of me. So far, the best was at a restaurant in La Cocquille, “La Voyager”, shortly after we moved to France and the worst was at a Tabac also in La Coquille the following week. But that aside, the general quality of catered food is very high. One of my favourite eating places is in the town of Nontron, under an hours drive from home. Believe it or not it’s at the Intermarché supermarket café, where for the princely sum of nine euros you can take potluck with their “menu de joure”, which is exactly what the locals do. The last time I ate there the starter was a platter of three different patés with salad, followed by roast leg of chicken in a sauce with puréed potatoes and broccoli. The sweet was a choice from the menu, I had the banana and cream with chocolate sauce, but I could have chosen apple tart or ice-cream. All washed down with a bottle of the local wine (one euro extra).

There is a high usage of garlic in most of the French food we have tasted. Even innocent looking Toulouse Sausages which look deceptively British (apart from the lack of rusk) are very strong in that department and took much getting used to. We don’t notice the strong smell on peoples breaths any more, I suspect it’s because ours are now just as bad. On our annual trips back to the UK we have seen friends and relations shrink back from us in a faint (well I hope garlic breath is the reason!) as we approach.

Right from our very first visits to France we have always felt that food was more expensive in the shops over here, however, on our last trip back we were shocked at how much the UK prices had risen. So much so in fact, that we did not bother to buy our usual supply of fresh foods to bring back with us.

There are some British foods which we crave that are not easily available over here, such as pre-cooked items like pasties and meat pies or even gammon stakes. Our local “Super U” supermarket, just up the road in Villebois, has recently opened a small “British” section stocking many oral comforts for British ex-pats – at only double the UK price. There we indulge ourselves in Cadbury’s fruit and nut chocolate and ginger biscuits and oxos and Heinz salad cream and Bird’s custard powder and and, well you get the pictures I’m sure!

When we become really desperate for something plain, we make the half-hour journey to the “British Shop” near Brontóme, which keeps pretty much everything, but again at a price. Their British white sliced bread is a particular favourite of ours.

I expect you are asking yourselves — why go to France and then want to eat British food? Well, the answer is simple, it’s nice to have a change, something plain, something familiar. I’m sure you too would soon get pretty bored if you were eating in a posh French restaurant EVERY meal! So please understand, a simple plate of beans on toast can become very inviting after a while.

The Rowland Parsons Web Site
The Rowland Parsons Web Site

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