I have occasionally been asked why we bother to have a house in rural France. When we’re constantly patching up a crumbling old building, grappling with doing it in a different language and there is no handy B&Q around the corner, I sometimes wonder why myself. Especially this year when we have had to jump through so many hoops to get here. I was pondering this very thing on the way to the supermarket the other day.
Back home in the UK our nearest supermarket is almost three miles away. It can take between five and forty five minutes to get there, depending on such things as time of day, how many sets of temporary traffic lights there are, or whether or not there has been a crash on the M1 and traffic diverted through the town (which happens more often than you might think). The run is generally a load of aggravation, avoiding near misses with other drivers, navigating the speed bumps, avoiding the sunken manholes and potholes. We go past two huge building sites where hundreds of new houses are going up which will soon be occupied and adding more cars to the already busy road. We go alongside grass verges choked full of litter, into a scruffy little town where Tesco has seen off most of the other local shops except for the charity shops and hardware store. Metal buckets are seemingly not big sellers in Tesco.
From our house in France the nearest supermarket is 11 km away. It rarely takes longer than the usual twenty minutes to get there and if we encounter six other vehicles going either way the road seems busy. The run takes us along smooth and winding roads flanked by fields of endless sunflowers and the grass verges are neat and well maintained. We rarely see any litter, potholes are scarce and the only likely hold up is getting stuck behind the occasional combine harvester. Or sometimes having to wait for a little family of deer or wild boar to cross the road.
On the way there we drive through two sleepy hamlets of old and crumbling buildings very similar to ours and pass three ancient châteaux. While in town we pick up bread from the boulangerie before heading for the supermarket. Ponder no more, I thought.
Mind you, we have to get there well before 12.30 when they close for two hours for lunch – this is in rural France, after all!