Before we leave our housesit in St. Racho tomorrow, I just want to say how much I’ve fallen in love with this little out-of- the-way corner of France.
I love the landscape of forested hills and green fields dotted with big white beef cattle and old stone farmhouses. The fortified houses and chateaus. The little towns and villages, each with their shops and church. It all looks much as it has always looked.
I love our house, with its thick stone walls and old timber beams, its constant smell of woodsmoke in autumn, its lovely patio of flowers, and its sweet cats.
I love our tiny hamlet, looking out over the valley, and our little one-road village. I love knowing that a thousand years ago, our hill held an important fortress. And that our village is probably built out of its stones.
I love that these stones, in their particular shades of pinkish brown, have been the colors of this area forever, and that the stone houses of each region are so distinct.
I love our nearby market town of La Clayette, with its castle on a little lake. And I love that it’s been the local market town since getting permission from the Duke of Burgundy in 1437.
I love that this place is in the middle of nowhere—and yet has a long and deep history. We can drive to the ruins of what was the largest church in Christendom in the most important monastery of its day (Cluny Abbey).
I love that 800-year-old Romanesque churches are so common in the villages around here that we often don’t even stop for them anymore.
I love that we can live in a very rural area and yet have bakeries and butchers and wonderful restaurants and shops other than Dollar General.
I love that we can live in a place where it feels like time has stood still and yet we can take a train and be in one of France’s largest cities (Lyon) in less than two hours.
I love that locals are patient and polite in a way that city dwellers everywhere so seldom are. And that the French—even the farmer next door—seem to really enjoy seeing me out painting.
And most of all, I love knowing that all over France (and much of Europe), there are little regions like this, distinct but similar. Full of history and yet still thriving.