- Entering our little house at 2 Rue de Penitents, Pierrelatte, France
- See more pictures of the house at www.revedeprovence.net
As we entered the little village which will be our home for the next 6 weeks, we were taken aback by the picturesque nature of our surroundings. Now that we’ve been here most of one week, we are still marveling at our surroundings and France. People who have been to France frequently remark that they love it. We’ll try to capture why we’ve been so enamored with our new surroundings.
The community of Pierrelatte has a population a little over 12,000. It’s an industrial town in an agricultural area or ‘department’ as referred to in France. Specifically the department Drome Provencale. There should be an inverted v above the o in Drome and a tail on the c in Provencale. But alas, I have only a U.S. Keyboard. Just found I can change that. Now, let’s see how this works, Drome Provencale. Well, that made a big difference. Not!
We are in the Centre Ville or the historic old town in the village center. Honestly, it feels as if you’ve stepped onto a movie set. There was once a large wall enclosing the area of which parts are still evident. We are half a block from the Centre Ville Church. Bell tolling regularly greets us, as in Mexico, calling people to worship. As close as we are to the church, the sound is somewhat muted. Much as I’d been led to believe religion was non-existent in Europe, I have seen many walking by on their way to services.
Our car is parked behind the church and each time we leave and return our spot has been waiting for us. The Centre Ville is filled with services, doctors, dentists, chiropractors, orthopedists, banks, Hairdressers, boulangeries (bakery), butcheries/charcuteries, chocolate shops, boutiques, shoe stores, produce stores, cheese shops, cafes, restaurants, pizza, Chinese and more, all within a few blocks’ walk. So, if it weren’t for sight-seeing, we wouldn’t have to drive anywhere. The evenings are very quiet. Even in the day we may hear a car come by or people talking as they walk by, but overall, it’s much more quiet than in Mexico.
The streets are narrow, especially in this Centre Ville. However, on all streets through the town, pedestrian and bike paths are marked off. Everything is very clean and well-kept. People still shop at separate places for fruit & vegetables, meat, wine, cheese and bakery items. And yes, they still get a daily baguette. The small communities around here all host a street market. We’re told these are year-round. Friday is Pierrelatte’s market day. It starts early and goes to 12:30, snaking through the narrow historic streets.
We’ve read France may have some of the highest taxes in Europe. However, the result of this is evident in many ways already. We get garbage pick-up just outside our door three days a week. The street sweeper comes by daily. Glass, paper and metal pick-up is weekly, also at our door. There are also containers around the town for glass items. We don’t worry about tipping because people are paid a liveable wage and tipping is not part of the custom. Villages have large sports complexes used by all members of the community. In Pierrelatte this includes three swimming pools, one Olympic size, and two wading pools as well as soccer fields, etc. We have driven through several small villages and have yet to see evidence of economic depression.
Sights around the Centre Ville and market day.
Books and outdoor cafes
It has been sunny, everyday. We’ve already experienced Le Mistral. These are big winds (30-60 mph) that sweep through the Rhone Valley about 100days a year. Locals say they come in multiples of three and we’re into our second set now. The wind is strongest between noon and 3 PM. The weather is lovely out of the wind. The wind is fierce and cold. Not sure how the winter might be here. Long sleeves and jeans with a jacket seem to take care of us at this point. And of course a scarf is a good fashion piece as well as useful to keep in the warmth.
The food available at the markets is great. It’s possible to get prepared items such as roast chicken, quail, game hens as well as pate, even paella or couscous avec chicken. Most restaurants have a Plat du Jour or dish of the day. This can include an appetizer and dessert, only a dessert with the main course or only the appetizer with the main course. Typically the main plate will include salad or vegetables. The price for this item has been quite reasonable in our brief experience, usually around $9 euros or around $10 U.S. for lunch and around $15-$25 euros at dinner. At dinner the appetizer, dessert and cafe are all included in the price. You can typically add in a decent glass of local wine for $1.5-5.00 euros. Overall, we figure we’re spending about the same as we would be in the U.S. or maybe a bit less.
Good wine is cheap! Compared to what we pay in the US! Without getting too stuffy, this area is one of the most prestigious wine regions in France. We are in the Rhone region which includes the sub-area known as Chateau Neuf de Pape. This translates to ‘the Pope’s new castle’. In the twelfth century Pope Clement relocated the papacy from Rome to Avignon (about 30 miles south of us). For seventy years the Papacy was here. The popes loved wine. Therefore Pope Clement and his successors did much to promote the quality and growth of wine here. Vineyards are all around us. The result for us is that daily we drink world class wine, from the grocery store, for less than $10, yup, U.S.
Okay, it can’t be all roses (as in the NW, roses are still blooming strong) then again it’s our first week and we are in the ‘honeymoon phase’. The biggest downfall is I can’t find yoga around here. I learned today there’s a class in town but it’s a ten month class, not open for temporary students. Oh so French!
The People have been very nice and friendly. Most don’t speak English or don’t admit they do. We’ve been challenged to use our translator and bumble through. Honestly, I’m enjoying that part so far. Ask me how I feel in 2 months. Some of the old high school French pops up at opportune times and sometimes I may think it has. That could get me into trouble. People have been patient. We are working to honor their traditions and customs. Our property manager and his wife took us to get SIM cards for our phones. I don’t know if we could have done that alone. It’s a bit like when we first started going to Mexico. Then again, we were in tourist areas where there were always English speakers.
There are differences between Latin and French cultures. While in Mexico it’s the norm to greet strangers passing on the street, that is not the same in France. Here, one’s privacy is respected and you look away. Even a smile is received with suspicion. When you enter a shop you will be greeted with ‘Bonjour’ and when your turn comes, you will be given eye contact and again greeted ‘bonjour’, it’s expected you reply ‘bonjour’, make your request, always say ‘merci’ (thank-you) and ‘Au revoir’ as you leave. Ah, the French do appreciate manners.
The French are a bit more formal in dress even here in the village. It’s rare to see someone in work-out wear. Nice shoes, jeans or pants, skirts, shirts, sweaters are the norm. Many of the older generation of men wore suit coats to the market today. Cute. Mom, you would be right at home.
That’s it for today. It’s time to get ready to go to our property manager’s maison for aperitifs (before dinner drink/snack). They live about a 2 minute walk from us. He is from the US, she is French. Hmm, how to dress…