A guest blog from Nadia Jordan of Foothills in France:

The smiliest bakers in the Midi-Pyrenees in Salies du Salat

If I had a euro for every time someone has explained to me that what they would really like is a house on the edge of a village or small town, within walking distance of a boulangerie and café, I would be able to retire. I keep thinking that I should be setting up a chain of boulangeries with attached cafés all over South West France, as there is clearly a huge demand.

This is part of the dream of living in France for many of us; the morning stroll for coffee and croissants in the sunshine. France, like everywhere, has lost many small, family run businesses that did indeed used to provide exactly this service in practically every village in the country; all down to changing lifestyles, more families where both partners work away from where they live and lack of customers thanks to the ease of just popping into a supermarket on the way home from work to stock up on just about everything.

Luckily, however, in this part of France at least, it is still possible to find small towns and villages that do still have some kind of amenities – so here you can live that dream. And things have also adapted; the local boulangeries have realized that, if their clients don’t have time to come to them, they must go to their clients. So there is now, just about everywhere, a boulangerie on wheels; a van that drives around to even the remotest hamlets delivering bread at a set time most days of the week. This is why, when you are passing through villages here, you will often seen a bag or basket hanging on a gatepost or left on a front step – this means that the owner is out at work and requires the daily bread delivery. It is a very similar system to the milkman in the UK but, in France, bread is king and the French cannot survive without a fresh baguette (or two) every day.

Hence, on my searches, uppermost in my mind is always how far my clients are going to have to travel for their daily bread, croissants and local café (they say once you have found your café, you have found your home) and the closer the better. There is a lot to be said for living in a village community where you get to meet your neighbours everyday in the bakery and also a huge advantage in being able to walk to get basic supplies. This is why places such as Aurignac, Castelnau Magnoac, St Lizier, Salies du Salat, Bagnères de Luchon, Aspet, Arbas, Castillon, Cassagnabere, Betchat, Monleon Magnoac and many others, nearly always make it to the short-list for my clients; location really is vital. And I am very pleased to say that one of my favourite villages has just announced the opening of a new village bakery/shop. This makes me think that perhaps, with the ever-increasing cost of driving and the rising number of people working from home, perhaps the tide is turning and that we are about to see the rise and rise of the village bakery, store and, of course café. I really hope that is the case.

In the meantime, I will continue to ensure that my clients are as close as possible to a place where they can enjoy a coffee, croissant and chat; spending time in the local café and boulangerie is, after all, the first and probably most important step to integrating into the local community here in the Midi-Pyrenees.
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