My French Village: Corrèze in the Limousin


Real life stories

My French Village: Corrèze in the Limousin

Sharon North and her husband Andrew find joy in the rituals of village life in Corrèze, as the days yield naturally to the seasons.

How did you find your village?

We live in the village of Corrèze, in the department of the same name, in the southernmost area of the Limousin bordering Dordogne, Lot and Cantal. I like to say that it was Corrèze that found us, Originally, we were focused on the Quercy region but couldn’t find a property. We extended the search area a little and this house popped up just as our home in England went under offer. We came to see the house and were charmed by the village too. The heart of it is a beautiful walled medieval town and we have everything we need for daily life within walking distance.

What aspects of village life do you enjoy most?

I love the daily rhythms, getting the bread in the morning, and people saying bonjour. They want to know where Mortimer our labradoodle is, and my husband Andrew (yes, in that order!) Seasonality is something I really enjoy. As each month comes in you will find a fête celebrating the produce- strawberries in May, goat’s cheese in June and mushrooms in October. July and August are the months for socialising, so busy that the quiet winter months come as a relief.

When did you arrive?

We moved here in December 2017 from the UK. We had lived abroad before, but not in France, although we spent many holidays here. I was in the travel industry for a while and spent quite a bit of time hosting trips to France.

What is there to do in the area?

Corrèze is very much a destination for nature and outdoor lovers. It’s just inside the natural regional park of Millevaches with its forests, rivers and lakes. Fishing, kayaking and canoeing are popular and Treignac, up the road from us, has hosted the Wildwater Canoeing World Championships three times. There’s challenging cycling on the Tour de France routes as well as gentler circuits suitable for all the family. The park is an International Dark Sky Reserve; the air here is crystal clean. There are many unspoilt villages, stunning scenery, and wildlife-perfect if you’re a keen photographer – and in the summer countless food fêtes celebrating local produce.

How’s your French?

I’d say advanced holiday- French when we arrived. My reading skills weren’t too bad but there were days when I was out of my depth. Our local mechanic still remembers merrily the time I was convinced he was talking about chickens when in fact it was our exhaust pipe! It’s now better than it was, but not as good as it should be. The villagers say I have improved a lot, but to me I still speak comme une vache espagnole (like a Spanish cow).

How do you interact socially?

People quickly realised we were a permanent feature and that we supported local businesses and events. I always try to say a little more than just bonjour and our efforts are appreciated. Rarely does a week go by without being asked to aperos or finding food gifts left on the doorstep. In the summer there are night markets with communal tables. French
friends now beckon us over and make space for us to join them.

Any local speciality that you have developed a taste for?

The food tends to be hearty so come with a large appetite! Corrèzians are proud of their local produce, particularly the Limousin beef. I really like tourtous, a savoury pancake with a variety of fillings.

What about the local architecture and history?

Where to start! Corrèze has medieval stone buildings in soft granite with slate roofs. We are on the St-Jacques-de-Compostelle pilgrimage route and many houses have carved scallop shells over the doorways. It’s not unusual to see pilgrims walking along the high street. We are often reminded by locals, with a twinkle in their eye, that it was the English who burnt the church down during the Hundred Years’ War, but it has since been rebuilt. WWII had a huge effect on the area as it was a big Resistance hub, and suffered because of this.

What has surprised you the most about living in France?

The kindness of people, their generosity and openness. We are frequently asked if we like living here and how pleased they are to have us. It’s humbling. Oh! And French people really do use wicker baskets for their shopping!

What’s your favourite French saying?

Definitely l’heure entre chien et loup. The time of day when twilight falls, and you can’t tell the difference in the gloom between a dog and a wolf. It’s the time of day when I love to walk Mortimer through the tiny lanes of Corrèze, when it feels like time has stood still.

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Follow Sharon on Instagram: @lovemyfrenchlife

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