Getting a Taste for the Simple Life in France

Who doesn’t love spending some time in France?

The enticing smell of a patisserie…freshly baked baguettes and pain au chocolat…who could resist?

Not myself and my husband Duncan, obviously. After holidaying for many years throughout France we decided the time was right to slow down our travel and enjoy village life for a while. And so we arrived in Encausse in the Occitanie region.

Just an hour from the bustling shops and international airport in Toulouse and 20 minutes from the largest town in the area—L’isle Jourdain—Encausse is a small village of around 450 souls.

Not much happens in the village, there is a church and a small town hall but for the nearest shops—and all-important patisserie—drive the seven minutes to the nearby village of Cologne.

Arriving in the village, the countryside was a sea of yellow. Smiling sunflowers in full bloom filled the surrounding fields. It was a joy to see.

Duncan and I were in Encausse for a three-week stay. We arranged a house-sit in a charming home complete with a pool and a spa…as well as one cat, two dogs and three chickens for company.

Our mornings were spent walking the dogs through winding country lanes, passing between sunflower fields and past quaint, stone churches. Some days, far off in the distance we would see the Pyrenees, patches of snow here and there glistening in the early morning sunshine.

Market days were always a highlight. Heading into L’isle Jourdain town centre to wander through the stalls with vendors selling freshly cooked sourdough bread and tarts, fruit and vegetables, wine, cheeses, meat and all manner of homeware goods and clothes was a feast for the senses.

It’s always fun to savour the colourful market atmosphere but when it comes to value for money here you’re better off taking a trip to the supermarket. We had two Carrefour supermarkets close by our village base and we found we could pick up fruit and vegies here for half what they cost in the market.

There is so much to see and do in the Occitanie region which is famous for its foie gras, wild mushrooms and Armagnac Brandy. Take in medieval castles, abbeys and cathedrals…and while away afternoons in historic, fortified towns.

The impressive Château de Laréole, built in the Renaissance Style in 1582, is well worth a visit. It’s a 10-minute drive from Encausse. Within the château walls they hold cultural events and the café is a great place to savour coffee and cake whilst looking out over the impressive grounds.

With so many villages dotted about you won’t have to go far to find a vibrant market or lively festival in full swing. And, as you explore the area on the small country roads, be sure to call in to a local restaurant for lunch. Most offer set lunchtime meals—three-courses for around $25 per person, a little more for coffee and wine. It’s an ideal way to sample the delights of this gastronomic region.

Main Image: ©Jane Dempster-Smith 

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