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Life in Rural France

Living the French Dream….The Good, The Bad, and The Hilarious

The Historic Town of Mansle – And a Surprising Discovery

Mansle is a small town in the Charente not far from Ruffec off the N10. It may be small but it’s by no means insignificant. Back in Roman times it was a town of some importance. It’s rumoured to have been named after one of Julius Caesar’s lieutenants, Manlius.

Adding to its impressive history is the fact it was a well known stronghold of the Knights Templar. This religious order of warrior monks was founded originally to protect Christian pilgrims on their way to visit the holy lands in Palestine.

But long before all that lie it’s prehistoric roots with dolmens of all shapes and sizes being found in and around Mansle.

For me, it’s only 10 km away and has everything I need for a quick shop. Hubby and I often cycle here in the warmer months and stop for a picnic. Only after having picked up a nice fresh baguette of course.

It’s the place I come when I need to go to the vets, boulangerie, pharmacy or a quick trip to SuperU to get a few bits of shopping. It also happens to have the nearest pizza takeaway, always a bonus in rural France.

Why you should visit Mansle in the Charente

Mansle has a sleepy charm to it that’s hard to ignore But don’t be fooled into thinking nothing happens here, au contraire.

Complete with a racecourse, kayaking and a campsite, it actually has a lot going on in the summer months. And we’re lucky to have three weekly markets on a Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Along with a pretty town square with a Tabac serving coffee, beer, wine and everything else you’d expect to find. The perfect place to sit and watch the world go by.

But to really appreciate the beauty of the town, I recommend a visit to the Beau Rivage. This local hotel sits on the banks of the Charente River, as it has the best views. They have a great restaurant that we’ve eaten at many times with a wonderful terrace overlooking the Charente. It’s a beautiful place to drink in the scenery.

Maybe I’m biassed as it’s where we stayed when purchasing our property. We’ve enjoyed a fair few bottles of rose sitting on that terrace.

Unfortunately, the main street in Mansle, Rue Grande de Mansle, has been somewhat lacking as far as shops and cafes are concerned. But that seems to be changing. Now, compared to 7 years ago when we first moved here, it’s positively buzzing, in rural France terms anyway.

We have a rather lovely clothes boutique, gift store, and a shop dedicated to poultry called Au Marché de la Volaille. La Belle Etoile (a pizza restaurant which has actually been there a long time) and the newest addition to the cafe scene, Chez Riffaud. And it’s the latter that I want to talk about.

A hidden gem called Chez Riffaud

How do I describe Chez Riffaud? Hmm….unexpected is one word I’d use. It’s one of those fabulous places that could be classed as a wine cellar, a bar, a delicatessen, a restaurant, and a coffee bar. It’s definitely not what you’d expect to see in a little town in rural South West France.

So why did David Riffaud and his partner Marie-Line, the owners, choose Mansle? Well the Riffaud family has a long history in the town. La Marmite, a restaurant down near the campsite, was founded by the Riffauds. Now this third generation are making their own mark on the town. Albeit in a completely different way.

The first time I saw it I had no idea what was hidden behind the doors. It’s one of those places that’s really deceiving as you have no idea how far back it goes. As you walk in you see the bar and the shop area where you can source all sorts of local products from craft beers to cheeses. But you can also get a number of different teas and organic products including some wonderful honey, cookies, lemon curd and oils.

Indulge in the delightful French tradition of an Aperitif

When you go a little further in you’ll discover the lounge area with an assortment of velvet furniture. It has a lovely eclectic feel to it. The sun pours in making it a cosy place to sit with a coffee or glass of wine.

Go even deeper still and you’ll find a small sliding door that leads out onto a small terrace area. It’s perfect for sitting and sipping a gin and tonic in the summer months.

Three completely different areas all offering their own slice of French cafe fun. And of course the option of an aperifit too. It really is the gift that keeps on giving. You’d be hard pressed not to find something you like.

I’ve enjoyed many different aperitifs since they opened. My brother particularly enjoyed the cider on offer.

The laptop lifestyle of rural France

It’s become a regular haunt of mine and I often take my laptop to do some writing. It’s great for creativity to have a change of scenery. Naturally it’s where I wrote this article. I could really immerse myself in the ambiance and of course, enjoy some of the fabulous cuisine on offer.

They have a great menu to choose from with the usual culprits such as croque monsieur and a wonderful charcuterie board. But I think my favourite would have to be the Hot Dog with Frites, ridiculously good.

I also remember having a great English style breakfast here not long after they opened. Also incredibly yummy. I’m not huge fan of the full English, but this was really good. Plus they don’t pile your plate too high, we are in France after all.

A full program of entertainment is also on offer from live music to world cup parties. As you can imagine these were happening everywhere in France throughout November and December.

The majority of the clientele is French and it’s wonderful to see how the town has embraced this fabulous place. So if you ever visit Mansle then I suggest a visit to Chez Riffaud.

À bientôt et merci beaucoup!

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