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Life in Rural France

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

A lady in a white body suit looking after bees

From Yorkshire to the Vienne and Keeping Bees in France

Have you ever thought about keeping bees in France? For many of us living in rural France conjures up an image of chickens, ducks, goats and maybe some sheep. But this Yorkshire lass keeps bees in the Vienne. 

And that’s not the only thing she does. Amanda is no stranger to travel or living in foreign countries. She’s travelled widely but has now settled in rural France with her family. 

Her story is fascinating and I loved hearing about her zumba classes, pursuing a career in the nutritional space, and bringing up her family in France.

Amanda, you've been living in the rural Vienne for a number of years now. What drew you to this area and why the move to France from Yorkshire?

Hi Kylie, that’s a long story as I left Yorkshire in my early twenties and moved to France when I was 35. I brought my two home educated boys on holiday from England when they were 4 and 6, and we decided to make it our home.

What was the hardest part about moving to France for you? Are there things you wish you’d known then that you know now?

Absolutely, the hardest part for me was undoubtedly learning the language. I made it my mission to do so, taking an iGCSE and an A-Level after completing the Duolingo app. It has brought me to a passable intermediate level. 

Prior to being able to speak French it felt like I was living in a bubble. I’d recommend anyone moving here gets on that and keeps at it. It widens your world immeasurably.

I know you’ve studied hard to be fluent, but how did you motivate yourself and what did you find the hardest part of it all?

Sadly I am not fluent yet, I hope I will be one day. My motivation came from how hard I found it to get things done without understanding the language. I’m an independent and practical person who likes to take action. I found I couldn’t be effective and the frustration was motivation enough.

Woman stood in a kitchen with fresh vegetables to cook
Photo by David Pisani - (C) Amanda King

What’s your favourite part about life in rural France and what do you still struggle with?

I love the countryside. The peace, the solitude. I love nature and it’s so easy to grow vegetables here with the climate. Growing nectarines in my garden has brought me so much joy. I still struggle with why everything is closed on Monday morning though.

As Mum to two boys, how have you found the schooling here in France?

I home educated my children until it became restrictive in France to do so. Of that I have no regrets at all. They have developed strongly in their own interests and my oldest boy is a history and politics buff. The youngest is very strong in maths, he also loves nutrition and I wonder if he will follow my path. 

Apart from a brief stint at school when we arrived here eight years ago, they have both been in a French school or college for two years now. Other than the quality of the school lunches, the teaching is excellent. The pastoral care is great. They have integrated, they both have many friends and they are both excelling in their subjects. 

I feel that their background in home education, and the travelling they’ve been lucky enough to enjoy, has enhanced their knowledge and understanding which brings an interesting mix to school life. They love it!

What types of activities are there for children here in the rural areas of France?

We are very rural and I believe you need to put in the effort to get things happening. It’s not the same as the UK where you can take your pick. We often have friends over to play or they go to stay at their friend’s houses. We have a local swimming bath, a small local cinema, the boys love to cycle out together. 

There are any number of activities if you want to get involved that we don’t have time to take part in. Locally we have tennis clubs, they even took their open water diver exams last week at a very deep pool made for teaching divers. There are numerous lakes and walks. It may not be as obvious as in the UK but the sky is still the limit.

Photo by David Pisani - (C) Amanda King

You’re quite literally living the rural French dream by being self-sufficient. Tell me more about the challenges of keeping bees and chickens, as well as growing your own nuts, fruit and veggies.

The challenge is that they all need to be maintained so making sure that the bees are fed sugar water is a challenge. Keeping up knowledge of how to care for bees is something we’re currently taking on as a whole family. We hope to develop this throughout this year. 

Chickens need a good amount of grass and room to scratch about. But apart from cleaning their hutch, they pretty much get on with it. They’re hilarious and a joy to keep. 

At this time of year (February) my apple trees are half pruned and that’s a weekend job I need to get on with. Keeping the veg garden going is less of a Winter job but I‘ve already got my first seeds in the polytunnel for the year’s growing season. 

I love growing vegetables. It’s really a proper hobby and I feel happiest when I’m on my own in there pottering about. Especially when the harvests come in and I can preserve, pickle and freeze the goodies I have grown and harvested for the Winter months. It’s a great feeling.

A woman preparing a healthy meal in France
Photo by David Pisani - (C) Amanda King

I know you’re passionate about health and wellness. Tell me more about how you’re developing that passion here in France.

In terms of health and wellness, this includes all aspects of a healthy lifestyle. How we think about ourselves and others, how we move, how we eat, what we drink, breathe and the quality of our closest relationships. 

I try to be mindful of all that and my life is about balancing this to be as healthy and happy as I can. I practise intermittent fasting, traditional nutrition, bodyweight exercises and I lead by example. I’ve recently completed my second degree, this was in Naturopathic Nutrition. And I now run my business online with clients from around the world. 

I teach my clients how to get well if they are already sick, and for those that are already well, to achieve optimal health. It’s a rewarding place to be in life. I love teaching people how to get the  most from their lives and it’s a great feeling to watch people recover from sickness.

I love exercising and I go line dancing twice a week and I know you teach Zumba and love exercise too. Why Zumba and how did you get into it?

I resisted Zumba for a long time, thinking it was a bit lame. A friend encouraged me to try and I was hooked from the first class. It was so much fun!  I now teach Zumba locally one evening a week with two classes back to back. I burnt over 1000 calories last night.  

I always sleep well on Monday nights 😊. 

I’m a keen CrossFit and functional movement enthusiast. I coach my boys and closest friends to do CrossFit WODS (Workout of the Day, freely available to all online) three times a week. This includes Olympic weightlifting, gymnastic skills and body conditioning. 

I consider exercise to be a nutrient and it’s a non-negotiable aspect of our lifestyle. My kids are allowed some time on their computer games, only when they have completed a workout (in term time) so they get a reward. They love it though and often ask me when the next workout is.

Aside from exercising and being self-sufficient, what do you love doing in your spare time? Are there any things you do here that you’d never have done in the UK?

Spare time? I never find myself without things to do, that’s for sure. Gardening is the biggest thing. Growing my veg and learning how to do that well is a huge hobby. Plus I’ve learned over the years that I love being on my own in nature. It energises me, I wish I’d learned this about myself much sooner so I could have done it more. 

I now make this my time, getting into the polytunnel and working the land. I’ve also had to learn building skills. I‘ve been renovating my own house over the last year, with tradesmen. I’ve insulated ceilings, cut and fixed rails and plasterboarded them. I’ve been fixing, sanding, painting, tiling, cutting and laying linoleum, pointing, mixing concrete and limecrete, small plumbing jobs. 

I never did this sort of thing in the UK and while some jobs can be horrid, like laying out insulation for example, I’ve really enjoyed learning other more intricate skills. I’m grateful that my life has allowed me to learn so much and become so self-reliant.

What are your top 5 tips for people wanting to make the move to rural France?

Learn French! 

Learn the system. If you plan on working as a resident here then you’ll need to pay cotisations. Get advice on how much that may mean is deducted from your salary before you up sticks. 

Remember that this isn’t England. No 24h Tesco, no M&S food halls (maybe there is one in Paris). Sometimes it makes no sense why shops are closed or open. It’s worth taking a photo of their opening hours and don’t forget the  ‘Exceptionnellement Ferme’

If you have children, don’t worry, they’ll pick up the language in no time at all. And it won’t be as hard as you think. Rural French life lets them safely thrive. Bullying is rare!

Find out what a Plan D’eau is – they’re awesome! 

Prepare to have clean air, extended Spring and Autumn, peace and tranquillity and great food available.

To find out more about Amanda, her Zumba classes or to find out more about naturopathy use the links below.

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