Interview: Jacqui Brown of The French Village Diaries – life, blogging & wellbeing
We’re excited to announce that we’re soon to offer you some wonderful new articles by Jacqueline Brown of ‘The French Village Diaries’, but first it’s important that you meet Jacqueline. She’s has been living in Poitou-Charentes in France since 2004, a life which is the dream of many!
Join us as we chat with Jacqui, a British expat, about her love for France and her delightfully rich blog, The French Village Diaries.
She generously shares lessons & advice, her experiences of life in a rural French Village; education, cycling, gardening, cooking, and reviewing books set in France.
Now we’d like to introduce you.
Meet Jacqui Brown:
Please describe yourself in 3 words
Shy, but smiley.
What is the most telling thing you’ve learned about yourself since living in France?
That I’m not as rubbish at learning languages as I thought I was when I was at school.
If you had your time over, what would you advise others to do – that you would have done differently?
We sold up in the UK in 2004 and moved into a house we bought on our second house-hunting trip to the area. We were lucky and found ourselves in a lovely village with lots going on and great community spirit.
If I were to do the same again, I think I would rent for a short while, in order to work out exactly where would be the best location to buy.
Not all French villages are equal and although I still love village life, now Ed is a teenager there isn’t much going on for him, meaning lots of taxi-ing to the [larger] local towns for us!
How did you find learning the French language? What’s the best tip you could give to someone looking to learn French?
My French was very basic when we arrived and the first thing I learned was that I had so much more to learn!
However, from the first few weeks, we did our best to get involved in village life and I think this is key.
Volunteer, help out, start speaking in French to neighbours – even before you think your French is good enough to do so, and little by little, alongside lessons, your confidence and vocabulary will grow, and you will soon find you are more than able to get by.
Now, let’s go beyond the cliché: what makes France unique for you?
I live in a French village and I love that everyone here takes the time to
– say hello,
– to share a few words with neighbours, and
– to help new arrivals feel welcome.
The French Village Diaries:
What was your motivation behind creating The French Village Diaries?
Initially, The French Village Diaries was just an online diary to keep family and friends up to date on our lives in the French countryside. However, with social media, it soon grew, and I started getting some positive feedback from people, many that I didn’t know.
There are a lot of Francophiles in the world, some get to visit France regularly, some never will.
If by sharing my experiences, I can help bring France and French life to them, and make them smile on a tough day, I’m happy.
Tell us about your ‘France et Moi’ interview feature. Who have you most enjoyed interviewing and why?
‘France et Moi’ is a fun interview feature where I ask other Francophiles to share (with my readers), some of their favourite French things and their love of France.
I’ve had some great answers over the years, especially to my “What French cheese are you?” question.
But if I had to pick just one, it would be English stand-up comedian Ian Moore, who now lives in the Loire and writes funny memoirs about his life here.
He thought my questions were original and funny.
What are the key elements of a good book about France?
A sexy Frenchman, endless fields of lavender, blue skies, and chilled rosé wine served on shady terraces.
Actually, no, I’m only joking.
If it’s a memoir, I want to see they have immersed themselves in French life. But I also enjoy humour and the author’s ability to laugh at themselves when things in France don’t live up to the dream.
For fiction, I enjoy the attention to French detail and can usually spot the difference between an author who has spent time living in France and one who just dreams of doing so.
How has living in France affected your diet and wellbeing? Compare it to your life in England.
France has been my saviour in terms of wellbeing and this isn’t an exaggeration.
I was always chubby, shied away from exercise, and didn’t have a very good relationship with food. I moved to France in my early thirties and suddenly found myself the custodian of a fruit orchard and vegetable garden.
Not being one to waste food, I soon mastered the basics in the kitchen; cooking fresh and seasonal recipes, preserving our produce for winter, and making conscious decisions about the quality of the food we eat rather than the quantity.
As my diet became healthier, I lost over 10kgs, gained confidence, started yoga classes, and took up cycling.
I am now in my mid-forties, but fitter than I’ve been all my life!
I cycle regularly throughout the summer and always challenge myself to a 100km-in-a-day birthday ‘treat’ every September.
How did ‘The French Village Diaries’ connect you to the French culture and identity? Has it changed your perception of (or your relationship with) France at all?
- It has certainly given me the confidence to seek out new French experiences in order to feature them in a blog post.
- And I’m much more observant now than I was before I started blogging on The French Village Diaries.
- Immersing myself in French life and writing about it has definitely helped me understand the French way better. And I feel more connected to my new life here.
Jacqui’s favourites places to…
Eat in France
Any café in any town that offers a fixed menu featuring local produce and regional dishes. It will be good value and is an excellent way to sample the many regional specialties France is famous for. Plus, if I’m not driving I will start my meal with the locally made aperitif too.
Drink in France
There is a café on the beach in La Rochelle, with a raised terrace that faces the harbour.
When I collect my husband from the airport in the winter, the flight lands just in time for us to drive into town and sit with a beer while we watch the sun setting on the Atlantic, giving us a special moment to catch up with each other before heading home.Café des Bains
Plage de la Concurrence
Place du 8 Mai
17000 La Rochelle Opening: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6:30pm, Monday closed.
Stay in France
I’m always ready to pack a bag and travel anywhere in France, by car or by bike. But, I think it will have to be back to La Rochelle, one of my favourite places.
It may only be less than two hours from home, but it is totally different to daily village life.
- The people are different
- the shops are different
- the vibe is different
- And I love to escape here for my fix of chic.
We’ve stayed at the Masqhotel once, and I’d go back again – it’s arty, chic, and serves Champagne for breakfast every day!Masqhotel
17 Rue de l’Ouvrage À Cornes
17000 La Rochelle
Play in France
The Marais Poitevin, a wetlands nature reserve situated between La Rochelle and Niort.
We love to hire a barque, take a picnic, and enjoy the peace and quiet of this unique network of canals.
Experience France like a local
Our village bar, on karaoke night, crooning away to Johnny Hallyday with our French and British friends and neighbours.
We’d like to thank Jacqui for sharing her experiences and accrued wisdom from years of living in France –
we can’t wait to begin our collaboration together!
Have you started a new life in France, or are you planning or still dreaming? We’d love you to share your expat experiences in the comments box below.
1-4. © Jacqueline Brown
5. La Rochelle harbour, via Wikipedia
6. Marais Poitevin, via Wikipedia