mon coeur de campagne

living a simpler, rural French life

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ATELIER construction de nichoirs pour hirondelles


We went to a workshop to learn how to make nichoirs – nests – for hirondelles – swallows – at la Maison du Parc, St Brisson.    It was one of a series of ateliers organised by La Parc naturel régional du Morvan and la Société d’Histoire Naturelle d’Autun.  We learnt a lot about the birds and discovered that there are two types of hirondellesL’Hirondelle de Fenetre and L’Hirondelle Rustique.  L’Hirondelle de Fenetre like their nests to be up close under a ledge, window or balcony.

L’Hirondelle Rustique often make their nests in or around barns and old farm buildings.   L’Hirondelle Rustique have a wide chest and the tail looks longer and more pointed than  LHirondelle de Fenetre.

Numbers of hirondelles have declined dramatically.  When we first bought our house here in Le Morvan we would regularly see hirondelles at the end of a hot summer’s day swooping to catch flies. Sadly their habit is under threat due to old buildings being renovated, the increased use of insecticides and predators such as cats and pigeons.


Charlotte getting hands-on!

bowl 1

Mix it up!

You need plaster, water, generous handfuls of earth and straw – mix together to make a paste.


Use a bowl as a mould and cover half the bowl. As the paste sets you can feel the heat, leave to set for around 30 minutes and then gently ease the bowl away.


Voila! A chateau de luxe for the hirondelles!

We had an interesting walk around the parc looking at birds nests that had been made  to encourage the birds to nest.  There was an impressive tower or bird hotel housing rows of nests, it has been built high in the air to keep the birds safe.

The hirondelles are due to arrive between March and April.

We hope they like the nid and move in!



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The Curtain Falls

La nature s’habille de givre.

Le froid est enfin la. The cold is finally here and what perfect timing!  My brother, sister, nieces and nephews celebrated Christmas with us in France and after 10 amazing days of fun, food and partying the final guests left for the airport this morning.  They left just in time. Today’s winter wonderland is heralding the first snow forecast for next week.

Freezing fog has caused a white-out, shutting out the sun and blue skies finally bringing the curtain down on 2016. 

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Insider Tips to French Café Society


cafe 1


Sitting outside a café sipping a coffee and watching the world go by is part of daily life in France.  Manners and etiquette are important here so here’s a few tips to help keep you out of hot water!

As you arrive always greet the Monsieur, Madame or Mademoiselle behind the bar with a bonjour and a general bonjour to everyone in the room.  This is the case, especially in rural France when you enter a shop, post office, doctor.. anywhere…obviously not in a large supermarché and it maybe a bit different in Paris and large towns!  If you decide to sit on the terrace, find a seat and the waiter will come to you.

Always be polite in France. Manners count for a lot and a little politeness goes a long way.  No shouting or calling across the café to gain the attention of the waiter.  Remember merci and s’il vous plait!

Did you know the cost of your coffee depends on where you sit?  Outside on the terrace is always more expensive but sitting up at the bar is the cheapest and you can enjoy the atmosphere.

If you ask for ‘un café s’il vous plait’ the waiter will bring you a café noir or café express in a small expresso sized cup. It will be served with sugar cubes or sugar wraps on the saucer and a tiny biscuit or a chocolate covered almond.  The other popular coffee, mostly drunk at breakfast time is a café crème or café au lait with hot milk, served in a larger cup.

A custom I love is that if the café does not serve croissants or gateaux you can buy your cakes elsewhere and eat them in the café.  I would always check first out of politeness.  We did this recently, before we opened our big box of cakes on the table and the waitress even provided serviettes, plates and knives!!

Bottled water can be expensive and I am happy to drink Eau du robinet (tap water).  If you ask for a verre or pitcher d’eau du robinet you won’t be charged.

For a delicious treat, order a Café Gourmand, a petit café with a selection of bite sized desserts served alongside.


cafe gourmand

You are generally left alone to take your time to enjoy your coffee.  Lots of cafés and bars, even in rural France have free Wi-Fi (internet). When you do decide that you want l‘addition, (the bill), the service charge is already included.  You will see the words Servis Compris on the bill which means service is already included in the total to be paid.

A small extra tip is still a nice gesture to recognise good service as that will go directly to your waiter.

What have your experiences been like?  I would love to know.

Please comment and share.




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Women! We all need to live in the woods

Direction Luzy

No surprise to hear that research has found contact with nature is soothing, restorative and good for mental health.  The School of Public Health at the University of Washington and Nurses Healthy Study surveyed over 100,000 women finding that the women who live in greener areas have a 12% lower mortality rate than those who live in polluted environments.  Having access to green spaces where you can exercise and be active also plays an important role in having a healthy lifestyle.

We live in Le Morvan, Bourgogne in a sea of green, surrounded by forests and ancient woodland.  We enjoy the freshest air in Europe and never miss the opportunity to go for a walk even in the rain!

A walk first thing clears my head, I drink in the views, enjoy the solitude and it sets me up for the day. A quick break outside mid afternoon gives an energy boost and if I am looking for inspiration it even  helps me problem solve and come up with ideas.


A walk in the peaceful green woods, with trees towering cathedral like high above is great therapy.

The fact that a village 10 minutes away has the highest amount of people aged over 90 in the area seems to endorse the research.  One old lady celebrated her 105th birthday with a glass of champagne and a big piece of cake, putting her longevity down to eating everything and of course, the fresh air!

Nature really is the best therapy and it’s free. So never mind how big your patch of green is, get out there and enjoy it!












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A Bend in the Road

 I’m usually a glass full kind of person but my positivity has taken a nose dive.

 Life, of course, has plenty of ups and downs but when you are living in another country it can be a lot harder to deal with. 

Missing family and not being there is tough. Yes we have Skype, texting and phone calls but nothing beats a hug.

Realising that not knowing the “rules” makes us vulnerable to costly mistakes.

Not getting to grips with the language, I try hard but my level of understanding is not good enough when the sh**t hits the fan.

Despite all that – the positives still far outweigh the negatives – so I’m looking forward to what is round the next corner.