Pining for France – and worrying about the dormouse in the attic

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Thursday 29th September 2011

Six weeks after leaving the House With No Name in friends’ capable hands, I’m pining for my tumbledown farmhouse in the middle of rural France.

I’m worried about the fate of the loir, the sweet-looking dormouse that kept us awake scratching in the attic all night. Will it have outwitted Monsieur Noel, the charming pest man, or will it have departed this world once and for all? I’m anxious that our neighbours might have taken offence because I dropped a canapé they gave me in a plant pot when they weren’t looking and I’m fretting that the dodgy roof of the adjoining barn might have collapsed.

But most of all I’m missing the way of life in the Drôme, the unspoiled region between the Rhône Valley and the foothills of the Alps I fell in love with six years ago. It isn’t half as famous as Provence, its southern neighbour, but the countryside is far greener and more lush, with majestic crags and limestone cliffs that tower over the landscape.

If I was there now I’d be looking forward to the bustling Friday morning market at Dieulefit, where we buy freshly-baked bread, fruit and vegetables. The name Dieulefit comes from the saying Dieu l’a fait (God made it) and the area’s known for its clean air and artistic connections. Artists and ceramicists flock to sell their work at the market – from pretty watercolours to hand-thrown plates the Conran Shop would give its eye-teeth for.

My other favourite places are the village of Saou (above), with its shady square and restaurant under the trees, and the ski resort of Col de Rousset. Not because I like skiing, mind you, but because in the summer months you can take the chairlift to the top, hire mini-scooters and helmets and whiz down the mountainside. Typically, my daredevil teenage son loves zooming down the red run at breakneck speed so much that he does it four times on the trot.

Then there are the villages perchés, the tiny hilltop villages perched high above the surrounding countryside. Le Poët-Laval, where an order of 12th Century knights kept watch from their fortified keep, is one of the most beautiful. After climbing to the top to admire the view across sunlit fields of lavender we stop for tea and homemade lemon cake at La Bouquinnerie, the charming café and second-hand bookshop halfway down.

I need to go back…

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