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“The Charentaise Way of Life” – “Les Cagouilles”

With the same population of the British, but with ten times more terrain, we find more space and with that comes a slower more relaxed way of life in the French countryside and more so with the Charentaise. Known as les “Cagouilles” local dialect for “Escargots” …the snails… you can see how the Charentaise lifestyle is laid back and more relaxed.

As I look around my own village, I notice that with this pace of life the locals live for longer with a better quality of life. The air is cleaner, the stars are brighter, the sky is bluer, the

summers are warmer…

My neighbours Madame and Monsieur E are well in to their 80s and yet I see Madame in their Potager (allotment), built like an athlete, weeding furiously, walking half an hour to the local town, rambling with friends, and Monsieur a retired farmer and Mayor of the commune, cycling to friends and family in local villages.

One day as I stood in front of our own Potager, full of weeds, I deliberated on how, with my little rotavator, I would tackle 50 metres by 10 metres in one day…

With a tap of the shoulder I was greeted by Monsieur E.

So what are you doing? Well with this small rotavator I need to plough this plot clean ready for sowing by my wife….no small task, possibly a days work !
…..Hmmmmm…. said Monsieur E…..its lunch time !! You must eat ! But I can’t my wife needs me to finish by the end of the day !
….Hmmmmm…. said Monsieur E…. do you like Oysters ? (Charente-Maritime is famous for the Oyster Farms around Marenne and Royan) I love Oysters !! Then come and eat with us.

On arrival at Chez E, I was asked if I could taste the red wine made from Monsieur E’s son’s vineyard…oh and perhaps some Baguette, oh and perhaps for starters a Potage (soup) from their Potager….delicious. Twenty oysters were presented, and to my surprise found that Madame and Monsieur E didn’t particularly like oysters
….Hmmmmm…I ate fifteen of them.

Well that was a lovely and generous meal and so, making my way to go …
…. Hmmmmm …. do you like beef bourguignon ?! I love beef bourguignon !! Then enjoy a plate full of large pieces of beef, with some Baguette and a glass of home made local red wine……and so followed cheese and dessert and coffee…

And so I stood in front of our own Potager, full of weeds, I deliberated on how, with my little rotavator, I would tackle 50 metres by 10 metres in one afternoon…

Round the corner arrived Monsieur E, in his mid 80s, with an enormous tractor with a contraption attached and ploughed the plot in fifteen minutes!!

With jaw dropped, and eyes wide open, I realised this was the Charentaise life style, an easy pace that gets you there in the end.

And so I took a photograph and explained to my wife that, with my little rotavator, it took me all day to plough our Potager!!

Kindly contributed by Nigel Metcalf

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