‘It reminded me all over again of why I threw up everything for the magic of La Belle France‘ Carol Drinkwater, author of The Olive Farm
‘Warm and vivid and beautiful’ Trevor Dolby, author of One, Place de l’Eglise
‘An utterly beguiling immersion in La France Profonde, keenly observed and beautifully told’ Felicity Cloake, author of One More Croissant for the Road
The Charente: roofs of red terracotta tiles, bleached-white walls, windows shuttered against the blaring sun. The baker does his rounds in his battered little white van with a hundred warm baguettes in the back, while a cat picks its way past a Romanesque church, the sound of bells skipping across miles of rolling, glorious countryside.
For many years a farmer in England, John Lewis-Stempel yearned once again to live in a landscape where turtle doves purr and nightingales sing, as they did almost everywhere in his childhood. He wanted to be self-sufficient, to make his own wine and learn the secrets of truffle farming. And so, buying an old honey-coloured limestone house with bright blue shutters, the Lewis-Stempels began their new life as peasant farmers.
Over that first year, Lewis-Stempel fell in love with the French countryside, from the wild boar that trot past the kitchen window to the glow-worms and citronella candles that flicker in the evening garden. Although it began as a practical enterprise, it quickly became an affair of the heart: of learning to bite the end off the morning baguette; taking two hours for lunch; in short, living the good life – or as the French say, La Vie.