Moments from a Weekend in the French Countryside

Last weekend, I escaped Paris to visit my friend Laura’s horse farm in the south of France. It was a weekend of muddy wellies, Earl Grey, good friends and big laughs.

Laura, who hails from the north of England, has an English mother and French father who run a horse-riding school near Limoges. And even though I was staying in the heart of French horse country, I honestly felt like I was in England, from the endless cuppas to the delightful colloquialisms of the north.

Here are my favorite moments from my weekend away.

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Exploring little French townsIMG_5991

The nearest village, Confolens, has all the trappings of a typical French town: the church steeple rising above the buildings, the oh-so-French shutters, the little specialized shops like the boulangerie and charcutier.

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But was truly makes Confolens special is the beautiful bridge across the riverfront which I photographed incessantly. One thing I’ll miss about France is stumbling upon such picturesque towns that no one else has ever heard of. How can this not be a tourist destination?

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 My Very First Fish and Chips

After a bit of sight-seeing we stopped by the local chip shop which stuck out like a sore Anglo thumb in such a French town. Though I was iffy about trying a dish I had previously deemed “grease on grease”, I was strongly urged to taste the cod. “Here they do a real northern crust,” said Laura’s mother.

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Evidently I was very excited to try fish and chips…

The verdict? Delicious. As a seafood lover with a hot-fries-and-Heinz guilty pleasure, I really enjoyed it, though afterwards all I wanted a long nap and a shower.

During the meal we started talking about the comfort of eating food from your home country after a long trip away. When asked what I most missed from the states, I admitted, “I know this is a total cliché but sometimes I would just really like a good burger.” True dat, y’all.

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Antique Shopping

One of my French bucket list items was to buy a set of old-fashioned champagne glasses. But due to budgeting concerns for my up-coming trip and the fact that I don’t technically have a residence, I decided not to purchase the beautiful set pictured below. Saving up sucks.

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But we did stumble upon some other treasures like a Mad Hatter top hat…

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and fashion magazines from the 1920s. And even though we didn’t buy anything, it was still fun to come across treasures and trinkets from another era.

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Getting a Taste of Farm Life

Laura’s farm is a veritable menagerie with chickens, ponies, horses, donkeys, pigs, doves, dogs and cats. I loved being able to spend a few days getting some one-on-one time with the animals and breathing some fresh country air into my lungs.IMG_6079

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Hearing the War Stories of a 90-Year Old French WWII VetIMG_6098

One of the highlights of the trip was chatting with Laura’s surrogate grandfather, Georges, over pineau and madeleines. After offering us a drink, Georges told us about the tribulations he had faced as a young soldier fighting the Germans, or as he called them, the “Boschs.”

The most horrific thing Georges told us about was the massacre in the nearby village Oradour-sur-Glane. On June 10th, 1944, four days after D-Day, a German Waffen-SS company locked up several hundred women and children in the town church and burned it to the ground. Any who tried to escape the church were then met with machine gun fire. The men were brutally murdered in several nearby barns and then burned as well.

“I could smell the burning bodies from my house,” George told us.Limoges June6

When my friends told Georges that I was American, he gasped. “Une vraie americaine?” A real American? He then proceeded to tell me how grateful he was for the Americans because they had “dropped parachutes full of chickens and supplies” during the war.

And though he told us that he had seen many miseries in his life, it amazed me that Georges was such a jovial person, laughing and drinking with such a broad smile on his face.

Before we left, he gave my two English friends many kisses, “Mes petites anglaises ! Vous m’avez sauvé la vie.” My little English girls! You saved my life.

Home-cooked, Farm-fresh Meals

Over the weekend we demolished lots of goodies, like a large jar of homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam and lord knows how much baguette. And while I’m lucky to enjoy lots of home-cooked meals here in France, it was wonderful dining on home-cooked food straight from the farm.

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And never in my life have I looked up from washing dishes and seen five horses galloping past- country life at its finest.IMG_6234

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Horse-back Riding

One of my favorite adrenaline rushes in the world is the one you get from galloping on a horse, so it was such a joy to be able to ride all weekend! But I must say I have never felt like such a Yankee as when I grabbed the reins with one hand, as you do with a Western saddle.

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Laura has been riding since she was a little girl and has competed for years, so it was fun to finally she her jump. And by the end of the weekend I was finally getting the hang of riding with an English saddle.

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Good Times with Good Friends.

Over the year I’ve spent in Paris, I’ve made some absolutely incredible friends. And though it pains me to admit, I only have a few weeks left with them. (At least until we cross paths again!)

So it was wonderful to spend some quality time together without watching the clock: rocking out to Dizzee Rascal in the car, strolling the countryside with the dogs and munching on orange-flavored biscuits and tea while watching Spice World on VHS.IMG_6197

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In more ways than one, this weekend was a breath of fresh air. It was exactly what I needed.

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Have you ever visited the French countryside?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

22 thoughts on “Moments from a Weekend in the French Countryside”

  1. Thanks for sharing the part about Georges. I’m in awe that people lived through those times and can still talk about it.

    That bridge is pretty epic!

    • I’m glad you liked that part, it was honestly one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had in France. We won’t be able to talk to WWII vets for much longer, quite sadly, so it was great to hear his stories!

  2. It must be so nice to get out of the city and into the countryside! Probably quite literal a breath of fresh air! :) Rural France is beautiful – I spend a couple of days in the area around Orleans a few years ago and it was super stunning!

    xx
    Melanie

  3. The best yet!! Such a rich week-end, and text and photos
    so fantastic!! Your friend is right–you should be publishing
    for many and I mean, many, would love sharing.

    Love,

    Gamma

  4. Ashley you are ridiculously good at documenting your small trips and weekends. From the photos, to how you explain it without getting too wordy, they’re great! I felt like I was there. Oh yeah, and how you make everyone else jealous. ;)

  5. Looks like a pretty amazing weekend. I love cobblestone streets – they are so adorable. And the photo of the door with the glass work above is beautiful… I guess I should just say that I like the old world charm :-)

  6. Hey Ashley it was a real pleasure meeting you and sharing our french country life with you and the girls. And we loved reading your Blog and yes you should publish more widely. And I definitely know now who I need to write our new gite brochure ! I hope you enjoy the last few weeks in france and if you ever get the chance to visit again please do so . Mxx

    • Thanks so much for commenting Marion, that means a lot that you read the post! The weekend was truly wonderful and I can’t thank you enough. And I’d be happy to help with the brochure :)

  7. Hi Ashley

    I’m a french young nurse who is currently living in Mayotte(french oversea department near Madagascar). I like your blog! From a french point of view, it’s very interesting to read your articles about the differents aspects of french society and way of life :)
    I love to travel too ;)

    Cindy

    • Hi Cindy, thanks so much for stopping by! I’ve heard of that area near Madagascar and it sounds very intriguing :). And I really do have a great love for France so I hope that comes through on my blog!

  8. Thanks to you Ashley for this nice blog. I really do plan to trip off of French Countryside with my friends. Its amazing trips for me and for good perfect reason for take enjoyment of countryside walk, nature holiday. Thanks for sharing this valuable article.

  9. Hi!
    So actually for someone who lived in Confolens and that area for around 16 years I would like to say thanks for sharing this part of the world but there are a few things..
    1. I know the Charente is south of Paris but people don’t like it when you say it is THE south.. weird I know..
    2. Confolens is officialy a town not village. St Germain De Confolens is a village :P
    3. Well the tourist side.. we do have the International Festival of Dance and Folklore in Confolens every year which has seen artists such as Jimmy Cliff perform there and growing up in a Confolens B&B I know how busy it gets.
    4. Good point about the English feeling.. you actually here more english than french in the town and most people who buy houses are English, my parents included.
    Anyway love the article and I’m glad you enjoyed the place :)

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