Montreuil-les-Vignes*, our home, is a town of 1246 people, of which 70+ families are wine makers. Which means that basically everyone is involved in some way with making wine. If you drive southwest from Paris, you will reach Montreuil-les-Vignes in 3 hours, passing several famous Loire Valley chateaux along the way.
There is a 10th century church in our town square. There is also a bakery, a butcher, a charcutiere, a post office and two hair salons. There is a bar, but I’m scared to go in because it’s all of these old farmers sitting on stools and drinking, and if you are not an old farmer and dare walk in on their turf, they all turn around and stare at you. Trust me, those old farmers can be intimidating.
There is a farmer’s cooperative, open some mornings, but I’m not sure which, since the opening hours seem to be run by some type of mysterious unposted schedule. The last time I happened to arrive at the right time their entire offering was carrots, strawberries and asparagus.
Every July there is a scarecrow festival. Everyone dresses up a scarecrow and puts it in their yard. At the end of the week, the scarecrows are judged and a prize is awarded. The last time I was in Montreuil-les-Vignes during the festival, a drunk scarecrow holding a bottle and propping itself up on a telephone pole won the prize. The children all put flowers on their bicycles (like mini-Rose-Bowl-floats) and these are also judged and given prizes.
So why did we move to this podunk town in the Middle-of-Nowhere, France?
My handsome French husband, Laurent, and I met at a party here. So there is a nostalgia factor. After that historic party, I returned several times with him to stay with his father, who lives in the Hauts Champs (High Fields) overlooking the little town. Each time I visited, I savored the beautiful countryside and slow pace, and, coming from a crazed city lifestyle, swore that it was the only place on earth I could completely relax.
In Montreuil-les-Vignes, entertainment consists of the following: stopping by your neighbor’s house for a drink, and then continuing on to another neighbor’s house for a drink, or, if you happen to be home, watching several neighbors coming up your drive for a drink.
There are certain times that you can plan on having people stop by for a drink. Usually this is right before lunch or dinner. No one expects you to invite them to stay to eat, luckily, or you would have to have lots of food on hand all of the time in addition to all of the drink. One usually drinks around 3 small glasses per visit (not a rule – just something I noticed). This means that if you are planning to make a few stops, you need to pace yourself.
Or not. One of the neighbors in particular chooses “not”. His girlfriend joked with him the other night as he swatted a mosquito away from his arm that he needn’t bother because any mosquito that bit him would die of alcohol poisoning.
Anyway, back to the attractions of Montreuil-les-Vignes. There is the relaxation factor. There is the friendliness factor, as evidenced by the neighbor-visiting entertainment program. There is the not-to-be-missed scarecrow festival. The town is only 1 3/4 hours away from Paris if you take the TGV (fast train) from Tours. And you can get a nice, big house for the same price as a tiny apartment in Paris or a shack in the uber-popular South. The cheese, bread and food are to die for. And don’t forget the produce of those 70+ wine makers. For wine lovers like ourselves, they might as well add the words “a.k.a. Paradise” to the end of the big sign at the entrance of the town that says “Bienvenue à Montreuil-les-Vignes”.
*Fake town name – you won’t find it on a map!