Although we discovered the little village of Tourtour just a few months after arriving in Taradeau, it has rapidly become one of the places we take visitors to. It’s only 20 minutes away but it’s easy to overlook: it’s not exactly on the route to anywhere. It’s not particularly big (only a few hundred inhabitants in winter, perhaps 1,000 in summer). But it is an astonishingly attractive place and seems to typify all that is best about French villages.
There are some lovely old stone buildings without the sense of rundown decay that you can get in some settlements. There’s a tree-lined square which for most of the year is sealed off from traffic and, in summer at least, seems full of places to eat and drink. There are two modest châteaux and a number of narrow streets that wind so intensely that despite the small size of the village you can actually manage to get disoriented. By an extraordinary feat of planning – rare indeed in this part of the world – the village has not accumulated a vast and ugly suburb around it.
Tourtour advertises itself as “The village in the sky”. From its hilltop there are astonishing views; particularly a sweeping panorama where you can see everything from the Massif de Maures above the Côte d’Azur to the mountain peaks above Toulon and westward to mount St Victoire by Aix, round to the distant summit of Mount Ventoux above the Rhône Valley to the north-west (double-click the photo below to see it better).
And yes there are tourists but it rarely has that overcrowded feel that you get with some of the more for popular French villages in the Dordogne. Above all it still feels French.
Brexit and beyond
Although various people have asked how we are managing “since Brexit“ (thank you) we have picked up that one or two folk still think that it’s business as usual. Well it isn’t. Actually although you hear people say “since Brexit”, so far the process hasn’t started. This week though, apparently triggered by the Conservative party conference where a number of political leaders seem to have been trying to outdo each other in recklessness, the phoney war seems to be over. Sterling, which has been sliding ever since the referendum, has suddenly plummeted and, as we write the pound (in which we get our pension and income from editing et cetera) now only buys €1.1 whereas it bought €1.36 at the start of the year. The result is that everything is very much more expensive. Matters are made worse because there is no indication that we have reached the limit of the pound’s decline. People here ask us what the British Government is playing at, and we find ourselves a little embarrassed for an answer.
There’s an estimate that around 50% of people in our church depend on UK funds (pensions etc). Many of them are far worse off than us. There’s not a lot of complaining, but there’s a sense of unease and a very definite feeling of betrayal. And as for the innumerable practical implications of being a British citizen outside the European Union, well we’ll leave those for another day. But unlike Tourtour, they aren’t pretty.