We are approaching the end of two weeks spent in deepest France. Wherever we have gone we have encountered French people who do not speak English, I love it. We have fumbled our way around shops, restaurants and places of interest with our school-book French, hilarious!
Open For Business?
Travelling with two ‘young adults’ has meant that early starts have been rare; we frequently find ourselves arriving in towns that are ‘closed’ for siesta time. Shutters are down, signs displayed in doorways.
Du lundi au vendredi – 09:00 à 12:00 – 14:30 à 22:00
Businesses Surviving With No Effort?
Ambling joyfully around empty shops selling locally produced artisanal product
s it occurs to us, where is everyone? Shops are hidden away in winding passages, no sign that they are there until you are in the door. No fluorescent signs directing you ‘this way’, no ‘SALE’ posters, just a doorway recessed in a wall. It feels as though these hidden gems want to stay hidden, how are they surviving? Are the rents extremely low? Are business rates so reasonable that businesses don’t need to fight hard for the trade? The owners don’t have that look of desperation as you browse, far from it; it’s baffling but beautiful, so relaxing for us and them.
I love a pottery, we discovered the cutest one I’ve ever seen in Caylus, just down the road from our holiday farmhouse. ‘Bonjour’ I announce and the old boy begins to chat in French, it doesn’t take long for him to realise we need the help of his wife, who speaks some English! It transpires that this dear old couple design, make and decorate everything in their shop, a treasure trove that even in today’s economic climate is affordable for us Brits; we shopped till we dropped, Monsieur et Madame were just happy to see us. Madame told me how they used to make soaps by hand but have stopped as ‘there aren’t the people now’, my heart went out to her but she seemed tres content.
For a British business my instinct would be to create a website, begin publicising this unique treasure, think of its USP, create a Facebook page, form alliances with local businesses, create publicity… the list is endless, for this business, and for this area of France it feels as though it would all be unwelcome, and unnecessary. The locals are happy with their lifestyle, they enjoy their siesta, if silly tourists insist on arriving ‘a midi’ they’ll just have to wait, or not, c’est la vie.