What do French Paysans think of the Brits taking on ‘money pit’ renovations. A personal experience

Sophie Duncan
5 min readNov 28, 2020

or, ‘What will the paysans think of your chateau rescue shenanigans’

These tales from France are inspired by 22 years restoring a sandstone Renaissance castle in the Aude department in South West France. It’s sister is Rennes le Château of Dan Brown and Holy Blood fame. Across a chequered valley, perched on a blazing red escarpment is Rennes le Château. Home to legends of the Grail and Apostelic secrets.

We found the landscape’s great beauty is exquisite enough.

The independent culture of the Langue d’Oc reaches beyond Roman times, superimposing on the France that we know, an enchated veil of savoir faire and fascination.

I hope that my writing will inspire you if you are in France already or thinking about it, and amuse you if you are simply curious about the folk that flock there.


‘What will the paysans think of your chateau rescue shenanigans’

Two generations from the village
Different generations chewing the cud

In the English speaking world calling someone a peasant is a term of abuse. You could say that ‘peasants’ in the UK are an unprotected and disappeared species. In France the word for peasant, ‘paysanne’, is a badge of honour. If you are a ‘vrai’ Paysanne’, you are a keeper of secrets and skills of the countryside, holding the fort against a rising tide of rubbish. Rubbish food, adulterated dairy, radiated lettuces. A modern life of keyboards and fashionable ideas in a pre-fabricated world.

owners of the chateau in the great hall next to piano
Publicity for series on of Escape to the Chateau DIY

Paysannes still pick great bundles of vegetation every afternoon for their rabbits and measure the rainfall. They have their own winter wood growing, cut, drying, stacked and split. Some things are best not left to others. Whopper crops of artichokes, beans and tomatoes are transformed into exquisite preserves. Dried mushrooms gathered at ancestral glades in the woods dry by the fire, a stock of home made confiture always at the ready.

Sophie Duncan

I write about France, Oxford, dogs, love and more. Sign up for my newsletter today, find Beyond Paris - a Short Guide to Rural France on Amazon