My Mazamet

Life at № 42

Mazamet: Creating a new life in the South of France – Interview with Gareth Johnson for MainlyMale/GTV London

Journalist Gareth Johnson of GTV London and MainlyMale asked me a few questions about our move to Mazamet. The original source has been archived, so I’ve included a copy of the interview further down on this page.

In other (excellent) news, one of the other houses on the boulevard has been sold! I’m of the firm belief every once in a while a property needs new eyes, a new perspective, a new vision – a rebirth of sorts. The owners contacted us yesterday to say hello and we’ll be meeting them soon. It’s a lovely place and once they get used to the church bells (It took me about two weeks to stop hearing them) I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to be there.

They sent us a picture of number 42 from an angle we’d never seen before.

I sit on that green bench most afternoons


Creating a new life in the South of France

“We’re natural outsiders…”

Photo by MR WONG on Unsplash

I caught up with Twitter buddy The Pink Agendist about life in the South of France.

The Pink Agendist

How long have you lived in the South of France?

We moved to France in December of 2014. We rented a little cottage smack in the centre of the country, outside of Bourges, and used that as our base for house-hounting. As we work from home, there was nothing tying us to any particular area, so we were open to moving anywhere in France that met our needs.

What took you to the South of France?

We had some very particular criteria. We’d been talking about leaving Spain for quite a while. Sotogrande, where we lived, went from being a small charming community of a few hundred homes to a place where 40,000 tourists come through every year. That wasn’t the sort of lifestyle we were into at all, as both of us had chosen that region of Spain when it was still off the beaten path.

At the beginning of our search I was inclined to more dramatic change. I pushed for somewhere on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. At first Mike, my partner, indulged me but ultimately he didn’t want to leave Europe — because of the conveniences, the health services and all that. Also, he wanted to live somewhere where we already spoke the language, and that narrowed the choices down to five countries in Europe.

Why did you choose Mazamet as your home?

I did a very, very nerdy comparative study of towns and villages in France. We wanted to find a balance between a reasonably peaceful country life but where we still had access to every service we might want or need. We’d both lived in isolated places before so the idea of one little shop in a village which sells bread, chicken and also rat poison was not something we wanted at this stage of our lives. The hustle and bustle of a city was also not on our list.

A vintage photo of Mazamet in the South of France (image supplied)

Mazamet combines being in the Haute Languedoc Natural Park with having a population of around 18,000 people in the Canton — the town and surrounding areas. That means we’re in a gorgeous valley with green landscapes and mountains everywhere you look, but we’re also a small market town with every type of service one could want. Supermarkets, shops, open markets on Saturday morning, and very charming farmers’ markets through summer and winter. There are restaurants, a cultural centre with a cinema, a museum — we don’t feel isolated or left out in any way.

The market in Mazamet 

The market in Mazamet 

Was it easy enough to settle into a small village?

When I started researching Mazamet, one of the first things that came up was a beautiful bijoux hotel called La Villa de Mazamet — it happened to be owned by a British gay couple, Mark and Peter. I emailed them before we arrived and they were just fabulous. They helped us with everything — gave us the rundown of where to get what and how, and even put us in touch with the people we’ve used to do up the house.

Mike and I are natural outsiders, so I don’t think we’ve ever felt like locals anywhere, but Mazamet is certainly our home. I wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else. I love everything about it.

What makes the South of France a great place to live?

We’re in a very special part of the Southwest. One that’s still very much the ‘real’ thing. We’re also an hour-and-a-half away from the nearest major airport — in Toulouse — that means we’re insulated from mass tourism. We only get visitors who are interested in the bucolic lifestyle a place like Mazamet has to offer. There are beautiful pink and orange sunsets, some of the most beautiful clear starry skies I’ve ever seen, and wonderfully clean air.

The weather is also fantastic. We do get all four seasons, and our autumns are more often than not Indian Summers, which is lovely and my favorite time of year. Between January and March it can get very cold and there can be snow, that’s when we enjoy a nice big brandy by the fire.

What are some of the down-sides of living in the South of France?

The good points are double edged swords. Having to pick someone up at the airport in Toulouse can be a nightmare. There’s often horrendous traffic. We were once stuck in a bumper-to-bumper jam for over three hours.

The winters are colder, longer, and wetter than people imagine. No sitting outside with a gin and tonic in late January. You might get concussion from hail the size of cricket balls.

What hints or tips would you give to someone visiting the South of France?

Avoid the usual tourist traps as they tend to be crowded and overpriced. There are extraordinary gems to be discovered. The brick cathedral in Albi is glorious. The Goya museum in Castres is as small as it is wonderful. The Montagne Noir — the Black Mountain — which I see from my bedroom window is an exceptional bit of entirely un-spoilt nature.

A poster of Mazamet in the South of France (image supplied)

What are some of the things that you’re currently getting excited about?

I’m very excited about finishing the major renovations in our house! If all goes to plan, we’ll be back to having a completely functional house in the next few months.

What are some of the things that you’re currently getting angry about?

Like many, I find the current political climate in the world profoundly depressing.

What are some of your priorities for the remainder of 2018?

After finishing the house, there’ll still be some important landscaping work that needs to be done in the garden, and then I’m going to take a few months off to just relax and enjoy this new life we’ve been trying to put together.

Follow The Pink Agendist on Twitter

A new home Mazamet in the South of France (image supplied)

A new home Mazamet in the South of France (image supplied)

A new home Mazamet in the South of France (image supplied)

A new home Mazamet in the South of France (image supplied)

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43 comments on “Mazamet: Creating a new life in the South of France – Interview with Gareth Johnson for MainlyMale/GTV London

  1. Arkenaten
    July 14, 2018

    Good grief! Have I been reading your blog for so long!
    Where does the time go.
    🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      July 14, 2018

      I know! And yes, I found you 5 or 6 years ago, through Clare Flourish, the Quaker who leans to atheism but won’t admit it 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. clubschadenfreude
    July 14, 2018

    lovely article. I do lust after that poster shown.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      July 14, 2018

      Isn’t the poster great? It’s from 1920. They have one of the originals here at the museum in the centre of town. And that road in the poster still looks exactly the same today; it connects us to the coast and from there either left to Marseille or right to Barcelona 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. inspiredbythedivine1
    July 14, 2018

    I was interviewed by a magazine called, “Almost Indicted” once about an “incident” regarding fire ants and a senior citizens apartment complex. I’ll post it if I can dig it up. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      July 14, 2018

      Which reminds me…! We had a visit from the police recently. That’s something that had never, ever happened to me before. Between answering the intercom and getting to the gate I played a million scenarios in my head. I must have made a mistake in my taxes and they’ve come to arrest me. I drove on an expired license a few years ago and they’ve come to arrest me. And don’t people have to join a gang in jail? Which gang will accept me? Will the white supremacists think I’m sufficiently white? Is there such a thing as a mixed nationality gang?

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Tish Farrell
    July 14, 2018

    V. nice article. Can’t see too many pix of your lovely home.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Diana MacPherson
    July 14, 2018

    Nice article and such a lovely home. Funny about the sitting outside with a brandy in January – as a Canadian, I’d be so happy to wear my Autumn clothes in January instead of a big parka, hat, gloves, scarf, giant boots, etc as I walk briskly to my car in -20C!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      July 14, 2018

      This January we had -7 one night. The thing is in Canada you’re prepared for it. Here it wreaks havoc. I lost a tree and a couple of bushes which weren’t established enough to survive.

      Like

  6. Very nice article, good for you.
    In the article they included a pic of the gray salon and I was looking at the door casings and medallion above the door and I couldn’t help but think how cool that medallion would look painted in a faux marble finish. Like we saw on that Pierre Finklestein website. Painted by a pro I mean.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      July 14, 2018

      I’ve been doing faux marble this week on a table. It came out very well. Much easier than you’d think. Getting the colours right is the biggest thing. I’ll post pics later 🙂

      Like

    • The Pink Agendist
      July 14, 2018

      P.S. that grey is the original paint from when the house was built. That’s why we haven’t changed anything.

      Like

  7. john zande
    July 14, 2018

    Nice!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Robert A. Vella
    July 14, 2018

    Of all the places I’ve visited in my life, southern France is probably my favorite. I have a vivid and cherished memory of a cafe in Old Nice where we ate escargot, drank wine, and hung out with the local folks. There was this old Italian-looking man sitting alone with a bottle of vino, an unusually shaped ceramic crock pot steaming with scampi, and a whole loaf of crusty bread. It sure looked like heaven!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      July 14, 2018

      I’m Mediterranean through and through so I can’t imagine being happy living any other way. The idea of cities and traffic and clocking in and out of an office horrify me.
      Ceramic Provencal crock pot = terrine
      Shallower version = tian
      😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Robert A. Vella
        July 14, 2018

        Cool, thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        July 14, 2018

        P.S. We’re essentially the same tribes from Iberia to Occitania (where I am now) to Italy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Robert A. Vella
        July 14, 2018

        Yes, we are! My Sicilian family settled in the San Francisco Bay Area because the climate is very much Mediterranean. I left California many years ago, but I remember the North Beach district of S.F. as being culturally Italian. Does your family cook paella? I love that dish!

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        July 14, 2018

        I wish… no one in my family cooked at all. Matters of old school Iberian and post-colonial social hierarchy.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Helen Devries
    July 14, 2018

    That was a super photograph of your house from a different angle…it that lime on your property or theirs?

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      July 14, 2018

      All the greenery is on our side. They’re on the boulevard facing us and then their garden is behind their house, so completely hidden from us or anyone else.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Anony Mole
    July 14, 2018

    I’d like to sit on the bench myself. Maybe pass out in the sun from too much late night fiesta making.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Bela Johnson
    July 15, 2018

    Nice interview, well done! You could be a spokesperson for the bureau of tourism, save for the honesty about winter. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      July 15, 2018

      I find a little dose of reality is always a good thing. Have you noticed how often people lean to black and white thinking, as in only positives or only negatives? It’s insane.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. acflory
    July 15, 2018

    Awesome interview, Pinky. Was great seeing it on Twitter too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      July 15, 2018

      I’m trying to learn how to use twitter but it doesn’t come naturally to me. Being forced into a format feels slightly oppressive.

      Like

      • acflory
        July 16, 2018

        lol – I know the feeling! The thing I do like about it though is that it forces me to really think about what I want to communicate. That said, the new 280 character limit is MUCH better.
        Btw did you know you can create a long ‘thread’ of tweets, all linked?
        After you tweet the first tweet, click the speech bubble symbol of your own tweet [not the retweet one].
        A new tweet box will open. Type what you want and tweet.
        Repeat until you’ve said all you want to say.
        When people see one of those tweets there’ll be a message down the bottom, something like ‘see this thread’. Click on it and the whole thread will be displayed.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        July 16, 2018

        I had no idea…

        Like

      • acflory
        July 16, 2018

        ta dah. 😀

        Like

  13. “P.S. that grey is the original paint from when the house was built. That’s why we haven’t changed anything”

    Really? Damn that is some great paint. Doesn’t it kind of make you wonder what is in the paint? Like what is the chemical formula of the paint.

    I’m done with painting for the time being, but after reading and watching Pierre Finkelsteins videos I sure do with I would have seen them before I did the sponge painting. I for sure am going to order some brushes from him though,
    the Chiqueteur brush and his double headed brushes. I’d like to have them for when I have another project, I so worry that when I go to move onto another project then they won’t be for sale. Which typically means I buy 2, in order to have a back up, you know, just in case.
    I love the video on the Chiqueteur page.
    https://www.fauxbrushes.com/MB-9.html

    I wish I had another project that I could do faux marbling on, but I don’t at the moment. I’m sure one day I will though, so I’ll have the brushes on hand. For just regular wall and house painting I buy cheap, but adequate brushes by the dozen and then just throw them away when done. When I finish a painting project I always refill my supplies of rollers and brushes, I hate having to run out and buy a paint roller in order to start a project I keep all different size rollers on hand, I have some really small ones with probably no more than 2 inches. Then you need different ones for a satin coat, or a lacquer coat etc. I always feel satisfied when doing a painting project that I can go into my supplies and what i need I already have on hand. It takes a bit of discipline to restock right away, after all you are done with the project, maybe something wrong with me that I feel a kind of security knowing I am stocked up on painting materials and supplies. Whats with that? But honestly I do, I do get a feeling of comfort knowing I can pull out my supplies and I only ever have to just buy the paint. Painting pan liner trays, I buy those by the dozen as well, I like having stock on hand 🙂

    I wonder what the composition of that paint was on that door frame in the gray salon. That has me curious as heck. What were your primary colors for the faux table? What did you use to vein the faux marble?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      July 15, 2018

      Pre-1950’s lead was very popular!
      For the whole operation I use brushes which I’ve given haircuts to. You can create specialist brushes at home very easily with some sharp scissors. And you can test them along the way to make sure you’re getting the exact effect you’re looking for 🙂

      Like

  14. poshbirdy
    July 24, 2018

    I have a serious case of house envy. It’s absolutely perfect and your styling is immaculate

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on July 14, 2018 by in Mazamet and tagged , , , , , , .
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