feeling young in France

by Sharon Santoni
When my husband popped to the village shop to buy croissants early on New Year’s day, he bumped into our neighbour, Henri.
They shook hands and wished each other all the best for the year to come, and talked about this and that.  As they parted dear Henri  smiled and said  that  he’d be having a quiet day.  “Oh?” asked my husband, “not under the weather are you?”,  “Non, non, pas du tout”, replied Henri, ” but I was dancing until 4.30 am, my feet are a little sore”  ………..  Henri is 94 years old!
What is Henri’s secret?
There is no doubt that the simple French life, eating good food and enjoying life seems to pay off.    he has worked hard all his life, I’m told he was a “force de la nature” (extremely strong) when young.   He still tends his (huge) garden, grows all his own vegetables, chops his wood, plays cards with friends most afternoons and yes, he loves to dance.
He once told me that he wears trainers to dance in these days because it gives him more spring to his step… and I have heard that he glides around that dance floor.   His wife likes to dance too, but I think she’s finding it hard to keep up.
Henri has girlfriends come and ring at his gate on Sunday afternoons, asking if he’s free to go dancing at the village Guingette (dancing tea salon),  mostly he says yes, but now and  again his wife says that he has to finish his chores first!
All through the month of January Henri and his wife will be sharing the Galette des Rois with their family and friends, Sunday afternoon is a favourite moment of the week for cutting into this delicious almond pastry, seeing who gets to be ‘king’  and wishing each other Bonne Année over a glass of champagne.
One Sunday afternoon as my girls were riding through the village, they noticed that there were gendarmes stopping cars and inviting drivers to blow into a balloon!   Further down the road they met an elderly lady we know, she slowed down the car to chat and the girls told her about the gendarmes.  “Oh merci mes chéries, I just enjoyed a galette and champagne with some girlfriends, I think I’ll take another route home”!!  With that she turned the car around and shot off in the other direction! …   That sweet lady is also over 90.


We are lucky to know these delicious people, among the last of a generation who has seen the village change and grow.  We’d all do well to follow their example!


MyFavoriteFrenchAntiques January 3, 2012 - 12:04 pm

I agree, in France your heart stays young.

Myself, being "over" 50..revealing no more…I delight in seeing women in France not losing their youth.
All ages continue to feel sexy and beautiful…and everyone continues to see them as sexy and beautiful.

The enchanted home January 3, 2012 - 12:16 pm

I love it, just yet one more reason why I am so enamoured with the French, the way they live and look at life. (I am also glad I am half French which means those genes are in my body, lol) They truly are a culture to behold and emulate. Bravo to them for showing us that age really is just a number!

labergerebasque January 3, 2012 - 1:14 pm

I love how the elderly French in my village do not regard age as a barrier but au contraire…
You remind us that we can learn so much from these men and women and their reverence for life. Like the delicious little Pilar in my neck of the woods.

NanaDiana January 3, 2012 - 1:36 pm

How I love elderly people with spunk and a zest for life. We see so many of the other kind here. I think this is just a wonderful tribute to the sweet French spirit- xo Diana

helen tilston January 3, 2012 - 2:05 pm

Hello Sharon

What a delightful post and wonderful to see people, regardless of age, live and enjoy each day. They are what we call "happy hearts" and may 2012 continue to bring all joy
Helen xx

HRH The Duchess of State January 3, 2012 - 2:36 pm

Dahhling what a sweet story! May we all be so blessed…

Anci January 3, 2012 - 2:51 pm

I love to hear about them ! It's always nice to be reminded about people like that.


I Dream Of January 3, 2012 - 4:07 pm

I would love to meet Henri and perhaps go dancing with him! As my dad is starting to slow down now that he's in his 80s, I am particularly interested in what keeps one on their toes as the years pass. I think we could all learn a little something from Henri!

Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita January 3, 2012 - 4:24 pm

I loved this post! My grandmother was exactly the same way until just after her 100th birthday, when she started to slow down. In America, we must learn to be more like the European cultures that value their elders – I think the usefulness of their lives, and being needed adds years to their lives and life to their years!

hostess of the humble bungalow January 3, 2012 - 4:29 pm

It must be the lifestyle that keeps them young…
what a delicious one it sounds like too.

French Girl in Seattle January 3, 2012 - 4:36 pm

Bonjour Sharon. I need to get started and prepare my first Galette des Rois! Thank you for reminding me! Your friend Henri has his priorities right. He knows that time spent having fun with friends is time well spent. What is good for the heart and mind is good for the body too. Longue vie à Henri! Long live Henri! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

CÉLINE CHOLLET January 3, 2012 - 5:09 pm

Merci pour tes vœux, je te souhaite aussi beaucoup de belles découvertes pour 2012 ! Et bien sûr une très bonne santé comme vos vieux amis, quel bel exemple !
À bientôt,

Lorrie January 3, 2012 - 5:26 pm

What charming people live in your village. Staying active and involved with life is the French way. How inspiring is Henri and the 90 year old lady driver. Love this!

Blondie's Journal January 3, 2012 - 5:29 pm

Beautiful post, Sharon! How I envy the French life!


Jayne January 3, 2012 - 5:45 pm

What a wonderful post! I had a smile on my face thinking about Henri – he sounds amazing – and also the elderly lady slowing down her car and resolving to drive a different way home. I think the French phrase joie de vivre sums up how French people look at life – I love it, they certainly know the right way to live.

Kris January 3, 2012 - 6:30 pm

I'll toast to that!! Life is to be enjoyed and enjoyed with others! Thanks for making me smile today!

Ainosofia January 3, 2012 - 6:48 pm


dragonlane January 3, 2012 - 7:36 pm

Oh I loved this post. Thank you for these stories.

Diane James Home January 3, 2012 - 8:06 pm

I love starting my new year with an inspiration like Henri and another wonderful post from you! I was just ordering my galette from a great French pastry shop and my boys are so excited to dig in – our tradition is to take down the tree then have a treat. I like the idea of a little champagne too… Cheers to the New Year,

Teacup-In-The-Garden January 3, 2012 - 8:24 pm

What a nice post! Let's do it the same way!

Linda Carswell January 3, 2012 - 10:18 pm

I giggled about the dancing Henri!!! This is what I love about France, it's not just about pretty houses, great food and beautiful country side, it is also about these sort of stories….love it!!

Your blog is a dream, I look forward to each and every new post.

Mel's Designs...'n Harmony January 3, 2012 - 10:58 pm

Positive posts about living life…….so right! Thanks for sharing this ….Mel

Anonymous January 3, 2012 - 11:04 pm

What an awesome post 🙂

Fitting for the new year blues, as well. I really enjoy this blog. Thanks so much, Miss Sharon.


The French Table January 4, 2012 - 6:03 am

Hello, I'm visiting for the first time and I am enchanted by your post. It reminds me how charming French people are, which is why when people tell me the french are rude, that is such a foreign concept to me. Thanks for making me think of the lovely times in Paris.

Parisienne Farmgirl January 4, 2012 - 6:37 am

This comment has been removed by the author.

Parisienne Farmgirl January 4, 2012 - 6:39 am

Sorry – I had a nasty typo…
I just wanted to say Merci,merci, merci! I don't know what is up but I am getting a lot of traffic from you this week and that means alot to me as we just launched our magazine!
OH I LOVED this post – Sadly, I find that even my friends act older than Henri and his friends… too stressé for people so young. No joy in the daily celebrations of life!
Bonne Année mon amie!
the Parisienne Farmgirl and her Giveaway Fantastique
Parisienne Farmgirl Magazine

Jill January 4, 2012 - 9:59 am

What a lovely post, you are so right this generation has been through so much but still try and live life to the full, my Mother & Father are the same love going to the theatre in London etc and dancing on Saturday.
Have a lovely week and enjoy the cake!

Cathi January 4, 2012 - 4:18 pm

Now that is how to live! Wonderful stories about your friends! Happy New Year! xxoo

hopflower January 4, 2012 - 4:41 pm

Yes, the key to staying young is staying active. Lounging around too much and using automation is a quick trip to ruin. Here, all we hear about is how old we are getting and the focus is on taking it easy. It is funny, I never think about my age; but many others do. Good post.

Paisley Curtain January 4, 2012 - 6:19 pm

I hope to be enjoying life like your neighbor in my mature years and taking care of the chores my wife asks me to finish. Thanks for sharing these wonderful people with us.

Amy January 4, 2012 - 6:28 pm

Happy New Year and what a wonderful story, Sharon!

My neighbor, Ethel, is 92 years old. She runs circles around me most days with her wit, her ideas, her insight and her plans for her garden (which, of course, involve some 'help" from me!)

There's much to learn from these wonderful elders. We're so blessed to have them near us!

Robynne's Nest January 6, 2012 - 4:44 pm

What a wonderful story Sharon, you are so lucky to live in such a village and meet these characters! Just keep doing what they do and you too will be dancing in your 90's! Robx


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