taking your time – the french way

by Sharon Santoni

breakfast table set in front of magnolia

One of the comments that I hear the most often from visitors here, is “in France you know how to take your time”.   I always smile, and I sometimes mumble something about illusions, while in the back of my mind I can feel the weight of my to-do list ….. but sometimes I know that they are right.

It probably has something to do with living in the country,  but actually I think a lot of our attitude to time is linked to our attitude to food, and where we place eating in our scale of priorities.

breakfast table set in front of magnolia

In France it is a given that the best quality food is available from the weekly or bi-weekly farmers market.  This means making yourself available during that specific morning, getting yourself into town, and taking the time to walk around the market, choosing the best looking produce and of course having a quick chat to the vendors as you go.  It is longer than filling up a trolley in a supermarket, or ordering a delivery on your ipad, but its also a different and richer experience.

breakfast table set in front of magnolia

Once home, fresh produce takes longer to prepare than fast food or frozen food.  Pretty obvious I think, but it belies a completely different attitude to what we put in our plates.   As a Frenchman once explained to me, as a group of our friends shared an aperitif in his kitchen before dinner “preparing food is like making love, the more time you take, the better it will be”.

And may be that is the secret, it is the mindset, and the priorities … which means that if we put our minds to it, we can all manage to make a little more time, or at least feel like we do.

breakfast table set in front of magnolia

So how about starting with breakfast?    Making the time to lay a lovely table, popping out to get a few fresh croissants, or squeezing some oranges.   Sitting down to the table without a phone or an ipad, and enjoy some good conversation about the day ahead.  So what if it means starting the day half an hour earlier, it will be half an hour well spent, that will change the way we use the rest of the day.

breakfast table set in front of magnolia

PS  Gibson and Ghetto have been putting this philosophy into practice for years, and they never seem to be under the pressure of time!


Taste of France April 5, 2016 - 1:23 pm

While our child was in elementary school, we had a leisurely family lunch every day–a two-hour break (or longer) is common in the Midi. With the school bus now at 7 a.m., croissants are only for the weekend. But we do take our time at dinner.

Esther George April 5, 2016 - 2:05 pm

Hi Sharon, my favourite time of the day is the morning and my first coffee, this started when I was working I had to travel by train for 1 hour to get to work and I always made sure I got there 1/2 hour early so I could get my coffee and toast or Crossant to go, on a nice day I sat out in the courtyard somehow it started the day less stressful, lunch was more on the go. I still like starting my day earlier than the rest of the family only it’s a bit more quiet these days, just the sound of birds. The pictures are absolutely beautiful I’m hoping my Magnolias will look like that some day. Love Gibson and Ghetto. Thank you for sharing beauty. Till next time, regards Esther from Sydney. PS the croissants are not as nice in suburbia, the ones in the city were from a Swiss Deli.

Charmaine April 5, 2016 - 2:44 pm

I love the slow market food and slow dining in France. Al fresoe eating is wonderful. Shopping malls are impersonal and tiring as we get older. We need to slow down and smell the daisies. P.s I love the Magnolia tree!

SOPHIE April 5, 2016 - 2:45 pm

Quel rêve de petit déjeuner!
je prends aussi mon temps pour ce moment précieux !
douce journée
bises du sud de la France


S Bloomer April 5, 2016 - 2:49 pm

Your tree would be all the breakfast I would ever need to get my day off to a fantastic start !

Marika April 5, 2016 - 2:49 pm

Beautiful!!! What kind of coffee pot is the one in the photo?

Karena April 5, 2016 - 4:13 pm

a French Press

Corrina Tough April 5, 2016 - 2:50 pm

totally agree Sharon, our village market is well renowned and people come from distances to visit. For me I even make sure I look semi decent and feel like it is a morning out- I always see at least 6 or more people I know and most weeks end up in the village square for a tea and watch the world go by. Also I love being inspired by the produce- sometimes my menu changes if I see something really good. xx

Our French Oasis April 5, 2016 - 3:15 pm

It is one of the very best parts of the day for me, taking time to cook in the evening and all of us sitting down and eating together, no matter what the pressures of homework are for the children, or sports training, we always sit down together and we chat about the day, we laugh, we discuss, we sort out problems, it’s a very important part of family life, it connects us all. In the summer we will eat outside which just heightens the sense of luxury, during holidays and weekends we will also all eat lunch together en famille, indoors or outdoors weather permitting. Many times friends join us. Taking time will be time well spent.

Jenny April 5, 2016 - 3:23 pm

When we first moved to the Luberon, I remember my feelings of absolute disbelief when I found that the shops closed around midday, usually for at least two hours. How could this be???? Didn’t they understand my routine???? Now I’ve come to admire the French determination to continue with life in their country, their way, and long, looooong lunches have become our way of life too.

Kuniko D April 5, 2016 - 3:47 pm

I am jealous that you live in the Luberon, though I am enjoying my life in Singapore.
We’ll be here for 3-5 years having moved from Atlanta, GA area. I got to visit south of France for my 50th birthday the summer I moved here. The hill towns were beautiful. That was a crazy summer to remember..

Claudia April 5, 2016 - 4:34 pm

Hi Jenny,

I also have a house in the Luberon near Bonnieux but still spend most of the
time in Canada and summer months in Truro Cape Cod where I have a summer
home. Maybe you live not to far from my place in Bonnieux and we could meet for a ☕️ the next time I will be in the Luberon.

Alice April 5, 2016 - 3:37 pm

I love the sweet puppies, the magnolia tree in full bloom, the french press of coffee and the croissants. Now I’ll be duplicating your setting, the best I can, on my back porch that overlooks the pond. Here in Colorado, Spring comes slowly as the Rocky Mountains are right at my back doors, and affect the weather, sometimes in a negative kind of way. So sitting on the porch with a heater going will allow us to enjoy our breakfast outdoors.

Karena April 5, 2016 - 4:07 pm

The way of life, shopping, and eating in France is a true lesson for Americans. The fast food life on the run is a huge source of the obesity, stress, and other health epidemics rampant in the states. It is really sad.

The Arts by Karena

Martine April 5, 2016 - 4:18 pm

I LOVE the idea of this, but after 15 years of summers spent in the Sud, (when things REALLY slow down) I discovered that reality is a bit different for my busy French friends. Croissants are for guests, breakfast is normally a piece of last night’s baguette with some butter and confiture, along with a big mug (yes a mug, not a bowl) of coffee. Yes, they go to the markets, (most often when they are expecting guests for àpero and they want to offer saussicon and olives, etc.) but they also shop at the local super marché for the normal family shopping. The person who does much of the cooking is “Madam” Picard….a real favorite! When they come to my house for dinner, of course I have had the time to prepare everything from scratch (I’m on vacation after all!) and they are always impressed that I have bothered to make dessert…why make it when you have the bakery? And I can’t tell you how shocked I was when one of the guys sheepishly admitted to lunch at McDo on a regular basis. “it’s good, and fast” he shrugged. bubble burst.

LA CONTESSA April 5, 2016 - 4:42 pm


Pat April 5, 2016 - 5:08 pm

Your comments about food and prep are so right on…I am excited for our farmers markets to open here in central VA…the rest of the year it is a sad grocery store though I try to buy organic as much as possible. Evoke is just lovely, BTW, thanks for the share.

Carole Shiles April 5, 2016 - 7:45 pm

I,too, are in VA and holding my breath that farmer’s markets will be here after this week of freezing nights. Although, I would much rather shop French markets.

Margie April 5, 2016 - 5:19 pm

Good to see Ghetto & Gibson. Haven’t seen them in a while!

Jodi Higgins April 5, 2016 - 5:24 pm

I look forward to you posts and especially the pictures. Here in central Canada we just had a big snowstorm. It’s rare in April but can happen. We’re awaiting spring anxiously. Your scene of your magnolia tree in full bloom and fresh croissants and jam with coffee and fresh juice invites me to visit France again. We spent a wonderful week walking and eating in Paris last fall. Thank you for sharing. I’m sitting at a cafe in Toronto where my husband and I come often. We sip a large mug of coffee, savour their delicious homemade muffin and read the paper leisurely. We often meet interesting people. Your version of market day sounds even better.

Wendi Yates April 5, 2016 - 5:26 pm

Gibson and Ghetto look already to enjoy un petit dejeuner delicieux! (excusez-moi, my accents on my keyboard have given up the ghost!) Sunday morning is my downtime. On Saturday, I have fantastic croissants, pain au chocolat, scones, danish and a variety of artisinal breads here at my store along with Montreal-style wood-fire oven bagels so invariably there is some morsel leftover for the shopkeeper. I linger over my morning tea and either read the newspaper or have a magazine that I have carefully saved. In the summer I sit out on my deck enjoying my garden and in the winter, I am in my livingroom ensconced on my love seat….soft jazz or maybe a bit of classical music in the background as I let out a long, well-deserved sigh……

Maywyn April 5, 2016 - 5:49 pm

Beautiful post and photographs, thank you

The dogwood tree is stunning! Hours spent admiring the blooms is time well spent. There is nothing that can recreate such beauty. It is a tree that would be a wonderful large photograph.

Juli April 5, 2016 - 6:37 pm

Hi Sharon
It’s been wonderful reading from you today. absolutely beautiful pictures, and love the two heads under the trees, yes they know everything that goes around their home and their family lives haha. Yup, the weather is beautiful now in France. Am going to be there second week of April. Just cannot wait to be in France. If it is France it is a YES!

bonnie groves poppe April 5, 2016 - 8:02 pm

Oh my, your magnolia! And those two rascals, Ghetto at the table. How do you get them to do that? Mine would be standing on it! I too live in France, but the South, and the slow lunch is very much alive here. I just spent a few days visiting friends on the Golfe de Morbihan in Bretagne, and I took them to a Michelin star restaurant in Vannes. What a treat, no rushing there. Your photos and arrangements are always a real treat, thanks.
bonnie in provence

suzana borlovan April 5, 2016 - 9:30 pm

Sharon I just realised why I loathe grocery shopping so much and have convinced hubby to do it! It’s the impersonal feel, the empty faces staring at full shelves of pre packaged goods, that make me shiver at the thought.
Give me a fresh farmers market any day, where you meet all manner of personalities, and some friends along the way too, to have the chance to discuss meal ideas is also a great bonus. x

Marilyn April 5, 2016 - 9:32 pm


Mumbai April 5, 2016 - 10:55 pm

I definitely stick to Gibson and Ghetto.

DeAnna April 5, 2016 - 11:19 pm

So beautiful Sharon! I was immediately drawn in by the soft colors of your table setting underneath that beautiful tree. Is the tree a Tulip Magnolia?

I love seeing photos of Ghetto and Gibson. They’re such cute dogs and always make me smile.

We’re lucky to have farmers markets near us here in California and we go weekly. Yes, when we get home, we still have to clean and sort the food for the week, but the fresh ingredients are so worth the little extra time. It’s great to meet our local growers too. We go to grocery stores, bakeries and specialty food stores for other things we may need.

Atelier de Campagne is about an hour from where I live. I’ve purchased from them and they have fabulous pieces! So great to see their company mentioned in your previous post.

Vicky April 6, 2016 - 2:40 am

Sharon, I so enjoyed this post!! Believe it or not we have a French bakery right here in little old Athens, GA. Sometimes I go there in the morning around 7 after walking the dog. I’ll get a croissant or pain au chocolat (or both!), take it home and sit with a big mug of coffee, some orange marmalade (your recipe, btw!) and pretend I’m in France for a little while. It doesn’t happen often but when it does it feels so . . . French! The slow down is magic. Thanks for reminding how necessary it is!

Marla April 6, 2016 - 5:30 am

Oh so gorgeous. SENSATIONAL photo and thank you for reminding me to eat fresh.

Sally April 6, 2016 - 5:31 pm

It’s so important to slow down and enjoy what is around us. I’m having my morning coffee in the library looking at the garden. Sharon, your tree is magnificent, love the table arrangement, and it is so fun to see G&G.

Niccy April 6, 2016 - 10:27 pm

Magnifique, le petit-déjeuner sous les magnolias. Merci de nous faire rêver par vos photos et publications.
Simplement domage que la France est entrain de “tout casser” avec l’industrialisation et le manque de dynamisme. Le “m’en-foutisme” a pris trop d’ampleur malheureusement. Beaucoup de gens ne connaissent plus que les produits achetés dans les super et hypermarchés. Une part de la culture Francaise est entrain de disparaitre.

botanic bleu April 6, 2016 - 10:47 pm

Your photos have inspired me to dine on the deck this week while the weather is heavenly. Soon the temperatures will rise, rise, rise and become unbearable outside. Yes, I will be taking my time the French way this week.


Madeleine April 7, 2016 - 4:36 am

Gorgeous pictures as always, Sharon. Thank you! I cannot look at your dogs without smiling.

I live in a large town in Australia where we have farmer’s markets twice a month (not enough!) and a general markets that includes some food once a month. These weekend markets are a lovely opportunity to buy fresh produce, catch up with friends and just enjoy the weekend slowly.

We are lucky to have an organic/local food shop open 3 days a week, and believe it or not I have actually organised my clients so that I can make it to the shop for produce – even if it means turning a client away sometimes! Yes, good food is that important, and I love chatting to the women who run the shop. If they sold dog food and toilet paper you would never find me in a supermarket again!


Pip April 7, 2016 - 5:58 am

I have one of these trees in my garden too and they’re just gorgeous. Pretty pictures. I so envy you going into spring…we are heading into winter down under.
Just beautiful pictures – I must check out your guest cottage for next time I’m up in France!

Stacy April 7, 2016 - 6:32 pm

My mom was big on the Sunday meal complete with a roast and all the trimmings at midday. As a youngster I scoffed at the idea, it seemed such a waste of time and as a young adult and young mother who had the time?? But now, as a member of the over 40 age group, its all about reinvention and taking stock of ways to improve on my lifestyle and doing a big meal on a Sunday afternon or a brunch complete with homemade muffins on a leisurely Sunday morning is a great way to relax and unwind with the family. In our family special occasions are often celebrated with barbeques and dinner parties or visits as a group to a favorite dining establishment. Its all about taking time and handing down a beautiful legacy to the children. When my teenage daughter said to me that she would never give up her memories of holidays and vacations with the family, it was about the best compliment I coud have ever gotten. “You did it right mom!” she said and I said “you can thank me by doing it for your own someday.”

Sandy @ You May Be Wandering April 8, 2016 - 1:52 pm

Such a lovely post and a reminder to slow down a bit and enjoy like! Bon weekend!!

The Enchanted Home April 9, 2016 - 1:56 pm

Sharon these pictures are amazing!!!! Had to pin some:) And yes one of the many things I have always admired about the French…is their ability to savor the moment. They do not always appear to be one foot onto the next appt the way us busy bee Americans are (not a good thing).
Last time we were in Paris I remember sitting in Angelina for a late breakfast and observing…..I loved how people greeted one another, loved how I did not see one cell phone, or one person staring at their phone and mostly observed how long each table sat there…a long time. It was inspiring for me to see…..your pictures capture that beautifully!

Mary April 10, 2016 - 1:12 am

Such tempting photos. I am longing for our Guernsey weather to warm up just a tad more so that I can enjoy breakfast in the garden or on the beach. A leisurely breakfast outdoors on warm day is up there as one of the best perks of being retired!

Helen Tilston April 10, 2016 - 11:08 pm

Hello Sharon,
A beautiful reminder for all of us to show down some. Your garden shot of the dogs is spectacular.

Hope your week is very special

Helen xx

Mrs. Shockley April 25, 2016 - 7:32 pm

I really enjoyed this post! Wonderful!!!

david terry June 14, 2019 - 12:50 am

Oh, I amusedly/fondly recall the years when my French in-laws from Tours would visit us in North Carolina. My mother=in-law (they visited for a month every year, for years) occasionally proposed throwing a Sunday lunch for folks.. She’s a fairly accomplished cook, and there were certainly enough “things” to set a big table out on the courtyard.

That sad?..I distinctly recall her being taken aback when, at a lunch (scheduled to begin at noon or 1 in the afternoon) she had carefully prepared and intended to entertain and please my friends (all in at least their forties….these weren’t adolescents)?….one of or more couples, or perhaps one of my single friends (invariably a single female intent on COMPLETELY booking every minute of dangerously “free” time) would simply announce “Oh, this is so GREAT! Thank you! How great to have a French lunch….and still have time to get to the gym by 2!”. They were always giddy with delight over having lunch, but somehow always made it clear that they had other plans for the remainder of the afternoon or the early evening (walk the dog, meet some unknown girlfriend for an early Sunday night dinner, etcetera). My MIL was appalled, and I usually found myself explaining that they were well-dressed, intelligent, pleasantly mannered, but HARRIED yuppies who worked at either Duke or in the Big Pharma/Tech companies in the area…….and that none of them seemed to have ever had the time to even begin to learn how to slow down, much less actually do it.. She (and she’s from the pleasant , rural suburbs of prosperous Tours) eventually resigned herself to sighing “Oh, they are as bad as Parisians are these days……”

i also recall (and she’s quite reasonably fluent in English) being pleased to send her a copy of the Russell Crowe film “A Good Year”……….which more than proved her point, obviously.

Thanks for the evocative postinng,

David Terry
Quail Roost Farm
Rougemont, NC


Leave a Comment