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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Frugal in France: Carrot Lady and Community

There is a famous book--A Pattern Language--that proposes ways to structure environments for comfort and utility. I haven't read it in a while, but I remember that the authors suggested that elders be housed in small cottages in areas with foot traffic. Each cottage would have a bench outside, so the elders could watch the world go by and chat with people.

Could such a dream be realized in the USA? I have been observing both my parents and parents-in-law and am trying to figure out what kind of old age I hope to have. The little French town in which I have been residing offers elders plenty of opportunity to remain part of the community. First, a bakery and small grocery are within walking distance of most places. I see many elders with canes going to get their daily--or twice-daily--baguette.

The carrot lady whose grocery purchases I wrote about a few days ago is a case in point. She was quite vivacious and used the slowdown at the register to initiate a discussion of what shops would be open on Bastille Day. We saw her talk to several people on her way home--just a few steps from the grocery.

I think her total purchases came to under 3 euros. Mr FS and I surmised that she goes to the grocery every day in order to have some social interaction. Since houses are close together here--many sharing walls--it is easy to interact with neighbors of all ages.

My dream is to live in a walkable city with public transport. Is there any place in the USA that offers that?

10 comments:

Marcela said...

That's my dream too, I hate driving, and I love walking.
I remember my grandmother (in Cordoba, Argentina) going to get her daily bread and a few other things, just to chat with the grocer, and how the grocer would watch her from her shop to make sure that she made it home safely. I want that too.

Duchesse said...

I have it here, in Montreal. (I know it is not US but it *is* in North America.) I read today that all the notions current urban planners have about what makes a liveable community were implemented here between 1880 and 1920.

When I chose this neighbourhood, what you describe is exactly what I sought.

SewingLibrarian said...

I would love to find a community like that. Southern California is definitely not it. I read A Pattern Language a long time ago. Much of its advice has stayed with me. We lived for 10 years in a town of 8,000-10,000, the ideal size according to the book. It was a great place to live! But not quite as walker-friendly as the French town you were in.
Welcome home!

Funny about Money said...

Portland?

Nora Hardy said...

In Ithaca NY you can live on a residential street but walk to organic grocery, downtown Commons, etc. A small city (home of Cornell Univ., Cayuga Lake, and lots of interesting people of all ages). We love it and look forward to a great retirement here. Housing costs are high, but so is qualiy of life. Downside=winters are long, Nov to March.

Nora Hardy said...

In Ithaca NY you can live on a residential street but walk to organic grocery, downtown Commons, etc. A small city (home of Cornell Univ., Cayuga Lake, and lots of interesting people of all ages). We love it and look forward to a great retirement here. Housing costs are high, but so is qualiy of life. Downside=winters are long, Nov to March.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Nora--Thanks for commenting on this old post! I have friends who live part of the year in Ithaca--they said it's like Paradise.

Atlantic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Atlantic said...

I love A Pattern Language.

The responses are interesting but I think a grocery store in walking distance is not the same thing as a village culture. If one walks to the store but does not have meaningful interactions along the way, or at the store, or a place to sit and see neighbours equally interested in stopping to chat, one cannot recreate this.

I have not investigated the options but have only encountered one place in the US that somewhat approximates this that I know of. But it is a small island, accessible only by a relatively infrequent ferry, with one tiny shop run by the 88 year old postmistress, a one room school house and a tradition for a fair chunk of the island to go to the store at ferry times to see who is coming and going. One key component appears to be that people stay for decades or generations.

I suspect there are small communities in Vermont etc that might be like this too. But villages of 8-10K don't have great jobs for young people.

Liamsmom2 said...

Hi FS, Parts of Boston and nearby towns (Brookline) are walkable and have good transport. The downside is that real estate ranges from pricey to very pricey.