Sustainable living in the community of Saorge France and what we can learn.

“Never doubt that a  small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world:  indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”   Margaret Atwood. 

The place where villagers used to do their laundry – now a perfect little plunge pool for local children on hot summer days….. 20-11-15-1-596My recent visit to Saorge got me thinking about what sustainability really means.     Only a one hour forty minute flight from the madness of London Gatwick Aiport, and then a drive or train ride up into the mountains from Nice, it feels like a very different world.

It’s a little like leaving a room where the tv is on full blast, the washing machine and dryer are buzzing away, phones are ringing, and then all of a sudden it’s all turned off!     Instead, natural sounds…the river, birds, trees and so on……..

Cars are parked at both ends of the Village – allowing for quiet, fume free living in the Village. 

20-11-15-1-639In 1946, the year I was born, there were approximately 2 billion people on the planet.  Today there are approx 7 1/2 billion…with estimated figures for 2050 of between 8.3 and 10.9 billion!

Given that a large percentage of the human population has moved to urban centres, is it any wonder that it all feels so crowded and out of control.       Then there are the cars, buses, trains, planes and so on……

Anyway, we can talk about the statistics until we are blue in the face, the question is – what can we do as individuals and communities to make real change.

Hanging out the laundry in Saorge….20-11-15-1-590For many hanging out the laundry is something that was done in the dark ages…and in fact there are places where it is banned!   I suppose it spoils the view……

I realise we need appropriate weather, but why not do this when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing.   There’s nothing quite so lovely as sleeping on air dried sheets.

Abandoned olive terraces grow throughout the valley. 20-11-15-1-600Here are two examples of how this community works together for the good of all.    

Each year, some of the locals pick and press olives from abandoned olive terraces.   After keeping the pulp to make tapenade and other products, they distribute the oil free to many of the older residents.

Each day the children from the primary school walk to the old people’s home and join them for lunch and the singing of songs.       A simple formula that can benefit and change lives.

The yellow building standing on its own is the Primary School…..

348sWe need to wake up – There are 65 million displaced persons roaming our planet today.

Of course there are many complex reasons why this is happening, one of which is climate change.       Some parts of the world are devoid of water and no longer able to grow life sustaining crops.

Looking down onto the Le Monistaire – a place that hosts writers and other creatives – a place that has been self sustainable for several centuries. . phbd01-0808Saorge, like all French communities has The Mairie – which is responsible for all civic amenities.    This includes sewage treatment, water supply and the general upkeep of the Village.

The water comes from a source high in the mountains above Saorge and after treatment is piped into individual properties.     The Mairie charges each household a fixed amount per annum for these services.


Having grown up in the English countryside during a time when we knew how to conserve water, grow our own fruit and vegetables, hang the laundry out, not build on flood plains, take natural exercise in the normal course of a day – it seems to me that we have forgotten so much.

Creative thinking needs to come into play…

I will be giving a workshop in London next Wednesday for SOFAP – Fulham/Hammersmith Art Society, where we will explore the shapes and rhythms of Saorge and the surrounding landscape.     I will share these images at a later date. 

Meanwhile, I leave you with colour and magical hummingbirds – a glimpse into the ‘unseen world’ – watercolour/gouache


A Bientôt.



52 thoughts on “Sustainable living in the community of Saorge France and what we can learn.

      1. janetweightreed10 Post author

        I will be thinking of you. Well, ironically Suzy and Chris are now based in Malaysia…(Chris’s work) and of course Suzy has the house in SW France where she will be staying as well. It’s been a huge rift for her…..but such is life. They still have the safari place in SA and so one of these days it is my hope that Suzy and I will go there for a painting period together. It is a place I would love to visit…. You and Pat have a wonderful time…you will be very much in my thoughts….Janet. xxx

  1. Tish Farrell

    Indeed a wonderful post, and I agree with everything you say. Saorge looks blissful, but this all takes commitment, organisation and intention by the community. A very beautiful image to end. All good luck with the workshop. I wish I was nearer!

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning Tish, You are so right….this kind of living does take commitment and organisation by a community. If we could only bring that sort of commitment into our communities, small or larger, little by little we could make positive changes. I am looking forward to the workshop, where we will explore the shapes and rhythms of the Village and surrounding landscape to Saorge….should be fun. Hope you are enjoying a lovely weekend..janet:)

  2. Timi Townsend

    A very thought-provoking post. Thank you, Janet. And great photos, plus a glorious magical hummingbird painting! Have a wonderful, productive time at your workshop. I look forward to seeing some of the results! 🙂

  3. Teagan Geneviene

    Dear Janet, this is a powerful post. It’s so noisy where I live; you’ve made this place sound heavenly. The photos are beautiful. Thank you for rounding it out with another lovely magical hummingbird. Mega hugs.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning Teagan…Sometimes we need to leave where we are to discover that life can be very different. I have always been aware of this and hope that i live long enough to end my days in a place such as Saorge. There’s nothing quite like the sounds of nature…..Hope the renovations on your building are not driving you completely potty:) Janet. xxx

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning. Spending time in other places where the lifestyle is totally different is a good thing to do…..Our eyes are opened to new possibilities, or ‘old possibilities’ that we have forgotten! Thank you so much for your comment…hope you are enjoying a lovely weekend….Janet:)

  4. First Night Design

    Magical photos, Janet. Wish I could get to your SOFAP talk. Once upon a time it would have been a hop and a skip to get there as we lived in Fulham before Sheen. Atwood’s quote is more apt than ever and to be repeated ad infinitum! Keep smiling. xx 😀

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning Sarah..Do hope you weren’t effected by the storm last night. Yes, it would be lovely if you could join me at a workshop one of these days…maybe I will organise something on the Isle of Wight:) Meanwhile, keep smiling:) Janet. xx

      1. First Night Design

        The hail at one point was phenomenally loud on my kitchen skylight windows and frightened the life out of me when it started! Other than the cover blowing off my mobility scooter, everything’s fine down here. I would love you to be able to arrange something down here. There;s a large art community in this part of the Island and a variety of professional artists all over so you would go down extremely well. And, of course, you can stay with me. I’m smiling as ever and hope you are too. 🙂 xx

      2. janetweightreed10 Post author

        Glad to hear you survived….I can imagine how awful the hail must have sounded. I think probably a good plan would be for me to come and visit you in the spring…take a look around, and then hopefully organise something after that….meanwhile enjoy what is a definite stay indoors day.xx

  5. Mary

    Beautiful images, but your post is quite thought provoking with some sobering considerations. It’s wonderful to see the quiet village, amazing views and your gorgeous artwork ~

  6. snowbird

    I too totally agree with you. Each individual must take personal responsibility for how they live and try to walk a little lighter, even if this is just turning off lights and recycling. What a fabulous place, I could see you living there quite

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning Dina….I know that you are on the same page…..and yes it’s up to each and every one of us to do our bit. I definitely plan to return to this place many more times, and yes, I could see myself quite happily ending up there. Hope you are enjoying a lovely weekend…Janet:)xxx

  7. ourfrenchoasis

    What a great post and a reminder of how we should all live. When we were in Florida for a while, I blithely hung out my laundry on a makeshift line and received a curt letter from the Home Owners Association telling me that I could not hang laundry outside! I love watching sheets flapping in the wind but it seems it is an eyesore, we were forced to use the dryer. Needless to say, now we are back in France, the washing goes on the line, weather permitting!

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning. I have been thinking about you a lot, and will be visiting your blog today. Yes, I do know about communities where hanging laundry is considered to be awful! — I don’t know whether to laugh or cry:)!…. Like you – I enjoy seeing clean laundry flapping about in the breeze. Do hope you are enjoying a lovely and creative weekend….janet.xx

  8. phoartetry

    Janet your posts are always inspiring and thought provoking. Today, it seems life is too chaotic, and I don’t see it becoming any less chaotic, especially for the younger generation. It’s unfortunate.

    Thank you for sharing your travels with us Janet, very much appreciated. Enjoy your workshop your holding, sounds wonderful.

    “Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel’s immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad new sights, smells and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believe to be the right and only way.” – Ralph Crawshaw

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning, and thank you so much for this wonderful Ralph Crawshaw quote. So very true.
      Travelling opens our eyes and hopefully hearts. I feel very grateful to be of the generation that knows how to live without all the gismos and technology that we are all tied to today. This allows freedom to enjoy and explore both aspects of living, however young people only know the technological way….and as I look around me see them being more trapped every day, which is heartbreaking. Having said that there are millions of younger people who are also moving away from all things technical…

      Hope you are enjoying a lovely weekend…janet:)

  9. olganm

    What an amazing place! It seems you’ve found paradise. My Dad comes from a very small place, but the few neighbours get on badly. It’s a matter of spirit and attitude…I must keep improving my French because I must visit. I’m sure your workshop was fabulous too. Have a great weekend.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning, Olga – There’s no questions that attitude, commitment, etc. are key for a community to work well together. There will always be those who give more than others, but ultimately – it seems to me that the more manageable life is….and the less we are tied to all things technical – we are able to blend the old with the new.
      yes, it would be lovely if you could attend a workshop one of these days….it will happen when the timing is right. Meanwhile hope you are enjoying a lovely weekend…janet. x

  10. Jet Eliot

    Such a lovely tribute to the innovative folks in Saorge, and your photos of this gorgeous area wonderful. I really appreciate your words on population and sustainability, Janet. I hope your workshop is a joy and success, and look forward to hearing more about it. And your hummingbird painting is so very bright and spirited. I love the bird image with wings outstretched, facing the heavens. Your paintings are so inspiring.

  11. inesephoto

    Your Unseen World image is stunning. When I look at it I know that we are One, and each element of the One is precious. Sustainable living is when we are mindful of each other and the world around us. Saorge is such a beautiful example of a human community.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning….Yes Saorge is a wonderful example of what sustainable living can be. I trust more and more in the unseen element of our beautiful world and that ‘none of us is ever creative enough to know how things will actually turn out….’ a beautiful and freeing concept. have a lovely day and weekend ahead. janet. x


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