1. The Pyrénées. Of course.
2. Seasons - all different, all defined.
3. The scenery. It always, always, takes my breath away.
4. Lizards. Small, huge, brown, bright green - always there, always curious.
5. The apéro. Breathing time between day and evening, work and play.
6. The night sky. So clear ...
7. Patisserie. Just looking at it is (nearly) enough..
8. Markets. Shopping at its most colourful and convivial; produce from down the road.
9. Wine. Languedoc Roussillon starts less than an hour away from here; some of its wines are up with the best in the world. And some aren't (but en vrac, at a euro a litre, who cares ...).
10. Silence. Absolute.
11. La saison. Summer - a period of time when everyday life stops, and pleasure takes over.
12. Depôts ventes. A cross between junk shop, antiques warehouse and rummage sale; I never tire of rooting around for bargains. I even find one, sometimes.
13. Butterflies. So many different species ... even in February.
14. Bof! An expression as indispensible as it is untranslatable.
15. Geographical diversity. Even across our small department, we range from orchards and wheat fields and pretty country lanes, to plains with expansive views, to rolling pastureland dotted with foothill farms and cows, to steep sided valleys where hamlets cling precariously on south facing slopes, to wide verdant mountain valleys, to rocky peaks, mountain lakes, beech forests ....
16. Shutters. Such a clever invention - they keep your house warm, they keep your house cool, they look wonderful.
17. Cheese. France produces around 1000 different types. I'm getting there, slowly.
18. Sunflowers. A summer cliché, but stunning anyway.
19. Driving. A pleasure, here in France, where roads are uncrowded, French drivers notwithstanding.
20. Architecture. And how it changes as you travel regions, departments and even villages.
21. The two hour lunch closure. Much maligned by some Brits, but not by me.
22. Blue virgins. They're everywhere.
23. Thermalism. So many spas, so little time ..
24. Pétanque, or boules. Not that I'm any good at it ...
25. The smell of wood smoke in winter.
26. Free food. Otherwise known as foraging.
27. The French language.
28. Tradition. Still alive, well, and and celebrated.
29. Bonjour. More than just form, the obligatory greeting of all and sundry in shops/before you do business/when you meet acquaintances/when you arrive at a group of friends is an unmissable - and pleasurable - ritual. People matter, it says.
30. Snow. Look at it, walk in it, ski on it.
31. Space. There's just so much of it - France is well over twice as big as the whole of the United Kingdom, for a similar population; Ariège is one of the least populated departments, with just 28 people per square kilometre.
32. Swimming in lakes and rivers. Beats the sea any day. And I won't even mention pools.
33. Festivals. From folklore to fiesta to funk, and nearly all free.
34. Oh la (la la la la la la la la...). Yes, the French really do say it. Frequently.
35. The Midi sun. Strong enough to sunbathe, and even pick up a tan, in winter.
36. The number of things you can do here with a pig.
37. Simple living.
38. The network of footpaths, both local and national, and the right to roam.
40. Working to live, not living to work.
41. The French obsession with bandes dessinées (comic books, to you and me).
42. Being able to spend so much time, and eat, outside for most of the year.
42. Diversity: of accents, culture, appearance.
43. Body language - the French shrug, facial expressions, hand waving.
44. Things well used, re-used, and recycled. Consumerism doesn't rule, okay?
45. The lack of fashion victim-ness. Nobody cares what brand of trainers I wear; if I choose to wear my aging hippy outfits from the seventies, that's fine (everybody else does).
46. Spain. An hour and a half away: no ferries or planes required.
47. Our potager, and the sheer variety of things we can grow in it.
48. Toulouse: just over an hour away, and all the museums, opera, concerts and big city buzz you could wish for.
49. Organic. C'est normale, here in Ariège.
50. Pastis. There. It's out. I'm addicted to it.