Faire Une Promenade

Posted on: June 10th, 2011 by Kay Swatkowski

Sunday afternoons in France were delightful.

Sometimes we would “dejeuner” with friends from church.  A beautiful roast chicken or cassoulet with the ever present baguette would be followed by a simple salad with vinaigrette, a variety of cheese and fresh fruit. When we were certain we could eat no more,  the hostess would offer a slice of apple tarte, a tray of  les petit gateaux (cookies) or a piece of silken chocolate to accompany the strong coffee.

After lunch, everyone, young and old, would leave the house for a Sunday afternoon walk.  In the words of our French friends we were going to “Faire une promenade.”

This walk was not a jog around the block.

The goal was not exercise.

This walk was long and leisurely. Our “promenade” might lead us past village bakeries and flower shops. We might wend our way through a farmer’s market filled with vocal vendors selling local vegetables and offering the catch of the day.

Often, it would end at a neighborhood park where other families walked and talked.

Children ran ahead, laughing and playing. Adults lagged behind, holding hour long conversations with friends and neighbors, stopping here and there to comment on a store window or slowing down to  simply enjoy the green spaces of the parks.

Our Sunday afternoon walks were satisfying. They filled up so many needs of our lives: the need for nature, the need for friends, the need for family, the need for conversation, the need for fun and laughter.

It was probably our Sunday afternoon walks that saved us from gaining weight from the unforgettable French cuisine. But, I believe the French tradition of a Sunday “promenade” was healthy in another more important way.

It kept people, of all ages, engaged in life, engaged in nature and engaged with one another.

A recent UK study has shown that older adults who shop frequently live longer.  The participants in the study didn’t necessarily need to purchase anything to benefit from the “shopping” experience.

There is a lot of speculation on why these shoppers tended to live longer.  Was it because they were healthy enough to continue to get out?  Was it that they were in a better socio-economic group?

Well, I have my own theory.

They lived longer because they had learned how to “faire une promenade.”  These shoppers were staying engaged in life, engaged in environments outside their own home, engaged with other people.

I have learned this is essential to my mental and emotional health. The more engaged I stay (not engaged in frantic activity) in planned, relational and mentally stimulating activities outside the home, the better I am able to cope with the stress of life.

My husband’s work schedule can occasionally leave me alone on a weekend.  When kids and grandkids are busy,  I find that I need to be intentional about staying “engaged.”  Taking myself to dinner, or to a store to walk around or simply to stroll through the neighborhood is good for me in so many ways.  The sense of activity around me cheers me up and gives me a sense of well-being.

How I would love to find a group of friends who would “faire une promenade” with us on Sunday afternoons.  It was a wonderful and enriching experience.

Think About It

1.  Do you ever find yourself feeling “disengaged” from life or friends?

2. When family or friends are busy, how do you take responsibility for keeping yourself engaged in life?

3. Can you establish a ritual that is similar to the Sunday afternoon walk, that routinely gets you out into the world to engage with other people?

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15 Responses

  1. Jenn says:

    Oh this is such an excellent post!!

    It ties in perfectly with the changes we’ve made in our family to get out (daily if possible—usually in the evenings) and exercise as a family. Sometimes it is a walk, sometimes we play ball, sometimes we swim or we bike. Our goal IS exercise…but that has brought about a quality family time I think we were missing for so many years.

    When the kids have activities and the husband is busy, I go for photo walks, as I like to call them. I take pictures of nature and just connect with God’s beautiful creation.

    Loved the post…looking forward to more!! Cheers, Jenn.

    • Jenn, you are doing sooooo many things right for building good health for you and your family!!! That is incredible. We had four kids, and I didn’t do quite so well. I am a late bloomer! :)

  2. Kathy says:

    It is wonderful how you integrated exercise into your life by doing really fun things!! Not only do you get to do fun things, you are building good health in the bargain. Well done.


  3. Word Nerd says:

    What a lovely post and a fabulous tradition! I would LOVE to make a habit of doing just this for all of the reasons you mentioned. Simply being purposely ‘unplugged’ from all things electronic is appealing, let alone the camaraderie of sharing a wonderful meal and an afternoon of gentle activity and pleasant interaction.

    • Oh, I love the unplugged concept. Someone has suggested that we occasionally take an “electronic Sabbath” to give ourselves the opportunity to reconnect with the world! Oh–you have given me another idea! Peace to you….

  4. Margaret says:

    I would love the idea of a leisurely walk anytime…but then again I enjoy sitting on the deck and watching/listening to the birds come and go. A prayer I have now is to connect with some women in my bible study that will come over once a month for lunch. I hope it will turn into a book discussion or an opportunity to know one another better…or maybe a walk!

    • Margaret, thank you for taking the time to come to the site! I hope you find that group of ladies to share some time with you–and maybe a walk. Enjoy your great backyard and the wildlife.

  5. Susan Gaddis says:

    I so enjoyed reading this post as walking is one of my favorite things to do. I broke my foot two years ago and had to have foot surgery. My walking suffered. The leisurely walk became my way of warming up to exercise again.

    We are headed to Finland in August for our son’s wedding, and I am so looking forward to a leisurely walk each day we are in Helsinki and each day we are in the country. Walking is a wonderful way to “feel” the culture of a place.

    Since Sundays are a day full of pastoral duties, Tom and I take a sabbath every Friday. We often enjoy leisurely walking by the coast or in one of the towns nearby. Thursday evenings are a perfect time for a leisurely walk through the Farmer’s Market in downtown San Luis Obispo.

    Thanks for this post. I think I’ll head out for a walk.

    • Kay says:

      Susan, Your walks sound wonderful! Yes, you can feel the culture when you take the time to stroll. I LOVE it. Enjoy your time in Finland. I hope the wedding is wonderful.

  6. Kathi says:

    What a beautiful reminder! Thank you!
    Yes, I have friends I want to share this with!
    Miss you too!

  7. Karen Geiser says:

    Thanks for reminding me of your blog. I really enjoyed the Faire Une Promenade and think a leisurely walk on Sundays with family and/or friends would be great, but maybe when the weather warms up a little.

    I plan to download your book on my tablet tomorrow and look forward to 30 days of prayer for my precious three granddaughters.

    Keep up the good work, Kay and blessings to you for your efforts in encouraging grandmas everywhere. We need it.

    • Karen, thank you so much for your kind words. Your love for your granddaughters is an inspiration to me! I remember you telling me about instant grandma ideas and plan on posting that idea sometime. I hope you are well and I’ll see you soon.

  8. Kaela says:

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