You’ve got to be kidding me.
That’s how I felt when we pulled into the drive of Michael’s friend’s house in the south of France. Originally I was a little bit sad that we were going to be there for such a short amount of time. I wanted to stop in Aix en Provence, I wanted to buy lavender and do all the other things I was told we could do there. I really didn’t want to be stuck in a house full of people I didn’t know with no real means of escape.
What a fool I was. This beautiful home is outside of a tiny town called Forcalquier and it is a dream. In fact…I’m pretty sure I dreamed the entire 48 hours we were there. Let me take the time to describe it fully. It’s worth it. It’s the kind of magic I don’t get to experience often, which sounds so sad (!), but really that fact just set our time spent there in relief so I could fully appreciate and enjoy it more.
The House—what a house. There was nothing pretentious about it. It was not ‘done up’ like some Ian Schrager hotel in Dubai. It was simple, clean, airy, tasteful and above all elegant. It was the kind of house that comes alive with food, people and bustling activity. It had a rustic feel to it, but rustic like a country retreat. Everything was white, with wood beam accents and lots and lots of linen and lavender. The furniture was all mostly found at French road side sales, but not in even a slightly junky way, in a very romantic and sophisticated way. The house was situated and appointed in such a way that it could catch the breezes that rippled through the valley for you.
On the first floor starting from the left and moving to the right there was a small garage that housed a lot of modern water and electric situations, then there was a big studio that was used as a bedroom while we were there. Up a half a flight of stars was a second bedroom with a full bath and 2 twin beds that opened out into a good sized living room with a pull out sofa. This then went into the (3rd) bedroom where we stayed with a double bed and a standing shower. The room was breezy and cool and delicious. We had a soft white cotton blanket and freshly laundered white linen sheets. The sheets were so amazing I had to look at the label so I could be sure to buy one (one!) for my summer country house (in my mind). If you have your own summer country house (in your mind or otherwise) I recommend you click this link. John Lewis Dream Linen Flat Sheets. I will tell you this…I never slept off jet lag better than I did on those white linen sheets in that breeze with fresh lavender from the garden sitting in our window sill. Do I sound like a big goober going on and on? I don’t mean to, I just want to share my experience so it feels like you were there too.
When you exited this atelier you had to head down these little stairs outside to enter the other part of the house through the kitchen. OR you could go up this narrow hidden staircase inside…but more on that later. Once inside the main part of the house where the kitchen was, you also had the main living room. The kitchen had a big harvest table and chairs to sit and have coffee and continental breakfast. There was ALWAYS someone in the kitchen doing something. Always. So it always smelled fantastic. There was even a little antique chair just for the baby.
A brief pause for the food…oh my goodness…the food. There were cheese plates, fresh breads, lamb, and some sort of aubergine ratatouille. There were big, fat roasted orange slices with rosemary and brown sugar, served with homemade whipped cream. There was fresh grilled fish stuffed with lemon and herbs, fresh beans, roasted potatoes and homemade ice cream. It just felt like there was always something new to taste, not just to eat. So clearly we couldn’t leave until we found out where much of this culinary inspiration came from…luckily I was able to squeeze a few secrets out of the kitchen by distracting my prey with the baby. He has the ability to disarm all the knights in the realm!
Here is what my undercover operation unearthed…first, the River Cafe Cook Book Easy. Next, Italian Two Easy: Simple Recipes from the London River Cafe. Lastly we have Angela Hartnett. Now here’s the thing…on Amazon A Taste of Home: 200 Quick and Easy Recipes: Angela Hartnett is hard to come by, but on Amazon UK it is listed as new. A Taste of Home: 200 Quick and Easy Recipes: Amazon.co.uk: Angela Hartnett. I placed links to both sites. Do what you need to do to get it…that’s all I have to say. Those orange slices baked in brown sugar were no joke. I also included a link to her Italian recipe book, Angela Hartnett’s Cucina: Three Generations of Italian Family Cooking that is sold on the US Amazon site.
Out of the kitchen and through the living room the house opened up to a patio that faced the Alps.
There was a big outdoor sitting area, with a sofa and chairs and a table and chairs under a makeshift chandelier for al fresco dining.
Back into the living room there was a small set of stairs that led into a fantastic, carved out of stone, half bath and a laundry room. There was also a full staircase that looked like it was suspended in space heading up to the bedrooms. These stairs opened up onto another living room where the big TV was for watching movies and to the back of this sitting area was the master (4th) bedroom and bath. Coming back through the sitting room you were led down a long hallway and off this lovely hallway were 3 more (so that’s 5, 6 and 7) bedrooms each with their own bathrooms. Each room had shuttered windows that you could fling open wrapped in your linen bathrobe, with your lavender bouquet in your hand, while you waved goodbye to departing guests or welcomed new ones…sigh…At the end of the hallway was the secret staircase that lead you back into the part of the house where we stayed and brought you full circle. I could just keep going round and round all day.
Outside the house, just off the back terrace where the al fresco dining happened, there was a hammock and a tree swing. We like.
Walking up just off the left of the terrace was a great daybed covered with flour sack pillows. The view from said daybed was again, of the Alps.
Heading up around the the side of the house was another al fresco dining table and chairs situated next to the kitchen windows. This gave the house to ability to have a ‘pass through’ kitchen window. It was here you would place the coffee or tea or nutella on the window sill for someone at the table to pick up.
Walk away from all this…(if you can) and follow a little gravel path to the east and you will see another daybed and two more hammocks and then you will find your way to the salt water swimming pool…c’est magnifique.