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 sad that we were going to be in Provence for such a short amount of time. I wanted to stop in Aix, 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.
The House—what a house. There was nothing pretentious about it. It was simple, 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 very romantic and sophisticated French road side sales, then situated in such a way, it could catch the breezes that rippled through the valley for you.
On the first floor starting from the left and moving right there was a small garage that housed 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.
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 and to the left, a great daybed covered with flour sack pillows.
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…
As if the house wasn’t enough to keep us on this heady cloud for the next few days we were also then surrounded by lively, vivacious people and ridiculous food.
The people staying with us were a pretty talented lot, but that wasn’t what made them a blast to be around, it was their ease, their lack of pretense, their sense of warmth and family and their genuine interest in life. It was waking up in the morning to find everyone disheveled in fantastic English pajamas and linen bathrobes scrambling for the coffee handed through the kitchen window. No one’s hair was done, no one had makeup on, I bet not even a tooth had been brushed (!). The main topic of conversation was how great dinner was the night before and how excited everyone was for dinner tonight. In fact, one of the guests, told me they all stayed friends due to their deep seated desire to eat.
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.