You are kidding me.
That’s how I felt when we pulled into the drive of our host’s home in the south of France. Originally, I was disappointed we’d be in Provence for such a short time. I wanted to stop in Aix, buy lavender, buy soap; I 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. The place is a dream-it’s airy and elegant- made to absorb the bustling of people and all the food and wine they brought to share. The whitewashed walls and exposed wood beams are only the beginning of the delightful rusticity: the tile is terracotta, the fabric is linen, the scent is lavender.
I’m certain I dreamed the whole forty-eight hours we were there.
The furniture was found at romantic road side sales-French road side sales-then situated to catch a breeze for you as it rippled in from the valley.
The air in our room is cool and delicious, just chilly enough for the soft cotton blanket draped over freshly laundered sheets. 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. I had to check the label so I know where to buy one for our country house (in my mind).
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.
There was also a full staircase that looked like it was suspended in space heading up to the bedrooms. 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…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 day bed covered with flour sack pillows.
Heading up around 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 day bed 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 bathrobe 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.