After a bit of a rough start here in my France on my farm finding project, I have landed in a fabulous place and am very happy! But oy, those first few weeks ...
Last year, I'd location scouted all around Southern France and found "my area" ... la Provence Verte in the Var region of Provence. I'd fallen in love HARD for the landscapes of rolling hills filled with ancient stone terraces of olive groves, grapevines, cypress, pines, and oak trees. Oh la la, such stunning landscape, quite similar to Sonoma in California not far from my home in Mill Valley, but with the old stones that send ripples of excitement through my soul. So I'd rented a lovely gite (guesthouse) from an even lovelier Irish couple in the tiny village of Correns (pop. 900) in la Provence Verte. I'd chosen this village because, in 1995, it was the first village in France named "bio" (organic) where all the local farmers committed to farming organically.
Correns sits along the picturesque Argens river, has a 100% organic shop (rare in little villages), a fab restaurant with a fixed price "bio" menu, a boulangerie with yummy whole wheat "bio" bread, and few other establishments. That Brad and Angelina, and more recently George Lucas, purchased wine- and olive-making chateaux just outside Correns made me think I must have excellent taste (!) to have found this tucked away spot to call my new home and start my little farming venture. And while it is truly amazing that this little organic paradise exists https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXLBsJYV-DI&feature=youtu.be, it is also very quiet there ...
The area, as visually stunning as it is, was just too quiet for this suburban girl. It didn't take long for me to know in my gut I'd made the wrong choice. But it seemed unreasonable to my head to not really give it more of a chance. But I also didn't want to waste my precious time (I have a six-month visa, and six months go quickly). After an unbearably lonely, confusing, painful first week feeling I'd made a terrible mistake, I fled up to Saint-Remy-de-Provence for the weekend to see the gite I'd rented for July and August, to see if I could come two months earlier (pretty please??!!) and to be wrapped in the love and care of my French family I've known since I was a 16-year-old exchange student.
Thank the heavens the second rental gite was available and in an area I know fairly well having visited Thierry (my French brother) and his mom Yvette (whom I call Maman) many times over the years. In and around Saint-Remy-de-Provence and the spectacular Alpilles mountain range, there's tons of farming and underground water sources, as well as lots of action and culture and events and restaurants and movie theaters and and and ... which will allow me to have the kind of life I want to create here: part of the day "farming" (really, gardening) – biodynamically -- and part of the day enjoying la vie douce (la dolce vita, the sweet and slow life) of Provence.
Here at Cabane de la Leque chez Bruno and Marie-Francoise http://www.cabanedelaleque.com/, I am utterly happy and feel very at home. In the middle of nature, with a huge organic veggie garden, I have fallen in love with this little piece of paradise. Their property is one of just a few grandfathered in when this wild, natural area became a regional park in 2007.
Bruno – an artisan, artist and dedicated organic gardener -- renovated their home, planted vast herb and veggie gardens, built a mini aqueduct flowing into a pond, and constructed two rental cabins at the far end of the property. He filled the cabins with his hand-made furniture and art from driftwood scavenged from his brother's home on the Rhone river. And Marie Francoise is an international journalist, was an editor at Elle magazine in Paris, and writes books. They have welcomed me into their world, and I see them often in the veggie garden and on the terrace for apéro.
I wake early to the sound of birds and bees, and sometimes wind breezing through the pine forests, and no city noise at all. I hike right out my front door. I can help myself to whatever I desire from the veggie garden and to wildflowers for making bouquets. There's a pool. It's absolutely breathtaking.
Every few days I have lunch with my French family, inevitably an hours-long, delicious and entertaining affair. I go into Saint Remy or my village Fontvieille to run errands. I host visitors. I drive down to Aix, or take my visitors to Avignon. I have my pick of events to attend – concerts, museums, village parties, parades – and amazing restaurants to choose from. I found a great yoga studio. I'm making friends here. And I'm beginning my house hunt here. I'm finding my rhythm, and it's a much slower pace. My nervous system has calmed. Life is good. La vie est belle et douce.