Life in the slow lane here in Provence. Long leisurely lunches. Obligatory siestas on hot days. Meandering conversations that last for hours. Ahhhhh …
But then there are times when I’d prefer Time move a bit faster. Like, say, when faced with the simple task of opening a bank account. What would have taken me two-and-a-half minutes at home in California took me two-and-a-half months here in France. Ok, perhaps the bank account opening wasn’t all France’s fault. The American FATCA law requires worldwide banks to provide in-depth documentation on their American clients’ accounts to the IRS to make sure American citizens aren’t hiding taxable assets.
So banks here don’t want American clients. And France is renowned for its formidable bureaucracy. I applied to several banks and reaaaaalllllly wanted to bank with Crédit Agricole because I like the name ;-) and because they were so incredibly nice at the St Rémy branch. And you have to schedule an appointment to open a bank account, often taking a week just to get an appointment! I provided reams and reams of all the necessary paperwork; helas I got absolutely nowhere with any of the banks in town. Finally I ended up banking with the international bank HSBC (where you can’t choose your own password nor your own PIN number) and their nearest branch is 40 minutes away. Sigh.
And before I got my bank account, I needed 4000 euros in cash, so my French maman requested it from her bank. It took three weeks to get 4000 euros in cash! And apparently the French tax authorities can go in to your bank accounts and take taxes owed or block your accounts. Shocking!
And then there’s the slow house buying business … yep …
I bought a farmhouse!
It’s not actually mine yet … it’s a long process, of course! I first saw it on July 12, made an offer on July 29, and had the “compromis/promesse de vente” (official signing of the paperwork with two notaires, the realtor, the seller and I) on August 20. And now I wait three months before it closes with another signing of the “acte de vente” … ooooof! But wow, it is the PERFECT place for me … I’m thrilled beyond belief! And feeling incredibly lucky, and grateful.
It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of, and I’ve been dreaming of this for a verrrrrrrry long time. Ever since I was a girl, I wanted to live on a farm in the countryside … but I grew up in the suburbs. I picked olives in Greece when I was 19 and fell in love with the agricultural life … but I had college and grad school to attend. At 27 while embarking on my photojournalism career, I met an inspiring couple of city people who decided to renovate an entire 15th century hamlet on a mountainside in the Cevennes in Southern France. They told me about Waldorf education. After I left the newspaper 15 years later, during my Waldorf teacher training, I learned about Biodynamics … but went on to teach photography at a Waldorf school for a few years. And then I finally decided, at 56, if not now … when???? For goodness sakes!!! So I quit my job and did a Biodynamic farming internship. And came to France last year to location scout. And came again this year to find a farm. And I did! I made my wishlist last year, and my farmhouse in Provence has pretty much all of this, and more!
It’s a 1640 farmhouse in Saint Rémy de Provence, perfect for me, not too big a house (2 bed/1bath) or property (2.5 acres), exposed stone on the interior and one exterior wall, amazing views of the Alpilles mountains, guest studio, workshop, salt water pool, loads of space for my biodynamic veggie garden, a hillside to plant my olive orchard, plenty of inexpensive water from an irrigation canal, bike rideable into Saint Rémy, near Avignon and Arles and Aix and Marseille when I need a bit of city, and a charming owner from an old Saint Rémois family who threw in extra land when he found out I wanted to start a biodynamic veggie garden since he believes in organic and sustainable living. He’ll continue living nearby and give me the inside scoop on everything … It really is ideal, everything I'd hoped and dreamed of all these years, and more! Wow.
But for now, I must muster all the patience I can and wait …
So while I have this time, I might as well master the art of pleasure in all its forms, since pleasure is such an important part of life here … They talk about pleasure - le plaisir - in France all the time!
les plaisirs de la table
pour le plaisir
se faire plaisir
un grand plaisir
Avec plaisir et amour,