This time last year I was writing about our first year in Provence, borrowing the title from Peter Mayle, who so sadly died earlier this year, having fuelled the dreams of so many people over the years (us included) with his wonderful stories of life in the Luberon.
It’s hard to believe now that another year has passed and all of a sudden it is two years since we collected the keys and threw open the shutters of our little place just outside Apt. We always knew this would be one of life’s adventures and it hasn’t disappointed us at all – in fact our only regret is that we aren’t able to spend even more time there than we do.
We’re settling more and more into the area and the house is feeling like home now, rather than simply a staging post. This has been aided by the fact that our eldest has made it his home for the last year, cycling with a local team and enjoying getting under the skin of the area, whilst improving his French with Marina in nearby Viens http://www.learnfrenchinprovence.com
To be honest this was totally unexpected, but has been great for both him and us. He has (like us) fallen in love with Provence and everything it has to offer and it has been a fantastic experience on every level. It has also meant that though that the animals have moved out to live with him, giving him a bit of company there too.
Both the dog and cat have settled into french life quite happily and I’m not sure either will be too happy to get in a car and drive back to the UK at some point in the future. Having the dog there has been great as we’ve done a lot more walking this Winter, finding new routes and taking her for a run up towards the summit of Mont Ventoux on a particularly snowy day……… and the cat – well she’s just a bit of a character.
We’ve found a dog-groomer and Millie sashays in for her haircut and general beauty treatment without a second glance at us, so all is good. What we have noticed though is how intolerant she is now of cold, wet weather. Having spent the last 5 winters showing no discomfort at being permanently soggy after walks on Dartmoor she now hates going out in the rain & dashes back to the house at the earliest opportunity to sit in the kitchen shivering with her teeth chattering like an old typewriter- ah how life has changed.
Pusscat of course rules the roost and continues to wreak havoc on the local population of small running & jumping creatures, having recently found what appears to be a particularly good source of mice and grasshoppers , enjoying inviting them into the house where she plays with them quite happily, despite our best efforts to stop her.
Over the months our regular visits to the Recycling Centre in Apt Bargain hunting at the tip! have paid dividends with us finding some wonderful old pieces of furniture that look fantastic, even though they caused more than a few problems when the boys were trying to carry them up the many stairs in the house.
We’ve also had some more great Brocante finds that are starting to add character to the rooms – including old glass containers that are now great side-lights & a fantastic vintage enamel cycle advertising sign…..
As well as wonderful hand-painted pieces from a design competition at the Dijon School of Beaux Arts in the early 1900s
The terraces have also started to take a bit more shape, with pots filled with lavender, geraniums and other seasonal plants, sitting next to old zinc tubs or baths found on our travels. And this year saw a great new addition that quickly became known as ‘Conversation Corner’ with 2 old iron day beds, comfy pillows in lovely old embroidered cases and fairy lights strung around an antique bottle drier and threaded overhead. This was the perfect place to spend our evenings ‘en famille’ away from the wifi and other distractions, playing Uno and other games, or simply chatting and just enjoying the sounds of the night animals and insects.
Our big purchase of the year though ended up being a car – we hadn’t anticipated needed a car in France for another couple of years, but with our eldest needing to drive to various events we had to take the plunge. One thing we discovered was that secondhand cars in France are significantly more expensive than back in the UK, but found a suitable Renault and then started the incredibly convoluted process of transferring the money to the Garage. I must admit to having found french banking practices a tad frustrating at times and this was one of those occasions when (even after agreeing a higher transfer ‘plafond’ with the bank)three separate payments had to be done over 3 days to allow the full amount to be transferred across. That said though it was worth it, although the nicest car we own now is in France being driven by our 20 year old, so we havent got everything right yet!
It’s fair to say that our escapes to Provence are everything we have dreamed of and more and the active, healthy lifestyle we get to lead there is a delight. Over the last 12 months we have cycled thousands of kilometres, watched the Tour de France, visited lavender festivals & local events as well as Nice Carnaval & the Fete du Citron at Menton and we continue to love just being able to get on the bike and head off in whatever direction we fancy – I’m sure we do more than enough cycling to wear off the regular pain au chocolat breakfasts at the local boulangeries.
That said it isn’t just a ‘roses around the door’ existence and inevitably there have been frustrations – including (amongst others) – 5 weeks without wifi over Christmas (not good when you are in the house with 2 teens and no access to TV or internet) – and that we still have an open-plan bedroom with just a heavy curtain separating us from the steps to the second bedroom & the equally open-plan bathroom , so it’s not exactly the most private of sleeping arrangements. We do have plans though and hopefully the next year will see us start to transform this space into more permanent bedrooms and bathrooms as well as starting the process of doing other bits of work to the house.
One thing is certain though and that is there hasn’t been one moment when we have even questioned whether we should have followed our dream in buying the house – it is the adventure we had always wanted to have and we are loving every moment of it (yes even the frustrating moments) – so all we can do is look forward now to our third year and whatever it may bring ………