Fréjus, France

Fréjus, France
Aqueduc Romain

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

À la campagne

Our friends, Nathalie and Laurent, invited us to spend Sunday afternoon at their country house about 30" from Fréjus. They don't use it much in the winter. It doesn't get the snow our cabin does, in fact none--Diamond Lake today has about 6 feet of snow and is 24°F--after all, we're still in Provence. They go up for the day from time to time to check things out or maybe celebrate a holiday. They spend 2 straight months up there in summer. The house, called Bon Pin because that is what the neighborhood was called, is centuries old. It has been in Nathalie's family for generations. She spent summers here with her grandparents. She showed us her room where the wallpaper from the 70's is still up! The house is made of thick stone with a tile roof. It is built into a small hillside so one enters on the top floor from the drive way, but the main living areas are down below and open out onto a good-sized flagstone patio shaded by deciduous trees. The house is completely modernized except for central heat and telephone. The walls are so thick that the house stays cool year round, and was decidedly cooler than the mid-50s day outside. The water source is incredible--they have 3 pools, they call them "sources" of pure water. Not wells, but springs, right there to draw from. They have a worry that neighboring property owners will build and divert their water supply "upstream." Laurent told me that water sources are a crucial part of Provençal history, and adeptly described in Marcel Pagnol's Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. The swimming pool is filled with this water.

I could picture them in summer, a giant table under the shelter of the trees filled with fresh veggies, grilled meats, wine and fruits. Some people beating the afternoon heat in the pool, others napping behind shuttered windows. Laurent had a far-away dreamy look when he described the summers there, and kept sighing and saying "à la campagne." Reminded us of how we feel about our cabin.

After touring the house we took a walk around the countryside. There was a bit of development, but mostly open fields and untouched woods. We went to see the neighboring horses and Irie made a pal. The horse got past his wariness of the electric fence to munch the grass she offered. We left the horse after spotting a sheep drive (?). A Provençal shepherd was directing ~50 sheep, a ram, and a few goats, with the help of a dog. They made their way across a field, crossed a street, and into another field. The dog was very effective at corralling the sheep, but got distracted trying to play fetch with Irie, and the shepherd had to call him back to work to keep the sheep out of the road. Laurent mentioned that the shepherd used to have a border collie who was amazingly smart and fast, but that dog died and this one wasn't quite as good. The ram was a little scary--note its horn--but behaved like a regular sheep--a follower.

After the fresh air and exercise we went back to Nathalie and Laurent's house in town for a treat of Galette du Roi (traditional for the New Year and made by Nath) and Rick had the slice with the prize. But there was no crown, nor did he have to do the dishes.


Anonymous said...

What a treat!!! That house looks like a dream! I wish I had met them when I was there. Do you have any other photos? Just so I can pretend...



William said...

Looks really cool, wish we could have seen some of that also.

Mom & Dad Browne

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful day. Tell Laurent that he has a striking resemblence to Greg Lemond.

I remember seeing a goat herder on Col Vence the last time I was in Provence. He had two dogs that were absolutely amazing in how they worked.


Rick said...

Athena, if you haven't already, click on the highlighted "à la campagne" for more photos. I'm sure we'll get to enjoy their cottage plenty once the weather warms up - I think they said as early as Feb.

Rick said...

Hi Athena, Nathalie says she wishes she had met you, too. So looks like you have to come back....
Love Lisa

Nathalie said...

Hey! quel plaisir de voir que notre Bon Pin devient célèbre!
C'est un endroit qui plaît beaucoup et nous essayons de garder tout son charme et son authenticité malgré les petits aménagements de confort!
Athena, it's when you want! Nathalie