When I was about 19 years old, I went on my first trip abroad to France. In my mind, I was a year late because I had wanted to go to college in Paris after I graduated high school. My father wouldn’t let me because he was scared of “terrorism.” I swear to God that was his reason. After hating him for about a year, he finally let me go to Europe. A family friend lived in St. Tropez so it was decided that I would spend time with him. That family friend was Chuck Barris from The Gong Show. Remember him! I arrived a wide-eyed teenager and returned a different girl. There is life outside of Malibu? I had no idea. I was head over heels in awe and love with the south of France.
I loved everything about it. The architecture, the trees, the lavender fields, the Provence style fabrics, the farmers markets, the old men playing pétanque, the funky little French cars, the cuisine and especially the lifestyle. I am definitely more of a country mouse than city mouse. I am happiest barefoot, in jeans and a T-shirt with salty hair in the sunshine. But fancy. That’s why Provence is the perfect place for me.
I was lucky enough to be invited to St. Tropez again a few years later. This was a whole different ballgame. I went back to St. Tropez for some huge soirée with the world’s most notable playboy, Count Erik Wachtmeister. He was like a brother to me. The parties, the yachts, the houses, the beaches, the discos, the socialites, the debauchery! It was crazy. Luckily, I had Erik there to protect me and to keep me in line. Sort of. I remember making out with some French guy named Thierry on a yacht. I knew him exactly 45 minutes.
One of my fondest memories of Erik is catching up with him at the infamous Café Senequier at about 7:30 in the morning in St. Tropez. He was by himself enjoying a plate of steak tartare and a beer. I said, “Erik, I’m so impressed that you are up so early after that party last night.” He looked at me like I was joking. Up early? No. He was still “out.” This side of St. Tropez is not for me. I am not into the “see and be seen” dance on tables all night crowd. I would rather buy tomatoes at a farmers market and be asleep by nine.
On this trip I had a little bit more time so I got to venture outside of St. Tropez to the neighboring towns. My favorite was Ramatuelle. We stopped off at a few restaurants that I will never forget. Growing up in Malibu in my teenage years was all about wheatgrass juice, burritos with special sauce, sushi and mangoes. That was my diet. Provence opened my eyes to bouillabaisse, tomatoe Provençal, the sweetest ripest fruit, olives, vegetable tarts and fish cooked in parchment paper with herbs de provence and lemons. Being the little culture sponge that I was, as soon as I got home I started buying up every cookbook on Provençal cuisine that I could find.
Check out this book I found…
“Provence, 1970 is about a singular historic moment. In the winter of that year, more or less coincidentally, the iconic culinary figures James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, Richard Olney, Simone Beck, and Judith Jones found themselves together in the South of France. They cooked and ate, talked and argued, about the future of food in America, the meaning of taste, and the limits of snobbery. Without quite realizing it, they were shaping today’s tastes and culture, the way we eat now. The conversations among this group were chronicled by M.F.K. Fisher in journals and letters—some of which were later discovered by Luke Barr, her great-nephew. In Provence, 1970, he captures this seminal season, set against a stunning backdrop in cinematic scope—complete with gossip, drama, and contemporary relevance.”-Amazon
When I decided with my mother to open an antique store specializing in French antiques, we knew that we needed to get to the south of France to start shopping. Done. Off to France we go with my daughter in tow. Poor Gracie, she has had to endure countless and I mean countless flea markets, estate sales, antique stores, antique shows and brocantes in France. I have very distinct memories of Gracie sitting in someone’s shop in an old bergère chair with her head buried in a science book doing homework while her mother is bartering away for some 19th century jardinière. At a young age this is not how you want to spend your time. It’s probably why she hates me. Just kidding. At least she learned what ormolu is for God’s sake.
We shopped and shopped in little towns all over the south of France. My favorite was L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Oh my God, we were in heaven. We bought dishes, statues, chairs, paintings, big beautiful green Anduze garden pots, tables, books, linens, chandeliers etc. etc. etc. If I could not live in the south of France, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t going to bring it home with me. We did just that. I will try to do a blog on our antique shop soon. It was so pretty! I so loved everything that we bought that I did not want to sell it. If anyone asked the price of something that I really loved, I would tell them that it was $5 million dollars. That usually deterred them.
My husband likes to tease me and tell me that if it weren’t for him, I would be in a mental institute. I decided that would be fine as long as I can go to the asylum in Provence where Vincent van Gogh went. Looks lovely.
So years later, here I am living in Paris and all I can think of is living in Provence. Yes yes yes, Paris is lovely but it’s not quite “me.” I would like to live in a house with the doors open, big farm style kitchen, lots of fireplaces, a garden, in a village with a café that I go to every day for a glass of rosé. Big pots filled with lavender, topiaries, pea gravel, French wicker outdoor lounge chairs, superlong outdoor table draped with a Provençal tablecloth, Provençal cuisine and a little dog and cat running around. This is more my style.
My friend Tom said that I would be super bored in Provence. He said, “How much food, drinking and sunshine can you take.” My thoughts? A lot. I can take a lot.
Have you ever seen that movie called A Good Year? You will want to move to Provence in a red-hot second. If you don’t want to move there after seeing the movie, you’re a weirdo. I have been invited by my Romy Schneider look-alike friend, Susie, to her house in Aix-en-Provence this summer. I am so excited to spend time with her and secretly look for a house. How am I going to explain this to my husband? “Thank you for my apartment in Paris but I hate it and want to move to the south of France where you have exactly zero work.
There are a lot of great books on Provence. These are three of the classics. I also put together all of my favorite books on Provence in my Have Some Decorum bookstore. "À tout à l'heure À tout à l'heure!