Friday, September 28, 2012

In love with a little village, part two

Although I prepared these photos days ago, I have been regarding them carefully one a time for a while, letting the sun outside my window bow into itself, just as it did while I had taken them.

You see, I have been out of sorts all day. A silly thing, really. Remi is up in Paris on business and I couldn't sleep at all without the reassurance of his presence. The rise and fall of his breathing at my side. Something that hasn't happened in a long time, that sneaking fear winning me over but there I was, rising in the night, wandering through the rooms, checking the locks, searching up for stars. My own private ghost. 

And so I have been trying to will myself back to Simiane la Rotonde, merely by the looking. I was so touched by the response to my previous post. Quite a few like minded souls pecking around this ephemeral pond. And Simiane is indeed as joy-inducing as my little clickety-clacks can suggest. But would we live there year 'round? Well, it isn't an option for the moment but my how it caught our breath. And we all know, those moments that tug at your heart strings are something to listen to...

One of the men that we spoke to--my, they speak slowly in Simiane--said that tourists don't often bother with this "village de caractère" because it is not directly on the road. Peu importe, if it is only two minutes away. Well, tant mieux. For the rest of us. 

I have many more villages to share with you. Really, prepared to be tired of them, I certainly was! But there was no place that called like Simiane, with its odd 12th century rotunda and equally odd oddness. Something tells me you won't be surprised when I let drop like a bead in the pond that we hope to go back before the end of the year...Let's hear it for dreams! The good ones that shake away the shadows of the longest sleepless nights...

Speaking of something to listen to, my honey is about to board his TGV and should be home just after midnight. 

Sweetheart, this song, "I found you" is by The Alabama Shakes and although I don't know who found who, this is for you...

Have a wonderful weekend everyone, full of lots of dreams, yes, the good kind!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In love with a little village

Falling in love can be so easy, can't it?

Sometimes you just know. I had a hunch from the first moment that the village of Simiane la Rotonde would be the real thing and my instinct didn't let me down. 

Patina, time pushing up against each other at odd angles and solitude. Simiane checks the boxes of more than a few of my favorite things. Remi and I eventually stopped talking as we wound our way up and around, delighting in suspended gardens and ornate gates leading to forgotten bastides.

A bird is free now to make his nest in the curlicues of a Renaissance manor but Simiane was once quite wealthy, quite populated. While 1,157 people strolled its cobble stone streets in 1753, there are 30-70 residents living in the village year-round, depending on who you ask.

The 16th century covered market hall opens out onto the lavender fields below and is a simple token of the village's more glorious past.

But touches of gentility remain...

I'll be quiet now and let you wander...

...take your time...

...because as Diana Vreeland so wisely commanded "The eye must travel"...

But what, you might ask, is that large sugar lump of stone? More of that in the next post...for there is still much to share...

When we fall in love it is hard not to be exuberant, n'est-ce pas? 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Charming cabanon rental in the Luberon

When my wonderful companion, Remi, first came up with the idea to escape the noise of the Feria or Harvest Bullfights in Arles by going away, I responded with an immediate and emphatic "Yeessss". It was the best idea I had ever heard! While our friends had been dashing off to the beach or the mountains all summer long, Remi was working and working hard. We were city-bound, without the lazy glamour of being able to dive into air-conditioned multiplexes and echoing museums mid-afternoon. So when it was time to decide on a destination, we approached our search with the tenacity of France's rugby team preparing to head off against New Zealand.

We knew one thing and one thing only. We were both in serious need of Quiet. Yes, the capital Q kind. And as the beginning of September is still considered high season in many parts of Southern France, we had budget considerations to keep in mind as well. Of course I took my hunt very seriously.  Hello? I am a travel writer! It is my job to sniff out the overlooked, the undiscovered but fabulous. So I spent days and I do mean days trawling every website imaginable. Until one evening, without saying anything to me, Remi popped online. Ten minutes later, pas plus, he casually tossed me a line, "Hey, what about this?"

"This" was a cabanon in the Northern Luberon, the anti-bling non-Maylesy kind that ne'er a tour bus does see. The wee abode is on the edge of a lavender field and yes, they accept dogs, yes, there was availability for that week, no there wasn't plastic garden chairs used as the living room furniture and for...300€ per week (that is $388 USD, 239 British Pounds). Done. So beyond done.

The owners, Eric and Sabine, were away on a little vacation of their own and so we were met and welcomed by Sabine's parents both of whom are from the area since generations. It says a lot about the people of the region that Sabine and Eric were trusting enough for us to be les maitres du domaine in their absence. But it was still with trepidation that I entered the cabanon--would it be all that I hoped? 

I was not disappointed. 

The snug living area had all that we needed and then some. A futon sofa that was so comfortable that it soon became the most sought after spot for la sieste (yes, even more so than the deck chairs), not to mention an authentic Provençal dining set as well as a box of movies next to the television that was exactly to Remi's taste...

Up a short flight of stairs to the cozy bedroom. Sabine's Mom proudly showed me the magnetic blinds she had made to block out the ever-present sunlight for those that didn't want to rise with the dawn. Um yes, that would be us, merci

Back down to le salon and down a bit more to the fully stocked and I do mean fully stocked kitchen. I have to admit, this was one of the key factors that had sold me on the cabanon as how very, very rare  that is. There was even un panier of left behind items--a box of spaghetti, coffee filters and the like--for the just in case. A touch which is completely in line with the beautifully thought out details of the renovation of what was once the family farm's four à pain or bakery. When I later learned that Eric is an interior architect, I was hardly surprised. I loved how he recuperated and integrated materials from the existing structure, such as the beams and shelves just over Ben's head below, not to mention that the sand-based lime-wash on the walls was one of the best executed I have seen, which for Provence, is saying something. Truly, a really lovely renovation that makes the best of what is and what was.

Beyond the kitchen is a small but entirely serviceable bath (and positively enormous compared to the "pirouette in place" shower that we have at home). Need I mention that everything was spotlessly and I do mean spotlessly clean?

It was no wonder at all that soon we felt right at home.

There are several outdoor spaces to explore. Just behind the kitchen is a walled in garden with a table set towards the sun... which joins a private loggia installed with a banquette, another dining table and the absolutely crucial BBQ (more about that to come). A ps. to my design friends, please take a look at the gorgeously set roof tiles...

It is such a lovely area that it is also a preferred choice of certain other visitors...I warned you that this is the country!

Yes, there are cats and dogs and chickens but that is all part of the experience. Here, you are not isolated on the edge of the world but a part of something authentic even if the design is authentic! When Eric and Sabine returned, along with their toddler twins, they were not only extremely charming hosts but discreet ones as well.

The cabanon is exactly what it claims to be, a wonderfully comfortable stone cabin, at only 30 square meters large. But we honestly felt like we didn't need anything more.

And most importantly, we felt entirely bienvenue.

Le cabanon de Bourinet
Simiane la Rotonde

Contact: Sabine Reynard (she speaks as she calls it "schoolgirl English" but it is enough to make a reservation, by email is probably best)
Tel.: +33 (0) 4 92 75 91 39

One final aspect worth noting, the cabanon goes up to 350€ in the peak of high season, which remains an extremely reasonable price and one in accordance with the farm setting. I only ask that you don't book the cabanon during the week of the lavender harvest because we plan on going back!

Happy trails...