I bought the house in 2000 in the Provençal village of Sainte Cecile-les-Vignes in Avenue de la Liberation. The road was called Route de Cairanne then but I prefer the old name: it better describes where it is. It also mentions Cairanne, the village next door, which has recently become a wine “Cru”, the highest category that a wine can have in the Côtes du Rhône. But, French bureaucracy being what it is, I’m stuck with “Avenue de la Liberation”. Staying there, however, is a liberation of sorts from the hustle and bustle of modern life. The Provençal pace is slower and more considered than my usual urban Britain. After a couple of days, you find yourself adapting to Provençal time. Walking and talking, eating and drinking, all take a little more time. Life becomes less stressful, somehow. The sunshine, heat, and fresh air all play their parts.
The house is an old Provençal “Mas”, or farmhouse, with a traditional layout, much of which is about 300 years old. The part of the building to the North and the two large barns attached to the West and the top floor were probably added towards the end of the 19th Century.
In 2000, the building was occupied but only barely. The roof leaked and the top floor was closed off. There was but one shower, one WC, and one basin in a little room off the kitchen. There was no heating bar a log burner in the living room. I have spent the last 17 years making it into something of which I am very proud. It has a new roof, a central heating system, new wiring, and five large bedrooms all with ensuite bathrooms. The kitchen is beautiful, even though I say it myself, and the utility room (or arrière cuisine) with all mod cons, is bigger than many living rooms.
In summer months, guests tend to live outside in the courtyard and garden. 14 years ago, I planted a couple of what were then 15-year-old plane tree (platanes in French) in true Provençal style. They afford fabulous shade under which to eat. The rest of the garden is a bit to a sun trap for those who like that sort of thing.
There’s an old Provençal bassin that was modified by the previous owner to farm carp. I painted it with swimming pool paint and it makes a great little dipping pool (about 2m x 3m) in which to cool down. It is fed by water from the local reservoir itself filled by a source drilled over a hundred years ago by a co-operative of owners of the large houses and the village authorities. All the old houses and the village fountains have “eau de village”. Its drinkable, although not certified as such, and they say it makes pastis taste better an an apertif.
Many, many friends and some of their friends (that have become my friends) have visited over the years when it has been in various stages of repair from building site to what it is now, a gorgeous bolt hole in Provençal wine country. It is now ready to rent to anyone who loves Provence and who’s prepared to look after it during their stay.