Bonjour –

It was great to hear back from so many of you.  I’m glad I can be of
entertainment to all of you living in homes without construction dust,
little black dogs who think they live here, smoking Frenchmen who play bad
French lounge music and a yard that is beginning to look like Sanford &
Sons.  Keep the notes coming – it’s the only time of the day I smile.

For those sharing my pain, the recent tragedy was short lived as the Bistro
des Alpilles has re-opened.  The front wall tilts a little and much of the
terrace is surrounded by police tape – but the French go on!  Vive la
France!  Vive la Sebastian!

The story continues…

On Monday morning the man who is arranging my insurance stopped by to go
over all the papers.  We had an appointment for 9am and he arrived on time
at 10am.  Most men in France average a height of 5’9″ so I was surprised
when a man of 6’4″ walked through the door.  He has shaggy dark hair, a
huge smile and so much energy about him.  A big friendly dog is what I
thought.

Nicholas Swaton – 4th generation to Swaton EuroSud – insurers to major
corporations, disgustingly rich people with huge chateaux and one really
poor American with a money pit on her hands.  Educated in the States at
University of Southern Florida (which he calls the U of Sex and Fun)
Nicholas was a refreshing change to my routine.

We completed all the paperwork pretty quickly.  I am very well covered –
fire, flood, storm – one could only hope for an act of God in the near
future.  Nicholas was concerned that my evenings were spent alone in the
restaurants and insisted that I join him and his family for dinner.

“Tomorrow night – you cannot say no!”

“You don’t have to twist my arm!  What time?”

© Copyright 2001- property of Patricia La Vigne

Nicholas and his wife live in Marseilles but during the kids summer
vacation they come to the country house.  The directions were very typical
of the area.  “Take the road to Mausanne, take the road to Raphele, then
the road to Moules – turn right, right at the first driveway.”  Simple
enough and a gorgeous drive through country fields and tiny towns with only
a bakery a wine shop and a cheese shop – there is no need for more – n’est
pas?

I found the driveway and my mouth just dropped.  The “driveway” was a half
mile long lined with huge plantanes that arched over the stone drive.  The
“country house” is called Mas Anguilles (a Mas is a country house) – but,
good Lord – I would have called it a Chateau!  The house was enormous  – a
cross between a Tuscan villa and a French country manor.  The caretakers
house was twice the size of mine!

Les Grandemere et Grandpere, mother and father of Nicholas (3rd generation
Swaton), Amy a stunning woman from Jamaica, who was thrilled to speak
English for an evening, and their three children Inez, Lillia and Edward
who had picked flowers for me, were all waiting to greet me.  I could get
used to this!

The children all spoke English and clamored around me as they were
fascinated with an American who spoke “real English”.  At the same time
Nicholas’ father was trying to escort me into the house and he rattled on
in French.  Overwhelming and immensely enjoyable I was thrilled that
Nicholas Swaton was my insurance agent.

The men handled the wine and the women offered to show me the house.  The
3rd generation Swaton’s had purchased the house only three years earlier –
completely renovated.  There are three sections of the home – 17th, 18th
and 19th century.  The ceilings soar, the windows look out onto the most
stunning views of mountains and fields and the stairway is completely made
of stone and arches out into three directions.  There are three wings to

the house with 4 bedrooms, two bathrooms and sitting areas for each wing.
The downstairs has a study room, a music room, two salons, a formal dining
room, an enormous kitchen and pantry, a terrace and so much more.  It was
decorated in a French country style so it was so welcoming and comfortable.

This is exactly what I had envisioned being in the South of France.  The
Four Seasons in me was coming out – enough of the Motel 6 experience I was
having at my place!

Le Grandpere was most thrilled with his vegetable garden and took me for a
tour showing me his talents with courgettes, aubergines, poivrons, tomates,
legumes and who knows what else.  Monsieur Swaton has obviously done quite
well for himself and now had a beautiful place to relax and enjoy life with
his wife and their children’s families but to him the greatest achievement
was his vegetable garden.  I’m sure there is a life lesson in there but I’m
still too busy salivating over the house.   How do I get one of these?

“We’ll have dinner by the pool”
“There’s a pool?”

We walk through the arched doorway of another small house and lo’ and
behold a large pool cornered by a “pool house” – complete with two
bathrooms, a sitting room, two changing rooms, a nap room for the children
and stone banquettes with white linen pillows that lined the courtyard.
Martha Stewart would have a cow!

A large candlelit table on the terrace was already set and waiting.  The
men BBQ’d the meat and the women made the salad.  I drank lots of wine!
Veal, courgettes (from the garden) and a Rose wine, followed by cheese and
salad with the Red Montrachet wine that I brought and to finish –  ice
cream parfait with homemade raspberry/strawberry sauce and some port.  I AM
NEVER COMING HOME!

It was such a lovely evening and one that I needed so badly.  The Swaton’s
are delightful, full of fun and lots of laughter.  Amy and Madame Swaton
want to come to St. Remy and see my house.  Oh, Dear God.  I kept
explaining that I’d like to remove the sink from the front yard first!

New friends, an amazing evening and a renewed desire to make this house
work – it’s a good day in Provence.

(I should have asked Nicholas if he has a single brother – hmmmmm.)

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