Friends of ours from London had visited a villa in the South of France that sounded so lovely we just had to send Kristophe, one of out local contributors, to check it out. He secured an interview with the owner, a famous writer, who sadly asked to remain anonymous. Not deterred for a moment, off to Theoule-sur-Mer went Kristophe, his destination, La Bastide de la Source. His report follows.
I had already heard reports of a very special home, overlooking the bay of Cannes and characterised by its thick stone walls, beamed rooms and amazing views. Now I live in Cagnes, in the middle of the built-up part of the Riviera, the coastal strip between Nice and Mandelieu. So I was intrigued to see Theoule, known locally as the first village beyond the concrete. The village itself was pleasant, but tiny. I drove though it in seconds, glanced across at the long stretch of beach and followed the road as it climbed under steep red cliffs. I took a narrow lane up the hillside off the coast road and drove past the rushing spring that gives the villa its name. Immediately the wrought iron gates of La Bastide appeared before me. As instructed, I pressed the entryphone, the gates swung open silently and I shot up the steep slope to the garage. Ahead of me a series of sweeping stone steps beckoned, really quite Hollywood, well, Sunset Boulevard, to be accurate. I climbed these and found myself at the pool terrace.
Surrounded by mature mimosas and eucalyptus, the pool area was delightful. Resisting the temptation of the clear blue water, I climbed another fifty or so steps to the upper terrace, on which perched the villa. Pausing for breath, I turned and surveyed the view. And had to take another deep breath. It was truly spectacular, from the azure water of the Bay of Cannes in the foreground to the green hills of the Grasse hinterland and all the way to the towering, snow-kissed Alps in the distance.
I don’t have the words to do it justice. Perhaps the photos will. The sound of a popped bottle of champagne provided the perfect welcome. The owner appeared, a couple of glasses in his hand. We settled down under the huge parasol and I checked my list of questions.
Kristophe: So tell me, what brought you here in the first place?
Edward: As a writer, I need certain specific things from a home. Tranquility, privacy and inspiration rank high on the list. They also explain why La Bastide remains my favourite place on the planet.
Maybe I should tell you exactly why I bought the villa. Picture this: it's a sunny morning in March 1999. I have already looked at twenty or so villas, most in the Provencal style and all just a bit too fussy for this minimalist!
That day I was due to visit three in Theoule. As you probably realise, the village owes its popularity to its lovely beach because, uniquely, it lies away from the coast road and railway that blight most of the Cote D'Azur shoreline.
Anyway, I found myself in a beamed, triple height room, a minstrels gallery behind me, ahead a stunning view of the Alps, the ocean and the Bay of Cannes. I was completely sold. I sat for an hour in this amazing space imagining how the passing of the day would change the mood, the light and the sound of the waves crashing below. The decision was what is nowadays called a 'no-brainer.'
Kristophe: I can completely understand that. So did it live up to your expectations?
Edward: Yes, other characteristics emerged over time. Within the stone walls of the house, a metre thick in some places, silence reigns, unless it's time for the music system or the late night movie.
The villa sits in a fold on the cliff-face, creating a sense of privacy that is tough to find in this region. Happily, the village shops and restaurants are an easy five to six minute walk down the hill. I generally allow maybe twice that for the walk back up. The double garage offers an alternate scenario for the lazy, haha!
The pool is a personal delight of mine, not just for the delight of a dip on a hot day, but also for the view up the terraces where the cypresses, palms and pampas are forever swaying in the gentle breeze.
Kristophe: Tell me about the house itself.
Edward: The villa was built in the 1940s. Whoever built it had a great feel for character, from the ancient stone floors to the sets of double doors that grant access to the living room, well over three metres high and still with their ancient door furniture.
Kristophe: May I see inside now?
Edward: Sure. You’ll love the beams, seriously huge and impressive. The concept of the house is simple. It’s based on a shepherd’s croft, living space above under a slanting roof and open space below for the sheep to shelter in. Of course, it doesn’t look very croft like once you get inside, haha.
Kristophe: At this point, I’ll end the recorded dialogue. Yes, I loved the beams, the amazing sense of space, the fact that the rooms were designed to capture every aspect of the view, the cool, minimal style of the décor, just a few pictures to complement the wrought iron furniture, chandeliers and tables. Again, I feel the pictures will tell the story much better than I can. My host kindly invited me to join him for dinner. This boy can say with complete honesty that he has never dined in such a beautiful setting. And I hope I get the chance to do it again. Soon.
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