for sale – a writer’s retreat in the south of france

dining in the shade in south of france

While in the South of France this week, I visited some friends near the pretty town of La Garde Freinet and  whose home is up for sale.     They have lived here happily for many years, but it is now time to move to something slightly smaller and closer to the children.

al fresco dining in south of france

Obviously I thought of you, and that you’d like to see the house and dream a little.

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aerial view of house for sale in south of france

This beautiful home was built in the 19th century as a stone farm building  not far from a small river that today runs through the property. 

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The house was initially only partly restored and used for many years as an occasional writer’s retreat, the ideal place to get away from it all and create.     Fifteen years ago they made further improvements and the house became  their full time home.

dining room in french house

The property is tweny minutes from St Tropez, and within easy reach of a motorway giving access to airports.

summer living room in south of france

Today the main house has three bedrooms and bathrooms, two spacious living rooms, an office library, a cosy kitchen  and an independent bedroom suite. 

kitchen in french house

There are outbuildings that are partly restored including a double garage, a guest house and an orangery.     There is also a wine cellar and a stunning pool.

roses in bloom outside house in south of france

The grounds are extensive ensuring total privacy, they have olive trees and produce their own olive oil.   The garden also boasts citrus trees, roses, a vegetable garden with a greenhouse and a beautiful wisteria giving sweet smelling shade to the terrace outside the dining room.wisteria in flower over terrace of french house

For more information about this property, and other pictures you are welcome to email my friend Béatrice directly at this address.

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house for sale in south of france

get the look … summer entertaining outside the french way

french cafÉ terrace

August is the time to be outside in France. The cities are largely empty and the countryside is all about  summer entertaining on terraces, in gardens and in the shade of trees.

blue and black chic in the garden

As we move around we spend time on the terraces of bistros and small restaurants, an aperitif with friends, a coffee after the market shop …. and while at home entertaining outside is one of my favorite ways to reconnect with friends or get the whole family together for a dinner.

Here are some of my favourites for entertaining outdoors , French style.

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Find these and similar pieces for your home & garden from US based retailers:

Beige umbrella here, round black table here, black bistro chair here and blue striped pillows here

Red Breakfast Cup & Saucer Set hereRustic White Lanterns herePatio Umbrellas hereFolding Metal Bistro Chairs here,  outdoor pillows here, red metal Table here.

 

You can find more bistro patio furniture in the US here.

summer food – fresh and easy

 

fresh figs on table

One of the unavoidable facts of being on holiday with the whole family reunited is that they all eat SO MUCH!!! How do we forget so fast?! The fridge is full one minute and empty again the next, and if we don’t want to become slaves to the kitchen then the answer is to eat fresh produce that everyone enjoys, can be found at the local markets  and is relatively easy to prepare.

Summer food has to be easy.   Of course tomatoes, figs, peaches and melons are on our table each day, but yesterday I made two dishes that just say ‘summer’ to me and I think are typically French.

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FIrst of all a ‘Tarte aux Mirabelles’.   Mirabelle is a tiny, sweet yellow plum that has just come into season, and is sold at all the local markets.

ingredients for a plum tart

There’s nothing clever about making a french fruit tart.    Simply make your favourite pastry (I made a sweet pastry yesterday), or alternatively purchase a brand that you trust.

ingredients for a plum tart

Cut the plums in half and remove the stones then carefully lay them over the pre-baked tart base that you have sprinkled lightly with sugar to help absorb the plum juice.   Bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes and then let the tart rest for 10 minutes before serving warm.  As you can see from the photo below, the pastry is not picture perfect, but at the speed at which it disappeared, I think it must have tasted OK!

french plum tart

A very quick and delicious salad that we love is fresh green beans, lightly cooked in boiling water and refreshed in cold water to stop them becoming soggy.    We dress them with olive oil, some shredded basil leaves and small black Niçois olives.

tomatoes and green beans on wooden table

A dish we only ever eat in the south of France is deep fried courgette flowers.  They are very simple to prepare, I just make a batter with plain flour, a good pinch of salt and enough beer to make a batter that is the consistency of olive oil.

For large quantities it’s worth having two frying pans heating the oil (I use sunflower oil) and dip each flower into the batter before lowering it carefully into the hot oil.    Each flower takes a few minutes to fry on each side and can be laid to drain on absorbent paper before transferring to a serving platter.

baby courgettes and courgette flowers on wooden table

And finally, a dish you may not be familiar with.    Mediterranean sardines baked in the oven.   The mediterranean sardines are smaller than the Atlantic variety, slightly less strong in flavour, and extremely easy to fillet.

fresh sardines

Without traumatising you with too many gory details, you don’t need a knife or any other tool to  fillet sardines. Simply pinch and pull off their heads (ouch!), then run your thumb up their belly and in one fell swoop remove their guts and backbone.   You finish with a neat pair of open fillets, ready to be laid out in straight lines on your baking dish, that has already been drizzled with a little olive oil .

sardines baked in oven

Once the dish is covered with a layer of sardine fillets, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, a drop more olive oil and pop into a hot oven for about twelve minutes.   I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love this dish, eaten warm with a salad of tomatoes .  YUM!

Hope you’re having a great summer too, and of course I’d love to hear about your favourite summer turn-to meals.

summer vegetables on wooden table