Simply put… we fell in love with an abandoned farmhouse outside the village of St Remy de Provence, at the foothills of the Alpilles mountains in southern France. This became an ongoing love affair that saw us renovate the farmhouse, establish an olive grove and create a garden.
It has been a journey, one that I am so happy to have taken. It has not been without heartache and difficulties, changing lives never is… but I wouldn’t have missed one second of it. Falling in love all those years ago has enriched my life immeasurably.
I feel like Mas de Bérard is very much a character in your books, particularly in My French Life. What a journey of transformation from an old fruit farm to one of the most stunning properties in Provence (in my opinion)! What do you love most about your home now?
I love that it is home and that it is filled with our stories. Every room has it’s own tale, every piece of furniture or decorative detail has been sourced by us… the farmhouse is our history and our future all rolled into one.
Tell us about your garden and your beloved olive trees?
The olive trees came first, before the garden. We planted those in 2000 and have watched them grow into healthy producers. The olive harvest is one of the high points in my year… a chance to reconnect with nature, to enjoy the camaraderie with our team who pick the fruit and to spend some time outdoors enjoying that very clear Provencal air.
The garden is an ongoing labour of love and a work in progress. Every year I tell myself, that’s it… no more gardening… every year I come up with some new idea to enhance or extend the garden… I can’t help it… This year I have added more roses and peonies… and I am extending the iris border on our driveway… I think it’s an addiction, this beauty in Provence… and if you are a homemaker, like I am… it’s almost unavoidable.
I’m sure other readers would be like me in that we “picture you” in your home as you write your blogs! Can you share with us what a normal day (if there is such a thing!) might look like for you from morning to evening?
I split my year between London and France so my days in France are very different to my days in London… In France I usually spend the morning discussing the farm with our manager planning what needs to be done with the olives or the fruit trees. I usually take photographs in the morning and work on the blog in the afternoon. This year I have been finishing off another renovation in St Remy de Provence, a village house that we have called Le Petit Bijou… so that has kept me very busy over the summer. It’s finished now and ready for guests.
You collaborated with your great friend and photographer Carla Coulson on both your books, My French Life and French Essence, have you two dreamed of anything else you’d love to do together?
Always… I adore working with Carla. She is a magnificent photographer and has the great gift of interpreting exactly what I want to say and show through the lens. We don’t have any plans right now… but that can easily change.
How long do you spend on your blog, French Essence, each day? Do you have a particular time you like to write it, and do you find it easier to have a daily routine?
My blog, French Essence, has become a serious full time job! I spend as many hours as I can on it… when I am in London I am working on it every day… but it is such a pleasure and a great way to connect with my readers.
I can’t imagine life before French Essence now…and that is another reason why I am so grateful to have found this French connection… it has allowed me to connect with like-minded Francophiles all over the world…
Paris plays a big part in your books and you visit often. What are the things you look forward to most on your trips to Paris?
I try and visit Paris three or four times a year. My favourite pastime in Paris is people watching… Actually sitting and observing the daily comings and goings of the Parisians… I like to be a witness to a city’s heartbeat… trying to understand what makes her tick and where the energy comes from… that is what a city is all about. I have learned everything I know about Paris from her sidewalk cafes.
Whether it’s a page in one of your beautifully penned books, or a simple anecdote in a daily blog entry, your writing style is unchanging: impeccable, filled with passion, and straight from the heart. Where does your passion come from?
My passion comes from the heart. I do believe that if you write honestly about what you feel then the rest will follow. I am an accidental writer… it happened to me, I didn’t pursue writing as a career choice… now it’s part of my daily life and something that I can’t imagine not doing.
I think I was born with a passion for beauty… whether it is fashion, interiors… life in general… and as I get older to be surrounded by beauty becomes more and more important to me.
I know you love your family very much. 🙂 How often are you all in the one place? When will you be together again next?
My husband and three children are the reason for everything… we are often together in London and we holiday as a family whenever we can.
What are the things that have captured your heart in Saint Rémy? With your kids all grown up now, how much of your time is spent there?
I am probably in St Rémy five months out of every year… So many elements of Provencal life have captured my heart…. St Rémy is a beautiful village with a wonderful past, it can’t but help capture you… The lifestyle is alluring and I think that is one of Provence’s greatest attractions.
What are your top five “happy places”?
Home is my number one… whether it or France or London
Australia…catching up with friends and family
And the bath!
I am a big dreamer, and a believer in constantly awakening our hearts so we are always flourishing. What dreams do you still have that you would love to see come to pass?
The dreams that all mothers dream… happiness for their children… For me, I am so fortunate, I am already living my dream… and I don’t want to change a thing…
Thank you so much Natalie for inviting me to share my story with your readers… it’s such a pleasure to answer your questions and share your passion for all things French.
Well I hope you enjoyed that spurt of inspiration everyone! Thank you so much Vicki for sharing your incredible story. 🙂 If you don’t have Vicki’s books, you might just want to click below and snap them up asap. Have a wonderful day today stirring up those dreams, because remember… just like what we have seen above, absolutely anything can happen!
Love Nat xx
Christmas images and Paris collage by Vicki Archer
To purchase Carla Coulson’s books click here: