Right before you begin to enter into the town of Gordes, you will see a small space carved out within the sprawling rock cliffs and tourists pulled off along their protruding edges. Each person has a camera in hand, vying for the best angle to capture the beautiful village that juts out from the rocky hillside just across the valley. From this viewpoint, the town looked as if it was radiating, the bright beams of the sun bouncing off of the white village homes that dotted the lush hillside. I stretched out over a smooth rock face off to the side, enjoying the light breeze and soaking in the rays that saturated the space. Andy shuffled around the overlook, gazing through the lens of his vintage camera with every few steps, checking to see if the light, angle and camera’s lens aligned to create the most perfect shot. We were on our way out of Gordes, a town so famous, we couldn’t find a “best of Provence” list that it wasn’t on, but somehow, we were leaving feeling as though we missed something. The town seemed kind of quiet, which was understandable, since it was about 3 weeks before Europe’s holiday season truly began. We walked around the main streets and even found ourselves wandering down the tiny, cobbled side streets, but, after about two hours of exploring, we were wondering what exactly the allure of the town was. Were we getting jaded with small, idyllic French villages? I didn’t think so. I think, though, for all of the hype from the many, many lists and blogs, I was expecting something different or perhaps more. The town had some restaurants and a few high-end hotels, the typical gift shops sprinkled in here and there, but nothing too out of the ordinary for a typical tourist town. After seeing what we believed was all of it, we headed back to the car in order to stop at the overlook and snap a photo or two before heading to Lioux. Here, at the stop over, seemed to be where most of the tourists were, seeking the perfect spot to get the best photo. Andy sauntered over to me. “You ‘bout ready to go?” “Sure? But did you get all the photos you wanted?” I asked, squinting up at him through the bright rays of sun. “I did,” he started, “but there are only so many photos you can take.” I laughed and started to slide myself down off of the rock. “Tara must be really determined to sell this house!” I said, starting to walk back down the path to the car. “Yeah, offering to meet up a few hours before her wedding is a real commitment!”He agreed, studying his phone, “It says we’re only about fifteen minutes away,” he said, turning his phone to face me so I could study the map.
As we descended the hill from Gordes to the listing, we wove through lush valleys lined with lavender fields and olive groves. It was a desolate journey with not another town in sight from the road, but every few moments a small sign or two would appear, indicating civilization and that a winery could be found at the next dirt road and open for tastings and tours.
We followed the small arrowed sign indicating we were entering into the village of Lioux and were met by Tara, standing alongside the castle, waiting to guide us into an unmarked parking spot. Opening the car doors, we were immediately hit with the fresh smell of lavender since parking in between the castle and its adjacent lavender fields. “Hello! Welcome!” Tara said, walking over to meet us, her flowy sundress trailing softly behind her. “This is incredible,” Andy said, looking over his shoulder at the fragrant purple fields behind him. “It’s a beautiful time of year to be here,” she agreed, breathing in deep. “So, this is the chateau?” I asked, turned in the other direction. “Yes, this is it! It was purchased by a famous French designer and restored, but he just died and so we are wondering who will be its next owner,” she looked up lovingly at the castle as a car pulled up next to ours. A well dressed man got out of the car with a huge grin. “Mon dieu!” Tara started, “you aren’t supposed to see me yet!” she squealed. “This is my fiancé. This is Rachel and Andy.”
We exchanged handshakes and a quick congratulations before being swept off, around to the front of the chateau to see the home. “My fiancé and I live here in Lioux. We love it! It’s so close to everything, but it’s peaceful here and we’re such a tight knit community,” She stopped in front of a blue shuttered stone home that shared an exterior wall with the chateau. “This is it!” she said, looking back at us to gauge our reactions. “It’s very cottagey” Andy said, nodding his head. “It’s currently being used as an air b and b, but the owner wants to get out of that business. Come, let’s have a look,” she said, opening the front door. We entered, walking down the small hallway that spilled us out directly into a cozy living room that had a very lodge-like feel to it. Andy’s eyes immediately rose to the ceiling. “I’m a sucker for exposed beams,” he said, taking in the detail. “Yes, this little stone cottage has a lot of older details I think you’ll like,” she said, leading us into the adjoining kitchen. I passed by an end table that had a guestbook and pencil resting on top and took a mental note to make sure to read it on my way out. Following Tara into the long, “L” shaped kitchen, I looked around the tidy, minimalistic space. “I like the size of it. It’s big enough to move around in and seems to have a lot of counter space and cupboard space,” I ran my hand along the long counter top that divided the living room from the kitchen. The large farmhouse sink sat under a large window that faced the main road. I turned away from the window to further inspect the space. “The only thing is there isn’t enough room for a table. The room is long and spacious, but not wide enough to also fit a table, so where would we eat?” Tara looked around the space, trying to think of a clever solution. I think that there is plenty of room in the living room to add a small table off to the side,” she said, wandering to the entryway and standing between the rooms. “You can have a dining room, living room combo and not feel cramped,” she added. Satisfied with her solution, she turned and paused, then nodded and headed for the stairs that were tucked against the back wall of the kitchen. “Up on the second floor you have two bedrooms and a bathroom.” We followed behind diligently, turning to each other halfway up the stairs, trying to silently read each other's reactions. Andy gave a little shrug, indicating his opinion was still up in the air. I nodded, agreeing. I enjoyed being at the point in our relationship where all we had to do was exchange a single glance and 1,000 words were spoken. When we reached the top of the stairs, Tara walked forward into the bathroom, switching on the light. The windowless room was small, housing a tub and shower combo with a sink resting in the corner. We ducked our head into the doorway to take a peak, not all being able to fit into the space at the same time. “I like the beige color, very neutral,” I said, thinking back to some of the hideous bathrooms we had stumbled across on this journey. While beige and neutral weren’t two adjectives I’d ever think to use to describe Andy or myself, I was starting to almost hope for plain and basic tiles as opposed to the electric blues and greens that stung our eyes on some of the other tours. Tara turned off of the light and shuffled past us, leading us into the first bedroom. It was a small space that lacked any and all personality. Definitely an Air B and B, I thought looking at the basic setup of the room. A small window and a nondescript painting covered the largests wall with a small bed and nightstand filling the rest of the empty space. “Is this the main bedroom or guest?” Andy questioned. “This is the main,” Tara confirmed, pausing for a response. After a brief moment passed with no additional comment, she continued on. “And down the hall is the guest bedroom.” We entered, finding a similar sized room filled with the same paired back amenities, perfect for the traveler passing through for only a few days. “Is there any storage?” I questioned, looking around the room for a closet. “There is not,” Tara started, “but you could easily add a dresser or armoire to hold clothes and linens,” she said, pointing to empty wall space along the back wall. The room fell silent again. Usually we had a lot of things to ask about a home. We’re we running out of steam on this house tour? Or was the house itself such a basic shell that no questions needed to be asked? We walked back onto the landing, huddling around each other to debrief. “I like that all of the floors are wood and, of course, I also love the wooden beams,” I started. Tara nodded. “But, I don’t think I saw an outside space,” I looked at Andy, knowing that was a top three want for him. He seemed a bit more engaged, leaning awaiting Tara’s response. “There is a little space out front to perhaps put a small table and chairs by the door,” she suggested. “The house is very cozy,” Andy added, trying to insert some positives, “and I think it's a great space for a holiday home, not too big, not too cramped.” “I agree,” I said, shaking my head. “It seems like a manageable size.” Another pause. “We have a lot to talk about,” I said, looking at Andy, trying to give him my now “go to” subtle glance. He caught on and nodded back. “Yeah, we should talk over the positives and negatives and discuss what we think.” We started down the stairs, signaling the end of the tour.
Andy paused in the living room admiring more wooden features and I took that time to wander over to the guest book. Opening up the book, I flipped to the halfway point. Blank.
I grabbed another little chunk between my finger and thumb, moving closer to the front, and opened it. Blank. Hmm, I thought. I flipped to the first page. “The house was cozy and had a great location.” Great location? I thought. Perhaps in proximity to other towns?
I flipped to the next page. “Thanks for a wonderful stay!” I flipped to page three, it was blank.
The owner wants to get out of the business, I thought, thinking back to Tara’s reasoning for the sale. What business? Seemed like no one was renting. I placed the book down and turned back around to see what Tara and Andy were up to. “We probably drive to Aix about three times a month, just to look at all of the specialty stores and do some shopping. It’s a nice city to have so close,” she was explaining. I locked eyes with Andy and he nodded, edging closer to the front door.
Stepping outside into the bright Provence sunshine, Tara pulled the door shut, locking it behind her. “Before you leave,” she said, turning back to us, “please, let me walk you through town, so you can get a sense of the surroundings.” “Sure,” I agreed, “but only if you have the time! We are so thankful to you for even showing us the place with your wedding only a few hours away!” She waved me away, “it would be a memorable way to start the marriage, personally being the one to sell to my potential neighbors,” she started up the small road outside of the house.
I remember Tara mentioning in one of our emails that she was American. It seemed like a lot of the people that we had met so far shared similar stories, coming to France for what was supposed to be a small stop in a longer journey and then never leaving, clearly falling under its incurable spell.
The dirt path was narrow, but there were no cars around, allowing us to walk in the road, admiring each village house we passed that lined the road. “This is kind of the best of both worlds,” Tara said, longingly gazing at her surroundings. “You have a lot of well known towns not far away and Aix is just a little over an hour away.”
Andy followed closely alongside her, nodding. “Yeah, I want to stay around this part of Provence. Any higher and I’m not sure I’d feel like I was in the South of France.” Behind them I rolled my eyes, thinking of the home tour we had booked for tomorrow about an hour north from Lioux in Vaison-la-Romaine. One obstacle I kept trying to overcome was Andy’s ability to write off any house without having an open mind. The comment made me think that perhaps his mind was already made up about the home, which was fine, he didn’t have to want to buy it, but I just wanted him to at least go in with a completely open mind. We came to the end of the dirt path, leading you straight into large fields. “Shall we turn around?” Tara asked. “Um, sure,” Andy replied, a bit confused, “but, was that town?”
Tara paused. “Yes, again, Lioux is very small, but has many benefits in being small,” she started walking again in the opposite direction. I made a quick tally in my head as we walked the short distance back to our car. Ok, one chateau, one lavender field, perhaps 25 homes, 2 fountains. So, no restaurant, boulangerie, surely no weekly market, no cafe or pharmacy.
I didn’t mind small, but desolate is where I drew the line. We thought we had visited small villages before, but Lioux really set the bar for a small village. My mind went back to the chic home and it's five minute drive to Uzès, not seeming too inconvenient after all. We’re all of the home tours that were left going to essentially show us how great the chic house was? Or was this us settling? Going for the best home out of the lot, but not the best for us? We stopped next to our car, taking one last look around at our surroundings. “Thank you so much for showing us the home, and on this very special day!” I said, shooting Tara a warm smile. “Please, let me know if you have any questions or are interested in a second visit,” she replied. “We will, but not today. Today you are busy,” Andy said, walking over to the driver side door. I rolled down my window. “Thanks again and congratulations!” I said, sticking a hand out the window to wave. Tara nodded, softly waving back as we slowly began to pull away from the chateau and lavender fields, on our way to L'isle sur la Sorgue.
**Above is our journey from the Spanish boarder through the whole south and all the stops in between. You may notice Vaison is not marked, it was a totally by chance we ended up there!
Bonjour, Ciao, Salut! I'm Rachel and this is my story documenting our experience buying a home in France. If you are looking for advice on home buying, feel free to e-mail me or check the bottom of the home page for a link to a basic guide.