A few days ago, I had the great pleasure of meeting Rodolfe and Monique, family friends of Estelle’s and her parents. Rodolfe was the contractor who managed the redesign of Estelle’s flat, and Monique cleans and cares for the neighbors who live across the hall. A friendship sparked. Estelle told me that I simply had to meet them and that I would have a heart attack when I saw their house.
Rodolfe and Monique live north of Nice, up in the hills. The drive was intense—curves that hugged the cliffs, and 180 degree turns that required downshifting into first gear. I clutched the bottle of champagne we brought as a gift for apéritifs; it gave me something to look forward to—a reward of sorts for having survived the trip.
By the time we made it to the end of their driveway—a long, unmarked dirt road surrounded by olive trees—I had already fallen madly in love.
Rodolfe and Monique greeted us with two kisses, the traditional number for the South of France. I had been warned that Rodolfe and Monique didn’t speak any English, so I knew going in that this would be a good opportunity for me to dive into my French, especially since Estelle and I haven’t been speaking much of it (well, she speaks en français, mais I respond en anglais . . . or en franglais). Here, in the hills of Provence, I would be forced to be vulnerable, tripping over my words rather than simply avoiding them.
Monique immediately invited me into her home. There are no words to describe how beautiful it is. I’m kicking myself for not having taken more pictures, but I’m hoping it’s God’s way of saying that I have to go back!
Monique explained that the house looked nothing like this when they bought the property; a dilapidated structure with a dirt floor, their “house” actually housed a herd of sheep. The original structure is over three hundred years old. Rodolfe later told me that there had been no running water and no electricity; now they have plumbing and solar/battery power. They did everything themselves. Monique had the vision. “She can see what could be,” he said, explaining that his job was to bring Monique’s vision to life. It made me think of Billy, because he, too, trusts my creative instincts and always helps make them a reality.
And oh my God what a vision she had! Every single corner of their home was enchanting. A true original, their house could easily grace the pages of Côté Sud. I couldn’t stop oohing and ahhing at every turn. I loved her collection of personal objects; each vignette felt like a puja—an offering to life, straight from her heart. “You don’t need expensive things, just meaningful things,” she said. We bonded over our shared philosophy, and suddenly we were no longer strangers, but friends.
After the tour, we walked down to their outdoor kitchen for aperitifs.
Rodolfe told me that he cooked les pissaladières (onion, anchovy, and olive tarts) in his outdoor, wood-burning oven. The tapenade was made using their olives.
We sat amongst the olive trees and talked about life. Monique is a goddess. I was completely under her spell.
At one point, Estelle mentioned that she loved figs, and so Rodolfe went to go pick some from his tree. Now that’s hospitality!
By the end of the evening, I felt like I was part of the family.
I can say without a doubt that our evening with Rodolfe et Monique was the best moment of my trip so far. It was such a treat to be invited into their home with open arms—to be a part of their life, if only for one evening. I felt uplifted by the sincerity and the generosity of total strangers, and observed with awe as our relationship evolved into friendship over a bottle of champagne. I’ve been invited back to help them with their olive harvest in December. It seems my prayers were answered.