Returning to La Bégude, Fred’s father’s home in Provence after thirteen years is like returning to a dream you’ve had before. Much is familiar – the tree-lined driveway, Marcia’s welcoming smile, the waft of cigarettes, the swimming pool sparkling like a patchwork piece of the Mediterranean; but much has changed: the hedges are thicker, the vines framing the doorway are more established, Marc is thinner and – holy shit – cute little 5-year-old Antoine is now a handsome young man with perfect stubble and a rosé in hand.
If there is one constant here in Castellet, Provence it is the sheer beauty (and quantity) of the food we are treated to: foie gras, roast lamb, crisp green salad and peaches drenched with red wine at Marc and Marcia’s; bowls of delicately-flavoured sardine, aubergine, tuna and goat’s cheese dips with toasted baguette at Café de France in Lacoste village; and the stunning dinner dear Caro Nigella’ed up in her kitchen tonight (more on that in a moment).
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.
– A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
The street narrows and the air shifts; a thick fog of ghost-words descends from the second floor apartment, wrapping around me like a silk scarf. This must be the place.
I rented gorgeous Parisian art director and textile designer Aurèlia Paoli’s chic Les Halles apartment this week. The apartment is around the corner from the best street in Paris, Rue Montorgueil, an authentic, cobbled, all-day market street where fashionable Parisians shop and socialize.
Aurèlia (34) has turned her love of art and design into a textiles business, Beauregard Paris (www.beauregardparis.com). Her specialty is a range of unique graphic cement tiles you can see in the apartment pictures. Although Aurèlia experimented with various aspects of design – initially studying fashion design – her heart has always been in the arts. I wanted to know more about her journey:
I am finally here: Paris, Paris, Paris! The last time I was here was in 2001 for work. I spent three days trotting and tripping up the cobbled streets of the fashionable districts in heels, heaving around a satchel of my models’ work to present to agents. It was July. I was sweaty and my feet hurt. The agents were haughty. But Paris is the holy grail of a model’s career; one had to make the effort, you see.
But that was then. In this life, I’m here with my husband and children, seeing La Ville Lumière through the gauze of my obsession with the Lost Generation and the literature and art of 1920s and 1930s Paris. At that time Americans, jaded from the carnage of World War One (not to mention far too sober due to prohibition), flocked to Paris to write, paint, drink, and live a beautiful life. Many of my heroes were there – Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, Picasso, Sara and Gerald Murphy*, John Dos Passos, and of course Ernest Hemingway.