The South of France. Le Sud de la France. Any mention of such a land immediately conjures images of a peaceful picturesque countryside with creamy French architecture bathed in a sea of warm afternoon sun. A stroll along the winding paths. A peep into the many fait maison (home made) artisan boutiques. A conversation over a glass of rosé on a rooftop overlooking the sun setting over the montagnes. It does not get more romantic than that.
Except maybe that this town has a castle too.
The French attention to detail and sense of design permeate the culture of the South, and thus can be seen partout. Space is immaculately thought out and designed to bring about a special ambiance, something that the French are very particular about.
Design is second nature here, a symbol of sophistication, taste, and savoir vivre. Elegance, beauty, and pleasure are intricately intertwined, inseparable concepts to a fulfilling life.
But this does not mean that work is not important or meaningful to the French - work is a means to life. However, a good life is not about having things (obtained through work and money), but rather through the enjoyment of the present and the appreciation of the people and world around us. And so in this way, it is not about how many things we can own or how expensive those are, but rather finding or creating value in the things we have already. Knowledge, skills and culture are the most precious goods there are.
Unlike in many major tourist cities these days, boutiques here are very authentic and high quality - most sell unique local goods and artisan creations that were made right here in the village/region, using skills that were passed down through the family. Art galleries and home goods dominate the scene (my personal favorites), while other small stores of pottery, clothing, and design fill up the rest.
But my favorite of them all were no doubt these wonderful little spaces for the sharing of intimate conversations. What is life worth, after all, without sharing it with family and friends?
I can't wait to come back again.