We spent two and a half years in Southern France while our kids were in elementary school and junior high. Our little town, Le Rouret is not on this map but it’s a little bit SE of Gourdon. I haven’t really shown you what it was like there, so I thought a few pictures might interest you. I’m pasting the pictures that stem from our daily life there, not our trips or excursions. (We were one hour from Italy so we could hop over there and eat gnocchi!)
This is our kitchen. Ikea cabinets, a window looking out to our parking space and olive tree. When you rent a place in France, the kitchen is typically an empty room, except maybe they’ll have a sink. It’s up to you to purchase a kitchen. Then you take your kitchen with you. Thankfully, the renters before us had installed the kitchen, so we paid them to keep it. I actually miss that kitchen. The oven was the best I’d ever had.
The washer and dryer? Not so much. Let’s just say I hugged my American ones when we moved stateside. And, yes, it was weird to do laundry in the kitchen. I basically did laundry every day and night for the entire time we lived there. I ended up giving up on the awful dryer and hanging my clothes instead.
Gourdon was just a few miles up a very steep, windy road from where we lived in Le Rouret. Patrick used to bike up that crazy hill and not die, which was a bonus. We took guests here because of the spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea, and the restaurants were reasonable.
Here we are right after we arrived in France. This picture is taken near Aix En Provence when we took a family day trip (I think to venture to Ikea, which is pronounced EE-KAY-YAH in French.) Look how young we all were.
Our back yard was tiny-tiny (tres petite!) but I loved it. We had a clothes line, the best dryer ever. We could seat folks in that back pavilion, and we had another table under an awning on a deck. Add to that our large dining table inside (with French doors out to the back yard), we could sit 22 people. We often had that many and more every week in our home.
If you lived near Nice (we were just a few kilometers up the hill), you had to go to the Promenade. Great for biking and blading, and spectacular, amazing views of the sea, the city and the Alps. Breathtaking.
We weren’t living in the lap of luxury, folks. We lived in a little town home, maybe 1100 square feet, three stories tall. The ground floor had the kitchen, living/dining and a toilet room (no sink). The second floor had three very small bedrooms and our main bathroom that was super cramped and a little creepy. The top floor housed our bedroom and a little writing nook (6 x 6). The station wagon lived under a tree where birds seemed to congregate and defecate upon in. We called it the bird poop car. We had a “garage” but no car could fit in it, so we stored some things there as well as a freezer. The olive tree was super cool. The neighbors were nice.
Nearly every week we took a hike above Le Rouret to the top of the mountain (Camp Romain. Here’s a cool video of someone biking down the hill). The views were lovely–the sea in the background, the villages dotted below us, and more mountains surrounding us. It was free and beautiful. I wish I would’ve been more brave and run the mountain.
Every year in Vence, they held an Easter parade, where the floats were inundated with flowers. They circled the square several times, and the last time became this wild frenzied free-for-all where folks would attack the floats and grab flowers. This happy chap nabbed quite a bit. This is one of my favorite pictures from France. Because he’s just so cheerful.
We often took guests to Nice, Antibes and Cannes. I kept expecting to run into Johnny Depp, but alas, no. The beaches were typically smooth stones, though we located a few that had sand. Toplessness wasn’t as rampant as we thought, but speedos were alive and well. The food in all three places ROCKED. The moules et frites (muscles and fries) were Julia’s favorite dish. Our kids all ended up loving duck, and a few of us (not me) adored fois gras.
I tell the story of what Julia walked through in my book, Beautiful Battle, but the happy ending of the story was this: She met Jesus. And then asked to be baptized. How cool that she’s the only one of us who can say she was baptized in the Mediterranean Sea.
This is our beloved, huge, chunky table that hosted many a guest. Please note that Patrick is sporting blond (well, orange, really) tips. He’s such a rebel.
We had a very successful event when a team from Texas came to work with us. They put on a Texas barbecue, and we had about 100 people show up! Amazing. We also hosted two marriage conferences.
This is the center of Le Rouret, the town square. Every day older gentlemen would play boules there. This was our view on the way to and from school and to and from lunch.
We were Crossroads International Christian Church, and we held our first services in a tennis club. It took about a year to get to this point. I led worship. Patrick preached (with interpretation.) It was hard for me to lead worship in two languages, especially as a very new guitar player, so I was grateful when I met Barnaby from the UK who played the guitar beautifully. He became our worship leader!
Here’s another shot of what we saw on the way to school. This is a little Catholic church facing the square in Le Rouret. In the fall, the leaves on the vines turned bright red.
As I mentioned earlier, our bedroom was on the third floor. We had two tiny windows, but from those windows we saw the most spectacular sunsets. Right below our window was a large parking lot for the village where the pizza truck would come and make the most amazing wood fired pizzas. My favorite? Smoked salmon in cream sauce. To. Die. For. We must’ve had at least 8 circuses come to town in that parking lot. We’d wake up hearing tigers and lions and llamas and zebras making tons of animal noise. During the riots of 2005, a car had been set aflame in the parking lot in front of our home, and a newspaper just a few kilometers away had been torched.
This is the famous walled city, Saint Paul de Vence. Amazing. Notice all those satellite dishes! Ancient buildings with modern amenities.
Our time in France was tres difficile. We had turmoil on our team, spiritual warfare galore, difficult school situations, and more stuff that I can’t really talk/write about. But, God used that time to grow our family together. Our children owned their faith there. And as I look back, I see the deepest, greatest growth coming from that time. I’m now able to be grateful for our time there, and I actually would like to return. This is a huge answer to prayer because for so long, the trauma of the place made me never want to return. God is good.