Our first two days at Chez Bateaux were water-colored and springlike, but the rest of the week was balmy, almost hot but never humid. Equidistant from the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the air at Chez Bateaux was perfumed with sea breeze and juniper. We lived simply, making a trip to town in the morning and lolling by the by the pool in the afternoon. The breeze moaned low on the hillside and the calls of roosters and cuckoos rang out across the valley. Workers toiled in the vineyards, staking the vines.
We were charmed by the ancient villa, which turned its back on the nondescript little village - so unlike most French villages - to face the vineyards. The sense of holiday and whimsy inside the villa enchanted me. Yellow pottery, striped linens, the colors of the Midi, everywhere. The cozy country smell of a house that is closed up for part of the year. The owl that sang for us at dusk as we closed the shutters on the damp spring night.
For three years I dreamed of Chez Bateaux. We spent two weeks in Paris on a subsequent trip, but never left. Every time our walks or bus rides took us near Gare Austerlitz, I looked at it longingly. Oh, to be on a train headed south!
Finally we returned, this time as summer slowly slipped into fall. This time we arrived mid-afternoon on a Saturday. Chez Bateaux was drenched in golden sunlight, not the watery pastels of spring, but the robust amber of harvest time. We explored the house, touching familiar doors and counters. "This is different; no that has not changed," we said, deeply satisfied with our surroundings.
This time we spent two weeks there, watching the slow subtle change of season. The mornings were chilly but burnished with lambent light; the nights were still and black. Chez Bateaux was still charming, but familiar now, like an old friend bearing gifts from distant and exotic sources.
Before I left I hid something of mine on the property; a broken silver chain tucked into a niche. Some day perhaps it will be found. Meanwhile, a piece of me is always there.
It is doubtful we will return. It's time to explore other parts of France. I still want to visit Menton; the sight of the campanile of the Basilica of St. Michael never fails to draw me in.