We talk to American Emily Durand of Your Private Provence Tours, about falling in love with a Frenchman and moving from the US to beautiful Provence in France…
What inspired you to move to France?
I’m from the Northwest, Southern Oregon and I grew up on a family run farm. When I was real young we had both a grain farm and a dairy farm. I have many memories of tending to the calves and watching my grandfather milk the cows. As time went on we sold the dairy farm and worked the fields for barley, corn, alfalfa, wheat. I moved to Seattle to study and I met my now husband there. A Frenchman, he was working on a family run orchard as part of his French studies abroad program. Two years later I found myself in love and in Provence trying to learn French!
Where do you live in France?
Many people move to France because they are in love with it before they even get there. I, on the other hand, had never had the time to dream of France before meeting this French guy. I had never studied a foreign language, European history or literature – I had no idea what ‘Provence’ was even. When I graduated from college with my teaching certificate, I had a big choice to make: either find myself a teaching job or move to France to be with a guy I couldn’t manage to forget. I moved to France.
The first year I studied in Aix-en-Provence to learn French while living in the family house of my French love in Cavaillon. Yes, I survived a year and half of living in the same house as his parents! And that’s probably why I managed to speak French so quickly – his mom made me.
What is your house like?
After two years living with my husband’s family, we finally got our own house – just across the field! We didn’t get far but at least we were no longer sharing the same walls. When our first son was born, we knocked down a wall that was a meter thick to join two of the more recent parts of the old farm house together. At one time I was convinced that I was going to write a book entitled ‘My house is falling down’. Until that time we were living in a cute little tower; one room downstairs and two small bedrooms upstairs. In the newer part we put in a new kitchen. We also put in a lovely bathroom in the middle of the house. Yes, to get from one end of the house to the other you must walk through the large bathroom with a nice porcelain bathtub. It’s unique and tours of it are free.
I immediately fell in love with the land. The beauty, diversity, the ease of getting around, exploring new things and finding new hiking trails was an absolute paradise for me. I often needed an escape so I got to know the secret spots quickly. The beauty of the land along with the understanding of my husband are what have kept me here.
What do you love most about Provence?
Sometimes I find myself sitting down at a café and really seeing the colors round me. The colors in the facades but also the colors in a figurative sense. There is rhyme and reason here – a way to do things and a style in doing it all. It grows on you and soon you find yourself sitting down for three meals a day, shopping at the local vendors rather than the supermarket and greeting people with a kiss.
What inspired you to set up Your Private Provence?
I was working as a teacher here in Provence but I knew that my dream job was creating memories for people. I had been doing it for friends and family since I’d arrived so I’d had a lot of practice creating special tours, ensuring they were authentic, memorable and a visit to be cherished.
I believe the best time to travel in Provence is any time except the end of July and through August! It can be very crowded and hot then. At other times of the year is when you’ll see the best of this breath-taking area. There’s nothing quite like seeing stalls laden with strawberries and asparagus at the markets in April, or masses of wild flowers in May. In June the temperatures warm up and melons ripen and by July there’s the unforgettable spectacle of blooming, scented lavender fields. There is a wonderful uniqueness to every month.
If you’re into wine and fresh produce, I suggest coming the later part of the year starting mid-September. You’ll get to see first-hand the grape harvest, apple harvest, saffron harvest and even the French squash harvest. A month later, starting mid-October, the true Autumn colors begin to radiate and the olive harvest starts and temperatures remain mild. And just when you thought the best seasons to visit Provence were over, you realize there is one more treasure to explore – the holiday gastronomy and Christmas markets. Truffles & wine, oysters & wine, chestnuts & hot mulled wine, foie gras & Muscat, warm winter fires & cooler country walks – the atmosphere is enchanting.
Find out more about Emily Durand’s tours at Your Private Provence