One of the most amazing things about living in the South of France is the summer/winter balance. The pleasures of the Cote d'Azur in spring/summer are well known....hot sunshine, chilled rose, lunch on the terrace (as well as breakfast and dinner) and an all round outdoor life. (I could also mention tourist crowds, the jammed road to St Tropez from late June to late August and pesky mosquitoes lest anyone thinks it is paradise 100% of the time, but I won't.)
The winter pleasures, however, remain a very well kept secret until you arrive here and discover that within an hour's drive of home, you can head off for a ski and still be back in time for lunch. Such was our day today. The snow has been falling and while we had fantastic conditions in Auron and Greolieres at the weekend, a huge dump of snow yesterday and last night signalled 40cms of fresh powder which simply could not be ignored.
Handyman and I snuck away from our desks first thing this morning and joined Faye, Milly and seven year old Olly, whose school was happily on strike, for a knee deep powder ski on empty slopes a mere 40 minute drive from home. Needless to say, Olly out-skied us all. Even the journey there and back was spectacular, with a low snowline meaning everything looked like Narnia.
Handyman hates skiing so it was totally out of character for him to suggest playing truant from work to head up for a morning ski. Typically it wasn't without trauma. In a fit of super duper organisation last autumn, he sorted through all of his ski wear just before the girls and I headed off to do a vide grenier and came across two pairs of ski trousers - one pair fitted perfectly, the others were accidentally left behind by our tall and rangey teenage nephew Josh a few years ago, when he was aged around 13. Guess which ones he ended up wearing, having put the wrong ones in a charity bag?
Sadly I was prevented from posting the photo I wanted to post of him doing a fine impression of Coco the clown, complete with ill fitting braces and a fly zip that went up by less than an inch. Luckily (for the rest of us) he had a long snowboard jacket to cover his modesty, preventing him from being arrested for indecent exposure or suffering hypothermia of the nether regions, and was left praying even harder than usual that he wouldn't have a nasty accident and end up in a blood wagon. While females worry about whether they are wearing matching underwear in the event of a crash, Handyman was more concerned by the shock his exposed midriff and more could cause to a kindly pompier.
After a blast through the valley, we headed back from minus 10 to plus 19 degrees and had lunch on the terrace in warmish sunshine, pictured above. What more can I say? Hollande might be squeezing every entrepreneur, professional and ex-pat to within an inch of survival in our corner of France but while he has mountains, beaches and a mediterranean climate in his back South Eastern pocket, there is a very strong reason for staying put.
I am a London-born journalist, married with two daughters, who one day took a punt and upped sticks with my family, our cats and dogs to start a new life in the South of France.
Prompted by the desire to have an improved quality of life and better manage the balance between working and tasting the coffee, we sold up lock stock and barrel and headed for the little Provencal village of Le Bar sur Loup, 30 minutes from Nice.
Our beautiful Victorian house in Hertfordshire was swapped for a derelict villa on a hillside which represents a huge black hole into which we throw endless fistfuls of money but hey, we have sunshine, views to die for and the best rose in the world to drink.