Author Archives: Julie

Time for Mass

The church in PF is about hundred yards downhill from my house. It’s cool, smells of floor polish and candles and has a wonderful war memorial to the fallen young men of Pierrefeu from 1914-18 in the local language, Provencal.

These bells sound every day, summoning the diminishing faithful to Mass and sometimes for funerals. And on hot, sleepless nights I often count the chimes of church clock as the hours pass. Earlier on today, a friend of mine showed me an appartment for sale right opposite the church, with a terrace looking right onto it. That might be a little too close…

The Smoking Doctor


After a week of facial pain and no improvement, I decided to go and see Dr Lienard here in Pierrefeu. The dentist had said that he’d thought maybe my sinuses were inflamed so, as you can’t get anything over the counter here, I trundled along to the Doc’s to wait in line with the halt and the lame.

You don’t make appointments in France so it’s basically first-come, first served. So I joined a small room-full of folk, all reading three year-old magazines, whispering conversations about last night’s torrential rain and greeting each newcomer with a ‘Bonjour, madame/monsieur’. A woman came in with two toddlers and, remarkably, managed to keep them both amused and in line simply by whispering at them.

Soon it was my turn. Now, I’ve seen Dr Lienard before when my ears got a bit bunged up after some ill-advised snorkling at St Clair. I remember her as a lady of a certain age, in a jaunty red suit with a packet of ciggies on her desk but assumed that, with the new laws about smoking in France, this would be a thing of the past.

Nothing of the sort. I start my tale of woe, desperately trying to remember the french for jaw, x-ray and pain, and the phone rings. In fact it rings several times. Not only does she take the calls (fair dos – there were probably folk much worse off than me) but during the second one, she reaches for her pack of Lucky Strikes, gets her Bic out and lights up – all one-handed. Inhaling deeply, she informs Monsieur So-and-So that she’ll call him after her consultation. He carries on talking and she cuts him off, rolling her eyes at me. I nod sympathetically, leaning back to avoid the cloud of smoke.

Actually, she was very nice. She did far more than the English Doc in London had done – including checking me for spots, oddly – and commenting on the British propensity for sticking cotton buds in their ears. How we laughed.

Twenty two euros later and I had a lengthy, scrawled prescription and a note to get me a sinus x-ray in Cuers. (Well, if it keeps raining, what else will I have to do?)

Oh, and a faint whiff of cigarette smoke, clinging to my clothes.

Rainy evening in Pierrefeu

This time last year I was on the beach at St Clair with Linda R and Linda M. Now, it’s monsoon time in PF. Not that the vines don’t need it, but it does prompt me to inspect the house and its every nook and cranny every ten minutes. So far so good…

Not sure whether or not this is good news for the sailing teams from all over the world who have amassed at Hyeres this week, for the French Olympic Sailing week. They were all congregating at the port yesterday – young and bronzed to a man/woman. And scarfing down food at the Tocco as if their lives depended on it. I popped in there straight from the airport, as is traditional. What was less traditional was my choice of Orangina instead of the pink stuff. Dashed antibiotics.

Once I got up to Pierrefeu, I parked at the top and started trundling through the village with my suitcase. Got a cheery welcome from an elderly gentleman who pointed out that he’d not seen me for ages and then joshed that he’d not slept or eaten for missing me. It’s amazing how much you can enjoy a bit of light flirtation with a seventy year-old.

House looked great. And before long I was back in peasant mode, with the Evil One lit, the Powerbook playing back-to-back Will and Grace and a pizza in the oven. (Actually, I don’t think peasants a century ago had the last two things.) It’s good to be home…

Wine time

Despite today’s snow in London, the milder weather last week made me think it was getting time to start filling the fridge with rosé again. Surfing about, though, I spotted that Pierrefeu’s wines are beginning to permeate the web a bit.

The local winegrowers have launched their own website which, despite its awful translation – apparently ‘those wines have a preserved gustative quality, typical of a unique provençal land’ – is a pretty useful guide to the very drinkable rosés of the area.

And my friend Corinne from the tourist office also has a starring role in this site, which features the Maison du Vin next door to where she works. A good way to get a wee free taste of the great wines of Pierrefeu and, as my brother has clocked, cheaper than paying a mighty one euro for a glass of the pink stuff in our local bar. Skinflint…


It’s five years this month that we took extended, long service leave and went out to Pierrefeu to paint, build Ikea furniture and get to know the area. The weather was just getting warmer so the Evil Stove wasn’t pressed into service too often. And, as you can see, much of the Ikea furniture work was done outside. Actually, that’s about all I did. T did most of the hard graft with the Allen key while we both donned overalls and painted the house from top to bottom.

It was a wonderful three or so weeks and it was over that time that the house became a home. Albeit a long distance one.

A whole new street

The local council have been in my street over the past few weeks. No more odd bumps, cracks and loose stone work in Rue de la Chapelle. Oh, no. Check out the new look.

Of course, I’m already worrying about drainage and moss. But it does look a lot smarter…

A blast from the past

While clearing out emails from my BBC email account, I came upon some photos from 2002 which show the Pierrefeu house as it was when Lucinda and Olivier lived there. These were the pics which got me in a plane out to the Var and encouraged me to buy the place in two days. The best thing I ever did. This is the kitchen. Obviously.

And this is the bedroom, with the wee ‘chambrette’ – where Elisa used to sleep – just through the wall behind the bed.

Then, it’s up the dangerously open stairs (Linda M freaked when she saw these) to the living room.

And finally, the ‘salon’, which had a lot more stuff in it then than it does now. But still has a wonderful view South over the roofs of the village and to the hills. And on to the terrace, which has had a couple of licks of paint since 2002 but is still a great place to drink a glass or two of rosé, count bats and watch the sun go down…

Vivre a Pierrefeu – Christmas special

It’s in and downloadable here by clicking on ‘telecharger’.

Headlines this quarter include:

  • The arrival of doggy poop bags, accompanied by a cute picture of a West Highland Terrier positioned next to a lampost. Let’s see if this makes any difference to the streets of Pierrefeu… (The bags, not the terrier.)
  • New shops and businesses opening, including the lovely new boulangerie near the Mairie, a hairdresser who’ll come to your house and a computer expert who’s set up shop in the Atac complex.
  • Details of how to submit your house into the Best Christmas Decorations competition and, of course, information about the hugely exciting ‘Foire aux Santons’ in the village. Not to be missed.
  • An update on Pierrefeu’s own running club, Cool Running, and the imminent ‘Trail de Pierre a Feu’, all 26 kms of it. Gulp…
  • Some photos of some very tiny ‘acrobates pierrefeucains’ from the village’s gym club.

And finally, if you’re around on Christmas Eve, Pere Noel is in the streets of Pierrefeu. Probably lurching from bar to bar, smelling strongly of Pernod and puffing at his last Gitane before the ban comes in on 1 January.

Bonnes fetes, tout le monde!

Things to do in Pierrefeu in the Autumn

PIerrefeu by night 2

As festive as it might look, there’s not an AWFUL lot happening in downtown Pierrefeu as winter approaches. When I was there the other week, just before Halloween, the big news was that the Circus Anthony was coming to town. And later, the local paper went big on a photo of a camel standing near a pile of builder’s sand near the Big Top. Bit of a scoop, that.

Not as exciting, however, as the other circus which opened in the area, The Cirque Amar, which promised unforgettable spectacle and the biggest cabaret in the world. What piqued my interest though was the prospect of ‘The Globe of the Death’ – which I think was some kind of motorbike stunt-thing. Badly translated.

Drama in Pierrefeu

News just in from my chum, Suzie Mutch, who’s living in PF for a couple of years. It’s a shocker, especially after she and our friend, Lucinda, had a run in with some local yobs on mopeds…

So I thought we lived in this sleepy little French town until the incident with Lucinda and the yooofs. But now it appears that we were let off lightly. In yesterday’s Var Matin the headline went something on the lines of “Pierrefeu’s canibal is sent to prison”. I read on. On 25th July there was an incident of road rage in the Dixmude carpark which ended up with the aggressor (a music teacher no less) biting off two fingers of Victim A and the cheek of Victim B. Give me Brixton any day. It’s clearly safer.