Christian Nielsen and Jaren Lamb - A tale of two expats in Tourrettes
Christian: Living the Dream
When people use "dream" to describe their life on the Riviera I cringe a little. "But there's really no other way to put it", Christian Nielsen told me over lunch at his hotel and restaurant at the western end of town.
This executive head-hunter from Copenhagen first bought property near Tourrettes in 1988 and has been a regular in the village ever since. His first wife was French and still lives nearby with her new husband. She sometimes still assists in the running of his "dream" - the Auberge de Tourrettes.
It took Christian and second wife Charlotte several years to buy the ageing edifice bit by bit and convert it into a bright and pleasant provençal style hotel and restaurant. "We've kept it traditional but made it smart." Traditional doesn't mean old fashioned though - there's WiFi in every room.
The Auberge de Tourrettes restaurant serves what Christian describes as "light provençal cuisine based on fresh local ingredients" prepared by his largely Danish staff. There's a "formule" at €20 and an à la carte menu as well. The bread is baked on the premises and the house wines are local. The restaurant is open daily except for Sunday evenings, all day Monday and Tuesday lunch.
His latest addition is a bar à vins where clients can enjoy an early evening glass or bottle from his impressive cellar whilst enjoying the view down to the sea. "It would be a perfect place for some of the local clubs to try for a gathering," he remarked.
Like Wayne, Christian is laudatory about the town's mayor. "He's good for the village. A real hands-on type and a true local. In fact he once owned the Auberge."
Any complaints about France? French employment legislation is the only big one. "In Denmark we have even higher social charges and taxes than France but formalities are much simpler so unemployment is only 3%." Like many of his French counterparts, Christian feels that more flexibility for the hiring and firing of staff would be an advantage for France's small businesses like his.
Ruth and Jaren: More civilised than Nebraska
The word that Jaren Lamb used to describe Tourrettes was "magic". Again I cringed. Couldn't he find a less overused word? He couldn't.
Jaren and wife Ruth run the Pierre de Lune crafts shop just down from the old village main gate. Originally from Alberta,Canada, Ruth became a "Camerican" when she met Jaren in Los Angeles. "We lived the American Dream - three car garage and all that - but didn't find it all that fulfilling." The Lambs discovered Tourrettes when on vacation in 1994 and it "just seemed right" so they sold up stateside and made Tourrettes their new home. Their shop is now in it's eleventh year.
Like so many others they found that the trick to making the transition work is integration. Ruth echoed what most successful immigrants say: learn the language, accept the downsides, respect the locals. As we strolled down the street for some home-made ice cream at "Tom's" (delicious - try the "violette") it was obvious by the greetings of passing neighbours that this method has worked for the Lambs.
Their attractive Pierre de Lune shop sells imaginative crafts and gifts. Like Wayne they are members of the "Atou" business initiative and find this contact with other local shopkeepers enriching and useful.
Any regrets? "Not really, except we're a little far from the rest of our family but we manage to live with that. E-mail and Skype makes it a lot easier."
Ruth likes to tell the story of a couple from Nebraska who came into the shop one day. They started talking and the American visitors found it hard to fathom why fellow Americans would give up a comfortable stateside lifestyle to live in a little medieval town like Tourrettes. "Don't you miss civilisation?" the Nebraskan lady sputtered. Ruth's answer came easily "Tourrettes is far more civilised than anywhere we lived in America."