In France #3

We have now been coming to the same area in France for almost 20 years. It?s a matter of nesting, finding comforting rituals and loving what could easily be mistaken for paradise. I asked my friend Marie what it was like to live in paradise all the time. ?You get used to it.? She replied.

We have never gotten used to it. It is a constant amazement: the dramatic cliffs that hold the heat, the sun that will insist on shining for days and days in the winter, the glorious marches with food so good you feel like trying everything. I cannot imagine being picky here.

But what?s made a huge difference this year is the apartment we?ve rented. We had some of the worst dumps you can imagine:? the place over the garbage pick up at 4 a.m.; the place where the shutters never did work and we got charged for fixing them (long after we?d left); the places without anything decent furniture let alone equipment—just all the junk you?d normally leave out on the street.

But this year we?ve got a real home, and the owners not only care about it, they use it regularly.? The view is magnificent:? from the huge balcony we can see the Mediterranean, the palm trees of the piazza below, hear the fountains, the bells of the two ancient churches here in Beaulieu and over in Villefranche; and of course the big cranes busy putting up more condos.

The apartment is large by French standards with a proper bedroom (Jack?s); and I?ve taken over what was the sort of bed-sitting room and moved the dining room table into the living room. We eat in front of a window with its gorgeous and always entertaining view.? The living room doesn?t seem crowded and there is no temptation whatsoever to turn on the TVs or even watch a DVD (brought Colin Frith in Pride & Prejudice; and Groundhog Day).

The kitchen is wonderful:? it looks to the north and dead straight ahead is a mimosa in full bloom in the middle of? a huge garden that crawls up the steep hill behind us. There are sculptures in there but I can?t quite make them out.

What a pleasure to work in it. There is everything I could want and that?s a real change from the usual rentals with their bent forks and chipped plates.? And it is quiet.

Last year we were in a building so noisy that I?d have to go around with earplugs, big Bose earmuffs and Brahms?s Requiem blaring away to keep from going mad. All around us people played their TVs at full blast for maybe 10 or 12 hours a day. Did they notice paradise at all?

This is not a problem here. Except for one odd thing:? a nurse who arrives bang on 7:15 a.m. every day to open the shutters (metal) and clunk around in shoes upstairs getting the old lady who lives there ready for the day. A minor inconvenience. But it?s baffling as to why she walks up and down? (she returns at 7:15 p.m.) five flights of marble stairs. Clunk clunk clunk. Maybe some day I?ll leap out at her and offer her my slippers.