We live in hardcore Provence, high up in the hills behind Cannes, where wild boar are more common than celebrity bores. That’s twenty minutes away from bikini-clad starlets on the Croisette or double that to the ski slopes in Greolieres. Or two minutes to an encounter with a wild boar in our terraced olive grove.
Westwards, towards Aix and Arles, is soft-core Provence, with glittering Van Gogh cornfields and scented lavender beds as cute as a shampoo commercial. Instead, in hardcore Provence the wild boar take dips in our pool, a pool maintained by a French parachutist who has been engaged in hostage missions to Chad. Our Provencal villa hogs the views: facing the Bay of Cannes on one side but the Massif de l’Esterel on the other, with glimpses of the Alpes Maritimes in the distance. Our home is framed by volcanic crags, russet-coloured peaks swathed in Aleppo pines and chestnut groves. Terraced olive groves are carved into the hillside, but any austerity is softened by parasol palms, fig trees, agaves and mimosa.
Although now populated by Provencal diehards, smug Parisians, and the olive-nibbling classes (us), this wild terrain was the preserve of Gaspard de Besse, the French Robin Hood, in the 18th century. To the snooty citizens of Cannes, this is still bandit country, with perched villages more plentiful than bling-encrusted babes.
The descendants of Robin Hood’s merry band of robbers are probably today’s rip-off merchants in the Riviera’s property business. But past wrongs are (almost) forgotten if we beat them occasionally at boules and celebrate over steaming moules marinieres or ratatouille, with a chilled glass of Provencal rosé to hand. If drowning our sorrows, it’s Chateau Miraval’s red Cotes de Provence - described as fruity, spicy and earthy, much like the estate owners, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. If Brad hasn’t joined the boules team, it’s probably because he fears the locals would only flog him another chateau.