French can be misleading sometimes. How can it call second homes “maisons secondaires” when they’re such precious objects — anything but “secondary” — in the eyes of their owners? Okay, so it’s true that these houses are usually only lived in for a few months of the year (if that). And it’s equally true that the tax man — that anonymous inspector who knows us better than anyone — doesn’t see these houses as main residences. But the time you spend there is the most important time of all. And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why. There are more good reasons to love a second home than there are pages in the magazine you’re in the middle of reading… It might be a view of the sea or a harmonious garden, the laughter of your family as you sit down for dinner, or the simple elegance of a beautiful building... there’s nothing but happiness if you know where to look for it. And, yep, you can even prize a house for the way it smells. In the big city, on the other hand, your nose doesn’t work, the air all around is filtered to the nth degree by air conditioning units, and modern apartments don’t exude much of anything (except for the scented candles offered by guests lacking in imagination). Nothing can compare with the rosemary you’ll find on a terrace in Provence, the ever-so-slightly earthy freshness of a wine cellar, or the sweet smell of a fireplace once the rain has gone — all familiar tunes that beg you to rest awhile so you can enjoy things at leisure. Didier Decoin’s beautiful book, Avec Vue sur la Mer, tells the tale of the novelist’s adventures with a long-sought-after second home that was lovingly restored. "I wrote the book to show people that I don’t own a house: the house owns me...", explains Decoin. Happy, in fact, are all those second-home owners who are living the same dream.
© GILLES BASSIGNAC