I fell in love with the village before I ever saw the house. It’s France as you imagine it to be but rarely is: stone houses clustered around a church; ancient walls overhung with jasmine and roses; a labyrinth of lanes, too narrow for cars; shady squares, where old boys sit companionably but silent under the acacias, listening to the clack-clack of boules, while younger men measure distances with gimlet eyes. In the shop women greet their neighbours, exchange the traditional three-kiss bise before getting their daily baguette or levain, a misshapen sourdough loaf that is costed by weight. At the counter, children profer their centimes for a bag of mixed sweets, while Dominique relieves a customer of her laden basket, then weighs out 100 grams of almonds and suggests the best way to braise fennel. She took over the epicerie from her mother fifteen years ago (moving it from the square to a former barn where parking is easier) and now sources local produce where she can: cherries, spinach, asparagus, borlotti beans, whatever is in season. Lamb and sausages from a nearby farm, and goat's cheese (pelardon) from the fromagerie the other side of the village.
Fons' other social hub is La Goulade, café and bar extraordinaire. At midday a visiting carpenter sits down to the plat du jour, and talks football to Jean, the patron who, today, has time to talk. Behind him, the cook bustles, preparing for the evening onslaught. For once the heat of the day has lifted, the place comes to life, a magnet for anyone within 15 miles who knows of its existence. Between then until gone midnight the air is loud with chatter and laughter, cheeks are kissed, hands shaken, friendships made and renewed, and dogs and children wander between legs and tables, happy to be part of the throng.
Fons-sur-Lussan – only 208 people – is on the road to nowhere. Nobody passes through. Those who come, come by design and tend to return. Walk to the top of Les Rochers – the limestone outcrop that forms the backdrop to the village – and you are surrounded by the green-grey wilderness of the garrigue that stretches out into the haze. On the eastern horizon the silhouette of Mt Ventoux cuts the skyline; to the west the mountains of the Cevennes rise up in diminishing layers of blue. To the south Mt Bouquet dominates the landscape like a humpback whale. And at your feet lies Fons, silent in a silent world apart from the church clock striking the hours, the bell tolling the angelus and the mesmeric singing of cigales. Pepsy Dening