By Poppy Salinger
(Widow of Pierre Salinger, former press secretary to famous United States President John F. Kennedy. She now hosts tour operator Trafalgar’s guests at La Bastide Rose – a historic mill on the banks of the Sourge – in Provence, France.)
I actually run La Bastide Rose, a mix of my personal home and a small inn. I fell in love with this very special place: an old mill on the river Sorgue (quite famous in France thanks to poet Petrarch, philosopher Albert Camus and poet and resistance fighter Rene Char).
I was looking for a family compound, and I and my three sons fell in love with the breath-taking place with its calm and very special vibrations and serenity. The canal, the river, the island, it looked like paradise must have looked to the first earth habitants.
It needed a lot of renovation, so I proposed to open a small inn, which we did in 1999, and since that day it has been a wonderful experience of sharing the place with our guests.
When Pierre Salinger, my second husband, came to live permanently at La Bastide Rose, we decided to create a foundation for the friendship of France and USA through art and we chose monumental sculpture. At Pierre’s death we decided to pay tribute to a wonderful human being and created the Pierre Salinger Museum.
The motivation for success is the result of the warm exchange we have with our guests and their happiness of sharing La Bastide Rose. It is a wonderful experience we never have enough of. The success is the life of La Bastide Rose; I love life and try to live it the best I can.
Since I was a little girl my mother taught me the importance of helping women and holding hand together; my mother was an artist and in those days women artists were not too respected. Then I started working in an environment where men did not think much of women and women who achieved success were older and did not want a younger person in their way.
Therefore, it has always been important for me to help persons with less strength or those who do not have the ability to fight. I have always tried to help my co-workers and people working for me to reach a higher level… and many have succeeded.
We organise art exhibitions every year, and one year the subject was women sculptors. Sculpting was not very easy for women as it was supposed to be hard and needed physical strength
One of the women I found inspiration from was the Russia-born psychoanalyst and author Lou Andréas-Salomé, who was a real intellectual in a world not very sensitive to women. She was close to German philosopher Nietzsche and bohemian Austrian poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke, amongst others. ” “The main thing is that life–faith is essentially and vitally present, by means of which we survive,” Salome said.
The relationship between men and women is always complicated but interesting. Men and women are made to live together and must find an easy way to do it.
“Be my guest” is a wonderful experience and we welcome groups from all over the world and let them enjoy the peace and warmth of nature and feed them with the life of a great human being, Pierre Salinger, and give them a very special experience with their meal.
Emmanuel, our chef and sometimes host, loves his experience and shares it enthusiastically with his guests. Emmanuel has always loved cooking and this countryside has an incredible array of products. Vegetables are fresh from the garden or the farmer’s market and cooked freshly every day. This mixture of smell, taste and composition in the plate is extremely special and unique. It is wonderful to share with a group who appreciate and enjoy what they are offered.
Our Trafalgar guests (https://www.trafalgar.com/gsa/tours/wonderful-france?) bring us little gifts from their countries and this is quite special for us, as they establish a bond. They write us postcards or little notes to keep the relationship going after their departure.
Last Christmas we had a couple from Australia: the lady had known us from a previous trip and she came again to share something very special with her boyfriend. It turned out that he proposed while they were here.
This was a very special moment for them, but for us it brought us joy and happiness. La Bastide Rose is a happy place.
The exhibitions are extremely important to us, as it is a bond between people from all countries, all races, all colours and all ages. “Art is not a form of propaganda, it is a form of truth,” said JF Kennedy in a speech. This is our motto.
To me, we are all equal, and this is what the fight for equality is all about; nobody is better or worse, weaker or stronger. We should bring our strengths to the community and to our relationships.
I have learnt a lot since I was a baby. I have had a wonderful life, with happiness and sorrows, but the exchange and honesty of relationships are the most important features in our day-to-day life. Give if you want to be given.
My wonderful life has always asked for a lot of commitment and work. I have found most pleasure in my work whatever it has been. I live the life I have chosen, it needs a lot of day-to-day work, humble, intellectual, little interest, great interest, but It is nice to be able to be at peace with yourself when you go to bed and remember that nothing is ever granted forever.
But my love of life has not stopped and I try to share it as I share my house and my world.