We are family

Tracey and Julian Glowinski were happily settled in the beautiful south of France when their much longed for daughter Katya joined them to make their lives complete, discovers Carolyn Reynier

After more than a decade in France, Tracey and Julian Glowinski were happy in their adopted country. They had a beautiful house in the south-eastern village perch� of Le Bar-sur-Loup and both had busy careers with Julian then working in corporate finance and Tracey in the process of starting up her own gardening business.

They had hoped for children but had accepted that despite IVF, they would be unable to have their own. They made the decision to adopt, contacted the Direction des Affaires Sanitaires et Sociales (DASS) in Nice, filled in forms, attended meetings and eventually received their agr�ment in 2001 confirming their suitability as prospective adoptive parents. Then they waited and waited…

By 2004 the couple had even given up on the idea of adoption when one March Monday morning, the telephone rang in Tracey’s office. “A voice said ‘Madame Glowinksi? Are you still interested in adopting? We’ve got a beautiful baby girl for you’,” she remembers. “I was speechless. A girlfriend hovering by the door waiting to go for a coffee with me realised something momentous had happened. Soon everybody was in tears.”

The following day, the couple drove to the DASS in Nice to see pictures of their baby who was now in Bandol. On Wednesday they met their daughter, Katya, and shortly afterwards brought her home to Le Bar-sur-Loup. “Every time we came back from Bandol, we found a mountain of things outside the gate. We had five baby baths. It was incredible; people were so generous. It was a huge event. One day there I was just normal and the next minute I was walking along with a pram. I have to say Katya was probably the most feted baby.”

The couple’s French adventure had begun many years earlier when they met in Paris. Julian, now a property developer, answered an ad for a financial controller at a telecoms company in Paris. He was 24, single, and he got the job; arriving in the French capital in 1990.

“I had O-Level French, grade C second time round because I failed it the first time,” he laughs. “My French was less than rudimentary.”

Most Read

It didn’t matter; the language of operation in the multinational was English. Tracey spoke fluent French having taken a degree in French and Spanish. She crossed the Channel to work at INSEAD, the business school at Fontainebleau, south of Paris. The couple, who were both born in Surrey, met when she moved to the company Julian had just joined.

After a time, they decided to exchange Paris for a place in the country. “We love cycling and walking and it took us two hours to get out of the city to do anything,” recalls Tracey.

They thought initially of south-west France but, in 1996, Julian found a job in corporate finance at Sophia Antipolis, the international business park in Alpes-Maritimes. “When he found he was happy there I moved down too, says Tracey. She took a year off work to house hunt but the couple couldn’t find the right property at the right price near their rented accommodation in Valbonne which in turn was an easy commute to Sophia. When an estate agent suggested visiting properties in Le Bar-sur-Loup, in spite of their reservations about the distance, the couple went along.

“We were walking back down from the village of Gourdon in the hills near Grasse when we first saw it – a large house with a garden, just on the edge of the village so we could walk in for our bread, become part of the local community. It was exactly what we’d been looking for,” recounts Tracey. “But it would certainly exceed our budget; and was too far from where Julian worked.”

They visited the house. “It had the most amazing views all the way down to the valley and of the village itself. We just fell in love with it. We just really, really wanted to have it. But it was expensive and we’re still doing it up now,” laughs Tracey.

The large square building built in 1910 stands today in grounds of a quarter hectare. Originally, the property included the entire hillside, planted with orange and jasmine for the perfume industry, and giving Le Bar-sur-Loup its moniker as the Cit� des Orangers. Property, however, provided a prettier penny than petals so most of the land was sold off for development.

A patchwork of olive trees, fruit trees and 40 citrus trees – bitter oranges, lemons, grapefruit, clementines, a mandarinier, a lime – grow in the Glowinskis’ garden, which is laid out on seven levels.

In the house, they rewired; re-plumbed; put in heating. “We’ve managed to keep a number of original features: bevelled glass, internal doors, brass fittings, porcelain handles, staircase balustrade,” explains Julian.

Meanwhile, Tracey shopped locally, entered her vin d’orange into the annual competition and won. They invited villagers round for drinks on Easter Monday during the F�te de l’Oranger and got to know people by using local tradesmen for work on the house.

Her integration into local life was so successful that she served a happy six-year term as one of the commune councillors. It was 2001; a new European Union law allowed non-nationals to serve on town councils. A local mayoral candidate knocked on the door. He’d often seen her in the village. Would she agree to be on his list? She accepted; he won the election. Her proudest achievement was the refurbishment of the children’s garden, le jardin d’enfants, which was in a pretty poor state. She also entered the village into the national Villages Fleuris competition; winning a flower.

But integrating into French village life requires a certain degree of adjustment. The mayor invited his councillors to a birthday dinner in a local restaurant. On the menu were grives, spit-roasted on skewers, which he and friends had shot in the south-west. As Tracey, a vegetarian, ate her pasta, the other 22 councillors crunched their way through the tiny thrushes, bones and all. “Only the beaks were left on the plates,” she remembers.

Tracey, who by then was also working at Sophia, decided she’d like to start her own gardening business. She felt a diploma would reassure people. So at almost 40 she went back to school for a year at the Lyc�e Horticole in Antibes.

It was quite difficult, she recalls, because everything was in French – maths, letter writing, quotations. The course covered basic gardening skills and how to start up your own business. She left with her Brevet Professionnel Agricole and set up Les Jardins de Saint-Cl�ment, concentrating primarily on terraces and balconies and using natural organic gardening methods.

Today, when Tracey is working on a big project she’s often away for the day after dropping off Katya, now eight, at school. Julian’s work often takes him to south-west France during the week but when at home, he’ll walk Katya, who speaks French at school and English at home, down the lane to school, accompanied by Luna their dog.

What is France’s appeal to the Glowinskis? Julian’s family are great Francophiles – his parents retired to Limousin 17 years ago – and regularly visited France.

“I think what captured my imagination as a child was that in France you’d turn every corner and you’d be faced with history, a ch�teau, a monastery or just a town square, and so much of it was essentially untouched.”

One of the pleasures of France, especially living here, he continues, is that you have access to airports, culture, motorways, and yet you step out of the door and in 10 minutes you’re in the countryside. “Because France is that much bigger than the UK with a similar population you can fairly easily combine 21st century living with getting away from it all.”

The Mediterranean climate comes into its own during winter months. “It still thrills us to have Christmas lunch outside while most of Europe freezes,” says Tracey. They’ve converted their irrigation pond into a swimming pool. “It’s just five feet in diameter but in the summer it’s really welcome,” and is appreciated by guests staying in the self-catering studio the couple rent out. “People here are so welcoming,” says Tracey. “If you make an effort to give, you get. Life here is just so special.”

And the family are looking forward to spending many more years together in this special part of France. LF