Real Life: An author’s home in Provence

Real Life: An author’s home in Provence

When published author Lewis Hinton moved to perfume capital Grasse, he found the perfect place to write his novels…

When people ask why I moved to the French Riviera, I say, “Dennis Wheatley”.

A mid-20th-century author of decidedly ‘unwoke’ occult thrillers, is, I admit, an odd reason, but it is the truth, albeit not the whole truth. I must have been about 12 when I read To the Devil a Daughter, which is primarily set around Grasse, Cannes and the Estérel, a few years after the Second World War. Fascinated by Wheatley’s descriptions of the countryside, climate, food, people and their way of life, the region has interested me ever since. However, except for a few business conferences in Nice and Monte Carlo, for a long time I didn’t have any real experience of the Riviera. All that changed in February 2018 when my wife and I attended a wedding at the Église Notre- Dame d’Espérence in Cannes, followed by a reception at the Carlton Hotel of To Catch a Thief fame. The weather was like a mild June day in London, and we were immediately smitten. Exploring the area by car, we determined to investigate a move when the time was right.

An original cityscape of Grasse, perfume capital of the world, done especially for me as a charity raffle prize by Antibes-based artist, Photo: Lewis Hinton


Looking up at the bastide from the bottom of the garden, the holes of a pigeon telegraph are just visible in the middle under the eaves, Photo: Lewis Hinton

Three years later, after several visits back to the Riviera, we put our house in Luxembourg on the market and started looking in earnest for a place to buy in the Cannes and Antibes hinterland. Although there were lots of nice properties available, our budget, size, and location requirements were very specific, so that by the last day of our buying trip we had all but given up hope. Then we saw the bastide that would become our new home.

Our house is south-facing and partly cut into the rock of a steep hillside, making it cool in the summer and heat-retaining in winter. The bastide lies in Magagnosc, one of the three ‘Hamlets of Grasse’, just east of the city. This semi-rural area has a gentle climate, ideal for growing the violets and other flowers used in the manufacture of the perfumes for which Grasse is so famous.

So why did we fall in love with the bastide? Well… it was a former bakery built in 1700 so our furniture matched the oak-beamed rooms perfectly; the terraced garden and pool looked manageable and were beautifully laid out; the views across the Bay of Cannes and Massif de l’Estérel were spectacular; there were self- contained apartments we could rent out; and last but not least, the property was big enough to house our ever-growing family should they come visiting en masse. I remember asking my parents why they retired to a creekside house in Cornwall.

Lewis Hintons daughter and grandson enjoying the bastides pool – Alfie & Cassie in the pool, Photo: Lewis Hinton

“So you and your family will come and visit in the holidays.”

We also liked the bastide’s interesting quirks, such as an original bread oven hewn from the rock now converted into a wine cellar, and a series of holes under the eaves forming an 18th-century ‘telegraph’, where homing pigeons would be dispatched with messages to order more supplies of flour, yeast, salt, and so on. The garden pond is home to Max, a koi carp that I am told is 80 years old and has lived through five owners. Perhaps this great age is to be taken with a pinch of that same bakery salt the pigeons used to order, but Max is still a magnificent- looking fish. The property deeds don’t mention him by name but do show a record of Max’s presumed proprietors stretching back to the 1950s. I am keen to one day research the full history of the bastide.

In terms of practicalities, the house purchase and move went smoothly, and we found the French notary and estate agent extremely helpful, so that the whole journey from having our offer accepted to completion took less than three months.

This meant we moved in quicker than expected, on 17 March 2022. Unfortunately, our furniture was only due for delivery from Luxembourg in early April, so we ate our first meal in the house using a vanity unit from one of the bedrooms as an impromptu kitchen table.


The house and the climate very much work for me as an author. Trying to get a publishing deal if you’re unknown is a nightmare, but after several years I finally succeeded, and by the time we moved to Grasse, it was all falling into place. My first Novel, The Face Stone, was being published, a second, Angel’s Blade, was completed at the bastide, and a third written there. For me, the Riviera is made for writing, and just being able to sit working outside while looking over the Bay of Cannes makes the creative juices flow.

By the time this article goes to print, Jehovah’s Wind, the third book featuring Jack Sangster, a detective who hunts missing children, will have been published.

There is a book signing for the series scheduled for Bastille Day at Niche Books, an English bookshop in the beautiful Provençal town of Valbonne. Local individuals, businesses, as well as the authorities, couldn’t have been more cooperative in helping to make the event happen.

The Place des Arcades, Valbonne Niche Books is just off the top righthand corner of the square, Photo: Lewis Hinton


The Castle Irish Pub in the village of ChÉteauneuf, another of the three Hamlets of Grasse, Photo: Lewis Hinton

This brings me to the people I have met in and around Grasse. Everyone (well, almost everyone), has a smile on their face, which I put down to the weather, and not once has anyone been rude to me. I always start by speaking French, but people are usually very happy to continue in English if they can (which is lucky, my kids think their dad’s French hilarious). There is a good expat community too, so you can walk into a pub on your own and within a few minutes people are talking to you like a regular. I have made some great friends by just popping in to watch the football or rugby and ending up chatting.

Our local is The Castle, a 20-minute walk down the road to the neighbouring village of Châteauneuf. We also spend a lot of time in nearby Valbonne, where many English voices can be heard, leading me to initially assume a large UK expat community. However, while there are indeed plenty of Brits and Irish, a native explained to me that 72 different nationalities live in the town, and English is just the lingua franca (no pun intended) used by the majority of them.

The Italianate feel to this part of the Riviera, all the way from the border town of Menton in the east to St-Raphaël and Fréjus west of the Estérel, is also very appealing, and not surprising given the region was part of Italy until 1860. Indeed, some place names are shown in French plus the original local Romanesque language, Ligurian, and it is as easy to imagine you are in Italy as France when walking through narrow, sunbaked streets in one of the region’s many and ancient ‘perched’ villages.

Do I have any regrets about the move? A few, but then again, too few to mention, as the song goes. Overall, Grasse suites my circumstances well, the climate and location are perfect for writing. My literary project for the remainder of 2023 is a movie script, with work on the film itself due to start in the new year. By this coming January, therefore, I should have the time to send my sleuthing protagonist to his next destination. Perhaps this could be the Riviera, with Sangster investigating intrigue and skullduggery among the expats of Grasse. But regardless of where Jack goes, I’m hoping old Dennis Wheatley, wherever he is and whatever he is doing, will approve.

For more about Lewis Hinton’s work, visit

Interested in reading more real life stories?

French Property News magazine is a must-buy publication for anyone serious about purchasing and owning real estate in France, which offers a unique combination of legal, financial, and tax advice along with in-depth location guides, moving real life stories, the best properties currently on the market, entertaining regular pages, and the most recent property news and market reports.

Lead photo credit : From the rear terrace looking out towards the Bay of Cannes, with the Esterel hills on the right, Photo: Lewis Hinton

Share to:  Facebook  Twitter   LinkedIn   Email

Previous Article Where to buy in the French Alps
Next Article An old Customs Path – the ‘Sentier du Littoral’ hugs the scenic Var coastline

Related Articles