As Shania Twain gears up for a massive global comeback, she relishes everyday life - and motherhood - at her breathtaking castle in Switzerland
Story by Bob Paxman
After an exhausting, nonstop day, Shania Twain finally calls it a night. She changes into her favorite pair of camouflage pants - just right for relaxing - and stretches out on a front-room sofa.
The international superstar has spent most of the day promoting her brand-new, hotly anticipated album, Up!, which hits stores Nov. 19. There's a lot to live up to: Her previous CD, Come On Over, sold 19 million copies, setting a record for female stars.
But here in wind-down mode, Shania's not thinking about career pressures and demands.
"It just feels good to be home," she says, letting go a relaxed breath.
And why wouldn't it? After all, "home" is a 100-room castle in Switzerland with a majestic view of the Swiss Alps. Shania and her husband-producer, Robert John "Mutt" Lange, moved into the chateau, located in the upscale city of Tour-de-Peilz, three years ago.
"I just love it," she says. "This is what we consider our permanent home - I don't see us ever moving."
Last year, the couple welcomed a new addition to their home, baby son Eja - and now life is sweeter than a mound of Swiss chocolate.
"It's just been unbelievable," says Shania about becoming a mom. "I love doing the little things for him, like making his breakfast, singing to him, tucking him in at night. Having a child is just so enriching."
Luxury is now commonplace for the once-poverty-stricken girl from Timmins, Ontario, Canada. Just outside her castle walls is a picturesque hamlet of five-star eateries and high-class shops.
"This area is known for its incredible restaurants," says Shania. "Whenever we can, Mutt and I take advantage of them and just go out for a gastronomic delight!
"We also have access to all these fabulous designer stores where you can get Gucci or Armani clothes. It's a small village - but I have the best shopping I could ever have anywhere!"
"Everything is so beautiful," adds an awestruck Shania. "We are on Lake Geneva near the base of the Alps - and the view is like one of those picture postcards."
It's a fairy tale come true, but Shania strives to maintain a sense of reality. Her happiest moments come with simply being a wife and mom, performing everyday domestic chores.
"We are very hands-on parents," Shania declares. "We have a nanny for Eja, but only during the day, and sometimes a weekend sitter if I have to work. But we don't have anyone actually living with us to take care of the baby. Mutt and I spend as much time with him as possible."
And yes - Shania cooks!
"It's one of the things I really enjoy," she says. "For the first few months after Eja was born, I made all of his baby food from scratch. I make dinner most every evening. I'm very careful about what I eat - Mutt and I are both vegetarians - so I'm just more comfortable if I do most of the cooking myself."
Shania is equally strict about the baby's diet - unhealthy snacks and sweets are definitely out. There was one notable exception: Eja's first birthday this past Aug. 12. To mark the occasion, Shania baked her specialty, a double-layer chocolate cake. "That was really his first time to have any kind of unnatural sweets," Shania says.
She laughs as she recalls Eja's reaction to his birthday treat. "We got out a video camera, so we could film him in his little party hat," Shania recalls. "We were waiting for this great Kodak moment, where he smooshes his face in the cake and it gets all over his hair.
"But he is such a neat and tidy eater! He just touched the cake a little bit, tasted it and decided he didn't want any more," she giggles. "So I never got the Kodak moment!"
Shania clearly lives in a picture-perfect world. Here in her small but posh Swiss village, where the natives are used to seeing the rich and famous roam, Shania doesn't feel like a "star." Nor is she treated like one - and that suits her fine.
Before she and Mutt made the move to Switzerland, Shania was one of the biggest stars in the world - and feeling the pressures that went along with that role. "I was having a hard time finding peace and solitude," she admits. "Part of the reason we came here is that the people don't care about any celebrity. They are very discreet about it, and they pride themselves on that. I find that when I'm home, I can blend in and pretty much forget anything about fame."
Not that she doesn't have to dodge a snoopy photographer every now and then. But those occasions are rare. "We don't live in a main city," Shania explains, "so we're really not that accessible. Which is great, because I get to do my daily things with pretty much complete privacy. And that," she adds emphatically, "definitely could not happen in America."
Shania's daily routine has changed slightly, now that she's a full-time mom. "Before I was pregnant, a typical day would be to get up and go riding," says Shania, who keeps six horses on her castle property. "Mutt and I would do a lot of hiking and skiing - we're quite outdoorsy."
Now a typical day centers on family. After rising early and preparing breakfast, Shania usually saunters into town with Eja right alongside.
"We like to go grocery shopping," she says. "If it's nice, we play outdoors for a little bit. We also have a very nice garden with lots of roses, so I tend to that. Sometimes we take Eja on little trips, but mostly we're at home."
Shania assures that her home is not a workplace, even though she and Mutt installed a recording studio in the castle. "I find it hard to write or do any serious recording when I'm at home," she declares. "It's difficult to concentrate. I'm always thinking about what I'm going to make for dinner or what do I need from the store, things like that."
Music is a favorite family activity, though. Shania and Mutt delight in watching little Eja react to sounds and rhythms.
Read the rest of the Shania exclusive in the current (11/26/02)"Newsstand Issue" on sale now!