Awww…Paris. Rich in history dating back more than two millenia, Paris has attractions sufficient to last a lifetime.
But for me – the deep blue of a Provincial sky, the aroma of fresh baked bread and lavender fields floating on warm breezes beckoned me into the French countryside of Provence.
My daughter and I were fortunate enough to organize a painting trip with a wonderful group of ladies. After many years of studying the French Impressionists, I have always dreamed of painting in France. Our tour de France started with four art filled days in Paris. After, we flew onto Marseilles where we rented cars and drove up to Bonnieux, Provence. French driving laws differ from those in other countries – we learned this the hard way!
After a two hour “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” driving experience, my daughter and I were pleased to find our country home with a quaint room with a view. Our French doors opened up to newly planted lavender fields which stretched out and pointed the way toward beautiful Bonnieux. The charming medievalvillage, complete with a bell tower that chimes on the hour, was built ages ago into the side of a small mountain that overlooks estates and country homes with fields of lavender, sunflowers, and poppies.
Bonnieux looks like something right out of a fairy tale. It felt as though we were stepping back in time, but don’t letthe rustic exterior of the buildings fool you! Once inside, the village abounds with sophisticated shops, restaurants galleries and glamorous tourists.
Each day, a unique neighboring village hosts street markets where local vendors proudly display and sell their treasures. These daily markets became so alluring that my fellow painting partners often decided to skip painting!
The French love food and are very creative in their mealtime presentations. We enjoyed lunch after a long morning of shopping.
Each day I managed to take time for some great outdoor painting. If there was not time to use my oils, I would quickly do a sketch with my handy little Sennelier watercolor travel box. I enjoyed wandering aimlessly throughout the countryside in search of inspiration which was never lacking. It is interesting to note that the lighting is somewhat diffused and cooler than the Rocky Mountain skies. After painting the French skies, I now understand why Monet chose to use Cobalt Blue rather than warmer Ultra Marine Blue for his palette.
My daughter and I discovered that the movie, “A Good Year” starring Russel Crowe, was filmed at a beautiful neighboring chateau just a mile down the road. Because of the popularity of the movie, the old estate has become famous and even has its own winery label now.
Another point of interest only a mile away from Bonnieuxis the medieval village, Lacoste. During those times, the Marquix fancied Lacosteas a destination for thespians, which was a foreshadowing of things to come. Local folklore says that the whole village was abandoned during WWII and sold for about $500 dollars to a wealthy man.
Then in 1970, an American art professor and painter, Bernard Pfriem started The Lacoste School of the Arts which is now run by the Savannah College of Art and Design.
The image to the left shows an example of the creative remodeling that has been used at the Lacoste School of the Arts. An ancient ‘bread oven’ is now used as a student lounge. Towering above the village, the ruins of the castle were bought and turned into a private residence by fashion designer Pierre Cardin in 1990. Since then musicaland theatrical arts have been preformed there. For over 30 years The Lacoste School of the Arts has infused a worldly artistic sense to the village.
It was a challenge to decide where to go the next day because there are so many interesting places to visit within driving range. I felt like a kid with only minutes left in a candy store!
I will remember the sounds of the crickets and the laughter during al fresco dining with my daughter and friends at the end of a wonderful French day. The trip flew by too quickly but, I have many wonderful memories and pictures that will last a lifetime.
There is a special quality about the plein air painter. These qualities set us apart from others. We move through life, not passing negligenty by, but stopping to know and record what we see with a box of oils and a small canvas. We look and hunt for what we love and we try our best to capture it. Those who are not lookers or hunters do not see the things we see. Like a hunter, we are keenly aware of our surroundings. This how we understand a place. Our sketches serve that purpose.
Au revoir et salut ~ Lori
You might like to read: