This morning we went to  Castelfranc, a small town on the Lot River. We had gone there for dinner in 2013 and briefly visited a garden in the town center. The Garden of the Senses is a wonderful medieval style garden next to a small stream that flows through the town on its way to the Lot.

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We remembered many beautiful small views that would be ideal for painting. However, we wanted some morning photos. It would be too hot throughout the day to stand and paint.

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We also explored the church and found beautiful stained glass, an ancient wind up clock that worked on the face of the church until 1964, and the familiar architecture of French Catholic churches.

We drove back on the south side of the Lot River through vineyards and a dozen small villages. It is a small road, but less busy than the highway on the north side of the river. The grapes are hanging heavy on the vines and the walnuts are getting plump in the late summer sun. It looks like a good harvest this year.

Back in our relatively cool studio by 1:00 PM for lunch and a lazy afternoon. Perhaps some painting or drawing.


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Art in Montcabrier

Here are a few pieces I’ve done while at Montabrier.



Trumpet Vine

Trumpet Vine

Pencil Drawing of Saint Avit

Pencil Drawing of Saint Avit

It’s hot and humid here, about 90/90. Monday we will be going to Peche Merle Cave to see some prehistoric art. At least the cave will be cool!


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Lavande de Lherm

Today we visited Lavande de Lherm, an idyllic lavender farm in a small hamlet that is part of the commune of Lherm in the Lot Valley. Sally led us to the farm where Suzie and Ian welcomed us graciously. Suzie gave us a tour of the farm with their collection of unique sculptures, an analemmatic sundial, a tree fort, a gite to rent, a centuries old bread oven, and of course lavender and its accoutrements. They grow dozens of varieties of lavender  with over 2000 plants. Lavender is harvested with a one-of-a-kind lavender reaper cobbled together from pieces of equipment and ideas from all over the world. Ian distills the lavender to get the oil in his own laboratory. Visitors during the harvest can sit in the adjoining room and have an English tea while watching him steam the precious oil from the flowers. Suzie has a wonderful small shop for their many products from soaps to insect repellent, facial masks, cookbooks, and many more items all made from their lavender oil. We learned that most lavender grown in the world is a variety that also contains camphor oil. Culinary lavender does not contain camphor. That’s only a small bit of the education we received. We left with much new knowledge, some lavender products, and a bag of their home grown walnuts!

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Finally we saw that the ground around the farm was filled with ceps. However, as Suzie pointed out if they were edible they wouldn’t be there. Inedible ceps turn blue when cut open.

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Don’t eat ceps that look like this!

It was a great day with many photos for future paintings. Thank you Suzie and Ian for sharing your little paradise with us!


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Giant Cep

Sally just came in with this giant double cep. Her neighbor brought another basket full of them.

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Saint Avit

Yesterday we went to Saint Avit, an 11th century church ruin, for some afternoon drawing and painting. It is very hot and the cool forest around this historic site seemed to be a nice place to be.

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We visited here a few times two years ago and love it. The plays around and through the church remains for interesting effects.

Since the rains came the ceps, boletus edulis, have been sprouting throughout the forest. These tasty mushrooms are called porcini as well. The area around Saint Avit was posted for no collection of mushrooms or snails, but I did spot this specimen next to our car.

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Sally made ceps for us for dinner as well thanks to the generosity of her neighbors who have been collecting them this week. Very good!


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Chateau de Bonaguil

Yesterday we toured Chateau de Bonaguil, a nearby historic castle that we had painted from afar in 2013 but never visited. IMG_1784 web This castle is the culmination of building first recorded in 1271. Built upon a steep rock in front of a hill, Bonaguil had a natural fortified defense. This rock base also provided insurance against siege due to a deep cleft that was used as a well where runoff from the castle collected. Berenger de Roquefeuil (1448-1530) was the owner responsible for a 30 year building program that created a legendary fortress equipped with a barbican, several towers, a chicane, seven drawbridges, a casemate, cannon ports, a caponiere with loopholes, and a moat. Near the end of the 18th century Marguerite de Fumel remodeled the fortress into a castle more befitting the times. She eliminated the drawbridges and fitted out the apartments in the style. Fortunately she died just before the French Revolution and didn’t live to see her beloved castle leveled down to the height of the main buildings. The place was sacked to help build the neighboring village.

Painting of the castle during its revolutionary destruction.

Painting of the castle during its revolutionary destruction.

When the monarchy was restored the castle was made a national historic monument in 1862 and remains so today.

What a great visit! IMG_1836 web In the evening as we enjoyed dinner on the terrace with Sally an beautiful natural phenomenon occurred across the valley. Insects began hatching, buzzing up into the warm air and wafting westward in clusters. From over a kilometer away they looked absolutely surreal. IMG_1856 web It was a magical end to a great day. Paul

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Music and Painting

Today I finished another study of the sky/mountain/water scene that I have been doing since London. This one is more colorful. It may be the last one I do of this motif. I’ve worked it with many different ideas and want to move on to something else.

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My big project today was to put new strings on the ukulele. This requires some patience.

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After the strings were installed I spent a few hours gradually tuning them, which means checking them every 30 minutes or so to see how much they’ve stretched. When they were staying in tune for at least one song I took the uke and my music over to Montcabrier’s ancient church. The inside is quite basic – just a large stone box with some plastic chairs and wooden benches. I played, sang, and tuned the uke for quite a while. At one point some people came into the church (visitors are common during fete weekends). I apologized and stopped playing, but they asked me to continue. I played the Brahams’ Lullaby which is one of the songs Ukestra Seattle is playing so it fit in with my practice.

We also a a brief, but violent storm today. It blew and rained horizontally for about 15 minutes. Since then we have seen gradual clearing. Now back to some painting and then dinner. What a life!


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Atelier de la Rose in Montcabrier France

Yesterday morning we bid adieu to JP, picked up our rental car (a Nissan diesel!) and spent the day driving south to the Lot River valley. It’s a beautiful drive through the breadbasket of France into the hills and river valleys. Along the way we passed a long Roman aqueduct, still standing after all these years. At 5:00 PM we pulled into Montcabrier, usual population maybe 75.

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Sally was waiting the courtyard and had reserved a parking place for us in front of her gate. Parking is scarce in the village this weekend because it’s the annual fete. The population swells in the evenings for bands, dancing, and tonight, fireworks. Last night’s band was hard rock, loud and played until after midnight. The partying continued in the village’s four streets until it began to rain about 4:00 AM. Nothing like rain to spoil a party! Tonight promises dancing and fireworks.

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This morning Jean and I set about to unpack art supplies and set up the studio. Soon we were painting in our respective corners.

Jean completed a wonderful charcoal drawing.

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I am working on more studies of the paintings I did in London. Today I did one with silver pencil on black paper and began another watercolor version. Here’s the silver and black version.

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When it stopped raining (it had rained steadily all morning and into the afternoon) we took a walk around the village. There have been a few changes, but this walk was like revisiting an old friend.

This evening we will enjoy dinner on the terrace with Sally and maybe do some dancing. The fireworks aren’t until 11:00 PM, so we will undoubtedly miss those.


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Last Day in Paris

Last night we celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary with JP. The three of us went to dinner at a neighborhood bistro, Le Chardenoux. This restaurant is now owned by famous French chef, Cyril Lignac. We enjoyed a delightful meal with great food, tasty wine, and terrific service. After dinner we repaired to JP’s for a few rounds of 421. (Click the name and you will see an abbreviated explanation of the rules.)

Today Jean and I took care of some travel necessities in the morning, such as buying some dice so we can play 421 in southern France. In the afternoon we visited two beautiful gardens.

The Jardins de Aresenal are along the banks of the Canal Saint Martin from the Bastille to The Seine. Many live aboard boats crowd the canal at this wide section. The garden is lovely for strolling and, of course, there are flowers.

Then we crossed the river to Jardin des Plantes, the primary botanical garden in France. We try to come here each time we are in Paris. The flowers change throughout the season, the people walk around with smiling faces, and the gardeners work tirelessly to keep it all beautiful. The birds were enjoying the sunflower seeds today.

Jean found time for a little painting while I took a nap on a shady bench.

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We have seen these bee shelters in many parks in London and Paris for the first time on this trip. It appears as if European gardeners are attracting bees more than they used to. The bee shelters are all built with bamboo, reeds, sticks, and large wood with bored holes to provide many spaces for bees. And they are built decoratively to look good in the garden!

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Tomorrow morning we pick up our car and head south. Next stop Atelier de la Rose in Montcabrier!





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Yesterday, Wednesday, we ventured to Montmartre. This is the historical home of artists, particularly those of more bohemian tastes and left wing politics. Names such as Dali, Modigliani, Picasso, Mondrian, Pisarro, Van Gogh, and Monet are whispered by the walls of these buildings. The area is filled with artists, buskers and vendors.

Sacre Coeur, a large basilica built in part to make a political statement about the strength of the French state and to give Monmartre something to sooth their losses from the revolutionary Commune of 1871. We prefer the smaller and older Church of Saint Pierre behind Sacre Coeur. That site has had a catholic house of worship on it since 250 and the church now known as the Church of Saint Pierre was first built in 1134.


For this visit we concentrated on the Monmartre Museum, housed in the building in which many artists lived and painted around the beginning of the 20th century. Their current exhibit of artists of Montmartre included Suzanne Valadon, whom we have come to know and love in this trip. She began her art career as a model at age 15, posing for the likes of Renoir (Dance at Bougival, Girl Braiding Her Hair, and City Dance), Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec (The Hangover).

Suzanne Valadon painted by an unknown artist

Suzanne Valadon painted by an unknown artist

She is said to have often had affairs with the artists for whom she modeled. At age 18 she had a child whose paternity is uncertain, However, several years later her good friend, Miguel Utrillo, signed papers recognizing Maurice as his son. Maurice Utrillo was to become a successful artist whose sales supp0rted his mother and himself. Degas purchased her line drawings and encouraged her to pursue her own art. Artists including Derain, Picasso and Braque paid homage to her at her funeral in 1938. Valadon painted still lifes, nudes, and landscapes. Here is a small sample of her work.

The apartment and studio where she and Maurice lived for many years have been recreated. Jean took this autoportrait in the studio.

Jean - Autoportrait dans Atelier de Suzanne Veladon

There are many more sights and sounds that I could share, but space and time are limited. Suffice it to say that you should visit this area of Paris and venture beyond Sacre Coeur or the main square where artists and vendors jostle for the attention of tourists. The parks and passageways have many surprises which I have not mentioned.



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