Welcome to Collioure! This is our third visit to this lovely town by the sea. It was a favorite place for Fauvists and other post-impressionist painters. Collioure continues to attract artists as evidenced by an abundance of galleries and ateliers. There is a trail of reproductions of Fauvist paintings in the very spot where they were painted as in this Matisse view of the village and distant hilltop.

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Our apartment is in a relatively new building at the edge of the old city. It is a 5 minute walk to the narrow medieval lanes. We have limited views – the hilltop that divides the two halves of the old town, and the old city cemetery.

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The cemetery is home to the grave of Antonio Machado, the famed Spanish poet of the early 20th century. He is buried here because in 1936 this social realist poet was forced to flee Franco’s fascist army. When the fascists took Barcelona in 1938 Machado and his mother fled to this little Catalan village safely in France. They both died less than a year later.

Traveller, the path is your tracks
And nothing more.
Traveller, there is no path
The path is made by walking.
By walking you make a path
And turning, you look back
At a way you will never tread again
Traveller, there is no road
Only wakes in the sea.”
Antonio Machado, Border of a Dream: Selected Poems

Another interesting artist, Balbino Giner,  is buried here. His is the most colorful grave and reflects his art.

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Yesterday evening and today we walked around the city. Today was market day, so we began there. Shopping was in order and we didn’t take our cameras. However, the rest of the day we walked the little streets. Here is a brief sample of the sights in the village.

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We ended the afternoon with a stop for a drink at our favorite Collioure bar, Les Templiers. They have the walls covered with paintings. We found some familiar ones from our visit two years ago and a few that appeared to be new since then.

Les Templiers

Les Templiers

Today was mostly cloudy with just a few rain drops. The next two days promise thunder storms and more rain.

“But don’t hunt for dissonance:
There is no such thing;
People dance to all tunes.”
Antonio Machado



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Last Days in St. Remy

Today we moved from our little house in old St. Remy to a new apartment in Collioure. This involved a rainy, windy drive across the bottom of France, hugging the Mediterranean shore from Provence to near the Spanish border. Not a day of great sights or experiences. Now we are resettled in Catalan France.

Our next to last day in St. Remy we returned to the Camargue. It’s difficult to believe anyone can ever get too much of flamingos, but I’m sure some of you are wondering if that is possible. Just to show that there are other critters in the Camargue:

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The two of us love to watch the flamingos and I’ll bet you’ve never seen a flamingo feeding frenzy.

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Last night we ventured onto the streets of St. Remy to see the Tour de Ville, a 50 kilometer bicycle race that involves 40 laps of the ring road around the old village. The race began at 8:00 PM, so was totally in the dark. It took a little over a minute per lap, so we got to see the riders often and eventually the field strung out so someone was always coming by. There was a great deal of shouting and hand waving. I may even have seen an upraised middle finger or two. In the end the race finished, but there were no upraised arms in victory. Everyone just kept on spinning around the village again.

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And so we bid goodbye to St. Remy and our wonderful hostess, Delphine. Her house was a great place for us and our friends to become part of village life. We made several friends during our stay and hope to see them again, either in St. Remy or if they visit us in Seattle.

Next post: Collioure.


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A Day At The Camargue

Yesterday we revisited the Camargue. This time we began at the salt works, a vast area of lagoons that are flooded and then allowed to dry up to collect the salt. For the first time we witnessed the harvesting of the salt. Dredges slowly worked across the salt/sand flats skimming the mostly salt grains and pouring them into dump trucks. The trucks sped across the flats to the mountains of salt, deposited their loads, and then sped back to reload in a continuous circuit of salt. Their product is touted as the caviar of salt!

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We drove across the mid section of the Camargue to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a rather typical seaside tourist town that sits near the north end of the Camargue. It held little interest for us, so we adjourned to our favorite spot, the Pont du Gau Ornithological Park nearby. As has happened  before when we are there in late afternoon, the flamingos put on quite a show.

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Although there was no market today due to the continuing Fete our favorite jazz group, Gig Street was playing in our nearby square. Therefore, our day began with a couple of hours of jazz. Jean was asked to dance by stranger. Pictures may be forthcoming of her exploits on the cobblestones!  In the afternoon we went up to Les Alpilles to do some drawing and painting.

This evening we met Pascal Bouterin at his gallery for some wine and wonderful conversation about art. He’s a terrific artist and warm personality. We hope we can get him to visit the Pacific Northwest soon.

Tomorrow we will return to the Camargue for the evening flamingo parade.

Good night!


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Les Alpilles

With sunny weather and no mistral in the air it was time to head for the hills. A favorite spot for sketching and painting is in the mountains near Les Baux, an ancient and huge castle on a clifftop. The mistral winds and dry conditions kept us out of Les Alpilles during our first two weeks here.

There is a wayside atop a neighboring mountain with many trails branching across the ridges. Besides views of Les Baux, the mountains extend north and south, the plains on either side are beautifully covered with vineyards and olive orchards. Of course one of the best views are the rocks of Les Alpilles. Here are some photos.

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We also encountered a most unusual wild bee hive. The bees had created a long channel in the crease of an old tree. There were so many bees going in and out that we assume the hive went deep into the tree. The channel was oriented down, presumably this keeps water out. A hole at the bottom provided the only entrance. Pretty cool!

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The bee's front door

The bee’s front door

Today we are returning to the Camargue. Get out the insect repellent!


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Discovering a New Artist

This afternoon we did some sketching in town. Jean went one way and I went another. I found a quiet nook by one of the old fountains and sketched. After an hour of sketching I decided to visit our friend, Denis Lacaux, at Galerie Lacaux where his sister does art restoration in a workshop next to his gallery. She spent 30 minutes showing me her workshop and some of the projects she did in the past as well as a few she is working on presently. What an educational experience!

Then Jean and I connected back at the house and decided to visit the Estrine Museum which we had visited previously. However, a new show had been hung the day after our visit and we were intrigued by the artist’s work. Benedicte Brun‘s work did not disappoint. She has a style that is energetic, colorful, and emotional. This exhibition is all portraits of people of St. Remy. She captures their visage as well as the person behind the face. The rich layers of unblended colors are exciting. Her drawing skills humble me. What an artist! If you click on her name above you will see her other work. However, the portraits for the show are not on the website. Unfortunately, the museum’s site has not been updated with her works. Therefore, you are left with my meager photos that do not begin to show the power of her paintings. Note the pages from her sketchbooks as well.

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What a fantastic artist!


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The Running of the Bulls

The Fete continues unabated in St. Remy de Provence! Last night we attended the grand ball or dance on the Place de Republique. This is a large square that has been largely converted to a carnival site. A stage sits on one side and last night that stage was set with four tiers, curtains, flashing lights, a fog machine, a seven piece band, singers, and scantily clad dancing girls. They were the only ones dancing at this dance. The show was a poorly lit and amplified Las Vegas-style revue with mostly American popular music that you would hear in Las Vegas. We came home early and made plans to skip town today to paint in the mountains overlooking Les Beaux, a beautiful hilltop castle nearby.

Our plans for the day came to an abrupt halt this morning with the closure of all roads in and out of the old part of the village where we are staying. The ring road that surrounds our enclave was to be the site of bull running. We couldn’t get to our car. Therefore, we settled down to watch a few bulls run loose on the ring road while hundreds of testosterone-crazed young men taunted them to a chase. I saw not a single woman taking part in this. Perhaps there is hope for our species. The bulls are few and scattered, sometimes prodded along by horsemen with poles, but mostly running free after any guys who dare stray too close. One fellow strayed more than close and soon the ambulance stationed across from our street was summoned. However the ambulance could not go out into the street with the bulls and young men. Therefore, the horsemen hustled to run the bulls back to their pens so the EMTs could do their work. In the end the horsemen were serenaded with the national anthem. You will note the steel bars in the photos, behind which we remained safely barricaded throughout the event.

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Despite the rabble rousing events of the Fete taking place around the city, our little ancient village inside the old walls remains somewhat quiet and calm. These are the views that inspire us to draw and paint.

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This afternoon is the grand bull fight in the main arena. It is supposed to be a colorful pageant, but we are skipping it. (No, they do not kill the bulls here, at least until it’s time for them to become entrees on the local menus.

Time for ukulele practice. Bye for now!


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Parade of the Ancient Crafts

Last night the fete began with a bang…literally. This morning at 9:00 AM an artillery barrage confirmed that the festivities have begun.

We spent a large part of the day in our continuing effort to ship a suitcase back home before we leave St. Remy. The replacement car we got after my auto accident is smaller than the original car and we don’t want to try to stuff the extra bag into it. However, we have received the incorrect forms from the shipper 3 times. Today we finally got the correct forms, but the print shop where we can print computer documents was closed. To the rescue our friend and fellow artist, Denis Lacaux! He printed our documents from our thumb drive and we are ready to go!

We saw much preparation and knew the streets were closing from 2:00 to 10:00 PM today. At 5:00 a Parade of Ancient Crafts began. This is the parade I saw 2 years ago. Families and individuals dress up in period costumes and as people plying old trades and march around the town several times. Everyone joins in and what a treat to see young and old side by side celebrating their heritage…vinters, sheep herders, farmers, horsemen, gypsies, bakers, politicians, suffragettes, and even a brass band! Here is a sampling:

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The dance begins at Place de Republique in the center of the village at 10:00 PM. The promise “New Music” so we must attend to learn what that means. Time to put on the dancing shoes!


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A Catch Up Post!

It has been five days since my last post and much has happened. Judi was still with us most of the week. We enjoyed the market day on Wednesday with my new favorite jazz band, Gig Street. They play a sweet mix of jazz, blues, and pop music that is good for the soul.

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Judi and I also took a trip to Lake de Peiroou, but the Mistral was blowing so hard we could not draw. Therefore, we adjourned to St. Paul de Mausole to commune with the spirit of Van Gogh for a while. It was pleasant among the olive grove with Les Alpilles in the background as we contemplated his year in this asylum.

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Thursday morning we arose early to get Judi to the Avignon TGV station and made it with plenty of time to spare. Jean and I then decided to visit Gordes, the hill town made famous by Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. Someone here had told us there were fantastic rock formations near there for drawing and painting. We never saw the rock formations, but did visit this interesting town. It has been largely rebuilt since WWII due to heavy damage inflicted by the German Army. Gordes was a partisan stronghold and paid dearly for it. Highlights included a tour of the caves under the village. Every house was built on excavated caves and much commerce and living was carried on down there over the centuries, including olive pressing, leather tanning, shoe making, wool processing, and weaving. The views from this clifftop village are broad across the Luberon.

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A significant highlight of the day was meeting Pascale Camy, a very talented bronze sculptor.CamyHer work is stunning and deserves a wide audience. Please click on her name above to visit her website and view her magnificent works.

Today marks the beginning of the 10 day long fete in St. Remy. We spent the morning arranging for shipping a bag of extra things back home. In the afternoon we walked out to St. Paul to do some drawing and painting.

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Back at home I was making some pasta for dinner when the fete began. While eating we heard the fireworks signalling the start. However, by the time we got to the street the bulls had already passed. There will be bulls running in the streets somewhere around town almost every day for the next week, so we should be able to see them sometime. Tonight it is relatively quiet because the inaugural dance is held out at the edge of town. Tomorrow’s dance is held on the main square and will be loud music until 3:00 AM.


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Artists of St. Remy

Today we met two wonderful artists  in St. Remy.

Pascal Bouterin is a wonderful young artist represented at Atelier Bouterin near our house. His work attracted our attention with strong abstract images, texture, and subtle colors…all evocative of J.M.W. Turner. We entered the gallery and were enchanted by this tall man who loved to talk about his art. The paintings were described as “oil and fire on wood” so we asked what that meant. He explained that he paints the image in oil on a wood panel. When it is dry he goes over the image with a torch to scorch and change the colors. He cannot predict how the pigments will react to the heat and, therefore, the results are sometimes a surprise. The beautiful images of cities and landscapes spark the imagination. Pascal is represented in galleries in New York and Atlanta and has been in shows in other cities throughout Europe and the US.

Click on his name above to visit his web site. Here are a couple of images from his site.



Denis Lacaux‘s art caught my eye as we passed Galerie Lacaux. I am not normally drawn to surrealistic art, but his images are entrancing. Jean had met and talked with Denis a few days ago and encouraged me to go talk to him about his art. I looked at a few pieces and asked him a provocative question, “I don’t normally like surrealist art. Why does your work appeal to me so much?” He was prepared for the question and we pursued a 30-40 minute conversation about color, value, and design in creating an image that attracts and holds the viewer’s interest. Denis Lacaux is a master at understanding complimentary colors, hot and cool temperatures, and the elements of design that bring the viewer into the scene. He spends weeks planning and executing each painting with each element carefully laid down in the correct place for maximum effect. We strolled through the gallery and discussed one painting after another. I was enthralled listening to his logical explanations of how each painting captivated me. What a thrill and joy! I wish he could come to Seattle to provide a class for my artist friends. Click on the links above to see his web site. Here are a couple of examples of his work.




I hope you enjoy these artists’ work as much as I do.



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Another Visit To The Camargue

We returned to The Camargue yesterday to introduce Judi to the birds of the Rhone River delta. This time we remembered mosquito repellent! It was a glorious sunny day with a little breeze to keep the worst of the insects at bay.

The Camargue is home to over 300 species of birds and hosts as many as 400 species when migrations are included. It includes the only reproducing colony of flamingos in France. There also are ancient salt works that still produce exquisite salt by filling the marshes with seawater and then letting it evaporate. Rice crops cover almost 40% of The Camargue. This is a working national park that has much to see and do.

We particularly love Pont de Gau Ornithological Park. This wonderful preserve has almost 4 miles of trails winding around several distinct estuaries, across dikes and bridges, and along canals. Camargue horses, an ancient and beautiful breed, graze the highlands between the estuaries. Flamingos and other water birds fill the waterways.

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Of course we also took some time for drawing.

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Visit The Camargue any time you are in Provence!


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