One Lovely Blog Award

Thank you Global from Home for nominating French Paintings for the ‘One Lovely Blog’ award. I am honoured that you chose me as I am very new to blogging. I am afraid I have recently been preoccupied, but I would now like in turn to pass on the award to other bloggers whose posts I have found interesting.

Following the rules of accepting the award, here are 7 things you might not know about me:

1. I love animals – and so do my children. At one time we had 16 guinea pigs, 2 cats, 1 dog, 1 rabbit, 1 hamster, 2 gerbils and 1 lizard.

 2. My favourite meal is baguette, butter, and cheese. Just as well we moved to France!

3. As we can’t afford a car, I spend over an hour a day walking to the boulangerie to buy the baguette – no light undertaking in temperatures well above 30 degrees.

4. My three children are all gifted dancers (two of them went on to professional training as ballet dancers). Unfortunately however all three developed chronic fatigue syndrome whilst still in their teens putting an end to their childhood dreams. I think this illness has got to have a strong genetic component.

5. I love sunshine and bright colours, and when the sky is cloudy I feel miserable. No matter what problems there are, they never seem quite as bad if the sun is shining.

6. Some of the happiest times in my life have been when I was working with people with learning disabilities. I found them to be generally very warm hearted and affectionate and I got back far more than I gave.

 7. Finding seven things to say about myself has proved incredibly difficult. Much easier to write about places or painting.

Painting of Red Vines in France

And here are some others blogs I highly recommend having a look at:

reading interrupted – Sharing the joy of reading with some lovely photography

Appropriately Frayed – Thought provoking writing and highly original photography

Cancerkillingrecipe – Moving account of one person’s fight against cancer

Rowena Clarke Photography –  There are some beautiful photos of France

This American Adventuress – Travels across Europe and America

art does matter – Insightful analysis of some contemporary art

Psittacismes – Comments on literature written in English and French

Travel with Kat – Descriptive account of places visited and beautiful photography

Travel Photo Media – Captures the essence of places around the world

Becoming Madame – Interesting insights by an American lady living in Paris

Cristian Mihai – Reflections on the process of writing and being an author

August in Provence

I love August. It is the month we always used to come on holiday here, and so it is associated with many happy memories. We used to look forward so much to escaping from almost constant rain and waking up to blue skies, and now even although we are living here I have not got used to that. Outside my bedroom window is a bank of lavender and in the morning I wake up to sunshine filtering through the shutters and the sound of bees already humming amongst the flowers outside. Camille, our little brown and cream cat, loves to stroll amongst the bushes as soon as I open the door for her. By 9am the temperature is well over 30 degrees and the butter left out for breakfast is in danger of melting.Camille cat in the lavender - French Paintings Melted ButterBetween midday and about 4pm it really is too hot to do anything that requires much effort. Not that that stops us from trying of course and we often seem to find ourselves out walking amongst the olive and pine trees, or making our way down to the market. Or, less pleasantly, running to catch one of the few buses that make the 50 minute journey to the local centre of administration for the Var department, Draguignan.Cheese stall at market in Provence

When we were on holiday here we used to stay on campsites, and one in particular became our favourite, right on the beach. Long days were spent enjoying swimming in the warm sea water or sketching views of the countryside or just sunbathing. We would go on costal walks, along rocky paths bordered by scrubby trees and bushes on one side and sparkling blue water on the other. We would visit, and revisit, the beautiful hilltop villages of Ramatuelle, Grimaud, and Gassin. And we loved to go into St Tropez by a back road, and stroll through the old streets surrounding the orange and yellow bell tower and along the harbour front past all the millionaires’ yachts along to the artists stalls.Ramatuelle Plage - BeachSaint TropezCoastal Path near Saint Tropez

Without transport we have not been able to visit the beach this summer, but at least the appartments where we are living share a swimming pool which feels like a real bonus, if not almost an essential here. The pool is very popular with children, and watching them I think how fortunate they are to grow up in such beautiful surroundings and in such a favoured climate.

French Village Fête

Yesterday was a fête day in Vidauban, celebrating the liberation of the town by the Americans on 16th August 1944 following occupation by the Italians and then the Germans during the Second World War. A parade of old military vehicles took place in the afternoon, followed by commemorative services at different spots around the town, and the handing out of flags and sweets to children. In the evening a “grand bal” took place in the central square in front of the mairie. The cafés and restaurants surrounding the square were thronged with people eating and drinking, whilst on the temporary stage a band of 7 musicians and 4 singers performed music spanning the decades. A stall, gay with pink awning, was selling candy floss and brightly coloured sweets to queues of children, in the centre of the square people were dancing; old men and women, families, teenagers, children, couples. Everyone moved or swayed to the music, with a rhythm that seems to come naturally to most French people. Particularly popular as always at these occasions was that old favourite, the Madison. Vidauban party at nightVidauban at night

On my way down to the bal I walked past a boules court, floodlit and full of players. The lamps seemed to be surrounded by halos, and I was reminded of the Van Gogh painting “Starry Night over the Rhone”. Van Gogh was fascinated by the night sky and the effects of light at night and he preferred to paint them out-of-doors under gas lamp, which was new to that era. I hope to attempt these subjects myself, at some point in the future.  Van Gogh - Starry Night Over the Rhone

 

Twilight for the grape harvest?

Today has been difficult.

The sun is setting, a glowing red ball surrounded by a halo of soft pink, silhouetting the pines whose dark green outlines stand sentinel on the crest of the hill. In the valley the inhabitants of Vidauban are winding down from the activity of the day. Some are sitting on their terraces having an evening meal, others are enjoying an aperitif in the cafés down in the square. The scene is very peaceful, very calm. Setting Sun in the Var

It’s not so calm in our apartment. After numerous attempts my two sons have at last been offered jobs in the grape harvest. The only problem is, the château where they would be working turned out today to be about 20 kilometres away, down winding country lanes called chemins which thread through vineyard after vineyard interspersed with thickets of pine trees. So now we have the enormous problem of desperately needing the money the grape harvest work would bring, but not being able to afford transport of any kind to get there. The château is too isolated to be near any bus route and an old second hand car would cost around € 500 but even that is beyond us. Although one of my son’s has ridden bikes and scooters in England, in France you need a French license to do so. At the moment the problem sadly seems insurmountable. I do wish I had a family to fall back on, but being an only child of long deceased parents, I do not.

Vines and grapesProvencal Farm with vineyard

On a brighter note, however, I do feel things will work out sometime eventually. In spite of the difficult times I’ve had in life (and there have been quite a few) in the end situations have resolved themselves.

The sky is still red and the lights are twinkling now in the village. It is very beautiful and I am very fortunate to be able to experience it.

Red Sky over Vidauban, Var

Life without a car in rural France

At the moment we do not have a car and so we are having to make our way around on foot and by bus. This feels exhausting in the heat of August, especially carrying 4 litres of milk daily uphill from our nearest Intermarché supermarket (a chore we usually reserve for early evening when the sun is just starting to go down a little).

However, when on the bus you do see more of the countryside than in a car and you can get to meet people this way. I have a favourite bus driver, a lady with fair hair and huge sunglasses who is extremely chatty. When she is driving I make a point of sitting in the front seat, and so far we have discussed the weather (always sunny), electricity bills (she only had her heating on for 3 weeks last winter), house renting, cars, washing machines, furniture, neighbours (her’s) and so on. She drives the same route every day – between Vidauban, where we live, and Le Muy, where our bank is, a distance of about 12 kilometres. As I usually make the trip about once a week, we have got to know each other quite well and she sends a cheery wave when driving past if I am on foot.

Bus stop in Vidauban

 

Bus to Le Muy from Vidauban

Another plus of not having a car is not being caught up in traffic jams! Vidauban itself is a quiet little town, but the A9 motorway stretching from the Italian to the Spanish border is just a few kilometres away. In August it can often reach a standstill (although not as often as a few years ago now that France has prohibited the driving of lorries on motorways at the weekends during the summer holidays). Anyway, the other evening we were making our way back from Intermarché as usual, laden with carrier bags, and were surprised to see our route through the pink and cream housing estates, with colourful gardens of purple and red bougainvillaea ,clogged up with cars crawling along at a snail’s pace. We found ourselves constantly being beckoned over by the anxious occupants, asking where they were and “how long did the queue stretch for” (which was right through the town). It transpired that there had been either a fire or a major accident on the motorway – accounts varied.  But the funniest question, asked by a middle aged French lady on holiday, which had us laughing all the way home thereby considerably the lightening the load of the shopping bags, was “Have we arrived at Nice now?”… Nice only being the 5th largest city in France and some 100 kilometres distant!

Route Home in Vidauban

 

View to Chapelle Sainte Brigitte, Vidauban

Moving to France

From the age of 15 I dreamed of living in France even though I had never been there, inspired perhaps by pictures of a storybook countryside full of chateaux and markets and by my father’s enthusiasm of the kindness of the French people he had met when in hospital in Amiens during the First World War. Years later, married and with children my family and I would go over to France on holiday every Summer, always to campsites, and during the rest of the year I would produce paintings as often as time allowed based on holiday snapshots and sketches. I guess through painting I was reliving the magic of the holidays, the bright sunlight and the vivid colours that I missed so much back in rainy England.
And now that I have retired I have at long last managed to make the move, and in spite of existing on a shoestring and difficulties in getting established, living in France is every bit as wonderful as I could have hoped for. To begin with we were staying in a holiday cottage in the Vaucluse, in an area known as the Luberon. The cottage was surrounded by fields of lavender, vineyards and orchards, and from the garden the view was of the hilltop villages of Bonnieux and Lacoste, which face one another on opposite slopes of the Luberon mountain range. However, the cottage was rented out over the summer months and so we needed to find a more permanent home.
View across lavender fields to Bonnieux
View across rooftops of Bonnieux
This proved to be very difficult. The South, or ‘Midi’ as it is called, is very expensive and very sought after, making it difficult for someone in a slightly unusual situation and with limited funds. However, we eventually found a very understanding landlord with a lovely apartment and a wonderful view overlooking the small Var town of Vidauban. The Var is relatively undeveloped and unspoilt, and encompasses a long sandy coastline on the Mediterranean which is backed by the thickly wooded mountain range of the Maures, as well as rivers and gorges inland and a wealth of ancient villages. Vidauban itself is in the heart of a wine growing region and is surrounded by hills of either oak or scented pine. Our appartment, which overlooks the town, is built on the lower slopes of a rocky spur, the cone of an ancient volcano, at the top of which is the Chapel of Sainte Brigitte. We moved in during July to what feels like an artist’s dream!
Olive tree looking over vineyards
View of Vidauban from Sainte Chapelle