Friday, June 01, 2012

Arts in Provence

 I was going to post on macarons today, but I'm addicted to Karen Wheeler's Tout Sweet:Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in France that I decided to dig out my 6-year old photos from Provence (which clearly have nothing to do with western central France, but they're the only campagne/country shots I've got so please forgive.
 FYI: I did all these watercolors whilst staying at Arts In Provence - one of the Fabest art workshops out there. They're British so pas cher.
 Back to Karen's unputdownable book, which I am making myself dizzy reading while walking - my niece begs me not to walk into any telephone poles SVP.
 I'm going to throw at you as many diverse excerpts as I can to give you a good taste of it:
'The house in France offered me an escape route and gave me a new focus. After buying Maison Coquelicot, I continued to live in London for another year, earning the money to do the house up. But I didn’t waste that year. I signed up for twice-weekly French classes in the evening and I read every book I could find, fiction or otherwise, on moving to rural France.'
 'Most of them were plodding...memoirs about septic tanks, elusive artisans, and epic meals. But I devoured every word, and loved their soporific, calming effect. I fell asleep each night dreaming of sunflower fields and rustic interiors.'
 'On paper at least, my life in London was a success...I owned so many handbags I could open my own boutique, and I earned enough money to pay off the credit card bills in full at the end of the month.'
 'And yet at thirty-five I was bereft of responsibility. I was the center of nobody’s universe. My life felt shallow and materialistic—as empty as the spare closet after Eric left. I’d spend the money I earned in order to compensate for the emotional void in my life. But, as I learned, you cannot buy your way out of unhappiness. And so I tried other routes. I did courses—lots of them.'
 'I return to bed, but am woken again at 7:00 a.m., this time by the prolonged and deafening ringing of the church bells on the other side of the courtyard wall. It is, I imagine, what a Butlins holiday camp must have been like in the 1950s: the bells are the cue for everyone in Villiers to get up.'
 'Foire day. The big fair that takes place twice a month.” I am confused. Is Dylan really waking me up to tell me about a fair? “You need to move your car now, before the market people arrive,” he persists. “I looked out of the window when I got up and saw your car by the mairie. But you’re not allowed to park in the square today.”
 'I throw my hippy coat over my floral pajamas and, still half asleep, follow Dylan up to the square. After thanking him for his trouble, I drive my car over to the car park of the local Intermarché and leave it there. This is not the peaceful life in France that I imagined.'
 '...with almost perfect timing Claudette arrives at the front door, bearing a tray with two cups of coffee and two slices of homemade apple tart. We eat it perched on crates in the petit salon, and it tastes, at that moment in time, as good as a lunch in an Alain Ducasse restaurant.'
 'Afterward, I drive into the center of Poitiers and walk to the main square. There is a food market taking place in the shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral and, unlike the few stalls that pass for a market in Villiers, this appears to be the real French deal. People are bustling around with baskets or pull-along shopping trolleys, squeezing, sniffing, or sampling the goods.'
 'Many stalls sell just one product—goat’s cheese, artichokes, or exotic-looking breads, for example—and the shopping process, I notice, is rife with flirtation:
“Did you make those yourself, Monsieur?” one elegantly dressed woman asks a man selling fluffy white goat’s cheeses.'
 “Yes, with my own hands, Madame. Would you like to taste a little piece?”
“Oh, but they look lovely, your pears!” I hear another woman cry.
The produce itself looks very alluring: purple-green cabbages sprouting like big flower brooches, small black prunes glistening like jet beads, heads of purple and white garlic strung together like a necklace. There are aubergines, the same opulent shade of purple-black as a YSL smoking, piles of large mushrooms, their undersides pleated like a Vionnet gown, and stalls selling pungent frills of parsley and basil or velvety green leaves of sage, while plump and shiny red and green peppers nestle in wooden boxes. Unfortunately, none of this is much use to me as I am weeks, if not months froma functioning kitchen and living mostly on bread and brie .'



  1. I'm ready for the move! You and me, too.
    Oh Carol, did you already sell that coffee with the croissant and water glass? I just love those washes!!

  2. Totally entrancing, Carol, but I dare say that your paintings and pictures are what make this a truly fascinating story!

  3. Jeff S.12:38 PM

    A particularly nice batch of watercolors today and lovely text to read - very transporting. Feel extremely sorry for myself not having devised a way to retire to Provence or France by now (a fantasy since I first visited in 1984).

  4. I can barely keep up with you. You always have something new and interesting for me to read or try or do. Whew! Your aquarelles are tres belles.

    1. merci Connie
      I gotta stay on the ball
      Keep up and she has a newer book out this year!

  5. Wow does she write well and do you PAINT exquisitely...I love this post.I want to read that book..the way she describes the poetry.My favorite posts are when there are personal snippets of you.:)
    I am longing for Provence!

    1. funny how one puts something out there unknowingly
      thank you thank you for my Kindle Monique
      Tout Sweet makes great company online at Trader Joe's & at TJ Max!
      Time flies!

  6. Stunning artwork! and a perfect summer read

  7. Your watercolors are beautiful, Carol - and so many today.
    That book is having quite an effect on you :)
    Provence looks gorgeous...

  8. Is this making you wonder if you should be moving to the French countryside instead of Paris?!
    Adore these watercolours - just fabulous.

    1. no not at all karen.
      I'm a city-urban-pollution-girl
      I need exhaust bad
      I'm allergic to country air as a rule
      Still I did love it here...
      Maybe a short visit is doable :)

  9. Your post made it too good for me to take a pass on the book...just got it on my Kindle...thanks! Love the watercolors too.

  10. If you want to try again Provence watercolors, you are more than welcome at my parents in the French Riviera! Indeed, this region has inspired so many artists !

  11. I came amazes me how your watercolors are better than still/real life~

  12. Carol, I am mesmerized by your beautiful watercolours and by this book. I can't wait to read it and share this post to my friends. Merci beaucoup pour la inspiration. Bon weekend!

  13. Carol, this post is so full of beauty and inspiration. Thank you for your generosity in sharing what's motivating you to make a fabulous move.

    Yes, the book looks grand, and I may have to get one for myself, but your watercolors are fabulous, each one carries such spirit and that feeling of really being There!

    Like Karen, I wonder if straying from Paris might be in your future? On my ancient visit to France, I truly loved the regions beyond Paris (but that might have been down to Parisian price tags.)


    1. WOW
      I didn't expect this!
      These are from my 1st posts at PB in April of 2006
      Thank you

  14. Love this post. I do remember those watercolors and they are still wonderful & timely. I am looking for a summer read so will check out this book. Last year I read one you recommended.. a big thick one... and Loved it. Good thing you aren't where they are now giving fines for walking and texting..Wonder if walking and reading would count. LOL

  15. Anonymous12:07 PM

    so nice pictures!

  16. Your paintings are beautiful Carol.

  17. You did it again. Tempted me into doing somthing I didn't know I wanted. Thanks a lot. Just ordered Tout sweet. I am absolutely sure I will love it. Spend almost all my holidays as a teenager in Carpentras close to Avignong with a French family and their daughter, one of my best friends. Even now we are in contact. You reminded me of the time spent there. Thanks for that too. Greetings from a grey and rainy Germany

  18. The watercolors may be oldies but they are definitely goodies!!!!
    Looked up Arts in Provence and what a great place!!!

  19. I love your watercolours...everything about this post works. It really tells the story of the book which now I want to read:)

    So funny, because I'm also an urban chick and love the city.. I would die living in the countryside BUT need regular trips to the South of France for recharging my batteries, so off to Nice and Antibes in 10 days:)Hmm, could take that book with me!!

  20. Ha. Just ordered it from Amazon... perfect reading for the Cote d'Azur.

    It's the Diamond Jubilee today and it's raining like crazy:(

  21. Cathleen6:06 AM

    I love your watercolors - you should make copies and sell them - I'd be the first on your list.

    I too love "Tout Sweet" couldn't put it down! Thank you for a wonderful site - I look forward to it every day!

  22. normajean6:22 AM

    really enjoyed this.....
    great way to start my morning......
    thank you!


  23. Patti1:01 PM

    With your fine recommendation, I just purchased Tout Sweet from Amazon.
    Can't wait to read it. xoxo
    I remember in your blog about a year ago you mentioned your favorite
    castle outside of Paris....not Versailles, not Fountainbleu, but
    something else, not quite as well known.
    We are going to Paris in September and I would love to go the your castle.
    Thank you my
    I love your blog and look so forward to it every day. xoxo
    Love Patti

      make sure to schedule a visit when you can catch their shuttle bus or you could be stranded at the station
      taxis barely show up
      maybe it's gotten better

  24. Hi Carol,

    The more I look at this blog, the more I think I would love for you to do my website header for my first novel.

    Please check around my site when you get a chance

    I am still renovating the site and there is no information about my first novel yet, but I will be updating those things shortly.

    I have been a fan of paris breakfast for years. I have been to France too and my character will be going to France in novel 2.

    Once I get a better idea we will have to talk.

  25. Thanks for this reading recommendation! It sounds like the perfect book to read after coming home from 2 weeks in Ireland (read all about my adventures on my blog) - you know, now's the time after a vacation when I'm thinking of ditching it all and moving. This book will be the best inspiration!

  26. Another set of stunning watercolours Carol. Thanks so much, both to you – for a second outing on your wonderful blog – and also to your readers for their lovely comments. I think you've hit on the perfect way to review a book: bite-size extracts (really well chosen by the way), alongside your artwork and photographs. A great combination!
    best wishes and bisous a tous,
    Karen & Biff xx

  27. So, have you decided to move to the French countryside instead of Paris? sacre bleu!

  28. ...why do I get so hungry for sweets always in this blog?


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