With the completion of the art retreat I moved on with two friends to explore south west France, making our base in Roquebrun in the Languedoc region. This completely gorgeous small town is perched on the hills above the river Orb. We are staying in an authentic (though modernised) stone built three story ‘one room wide’ house with a view of the river from the terrace on the upper floor. The roads are steep and too narrow for easy driving – although some French do in their tiny Renaults!
So far we have been relaxing with wine in the evening, baguettes, visiting incredible markets – St Chinian is nearby and was wonderful on Sunday – cheeses, strawberries, olives, preserved meats, jams, fruit, vegetables, amazing pastries and all under the branches of the ubiquitous plane trees (all pruned to shape). Café au lait and a little ‘sit down’ when you have finished shopping.
Cessenon has an old centre to explore with vestiges of both Roman occupation and very early Romanesque and Gothic architecture – the church has solid, not ‘flying’ buttresses and part of an ancient suit of armour forms the front door lock.
Olargues is picturesque with a high tower on a promontory of the winding river as so many of these towns have, for watching for the invading hoards, a castle with walls, narrow winding streets and a stone bridge ‘Pont de Diable’ built in the 12th Century.
Most evenings on arriving ‘home’ we swim in the river Orb at Roquebrun – the water is clear and surprisingly not cold and our washing is hung out to dry over the street far below – just like the locals it hangs from a washing line out of the ‘lounge’ room window.
We’ve been to local restaurant ‘Auberge St Hubert’, the local Pizza take away (with the French Open on the TV) and made up our own with fresh ingredients.
The longest outing has been to Carcassonne – do not miss it if you ever get the chance to go – a bit touristy but the very best complete medieval town and castle you will ever see – every little boy’s dream! The Cité de Carcassonne is entirely within the walls and there you will find shops, houses, the Barbican, the castle itself, chapels and churches. The tour is worth doing – but not if you cannot traverse steep steps and narrow passages – I kept feeling that if I closed my eyes I would hear the clattering of horses hooves on the cobbles of the entrance, the shouts of the knights and grooms and the chattering of the ladies as they watched from above.
This place was the scene of a famous siege and won by the inhabitants led by one indomitable woman – Dame Carcas – for whom the town was named.
On to the little town of Peyriac Minervois with it’s river and old town where I did a little sketching – just travelling through the French countryside has been an experience – glorious!
A rest day with more painting on Tuesday and then on to the Camargue………….