Wednesday, April 19, 2017

You're Invited! Garden Tour & Lunch April 25


Three photos above: To raise money for Busoga Trust, Lucy Bakr has organized an April 25th tour of this gorgeous private garden near Tarascon, to be followed by lunch. The photos show the garden in mid April, the front terrace in October and another garden view, looking south from the house, in October.  


Two photos above: Busoga Trust builds wells in Uganda and Lucy visits once a year.  She recently took these photos showing a new well...and the original water 
source at the same site.

My friend Lucy Bakr is a tireless supporter of the UK-based charity Busoga Trust, which builds and maintains wells in rural Uganda. 

Since 1983, the group has created more than 2000 sustainable sources for clean, safe water...which is used by villagers for drinking, cooking, sanitation and hygiene.

Here in Provence, Lucy organizes numerous fundraisers for Busoga throughout the year: casual lunches, gala dinners, yard sales, coffee mornings and more.  


Lucy also runs a garden-tour club, which, over the years, has allowed many of us to explore some of the region's most-gorgeous private gardens.

Next week, on Tuesday April 25, Lucy is pairing her two passions into one great event: a garden tour and luncheon to raise funds for Busoga Trust. The group will visit a fantastic eight-hectare country garden not far from Tarascon, with six hectares of olive trees (1,400 of them to be exact) and two hectares of formal gardens. There are ponds and fountains...and a tree house (actually more of a "Champagne-drinking platform," according to the owners)...and a kitchen garden (I've just sampled the homegrown asparagus...divine!)...and beds of white Iceberg and red Sevillana roses...and iris and peonies...and formal box parterre...and a handful of beautiful cats prowling and lounging in the sunshine...and peacocks! 

Overlooking it all is the family's elegant,  château-style home, built around 1700 as a hunting lodge. 

The garden has been a huge labor of love for its owner, who tells me: "The greatest pleasure of having a large garden? It keeps you impoverished and diminishes your children's inheritance, much to their disdain!" 

Even if you're not a garden aficionado, you'll love the scale and lush beauty of this amazing property, the warmth of the owners, the fun of meeting new people and the sumptuous homemade lunch to be served on the terrace after the tour. 

Everyone will meet in the parking lot of the Château de Tarascon at 11:15 and car pool or follow to the property. A welcome coffee/tea will be served before the tour and lunch with wine will follow. The day ends around 3 pm, tickets are 40€ and all proceeds go to Busoga Trust. Spots are limited and Lucy must have your check (in euros) or a bank transfer to hold your spot. For questions or reservations: lucydavid@bakr.fr.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Social Climbing: Envie Epicurieuse is June 4


Sunday June 4 is the 6th annual Envie Epicurieuse in Provence, a day of nature, hiking, food, wine and music. My friend Kelly McAuliffe, who'll be the sommelier for the day, was there last year and says: "It blew my mind...it was so much fun. I took clients and they absolutely loved it."

The day starts with a nature hike up Mont La Vautubiere, a 634-meter peak at the back of Cezanne's famous Mont St. Victoire. When you reach the top , you'll find everything set up for the apero: wine, snacks and live music. Then everyone heads down to a large tent where the luncheon with wine pairing begins. There will be five dishes from two top Aix chefs...and eight wines...and a world-champion boulanger on hand...and lots of hilarity, to be sure.

"Eventually the baker sings in traditional Provencal, with his stunning opera voice, to put the cherry on top," Kelly says.

For those who don't speak French, Kelly will be translating and animating, not that it sounds like this day needs any animation help at all. "I really don't know how anyone could have a better Sunday in Provence! " he says.

The day is 110€ per person for adults, 25€ for kids.

The winemakers will be: Peter Fischer of Château Revelette (Jouques), Christian Valensisi from La Chapelle Saint Bacchi (Jouques), Pierre Michelland from Domaine La Réaltière (Rians) and Bengt Sundstrom of Château Vignelaure (Rians).

The chefs/restaurants are: Nicolas Monribot from Le Millefeuille (Aix) and Ludovic and Laura Aillaud of L’Épicurien (Aix).


The start point/meeting place is in the town of Jouques; you'll see signs telling you where to go. Arrive by 9:30 if you plan to do the guided nature hike...or at 10:30 if you want to do it on your own, in which case you'll have a one-hour walk to the top, on a shorter steeper route indicated with an arrow. (Kelly suggests you arrive at the top by noon.) For those who don't want to do the walk up, rides in a 4 x 4 will be offered...but be sure to request this in advance. The day will end around 4:30 pm,  the max is 200 people and the event will definitely sell out. 

The deadline for registration is May 17th and all the details are at envie-epicurieuse.fr

To book, use the online form here. Or, call or email Isabelle: +33 (0)6 11 53 2 7 01, envie.epicurieuse20@gmail.com. And if you have questions and speak no French, Kelly will do what he can to help: kmcauliffe@hotmail.fr.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Big Châteauneuf Wine Fest April 8 & 9


The weekend wine festival called Printemps de Châteauneuf-du-Pape, now in its eighth year, is a festive rite of spring here in the South of France. This year it's Saturday and Sunday, April 8 and 9, with a special day for industry professionals only, on April 10.  Roughly 85 domaines and châteaux will be represented, making this a wonderful opportunity to meet local producers while tasting their latest releases and a few smashing older vintages. It’s also an easy way to buy the wines you love, some of them normally quite difficult to get.

Each year the Printemps festival invites special guests from other regions and this year wines and winemakers from Corsica will be featured.

As in years past, there will also be special tasting workshops (Les Ateliers Dégustation) for which additional fees are charged. The first focuses on the Millésime 2007; it will be offered Saturday at 11 am and 4:30 pm and you can sign up here. The second explores the pairing of Châteauneuf with chocolate; that one is Saturday at 2 pm and the sign up is here.  Both will be held at the Ecole Primaire Albert Camus and are expected to sell out soon.  The third is a light-hearted initiation into the discovery of Châteauneuf wines, offered Saturday and Sunday at 11:00 am and 3 pm, at the Chapel Saint Theodoric. It lasts an hour, costs 25€ and includes your 10€ entry into the show itself. For that one you can register here or on site.

Eighty-one years ago, Châteauneuf was designated as one of the very first AOCs (Appellations d'Origine Contrôlée) in France.  The AOC decree was first created by Pierre Le Roy de Boiseaumarié (aka baron Le Roy), a winemaker at Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Château Fortia). The first year, there were five villages named: Châteauneuf, Monbazillac, Arbois, Cassis and Tavel.  And as the European designation AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) is slowly replacing the French AOC for agricultural products, you can expect to see more AOP on wine labels in the months to come.

Les Printemps is organized by by The Young Winemakers Association of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and takes place at the Salle Dufays on the Place de la Renaissance in Châteauneuf. Hours are 10 am to 7 pm on all three days.  Your 10€ ticket (pay at the door) gets you in all weekend and includes a tasting glass. There will be free parking...indoor and outdoor play areas for the kids...and food available on site.

A list of all participating domaines is on the festival website here.

For all the details click here and follow the festival on Facebook  and Twitter. If you have questions, you can email:  contact@lesprintempsdechateauneufdupape.fr.

For general info about the wines of Châteauneuf, the village and the region, click here and here.  Or, you can call the lovely folks at the Châteauneuf Tourist Office: 04 90 83 71 08.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Where to Stay: Moulin de la Roque in Noves


In 2002, Gaby Janney came to stay at Guy Fallon's Moulin de la Roque...and stayed. It's a very-beautiful, historic property--a hamlet of vacation homes--and I wanted to 
share the story with you.


A River Runs Through It: The Anguillon borders Moulin de la Roque. Until 1977, it powered the centuries-old mill, which remains on the property, fully intact.


Today the historic property offers nine vacation houses and apartments on 12 lush acres, a short walk from the village of Noves.


Entering the property. Welcome! We have tarte and rosé for you!

Guy (at right) bought the run-down property in 1994 and his first business was quince; he knew nothing about farming. In this photo from 25 years ago, he talks shop with a neighbor and his "five drunk workers" found at the local bar.


To make a few extra francs per kilo, Guy regularly drove this tractor 25 or 30 km, with three tons of fruit in the trailer...and no brakes. 


Eventually Guy decided to convert the property to welcome travelers. Here's the main courtyard, before renovation. Guy's mom took one look and said: "Guy! You bought so much roof!"



The same courtyard, today. They must adore Guy and Gaby 
at the local garden center!


The Manor House and mill, before renovation and today.


Grain grinders and a turbine in the mill. The grinders replaced earlier stone ones and boosted production four times over; the turbine replaced a water wheel in 1870.The turbine's cogs are wood; if one were to break it could be replaced quickly without 
having to shut down the mill for too long.


The three-story mill building is a dusty and evocative time capsule, with cool things to photograph everywhere. Guy knows all the history and will give interested guests a tour.


Milling remnants remain across the property.


All the original buildings served the mill in some way; there's been no new construction. The house called La Bergerie used to be a sheepfold; these photos show before and after.


The house called La Tuilerie, before and after.


Les Cigales, before and after.


In the house called Mas des Oliviers, high kitchen counters are topped with wood from an old barge. Gaby found it in a field and dragged it home.



 Terrace of the house called Maison de Meunier, in spring.



The magical property just after dusk, shot by a guest through a window. "Whether the sky is cloudy or clear and full of stars," Gaby says, "there's a curious and beautiful light 
that bounces off the cliff."  


Leaving the property, towards Châteaurenard and Avignon.  
"Arrive as a guest, leave as friends or don't leave at all," 
Gaby says.


For a couple years I had heard there was an American living in Noves, a small village roughly 15 minutes from my home in St. Remy. Not that there aren’t plenty of Americans around but most are on vacation or have second homes; not so many stick around all year.  “So who’s the American in Noves?” I asked my friends at lunch one day. “Oh, that’s Gaby!” they said. “You have to meet her!” I sent an email, Gaby said please come visit and we’ve been great friends ever since.

Gaby's partner Guy is the owner of Le Moulin de la Roque,  a beautiful and very-unique estate on the site of a former flour mill dating to the 15th century.  The property has a vast garden, a large Roman-style pool and several lovely historic homes for holiday rentals. They call their place “a little Provençal village” but that doesn’t really convey the “wow” I found when I first ambled up the tree-lined lane. I could see immediately why travelers come back here year after year…and knew immediately I wanted to write about it.

Le Moulin de la Roque sits deep in the countryside, a short walk from the village, in an area known as La Roque (meaning cliff, in Old French). Nine separate accommodations--all renovated from existing historic buildings which once served the mill in one way or another--range from a small studio apartment to an eight-bedroom home. There’s a pétanque court, badminton, volleyball, two large trampolines and plenty of safe space for kids to run around. The beautifully landscaped 12-acre estate nestles up to a rocky, forested cliff (with 750 acres of hiking trails) and is bordered by the pretty Anguillon River, which fed water to the mill for hundreds of years. It’s all very secluded but just a five minute walk from the closest boulangerie for your morning croissants. The old mill is still largely intact.  (For more about the property’s history, click here.)

For 400 years or so, this was one of the most prominent properties in the region. Twenty-five years or so years ago it was a total ruin.

And that’s where our story begins! That’s when Guy Fallon, his then-wife Christine and their three kids came down from Belgium, looking for a slower, sweeter life and a two-year sabbatical from Guy’s career as an oil trader for Petrofina.  

Trained as an engineer and passionate about the outdoors, hiking and adventure, Guy originally thought they’d spend their break in the Alps or near Lake Annecy. “But every time we went house hunting, it was pouring rain or snowing like crazy in either place,” he remembers. “And every-time we visited friends in Provence, the weather was absolutely beautiful. It was Christine who finally said ‘Why don’t we try Provence instead?’’’

The last thing the couple visualized was buying an abandoned 500-year-old mill and undertaking a massive restoration project. But when Guy laid eyes on the old property...well you know already how that went.  The land was very green and lush, home to a small vineyard and some 1500 quince trees, and Guy loved the idea of agriculture. The still-intact mill appealed to Guy’s engineering side...and the kids could attend good schools in nearby Avignon. Plus, the property seemed to have infinite potential.

Back in the day, at the peak of production, eight full time millers were producing seven tons of flour here per day,  as well as electricity for themselves and part of the village. The Roux family, which had bought the property in 1682, grew very wealthy from milling and when they rebuilt the manor house in 1910, they gilded the balconies with real gold. “They became a little bit fancy,” Guy says, “and called their home Château de la Roque. They were a bit showy but the property was definitely industrial.”

Flour production ceased in 1962 and the mill began producing electricity exclusively. That ended in 1977, when a stone dam on the river was destroyed to prevent flooding, leaving nothing to power the mill. As various Roux family members died or became estranged, the property fell into disrepair and they finally sold it in 1984.  There were two subsequent owners and when Guy bought it ten years later, all the rustic outbuildings were crumbling: a tuilerie or large stone kiln for making terracotta roof tiles (tuiles), a bergerie (sheep barn), a large building for storing grain, a miller’s cottage.  Along with the purchase Guy inherited an alcoholic caretaker, which somehow lent to the charm (until it didn’t).

When Guy signed the contract in 1994, his mom—having being raised in old Belgian châteaux with always-leaky roofs--proclaimed “Guy! Are you crazy? You bought too much roof!”  Today he says he’s in total agreement!

The first order of business was the orchard and Guy set out to learn everything he could about quince. “It’s very unusual in Provence to cover a field with quince trees,” he reports. “It’s a very old-fashioned tree and the market for the fruit is narrow. But since the trees were already there, I figured I might as well do something with them. I told myself, how hard can it be? Selling a barrel of oil or a ton of quince...same thing...it's just selling!"

Guy dove into quince farming with abandon, doubling production his first year. Which of course led to the next problem: what to do with 36,000 kilos of quince? "I had absolutely no idea who’d buy them," he remembers. "I now knew how to grow and treat them but had no idea how to pick or sell them."

So Guy’s caretaker asked around at the local cafe and “five drunk guys” came to help. Together they haphazardly harvested the fruit, Guy watching in horror as they tossed quince from one to the other, dropping most on the ground.  And then off Guy went off to the wholesale food market in nearby Châteaurenard, the biggest in the region, his ancient tractor and trailer overflowing with quince. Only then did it become apparent what a true outsider he was: a city slicker and gentleman farmer who—word had it—was actually a Baron back in Belgium (true).

"I was not of this world!" he says, laughing. "There were 5,000 trucks there...and just two of us on tractors: an old guy who looked like he would die any minute and one crazy Belgian."

Soon Guy hired a more-professional crew and the word spread that the crazy Belgian in Noves was producing lots of beautiful fruit.  That’s when he got a call from a wholesaler in Pernes la Fontaine, 30 minutes away by car. “He wanted three tons of quince in one go...quite tempting!” Guy remembers.  “I was picking two tons a day, more or less, and if you don’t sell them within two or three days, you have a warehouse full of quince.  He offered me an extra franc per kilo but only if I’d deliver. But all I had was my ancient tractor!  To go 25 or 30 km on a two-ton tractor, with three tons of fruit behind you and no brakes, is totally stupid but of course I did it: across the river...across the big bridge...down the big N900 towards Apt, one of the busiest roads around... then down a big hill...no way to stop...and all that fruit behind me. And then every day the same guy wanted the same tonnage, so I did it over and over again. It was really, really dangerous.”  

Guy eventually bought an old truck and quickly became the biggest quince-grower in Provence, producing 50,000 kilos each year. And then after seven or eight years of quince-shlepping, the royal Belgian farmer said basta...he was ready for a new challenge. 

Guy had already begun to think about renovating the property and as many other farmers in the area were renting farmhouses to summer travelers, he thought, “why not?” Christine, on the other hand, decided the “Green Acres” life with paying guests was definitely not for her. So she moved to Avignon, the kids stayed at the Moulin with Guy, and the couple divorced in 1998.

From that point on, Guy went full steam ahead, transforming the property for tourism. “I read A Year in Provence like everyone else,” he recalls, “and I knew how complicated a large project like this was going to be.” With a cranky local “builder” he renovated three houses over three years, repairing old broken stone walls and transforming the interiors into beautiful homes. Fairly rustic at the beginning, the houses got nicer and nicer as time went on. Guests came...and came back...and brought their friends. Traveling couples loved the relaxed atmosphere and authenticity of the “real Provence,” while families loved the space and the activities for kids. Painters found the property to be the perfect backdrop for art workshops.

In 2002, Gaby Janney showed up from Virginia, a guest in one of these workshops. Turns out Gaby was having her own mid-life crisis—similar to Guy’s ten years before--and she was hoping that some painting time in Provence would offer a nice reprieve. “I was in a big transition and I came to France to lighten up my life a bit,” she explains. So the pretty blonde American landed in Provence, all set for her restorative vacation, but her luggage never turned up. As Gaby had no transportation and spoke no French at the time, Guy the charming host jumped into action: taking her shopping, calling the airline, doing everything he could to help.

Gaby fell quickly in love: with the property, with the region and with Guy.

With a background in business and marketing, Gaby’s passions have now shifted to Provence and all that it offers: from fabrics, cuisine, antiques, decorating and art to the people, culture and history of rural France.  She loves to share her knowledge with guests; she herself is a painter and she enthusiastically welcomes artists and workshops on the estate.

A few weeks ago, Gaby and Guy invited me for dinner by the fire in the house they call Mas des Oliviers...and I mentioned that I loved the old wood they had used to top a high kitchen counter. “These planks were part of an old barge that I found in a field and dragged home,” Gaby told me. “The workers thought I was nuts when I told them what I wanted them to do with it!

“Everything here is historic and original,” she continued. “We’ve done no new construction at all. We use old materials wherever possible to keep the traditional Provencal charm and style.” 

The various layouts and sizes of the accommodations make Moulin de la Roque a terrific option for large family vacations and other gatherings that require lots of rooms. The largest house (eight bedrooms, seven baths) has a large atelier perfect for workshops, reunions, meetings and receptions.

Whereas guests stay in typical Provencal farmhouses or cottages, Gaby and Guy’s house –the one the Roux family and the villagers called a château—is more noble, the type of grand Bourgeois home commonly built by wealthy families in cities such as Avignon or Aix. Dating to 1910, it has soaring ceilings, Italian marble, mosaics and beautiful tile floors, all done in the Art Nouveau style which was very in vogue at the time.

In the area surrounding Moulin de la Roque, the late afternoon sun is dazzling as it bathes vineyards, orchards and olive groves in light; biking in the area is fabulous. In the early evening, guests love to hike up the hill to see the sunset, gathering wild rosemary and thyme.

Guy and Gaby welcome all guests personally, with a fresh seasonal tarte, a nice bottle of rosé, a tour of the property and a where-to-go guide filled with their favorite “secret” places. They often host weekly cocktail parties which allow guests from all over the world to mingle. A huge number of guests are repeats, including some who met here originally and now schedule their trips to coincide.  

When Guy’s daughter was married here two years ago, the Priest came from Belgium and brought a white dove to be released during the ceremony. But instead of flying off as he was supposed to, he decided to stick around. Given the name Bello, he's now a pet and the happy mascot of the Moulin.  Which is of course just perfect, given Gaby and Guy's motto of warm hospitality:  “Arrive as a guest, leave as friends or don’t leave at all!”

Moulin de la Roque is just a 20- to 30-minute drive from many of the most-interesting, most-popular sites in Provence: the Luberon,  Avignon and the Palace of the Popes; Châteaufneuf-du-Pape and the Southern Côtes du Rhône wine region; the Pont du Gard, Arles and Les Baux. It’s 45 minutes from Aix and just over an hour from the Camargue and charming seaside Cassis.

For more info, see the website here,  their TripAdvisor page here or email: moulinprovence@gmail.com.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Major Antiques Fairs in April and August


The 51-year-old, twice-a-year antiques fair in pretty Isle sur la Sorgue was formerly known as the Foire Internationale Arts et Antiquités. This year it's under new management and has been renamed Isle sur la Sorgue Antiques Art & You...but I trust everyone will just keep calling it “The Big Antiques Fair” as they always have! And very big it is indeed...one of the biggest in Europe, with 100,000 visitors expected at each fair. It always happens in Spring (usually Easter weekend) and again in late summer. This year’s dates are April 13 to 17 and August 11 to 15, 2017.

You'll find roughly 550 vendors selling in the Parc Gautier and all over town, including the 300 or stall-holders and shops that normally call Isle sur la Sorgue home. Look for antiques and brocante, ancient books, design and decor, art and much more; at the August fair there will also be collectible cars on display and for sale.

This year, a new area will be dedicated to everything vintage (from the 1950s to the '80s) and only professional dealers will be allowed to sell there. One-on-one consultation will be available from Robert Gaillard, a certified antiques authentication expert and columnist for radio France Bleu; email the address below for more info on meeting with him. There will also be conferences, concerts, awards, receptions and more.  Fair organizers have two partnerships with transporters for delivering and shipping.

To protect buyers, all exhibitors, merchants and their business partners sign a charter agreeing to work within the profession's best practices. And a certified label from experts allows buyers to differentiate between ancient authentic objects, in their original condition, and newer, decorative or reproduction pieces. 


Show hours are 9 am to 7 pm (Thursday April 13 to Sunday April 16) and 9 am to 6 pm (Monday April 17). August hours are to be announced.

The regular weekly Isle sur la Sorgue market will still be held on April 16 (Easter Sunday) and on August 13.

All the info is on the show site hereFor the full program in English, including five art exhibits on view during the show, click hereQuestions? Email to: commercial@antiquesartandyou.com. 

Photos: (1) This year's poster. (2-5) Scenes from fairs past.  (6) The pretty Sorgue River runs right through town; guidebooks call it "the Venice of Provence." (7) Everyone loves Coté Parc, with their over-the-top sidewalk displays. [Credits: Daytime fair overview photo copyright Jeff Marseille. Coté Parc photo by Doug Crawford courtesy of The Good Life France. River photo courtesy of Avignon-et-Provence. ]

Monday, February 20, 2017

Painting Workshops in Provence in 2017


Many of my readers and clients ask about painting classes in Provence...and I've found some great instructors who are happy to give half- and full-day lessons. (Interested? See some here and then email me: whattodoinprovence@gmail.com.) But if you'd like something longer and more comprehensive, you might consider a trip devoted mostly or entirely to painting. Most workshops last about a week, there are many happening all over Provence and a sampling appears below. (A few of these instructors allow for day-long drop-ins.) I can't tell you which of these trips are best as I haven't experienced any of them myself. I've chosen these because they're either led by painters I know and admire...or they were recommended by people I trust...or they look really promising online. For questions, please contact the organizer or instructor directly. And if you have another workshop to promote or recommend anywhere in the South of France, feel free leave the info and a link by clicking "comments" below this story...or email me and I'll add it. Here's a great selection of what's available...with captions for all the photos above appearing at the end of the text.

There are still two places left for Julie Houck's painting workshop at the very beautiful Moulin de la Roque, not far from St. Remy and Avignon, April 22 to 29. Julie prides herself on small-group mentoring and highly personalized instruction while encouraging camaraderie between students. You'll stay in a lovely restored farmhouse with a full kitchen and enjoy daily painting excursions (the poppies will be in bloom!). Price: $2,250 includes lodging, workshops and use of the painting studio; airfare and meals are extra. For info: juliehouck.comjuliehouck@gmail.com.

The talented watercolor artist Tessa Baker, originally from London, has lived and taught in the Var region of Provence since 1985. In addition to day classes in a variety of locations, she offers popular week-long watercolor workshops. "If there are poppies we go to the poppy fields, if there's lavender we go to the lavender fields... and so on!" she says. "And I have a beautiful studio at my home in Lorgues on the off chance it rains. Painting is a joyful moment in time so I encourage students enjoy, laugh, have fun, create. It seems to work very well!" This year Tessa is offering her week-long workshop four times; the dates are April 29 to May 6 (two spots left), June 10 to 17, July 1 to 8 and September 9 to 16. Plus, Tessa will host "Cook and Paint with Tess" from May 20 to 27, during which you'll learn to make popular Provençal dishes with produce from the local markets. For info: paintprovencewithtess.com, tessabakerart@gmail.com.

British artist Julian Merrow-Smith lives and paints in Provence full time. I think his work is exquisite and so do the thousands of people who follow his "Postcard from Provence" online art sales. In 2017, he'll be offering just one painting getaway with his wife Ruth Phillips, a writer and musician. The dates are April 27 to May 4, the price is $2875 and there's one double room with two painting spots left. (You could also come alone and pay a single supplement...or come with a non-painting partner.)  "There are no frills to this workshop," Julian says. "We usually visit one of the local markets; otherwise the week is all about painting—talking, living and breathing it together. Our aim, above all, is to give you the experience of living the painter's life in the south of France." The group stays in the lovely restored priory/B&B called La 
Madelène, in the countryside at the foot of Mont Ventoux. For more info, click here or email: couguieux@gmail.com

This year, Workshops in France is offering four Provence painting trips. Two 10-day uninstructed "art retreats" are being offered from a château in the Luberon near Aix for "Poppy Season" in May/June and "Glorious Provence" in September.  These retreats include 10 days of artistic immersion (mentoring available) and daily painting sessions in private vineyards, small fishing ports, charming villages, markets, on the Van Gogh trail and more. There's plenty to do for non-painting travel partners as well.  Click here for details. In addition, two workshops with well-known instructors are scheduled in early May and late September. You'll stay and work in a château above the hillside village of Chateauneuf de Gadagne, not far from Avignon, and again, there's plenty for non-painting partners to do.  Click here for details. Workshops in France also accepts drop-in guests for the day. For info, click here or email Julie Snyder: julie@workshopsinfrance.com. 

Based in one of the Luberon's loveliest villages, the American artist Andrew Petrov lived and painted in Provence for many years before returning to the US in 2012. But his heart remains in rural France and he returns each summer to Saignon, to paint and teach. "There's no better place to learn, practice, and enjoy the process of plein aire painting than in Provence!" Andrew says. This summer, he'll be teaching two seven-day workshops--June 17 to 24 and July 1 to 8--and if there's room, day painters can join in (prices below). Otherwise, half- and full-day a la carte painting sessions will be available in between (June 25 to 30).  You'll paint beautiful fields...pretty, historic villages...prehistoric and Roman vestiges. And all skill levels are welcome; Andrew says his easy-to-grasp methods make it possible for someone "who's never lifted a brush" to create real and empowering artworks. The seven-day package (lodging, meals, art supplies and more) is $2500. Half-day sessions are 100€ per person; full day sessions: 200€ per person. Prices include all supplies and group prices are available. For info: andrewpetrov.com or petrov.andrew@yahoo.com

French Escapade is offering six different eight-day painting vacations in Provence--each led by a different instructor--plus one workshop in the Loire Valley and one artist retreat in the French Alps (no instructor). Choose from oil painting, watercolor or journal sketching. Groups are 12 max and prices start at $2,990 for a double room. "We usually stay at the same lodging for the entire tour," says company founder Jackie Grandchamps, "so you can feel at home without having to pack and unpack every day and you can spend more time painting rather than on the bus. Best of all, choose an ideal base location and take you on a wide variety of daily painting excursions in a comfortable van." French Escapade also has workshops this year in Spain, Belgium/Holland and Tuscany. For details, click here or email Jackie: contact@frenchescapade.com.

British artist Jill Douglas will teach a class at the artists' studios Ateliers Fourwinds, on the outskirts of the pretty little town of Aureille, not far from Maussane and Les Baux. The property--a former quail farm--sits in the foothills of the Alpilles Mountains, surrounded by olive trees. "When I first spent time painting here, it was life changing," Jill says. "After painting every day for two weeks I knew I was breaking through to a new level.” Jill has created a course appropriate for complete beginners to advanced painters, taking place in the studio and the surrounding countryside. Lodging is either at Fourwinds or a nearby hotel. Typical excursions are to colorful market in Mouriés, the Roman city of Arles and the village of St. Remy, where students will visit the places Van Gogh painted. "My focus is to help students develop and express their visual voice," Jill continues. "We do group and individual critiques, which helps you critique your own work better and learn how to know when you're finished...the much asked question!” 2017 dates are May 15th to June 3rd and Sept 18th to 30th. Price: 1860€ per week includes art instruction, transport, lodging and meals; come for one week or two. For info, click here or jilldouglasart@gmail.com.

Atelier Provence (July 3 to 14, 2017) is a unique course that combines a 7-day painting workshop in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence with a 4-day art history tour in Barcelona (easily accessible by high-speed train). This is a great opportunity to paint in plein air (glorious lavender fields, ochre cliffs, Cézanne’s beloved Mont St. Victoire), learn art history and theory, visit Barcelona’s greatest art sites and enjoy famous Provencal and Catalan cuisine and wines...in an intimate environment fostering creativity and fun. Visit Cézanne’s studio in Aix-en-Provence, Gaudi’s marvelous Sagrada Familia, the Picasso and Miró Museums and much more. Atelier Provence is sponsored by Walk The Arts, which has been hosting workshops in Europe since 1997. The price ($2750) includes painting instruction, lectures, 11 nights double accommodation (7 in Provence, 4 in Barcelona), all breakfasts, 6 lunches and 6 gourmet dinners with wine, all ground transport including TGV train Avignon to Barcelona and entry fees to museums and sites. For info, click here or email Walk the Arts' co-owner Monica Marquez: info@walkthearts.com.

Based in Monterey, California, Cindy Wilbur will offer a Provence workshop September 3 to 12, hosted by Provence Art Experience Workshops. The group will stay in a guesthouse in the heart of Arles (20 meters from the Roman arena!) and explore many of the enchanting villages of Provence. The price ($3,950) includes the workshop, airport or train transfers and ground transport,  lodging and all meals....everything but airfare and painting supplies. Cindy tells me her course is suited for serious beginners and seasoned painters alike. For info, click here or email: cindywilbur920@gmail.com.

Judy Ryan is a talented landscape painter who has taught adults at the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) for more than 20 years; she loves to share the basics of plein air painting with beginners and offer practical advice for more-advanced students. Her two 10-day painting workshops will be kept small, allowing for individual attention and intensive painting time. You'll be based in the very-rural area of northern Provence in the Drome region, near Montelimar and Pont-de-Barret, an area of lavender and sunflowers, quaint hill towns nestled in the foothills of the French Alps and mountain rivers with rustic stone bridges. Lodging is in a beautifully restored farmhouse. Each workshop includes a private room, wonderful French meals, all painting supplies (easels, umbrellas, chairs, paint) and lots of time to paint "the legendary light that inspired the French Impressionists." The 2017 dates are June 27 to July 7 and July 11 to July 21.  Price: $2150 singles (private room) and $3150 couples (one painter and one non-painter).  For info: provenceforpainters.com, judy.ryan.artist@gmail.com.

Jill Steenhuis is an Atlanta-born, French Impressionistic painter who lives in Aix, where she taught painting and drawing (at the American University) for ten years. In addition to leading Cezanne and Van Gogh walking tours for American museums and art lovers,  Jill offers week-long oil painting workshops in the countryside for all ability levels. (For those who share her passion for Cezanne and Van Gogh, special arrangements can be made to paint on the very sites where they did.)  "My joy comes from watching the beginner or more-advanced painter climb a mountain in their creative way and in their inner soul," she says. Students may bring their own supplies or Jill can provide them. Details are on her site here. For info: jill@jillsteenhuis.com.

Under the auspices of Coastal Maine Art Workshops, Tony van Hasselt will lead a 10-day watercolor trip Oct 13 to 23. Tony has led workshops in the region for more than a decade. You’ll stay in a lovely 16th century, 3-star hotel in the old section of Vaison la Romaine, take day trips to nearby medieval villages and spend the last night at a 4-star hotel in Marseille. Tony creates terrific sketchbooks to capture and keep handy the memories of every trip; he’ll also teach you the tricks of these quick painterly sketches and how to enhance them with written notes, menus, photos and more, to bring back a sense of place...“an easy way to be creative without bringing along your entire plein air kit.The price ($3995 for painters in double rooms; $3595 for non-painting companions) includes lodging, all ground transport, all breakfasts, 2 lunches and all dinners.  All levels welcome. For info, click here or email:  info@cmaworkshops.com.

Since 1990, David and Liz Atkinson have run Arts in Provence in the tiny hamlet of Les Bassacs, with its commanding views over  the Luberon Mountains and the Vaucluse. Surrounded by cherry orchards, vineyards and olive groves, Les Bassacs is within easy reach of the well-known villages of Gordes, Lacoste and Bonnieux. Workshops of varying lengths are led by different artists reflecting a wide range of styles and themes. This year there are 14 of them, between early May and late September.  Group size is 12 max...and all the info is here.

And One for the Sculptors...

Ateliers Fourwinds offers a wide range of art programs for locals, travelers and visiting artists. (Read more about it in the listing for Jill Douglas’ painting workshop above). Fourwinds' co-founder Ursula Hanes will lead her very-popular clay sculpture workshop here October 9 to 13, with instruction from 9 am to 12 noon daily. Students will work with a model and produce a full-figure sculpture. Beginners are welcome and, as Ursula tells me, "their experience is enhanced by working with students who've already had some training. The emphasis is not only on acquiring knowledge and technique but also in meeting other sculptors. My groups have always been friendly and helpful towards others." The fee of 180€ per person includes daily instruction and the firing of your completed piece; students buy their clay at an extra charge of 13€ for a 10kg block. Everyone is responsible for finding their own lodging but Fourwinds can make suggestions and in some cases, offer lodging on the property. Students are responsible for their own meals, with a group potluck the last evening. For info: ateliersfourwinds.comursulabear@orange.fr.



Photos: (1) A student paints lavender at its peak, in a workshop led by Judy Ryan. (2) Judy Ryan's painting "Small House in the Field." (3, 4, 5) Two paintings by Cindy Wilbur, who will teach in Provence Sept. 3 to 12...and the terrace of the guesthouse in Arles where Cindy's group will stay. (6) A student on one of Julie Houck's Provence painting trips; there are two spots left in Julie's workshop April 22 to 29 at Moulin de la Roque. (7) One of Julie Houck's own paintings, "Les Cocquelicots" (The Poppies). (8) A painting by Tessa Baker, who will lead five Provence workshops this year, including one pairing cooking with painting. (9) Last year Tessa Baker's group did a day trip to St. Tropez. (10) A typical meal during Tessa's workshop: fresh, colorful, healthful and Mediterranean inspired. (11) One of Julian Merrow-Smith's lovely fruit paintings. (12) Julian with students among the poppies. (13) One of Julian's Provencal landscapes. (14) Julian's group might lunch on the terrace at La Madelène or share a picnic like this one.  (14) Julie Snyder returns to Provence each summer to teach, paint, host and mentor through Workshops in France. (15) Julie Snyder's oil-on-canvas "That's Done." (16) Artist Patricia Alexander painting in Chateauneuf-du-Pape; she has attended four art retreats hosted by Workshops in France. (17, 18) Two paintings by Andrew Petrov, who leads week-long workshops and day classes in the Luberon.  (19, 20, 21) Three paintings by Sandy Delanty, hosting a June workshop through French Escapade. (22) Shari Blaukopf will teach travel sketching in July, through French Escapade; this watercolor is from Costa Rica. (23, 24) Two paintings by Jill Douglas, who'll be back this summer teaching at Ateliers Fourwinds. (25) A painting by Jill Steenhuis. (26, 27) From Tony Hasselt: A couple sketchbook pages...and a watercolor of a Provence village.

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