Friday, December 11, 2015

Painting Workshops in Provence in 2016

Many of my readers and clients ask about painting classes in Provence...and I've lined up some great instructors who are happy to give half- and full-day lessons for travelers. (Interested? Email me: But if you're thinking of something longer and more comprehensive, you might consider a multi-day workshop...meaning, a trip devoted mostly or entirely to painting. Most last about a week, there are many offered this year all over Provence and a sampling appears below. I can't tell you which 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 specific questions, 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. (The best way to comment is to choose Name/URL. Put your name as the name, put your website as the URL...then fire away.) In the next month or so, I hope to share some photography workshops as well. 

For those looking to avoid the heat and the crowds of summer, Penelope Anstice will lead a one-week workshop in Eygalieres, from April 3 to 10. Eygalieres is a small, very beautiful village 15 minutes east of St. Remy, about an hour north of Marseille. You can see all the info by clicking Penelope's name above or by checking her website here.

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 auctions. In 2016, he'll be offering seven- and eight-night painting getaways with his wife Ruth Phillips, a writer and musician, in May, July and October."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 Madelene, in the countryside at the foot of Mont Ventoux. Julian also offers "self-catering" painting retreats for smaller budgets, for up to six people who stay in his rental house near Mont Ventoux. The full painting kit is provided (as it is in the workshops) and Julian is available to paint with the guests for up to three hours per day. For info on the worishops, click here.  For info on the independent stays, email: ruth@wintermane.

Jill Steenhuis is an Atlanta-born, French Impressionistic painter who lives in Aix en Provence, 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 Provencal 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 equipment or Jill will provide it. All ability levels are welcome and full details are on her site here.

French Escapade is offering seven different eight-day painting vacations in Provence this year--each led by a different instructor--plus one in the French Alps, one on the French Riviera and one in Giverny. Choose from oil painting, watercolor or journal sketching. Groups are seven to 12  students max. "We usually stay at the same accommodations for the entire tour so you can immerse yourself in the culture, meet the locals and feel at home without having to pack and unpack every day," says company founder Jackie Grandchamps.  "Best of all, we always choose an ideal base location and take you on a wide variety of nearby daily excursions." French Escapade also has workshops this year in Spain, Belgium/Holland and Tuscany; they'll add the Loire Valley in 2017. For all the details, click here.

This year, Workshops in France and The Art Engine are offering two uninstructed 10-Day Painting Retreat for Artists, led by Scottish artist Julie Snyder. There's one in June ("Lavender Season") and one in September ("Glorious Provence").  The package includes 10 days of artistic immersion (mentoring available) and daily painting sessions in locations such as private vineyards, charming villages, markets, on the Van Gogh trail, St. Remy and Les Baux and more. You'll stay in a château above the hillside village of Chateauneuf de Gadagne, not far from Avignon and the Luberon, and there's plenty to do for non-painting travel partners as well.  Click here for details.

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 Luberon 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 eleven of them, between late April and late September. All the info is here.

Ian Roberts is an Iowa-based artist leading two "Plein Air Painting in Provence" workshops this year. "No place continues to call me to paint like Provence does," he says. "And of course I'm not alone. Corot, Bonnard, van Gogh, Gaugain, Matisse, Cézanne and Picasso all came to live and work here. I know you too will love the quality of light, the folds of the earth, the old stone farm buildings and medieval hilltop villages, the poplars and cypresses." Workshops are based in the medieval village of Le Barroux, a place "so rich visually, so full of possibilities, each day you'll find something that sings to you." Lodging is in the village's only hotel, which has just 11 rooms. "Dinners are served on the terrace overlooking the valley below," Ian says. "With the sun setting after a long day of painting--and wine from just down the road--it's a great way to end the day." Info on Ian's workshops is here

Tessa Baker--who has lived in Provence since 1985--offers week-long watercolor workshops at her home in Lorgues, in the Var. Here you'll be surrounded by beauty, as vineyards, rolling hills and fields (lavender, sunflowers, poppies) surround the farmhouse Tessa shares with her husband David. Meanwhile chef Anna prepares the meals, served with wines from top chateaux, some of which are in walking distance. "And our picnics have certainly stolen a few hopeful glances, especially when we set up our table in the port of St Tropez!" Tessa says. Visits to the famous Gorges de Verdun, the village of Moustiers, the wine domaine Mas des Brun in Bandol and of course a local market are all part of the trip. The group paints at least six hours, most days. "We all have such a lovely time together and become such good friends," Tessa says, "it's hard to say goodbye." For or +33 6 11 25 29 72. You might also enjoy her blog here

"Whatever your reason is for opening up to a creative pursuit," says artist Andrew Petrov, " there is no better place to learn, practice, and enjoy the process of painting than in Provence!" This summer, in the picturesque and historic village of Saignon (which he considers his second home), Andrew is inviting painters of all levels to  "live and breathe art" with like-minded travelers. (He lived in Saignon full time before moving back to the US in 2012 ...and has offered workshops there since 2001.)  One of his 2016 workshops is already full, but the one scheduled for June 19 to 29 still has space. "If you know Saignon, you know it's the perfect setting for plein-air painting," he says, "and these dates should be ideal for lavender seekers." You'll find more info on Andrew's website here or contact him directly:

Milan-based painter Francesco Fontana will teach in Provence again in 2016, as he has done since 2008. You'll stay in Isle sur la Sorgue, a charming village with a river running through it, known for its 250+ antique vendors and large Sunday market. Exact workshop dates will be announced soon but you can see the details--and Francesco's workshop in Paris and Giverny--on his website here

British artist Jill Douglas will teach a class at the legendary artists studios Ateliers Fourwinds on the outskirts of the pretty little town of Aureille, not far from Maussane and Arles. The property was formerly a quail farm and is surrounded by olive trees at the foot of Les Alpilles, the small mountain range in the Bouches-du-Rhône. “When I 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 in my work.” Jill has created a course for artists of all levels from complete beginner to advanced, with work taking place in the studio as well as outside in the surrounding countryside. Accommodation is either at the Fourwinds or a nearby hotel and transport will be provided for excursions, for instance to the beautiful market in Mouriés, where students can browse, shop and sketch, perhaps taking photos to paint from at the studio. "My focus in teaching is to help the individual student develop and express their own visual voice," Jill continues. "We will do constructive group and individual critiques after painting at the studio, which will enable you to criticise your own work more effectively and learn to know when you are finished – the much asked question.” For info:

Finally...Atelier Provence 2016 combines a seven-day painting workshop in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence with a four-day art history tour in Barcelona...a fine opportunity to paint, learn art history, discuss and enjoy Provencal famous cuisine and wines in the land of Cézanne and Picasso. Their July 2016 trip is full (with a waiting list) but the trip will be offered again July 1 to 12, 2017. Check it out here.

Photos: (1) Painting the village of Gordes with Workshops in France. (2) A painting by Brenda Swenson, who will teach this summer with French Escapade. (3) Whoever takes the group portraits of the Workshop in France students has a great eye. (4) "Avignon Mobylette" by Julie Snyder, workshop leader at Workshops in France. (5) "Le Vieux Port in the Rain," a 2015 oil-on-canvas by Jill Steenhuis, who leads workshops in the Aix countryside. (6) Jill, second from left, with students. (7,8) Painting in Cucuron and out in the lavender fields with Arts in Provence, which is hosting 11 workshops this year with different instructors. (9)  Arts in Provence students stay in David and Liz Atkinson's home...and swim in this glorious pool. (10-12) Three paintings by French Escapade instructors: Tracy Lewis, Evelyn Dunphy and Frank Eber. (13) One of Julian Merrow-Smiths recent groups; men are very welcome too! (14) Julian's groups stay at La Madelene; here's a guestroom. (15) Julian and his group picnic-ing...and looking very painterly. (16. 17) Two paintings I love by Julian Merrow-Smith. (18, 19) Students in an Ian Roberts workshop. (20) Lunch during Ian's workshops is always  "the most delicious, simple Provencal food," made by this owner of a local B&B and served on an outdoor terrace. (21) Ian likes to take students to the Friday morning market at Carpentras, which has run continuously since the year 1150. (22) Ian's painting of a village just down the road from Le Barroux, where his workshops are based. Call "Below Crillon le Brave" the painting, by coincidence, sold yesterday!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Winter Fun for Foodies in Provence

I'm from Wisconsin where winters can be brutally cold...very snowy...and gray for days on end. I once heard a great line: that summer in Wisconsin is just three months of bad sledding.  

So winter in Provence always seems quite tame to me...with some days bordering on balmy. Yes, it gets cold...but not cold cold. Every couple years we get a real snowfall but more likely it's a light dusting, once or twice each winter. December is extremely festive here, with villages all lit up beautifully, colorful Christmas markets on town squares, holiday concerts in churches everywhere and shops and stalls overflowing with seasonal foods: oysters, foie gras, confit, Champagne, truffles (both kinds) and the ingredients for hearty winter dishes such as daube and cassoulet. On sunny days you'll see people still eating on cafe terraces. Things quiet down in January: hotels close up again, shops and restaurants go on limited hours, and the locals who can go off seeking sun or skiing in the Alps. But with fewer crowds, lower prices, plenty of sunny days and lots of outdoor activities still possible, winter can be a wonderful time to visit Provence. 

That said, here are a couple really nice winter packages for foodies...and some great hotel discounts...and few a la carte ideas for winter foodie fun.

Madeleine Vedel--who hops back and forth regularly between Provence and the US--has a charming old farmhouse on the island of Barthelasse, smack in the center of the Rhône River opposite the history-rich city of Avignon. And once again, she's welcoming food and wine lovers with a decadent winter package.  Called the Winter Provence Truffle Tour (this year's dates January 24-31), it includes truffle hunting, duck confit and foie gras, wine tasting at Châteauneuf-du-Papes, chocolates, hill towns, feasts and your own personal guide to take you to to experience it all. For the details, click here

Philip and Jude Reddaway have a B&B and wine school called La Madelene, where they base their year round business called Rhone Wine Holidays. This winter, they're hosting a three-day Truffle and Wine Tour, January 20 to 23.  It includes truffle hunting in the Luberon hills; a truffle-and-wine pairing at a Châteauneuf-du-Papes estate; four top winery visits with tastings led by the winemakers; a visit to the famous truffle market at Richerenches and of course truffle-based dishes to savor in restaurants and back at La Madelene. For all the info, click here.

In Tarascon, Catherine Burtonboy is offering a special winter package at her foodie B&B Le Mas de Lilou. Rooms begin at 90€ with breakfast; book two nights and get a third free. Or, for groups of four or more staying a minimum of three nights, get a free gourmet dinner and a 10% discount on your stay. Cooking classes are also offered at a discount. 

At Provence Paradise in St. Remy, there's a winter special designed to encourage longer stays. Book a week at the B&B rate (two people minimum) and you get subsequent weeks at 50% off (up to a four-week stay). The winter special B&B promo includes breakfast Monday to Saturday, a wine-and-cheese welcome and a romantic dinner for two in St. Remy, for each two-week stay. When booking, use promo code: ProvencePost. 

The gorgeous Relais & Château hotel Crillon le Brave offers truffle-and-wine weekends, with some led specifically in English, in February and March. Click here for info.

In the Southern Luberon, truffle hunting continues all winter at the farm Les Pastras, run by the adorable Lisa and Johann Pepin.  Their 11-hectare farm produces grapes, olives (they have 600 trees!), a wide range of fruit and--wait for it--black winter truffles. Yes, they also have a a stand of oak that regularly produces the prized tuber melanasporum, AKA truffes noires, AKA Black Gold. Sign on for their truffle tour and you’ll learn how truffle trees are cultivated, the signs indicating your trees might have truffles beneath them, the lengths people will go to in order to steal or even sabotage truffle hunters, how to clean and prepare fresh truffles, what dishes taste best with them and much more. You'll tag along while a duo of dogs dig for the hidden treasure and then tuck into a sampling of fresh truffle hors d'oeuvres, with Champagne, and a tasting of Les Pastras' organic olive and truffle oils. In winter, two-hour weekday tours are at 3 pm; weekend tours are at flexible hours. For 2-12 people. Cost per person:  70€, with a 20€ reduction for children, age 10-17. To book:

The ancient village of Richerenches  has the largest black-truffle market in Europe.  It’s in the department of the Vaucluse, which produces more than 90% of the black truffles sold in France.  The Saturday morning market runs from mid-November to late March…and attracts restaurateurs, exporters and truffle lovers from far and wide. The best way to do the market is with an expert tour guide…and I’ve got just the gal. She lives nearby, knows the market in and out, often cooks with truffles…and loves to share her passion. As you poke amongst the stalls, you’ll learn how to choose, clean and preserve them, what wines pair best with them, what local restaurants specialize in them…and much more.  You may even meet some trufficulteurs (truffle hunters), who work the market with their bulging linen bags, meeting discreetly with “courtiers” who evaluate and buy their precious “black gold.”  You’ll break for coffee at the locals’ favorite café and visit a few historic sites too. You may even get to enjoy a festive communal lunch of truffled omelettes (with salad, cheese, bread, wine and dessert) served in the village hall. Tours are 3 hours (longer if you have lunch) and cost €150 for the first person, 75€ for each additional person, lunch is extra. Available: Saturday mornings, mid Nov to late March. To book:

In honor of the Fête de la Truffe in Uzès (Jan 16 and 17, 2016), chef Eric Fraudeau of Cook’n With Class Uzès is offering three workshops themed around truffles. Together you'll create seven different preparations, which will be paired with perfect wines. The class is offered in English January 15, 22 and 29; there are other dates for French speakers. For more info on the classes and to book, click here. Or, email:

Many of the tour guides, wine guides and cooking instructors I work with are happy to cut their prices to build winter business...some as much as 50%. If you're interested, have a look at and let me know what interests you. Everything there is customizable. (My email: 

For info on seaside seafood festivals in winter, see my friend Sheila's website here

For more about truffles in Provence--including markets, tours and restaurants that specialize in them--see my story from last year here but be sure to check for 2015/2016 dates. 

For truffle festivals and markets in Languedoc-Roussillon, click here.

Looking for Christmas markets in Provence? See my growing list here...

And a really nice list of winter events in Provence here.

Photos: (1) Happy truffle hunter Pierre Sauvayre at the Richerenches Truffle Market. (2) Delicious truffled omelettes are served up on most Saturday mornings in Richerenches; check the schedule here and be sure to reserve ahead. (3, 4) Cooking classes at Mas de Lilou are discounted in winter, for two people minimum. The foodie B&B, in a restored 18th-century farmhouse in Tarascon, is also offering the third night free. (5) Prized black winter truffles from Provence--truffes noires--are also known as Black Gold. (6, 7) La Madelene, home to the company Rhone Wine Holidays, is hosting a three-day Truffle and Wine Tour in January. (8, 9) Madeleine Vedel's charming farmhouse sits on an island in the Rhône, opposite Avignon. Madeleine is a professional cheesemaker, a goat-raising expert and a passionate foodie...the perfect host for a winter food tour.  (10, 11). The village of Crillon le Brave and the Hotel Crillon le Brave; both are gorgeous. (12) The winter sea urchin festival in Carry le Rouet, along the "Blue Coast," is usually held in early February. Check with the Tourist Office for 2016 dates. (13) One of the pretty antique-filled bedrooms at Provence Paradise offered in the winter B&B package.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Anybody in France Want Free Help?

Hi Guys...I received the following email this week but can't take advantage of this nice offer myself. So I'm passing it along to all of you. Thomas seems like a stellar young man and I'd love to help him land the perfect internship, stage or volunteer experience in France. If you have something to offer him, please feel free to get in touch with David directly.

Dear Provence Post, 

I have a highly talented student that would like to volunteer/intern with you from January 17-April 14, 2016. Thomas Leaycraft (above) graduated high school with the highest GPA possible and is enrolled at the University of North Carolina this fall. Thomas is passionate about working with those in need and hopes to make social service work a career. He has worked with migrants before as well as Habitat for Humanity. He has completed multiple volunteer programs which make him well suited to your organization. He has long term aspirations to work in France and this will be an important step in that direction.

Thomas would like to intern/volunteer 25-40 hours per week. No payment is needed and we will set up Thomas’ housing for him. Your main duty is to provide a minimum of 25 hours per week for him. Thomas is open to various job duties and is eager to lend his skills to your organization. We would be happy to set up a Skype or phone interview with him if needed. As his resume attests Thomas has shown exceptional initiative. We believe he is truly a special young man and would be a delight to have in your workplace. If you think you may have a position for him please provide a brief and informal list of job duties. Thomas speaks some French but is not fluent and his resume can be seen here.

David Adams, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Global Studies

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Provence Prestige is Nov 26 to 30 in Arles

The 21st annual Provence Prestige show opens Thursday November 26 at the Palais des Congrès in Arles and runs through Monday November 30. This festive holiday-theme "salon" fills a number of vast indoor expo halls with 3,500 square meters of holiday goodies, gifts, home decor, food and wine, clothes, accessories, books and much more. And it's all made in Provence by exhibitors who agree to the terms of a special ''locally made'' charter. Some 30,000 visitors and roughly 150 exhibitors are expected.

As in years past there will be Christmas workshops for kids on Saturday and Sunday, from 2 pm to 7 pm. You can see a full schedule of events, background on the exhibitors and more in the press kit.

Tickets are 6 € (adults), 3 € (ages 12 to 18 and groups of 20 or more), and free for kids under 12. 

Your ticket for Provence Prestige also entitle you to free and discounted admissions at three of Arles' most-prominent museums: the Musée Départemental de l’Arles Antique (MDAA), the beautiful art-filled Musée Réattu and the Van Gogh Fondation...but only November 26 to 30.

Provence Prestige hours are from 10 am to 7 pm, with special late hours (until 11 pm) on Friday November 27, when it’s open until 11 pm. All the info is on the main website here.  

Photos from 2014 courtesy of

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Elegant Provencale Townhome for Sale

Looking for the perfect Provencal vacation home, my friends Bill and Lorna Ramsay bought their first property in Tarascon in 2001. Five years later, they purchased the adjacent building--a "total ruin" according to Lorna--did a full renovation and seamlessly connected the two.

Then, after retiring from their longtime foreign-service careers with the US State Department (in the Congo, the Côte d'Ivoire, Saudi Arabia, Brussels and Paris) they decided to make this their permanent home in 2011. 

And now the Ramsays are they've put this very-special, historic home on the market. I think it's magnificent and thought I'd help them spread the word.

Located in a quiet square in the city center, the house is part of an ancient convent dating from the 11th century...and many 13th- to 17th-century architectural details remain. With 480 square meters (5,165 square feet) of living space on three levels, it includes five bedrooms, large and small living room/salons, a large dining room, a sophisticated and fully equipped kitchen with professional stove, a large laundry room with storage, and front and interior courtyards suitable for outdoor dining.  Numerous fireplaces, high ceilings with exposed pine beams and thick stone walls contribute to the authenticity and warmth. Bill and Lorna tell me the house is in perfect condition and knowing them, I'm sure it's true! Asking price is 845,000€. 

Tarascon is a medieval town on the Rhône River, in the Alpilles region of the Bouches du Rhône department of Provence. It's 15 minutes from St. Remy, 30 minutes from Arles and Avignon and roughly 1.5 hours from Marseille. Paris is less than three hours away on the high-speed TGV train from Avignon.

To learn more about the village of Tarascon, see my blog story from a few years ago here.

To learn more about the history of the Ramsay's home and the buildings surrounding it, click here.

For all the house details, the real estate agent's website is here...but please send all inquiries direct to Bill:

Photos: Click on any image to enlarge. (1) One pretty guestroom has beamed ceilings, original 13th-century stone walls and a slipper tub with bathroom beyond it.  (2) Bill and Lorna are moving on but have very heavy hearts about leaving this beauty of a home behind.  (3) The entry hall has a a spiral staircase with a wine cave below it.  (4) A fountain on the front terrace. (5, 6) The kitchen has a professional Viking eight-burner stove with warming oven, a De Dietrich microwave/convection oven, another convection oven, a built-in Neff refrigerator-freezer and a working 18th-century fireplace.  (7) Pretty wall sconces and chandeliers are everywhere. (8) One of two living room/salons. This one has a tile floor made from the original stone "dalles," a working fireplace and built-in floor-to-ceiling storage. (9) The interior courtyard, off the kitchen, has a fountain and more original stone tiles. (10) Back in the day, the 44-square-meter main living room was a stable underneath the hospital of the Templar St Nicholas chapel complex. (11) Front courtyard. (12) The formal dining room has 11-foot ceilings and large graceful doors letting in lots of light. (13) The pretty tile roofs of medieval Tarascon--and its castle--sitting right on the Rhône River.