Brocante, Baguettes, Bonnard et BB

An invitation, out of the blue, to revisit Gassin, near St. Tropez, in the South of France was too good an opportunity to pass up! I had painted this Provençal house after a previous visit, back in 2011 and I’ve always been keen to return:

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I took off into the early morning dull, grey skies over London and landed a couple of hours later in a very bright and sunny Nice. By lunchtime I was sitting at Key West, on St Tropez’ famous Pampelonne beach, staring out at the rolling surf of the Cote d’Azur

IMG_2297and soaking up the sun with a glass of crisp white wine in one hand and a selection of freshly caught seafood to choose from

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– wondering all the while what on earth I’d done to be so fortunate!!

Once back at the house, after settling in and a good night’s sleep (despite the army of frogs er… ‘calling for company’…. from an adjoining neighbours swimming pool!) I awoke at first light, threw open my window and gasped at the idyllic peaceful, Provencal scene that stretched before me.

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I filled my lungs with the fresh country air, sweetly scented with Mimosa, Rosemary, olive wood smoke and salt from the sea….and, after a breakfast of fresh croissants and strong coffee:

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made the ten minute drive, through the vineyards into the colourful port of St Tropez:

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IMG_2458I passed the artists busily setting up their easels for the day:IMG_2313  IMG_2370as I made my way to the twice-weekly market at the Place des Lices. IMG_2317 No one does markets quite like the French!

IMG_6380 IMG_6381 IMG_6468The abundance of fresh produce; fruit, flowers cheeses, herbs, salamis and baked goods on display, not to mention the fine linens, scented soaps and brightly glazed pottery, is quite simply breathtaking!

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And no one lives quite like the French either! To me, they have their priorities right too: Come 1 o’clock, no matter what, everything stops for lunch. They work to live not live to work! Shops are closed, and for a couple of hours, over a leisurely meal and a glass or two, neighbours and fellow shop keepers meet in a local eatery to sit together, enjoy each other’s company and put the world to rights. The art of conversation, face to face communication, is alive and well in France (and much of the rest of the Mediterranean too, I’m sure) – but it’s something I’m afraid we’ve all but lost, on our own shores…..

Laden with goodies I set off to explore the maze of brightly painted, narrow streets:IMG_2330 IMG_2331 IMG_2333 IMG_2336 IMG_2338 IMG_2339 IMG_2346 IMG_2358 IMG_2361 IMG_2365before stopping for lunch at the famous red-painted ‘Sennequier’ cafe on the port. Facing the impressive line up of luxury yachts, I joined in the national leisurely pastime of people-watching and sipping endless cups of cafe –  all to the gentle strains of a passing busker (who just happened to sound exactly like Charles Aznavour!) and, with her image appearing and her presence felt on virtually every corner, I almost expected the legendary BB to appear at any moment!

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Before heading home, I stopped to buy a famous ‘Tarte Tropezienne’ (a delicious sweet custard sponge) for tea:

IMG_2465but simply couldn’t resist a few more delicacies (Macarons and Florentines) from this delightful shop too:

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IMG_2468IMG_2469and assuaged any guilt by walking around the local gallery, housing an important collection of impressionist paintings, for a few hours:

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The current exhibition is of several of Bonnard’s sketches of his muse, Marthe de Meligny:

do you fgeeeling urewjrBonnard Sketch from http://thisrecording.com/today/2011/1/14/in-which-bonnard-and-vuillard-create-unfamiliar-masterpieces.html

The following days of the week rolled into one, filled as they were filled with excursions to the nearby medieval hilltop villages such as Ramatuelle, Gassin and Grimaud.

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and, at every opportunity, indulging in my favourite pastime of all, rummaging around a local Brocante/ Antiques/Flea market.

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IMG_2489 IMG_2488IMG_2380Inspired by Bonnard, I spent many hours sketching too:

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image.aspxand soaking up the warm spring sun in the peace of the beautiful garden,

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There is no doubt that this is an expensive part of the world but the good things in life, the important things; good, simple food, good wine, quality family/ friendship time and plain old fresh air, fresh flowers and sunshine are all relatively inexpensive or free…..and can be appreciated and enjoyed by all…..Yes, the French have definitely got the work/play balance just about right. IMHO anyway……They’re an example to us all….

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17 thoughts on “Brocante, Baguettes, Bonnard et BB

  1. Thanks, ah….for this. Now I am homesick for the south of both France and Italy. The sun, flowers ,food , charming buildings,fields of wine. Had a taste of the life style while attending art school on Italy for three summers,and greedy devil that I am, I want more. Light snow fall today,cloudy, dirty snow and minus 3 degrees . Your photos are so beautiful! Well done!
    Katherine.

    • Thank you again, Katharine! I’m very envious of your art studies in Italy!! That’s long been a dream of mine…..perhaps one day…I was certainly glad of some spring sunshine and warmth although our UK temperatures are nowhere near as low as yours. Do wrap up well and keep warm! Perhaps one day we can share the Greek sunshine together. xx

  2. Lovely photos Yvonne, you have really captured the South of France, it is so lovely ‘out of season’!! I am not sure that the equilibre in the whole of France is quite so enviable as you would have us believe, and although they do have wonderful food/restos/markets, much of their communication is still behind closed doors (at least in the north)!Glad you had a restful and enjoyable time, bisoux

    • Thank you Karen. Yes I’m sure things are quite different in other, more northern, parts of France – the sun does tend to bring out the best in people. It was lovely to be able to enjoy it for a while and although it’s very sunny here in London, there’s still a bitterly cold wind. Ah well, roll on summer! x

  3. Oh, thank you for taking me on a most delightful and much needed journey! Filling the senses with fragrance, colour, gorgeous vistas and alleys and the MARKETS! Oh my …. you’ve primed my need for setting out and finding peace in the colours and views of elsewhere. Thank you again, Yvonne!

    • Lovely to hear from you Eleanore! Don’t worry, you’ll be basking in the Greek sunshine and bathing in her turquoise waters before you know it! (only sorry we’ll miss each other this time…..)xx

  4. I know exactly what you mean as my brothers house is in La Croix Valmer and we are often there! No matter what time of year it is it’s always special – the light is so different! XxSusieJones

    • Hi Susie! Lovely to hear from you! Yes, indeed it is special….and the light, especially for painting, is just amazing! Do let me know the next time you’re there….or in London, it would be lovely to meet up again! Y xx

  5. Thanks for following my posts.
    You definitely conjured up all that I love about France, albeit that I had a house further north for a couple of years. Miss it terribly.

  6. Spectacular showcase,amazed by the diversity of the photos !
    Hope you are keeping well and continue spreading your bright brushstroke …
    Merry Christmas Yvonne! Have a lovely festive season ! Doda 🙂 ★★.✿¸.•°*”˜ƸӜƷ˜”*★★.✿¸.•°

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