France: Part 1

watercolor, Sharpee Ultra Fine pen, in Arches Travel Book

We finally arrive in France and join up with the rest of the sketchbooking gang at Villette L’Art Vivant in the lovely country village of Soreze.  A storm is raging as we get off the bus, the ground is soggy, and all the drains are running high with water.  But next day there is a break in the weather and we drive to some other villages, Saissac with its 10th century castle and view of the Pyranees, and Montolieu.

I set up my little tripod stool, which has ridden in my carry on luggage on the plane.  I am across a narrow stone street from this house, which I pick because of the juxtaposition of new and old with the bicycle.  As soon as I start sketching I hear the family inside and realize it is lunchtime, which means that the restaurants will be closed by the time we get around to eating!  Different meal times here in France from Spain.  I’m hoping to finish the sketch before the family comes out and “catches” me.

On to the next town of Montolieu, and now it’s urgent that we find something to eat.  Sandwiches in an outdoor bar arrive and are delicious.  I am so intrigued with these plane trees which are all over Spain and France.  They seem so human . . .

We visit the paper and book making museum and workshops and browse the antique book stores, then watch a petanque (bocce ball) game and sketch the watchers.  Then a watcher catches me sketching and watches the sketching.

(from the morning in Soreze) I buy an apple and sit munching by the fountain, sketch a man talking to friends – bushy white eyebrows and not as furtive looking as I’ve sketched him!  I am, after all, the furtive one.

We go elegant for dinner and find that understanding a French dinner menu, even when translated into a sort of English, is no easy matter.  I think I order a salad, but I’ve got it all wrong.  It’s haricots, which I think is green beans, but turns out that all the adjectives that went with the word are important.  It’s a tiny dish of white beans and served with breaded, deep-fried pig’s trotters (feet).  I decide to wait for the lamb stew, which is divine.  The waitress holds out her hand for the sketchbook and passes it around the table of people I have sketched.  They smile and raise their glasses.



  1. Susan, I love your sketches today and the stories that accompany them. What a very wonderful way to document your trip and to share it with others. You have a very professional looking blog. I see that you are actually a business. How is it going? I love your profile picture by the way!


  2. Wonderful to see and read all that, Susan! I felt quite emotional as I read the word “Pyrenees” among other things… my PyreneeS, this is where I was born!
    Such beautiful sketches, such great houses colours in the first two ones.
    And yes, French normally have lunch at 12, except on Sunday when It can become 1 PM.

    You can be sure that next time we are in France and not too far away, we will go to Soreze and Montolieu… on the steps of Susan Cornelis!


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