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The French Adventure

Our journey on through France took us further south where our final destination was on the River Aude not far from the Mediterranean Sea. The new home of Stewart Lees and his charming wife Caren is far from rural Norfolk and is now in Sallèles-d’Aude.

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On the way we stayed overnight in Carcassonne and explored the area once home to the Cathars. In the 11th Century breakaway Knights settled and built castles and fortifications in the Languedoc.

Carcassonne takes your breath away when you approach it from afar. The old city walls, turrets, chateau, towers and church roof fill the horizon and it almost looks like you have come across a fairytale castle. We spent an evening exploring the medieval ramparts and ancient streets whilst a huge thunder storm broke around us. It was incredibly dramatic!

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Winding up into the mountains toward Lastours the next morning we took in the amazing view from the Belvedere of 4 ruined Cathars castles each perched on the top of individual mountain peaks.

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We drove off leaving the mountains behind into an increasingly Mediterranean world. Moulin sails turned slowly above grape vines, sunflowers nodded in a gentle sea breeze and Italian cypress punctuated the sky.

Finally reaching Stewart’s new home we were greeted by an imposing town house. Once the home of a local wine maker, period French features abound with tiled floors, sweeping cast iron staircase running up through the house and incredible marble fire places in each room.

Stewart’s new studio room, recently decorated, is at the back of the house with a terrace overlooking the garden. He is only just unpacking his pots, tools and garden materials, the subjects of his fresh herb compositions. We helped him bring some not-unsubstantial cabinets up to the first floor for him to display more and more of them when they are unpacked.

He has just finished a delightful set of paintings of different spices in small bowls for us to take away.

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As well as time at his new home, we managed a trip to the Canal du Midi. An impressive waterway completed in 1681 to connect Toulouse to the sea, it was packed – not with barges of wheat and grain but with pleasure boats full of visitors admiring the views and tall plane trees flanking it’s route. We enjoyed an ice cream and a trip to the La Librairie Ancienne, a huge secondhand book store on its banks.

Our early flight home found us enjoying a warm glow of French hospitality from our artists and we left invigorated by the passion they have for their art.

 

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