Field Trip Friday—Ridiculously Photogenic French Villages Part 1

March 15, 2019

Saint-Cirq Lapopie
Some of us are still shoveling snow, and some of us are already sweating. March has been…wild. How about we all escape to the south of France for a few minutes? You guessed it, it’s time again for Field Trip Friday!

From our base at the enchanting Le Vieux Couvent, our little group of intrepid sketchers explored a few of the stunning villages of the Lot Valley. Today I’ll share just two of them, Saint-Cirq Lapopie and Castelfranc.

Saint-Cirq Lapopie

Saint-Cirq Lapopie perches on a cliff 300 feet above the Lot river, the homes huddled at the feet of the church, dedicated to Saint Cyr and his mother, Saint Juliette. Since we were there in October, many shops and restaurants were closed for the season, but that just gave us more time to walk off our goat cheese while exploring the windy streets and admiring the breathtaking views. The entire village is classed as a historical monument, and many of the homes, built between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, are well preserved. It’s also been voted one of the most beautiful villages in France, and I couldn’t agree more. It was one of my favorite excursions.

Even the doors and door knockers were fascinating!

We met this fellow when we stopped for lunch:


Castelfranc is a teensy (434 people) but adorable village where we sketched and picnicked one chilly day. It’s so teensy that I was unable to find out much about it, other than it was founded in the thirteenth century by the Bishop of Cahors. 

I sketched this scarecrow in the “garden of the senses” (jardin des sens):

Also in the jardin des sens

Spacing these blog entries out is proving to be a way to continue to savor the experience of traveling to France long after my suitcase has been unpacked. Thank you so much for coming along for the ride!

If you would like to visit Le Vieux Couvent and explore the Lot Valley with watercolor artist and teacher Laure Ferlita, I have good news. Laure plans a return trip to LVC in September 2019. Click here for more information (no affiliation). 

Everyday adventures

Field Trip Friday--The Enchanting Le Vieux Couvent

February 01, 2019

Early morning at LVC
It’s Friday, and it’s cold, and it’s February—would you like to escape to an enchanted place, even for a few minutes?

Come with me to Le Vieux Couvent!

W-a-a-a-y back in October, I had the privilege of traveling with Laure Ferlita to her workshop at Le Vieux Couvent, following our stay in Paris.

LVC, as we call it, is in the little village of Frayssinet in southwest rural France, about five hours from Paris. As its name suggests, it is an old convent—17th century—converted into a special event and art retreat center. The hosts, Bill and Corinne, were utterly charming, the gourmet food out of this world (I now have a taste for duck), and the whole experience, hands down, one of the most delightful and extraordinary of my life.

Today’s Field Trip Friday will focus only on LVC and the village of Frayssinet. (I’ll save photos of our explorations of the region for future installments.)

After taking the train from Paris, our group met in the courtyard for aperitif (a delightful practice we repeated during our entire stay at various locations around LVC). Corinne welcomed us, and we eventually dispersed to our various rooms. 

An aperitif--there was always wine, too!
In addition to the main building where the kitchen, dining room, salon, and most of the bedrooms were located, there was also a studio and a house just down the road where Laure and I stayed in separate apartments.

I stayed here, at Joel's house, in a separate building
My neighbor
Everywhere you looked there was an enticing path, something blooming, or an “is this real?” scene. Sketching opportunities everywhere!

Kitchen courtyard

Herbs outside the kitchen door

A small selection of art books at a table at the entrance to the studio
The food, oh the food…


Picnic lunch
A first course
A cheese course--look at the grape scissors!
We did a little exploring of the area around LVC, and joined the local community one Friday night at the bar that only opens on Friday night. Everyone was welcome—visitors, dogs, babies… 

Village rooftops

And just next door, was a Little Free Library. I didn’t get any closer than this, unfortunately, to see the books on hand.

View from the studio--original convent building on left

The village church
The staff at LVC were also outstanding, including Corrine and Bill’s hard-working son, Joel, whose talents ranged from serving meals to unclogging showers to rebuilding kitchens. And Bill, who acted as host and tour guide—well, there are no words that do justice to him. He was quite a character.

Using LVC as our base, we explored some of the surrounding villages, including St. Cirque La Popie, Castlefranc, and Sarlat, the Chateau de Beynac, and prehistoric caves at Cougnac. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip to the south of France as much as I enjoyed reviewing my photos and memories. I’ll share more of our experiences in future Field Trip Friday posts. 

Laure is planning another workshop at LVC in October 2020—click here for more information. If you want a once-in-a-lifetime art retreat experience, I can’t recommend this experience highly enough.