Sunday, August 26, 2012

Inspiration from a Summer in the French Countryside & Beyond

I'm back!  I had the most incredible summer traveling to London, France and Spain. I met so many talented people along the way and saw so much beauty! I am even more inspired to create and live in a beautiful home, and look forward to sharing what I discovered with you.  

Elemental in London 
I hope you'll bare with me as there are lots of photos to sift through.  We covered 10,000 kilometers in the car-- that's the equivalent of traveling from one side of the U.S. to the other!  The funny thing is, because we were traveling in the breathtaking countryside of France and Spain we hardly noticed the distance.  We were actually quite shocked to get the final read from Europcar!

While we started our journey in London, the real magic started here in the French countryside, about 20 minutes South of Vichy, France in a town that ends as soon as you drive by the sign post announcing it.

A view into the dining room of Les Bernardes from the Bistro
And these two beautiful people, our dear friends Robbie and Elizabeth, made it happen.  They have recently renovated their 400 year old farmhouse, Les Bernardes, themselves.  Stay tuned for that amazing posting.  They are retired, British expats living in a farm community in France and they invited us to come and visit. Aren't we lucky!

The most incredible hosts-- Robbie & Elizabeth

This is their barn.  Robbie built the barn doors himself, among many, many other things at Les Bernardes

This is our morning wake up call (after the rooster, of course).  There is a working farm right next door and the cows come right up to Robbie and Elizabeth's yard every morning.  It is such a treat.  The children grew fond of one cow in particular and nicknamed her "Moo Who Mumbo Milkie."  We met three calfs during the summer-- one was just 12 hours old when we saw her!

Nearly every morning the children and Robbie walked to the farm to fetch fresh milk and eggs.  Then, we'd sit under the big tree and eat breakfast outside--  "dippy eggs" (par-boiled eggs) with a fresh baguette from the bakery, croissants with homemade jam, fresh fruit, yogurt and coffee. It doesn't get any better than that!

Every evening at Les Bernardes we watched the sunset, usually while dining outside too.  Each night brought a new array of colors in the sky.  So magical.

When we we're not at Les Bernardes making jam, gardening, or swimming in the pool, we we're out exploring the charming countryside.  This photo was taken about an hour North in Marlet.  You can see the old volcanoes in the background.  That's where we went swimming- in a former volcano crater!
What is it about the coffee in Europe?  Not only could we drink coffee anytime we wanted without getting the shakes, but it tasted so good.  So rich. So flavorful. And never bitter.  Am I a commercial for European coffee?

While we could have happily spent an entire summer at Les Bernardes, we ventured off to other places in France and also to Spain.  Here, we are running in the fields of the Pyrennes Mountains right along the border of France and Spain.  The colors of the sky, fields and mountains were surreal.  We haven't seen anyplace like that before.

Our drives through the countryside were never the same, and never ordinary.  It was like driving inside one painting after the other.  The landscape seemed too good to be true and constantly changing.  I kept wishing I was a painter!  I thought of my artist friend, Kelly, the entire time.  I wished she were there!

We never knew when we were going to stumble upon a beautiful home. I was so curious to see what was inside this one.

A visit to France isn't complete without seeing the rich color palette of Provence.  The oranges and greens were so powerful and full of life!

 And then there were these "houses."  It's hard to imagine someone actually calling this chateau a home, but once upon a time, it was.  This looks like a post card but because the colors of France are so intense I was able to capture such a richly colored photographed with my $100 point and click camera.  Hard to believe, isn't it?


Of course I hunted in every flea market I could get my hands on in France, Spain and London.

The Sunday Brocante in Orleans
This stylish Parisian was kind enough to let me snap her photo at the weekend flea market near the Porte de Vanves metro stop in Paris.  She had a wonderful stall filled with bits and babbles. Quite often the French people themselves were as interesting to check out as the brocante!

And I met so many talented shop owners like  Magali, the owner of the new and beautifully curated L Oiseau Bleu in Aix en Provence 

And below is a photo taken at Clair de Lune in Uzes-- one of my absolute favorite stores of the entire trip.  The owner, Benedicte, is so talented.  She has traveled the world styling and now has found roots in beautiful Uzes.  We were just quickly passing through Uzes which is such a shame.  We stayed there last time we were in France and I wish we made time for it this time around.  It was just the right size town with so many interesting shops and artists.  It's at the top of the list for next time! 


And this was another favorite store of mine in Aix en Provence called IV Home. I bought a sweet pillow case here that I am enjoying in our family room.

I also met several fabulous artists throughout our trip.   

 And of course just simply walking down the street in France is inspiring.

Stay tuned as I sift through the memories and the photographs to tell the story behind each splendid discovery, one-by-one.  Au revoir!


  1. Beautiful photos! My absolute favorite is the one of the kids running up Pyrennes Mountains. Unreal.

  2. This looks positively AMAZING!! What an incredible trip...I bet you came back a thousand new ideas for things you can do in your house.