Do you ever wish you could just get away from it all and be in a place where you can create memories and learn or experience something new?
Two years ago I was searching the internet for a place where I could learn more about photography. I wanted to go somewhere for at least a week and be with like-minded people. I was hoping to find a holiday package that provided instruction, meals, accommodation, and local transportation at a price that I could afford. I was amazed at how many excellent photography courses ranged from $3000 to $5000 for a week but they were too pricey for my budget. So…I kept looking…and looking…and, after countless hours on the internet, I found just the perfect place.
After checking references and finding flights, I took a leap of faith and, in May 2008, left to join Painting-Photography-France for a week of exciting adventures. Pete Evans, a professional photographer from the UK, provides the photography instruction and his partner, Jill Fellows, teaches painting out of their lovingly restored house in the Lot et Garonne region southeast of Bordeaux. Each spacious room has ensuite and there is a purpose built studio, living and dining room for guests, covered patio, and an outside picnic area with a swimming pool.
I flew from Vancouver to Paris and then took another flight to Bordeaux. Pete picked me up from the airport…turns out he’s a very good driver…and drove just over an hour to their home, Les Peupliers..they have rather a lot of poplar trees on their property so it was aptly named. I was warmly greeted by Jill and their black lab, Holly.
After settling in, the other particpants and I joined our hosts for a delicious meal that Jill had prepared. During the course of the week we ate in delightful restaurants, at “home”, and had fabulous picnic lunches. We were a very short walk from the Canal Lateral and could watch houseboats navigating the locks, and families, with dogs in tow, strolling along the leafy plane tree lined paths.
The time flew by and I found Pete to be exceptionally patient and willing to explain photography terms and techniques over and over to me. I came away knowing more about shutter speeds, f-stops, white balance, ISO, and how they all work together. Whew….a lot of learning crammed into just a few days…I knew I could go at my own pace but I wanted to soak up as much knowledge as I could while I was there. Both Pete and Jill welcome beginning learners as well as those with more experience. They limit the number of guests so that they can provide plenty of individual attention. At the end of the week, Pete gives the photography participants exclusive online access to an extensive and exceptionally fine tutorial that he has prepared. He has written it in a language that is easy to understand and includes lots of charts and pictorial examples to explain things.
It’s years since I had been in France and fell in love with it all over again.
I loved the peacefulness of the rural countryside, the company…it’s great to meet people from all over the world, the vistas, the noisy marketplaces, colourful shutters and doors and windows, pathways and roads paved with stones trodden by thousands over centuries, the food….ah…yes, the food…so exquisite, aromatic, and beautifully presented works of art, the wine…well…what can I say…French wine awakens the senses either sipping on a lazy afternoon or the perfect compliment to any meal.
Imagine a picnic under a tree by a gurgling stream in a 13th Century village with crusty French bread fresh from la boulangerie, creamy cheeses, pates, pickled beets, salads, and a lush glass of rose…it wasn’t a dream…I was fortunate to live it.
Travel photos provide me with my own version of souvenirs. Every time I look at them, I conjure up the glow of those moments…a great way to extend my holiday for many years to come.
There was no shortage of images to capture…Pete took us on outings and willingly shared some of his favourite spots with us. On one of the days, we met up with Jill and the painters for a picnic in Barbaste. On another day, we all went to Latour Marliac where Monet bought his waterlilies. The painters got busy en plein air and the photographers couldn’t stop shooting waterlilies at different angles and exposures…aiming for the perfect shot. Check out my website http://web.me.com/mmccristall/France/France.html#grid to see some of what I took during my week there.
So when you’re planning your next holiday, ask yourself, “What do I hope to see, taste, touch, smell, and hear? What memories do I want to bring back?“
If you’re looking for a holiday away from home, where you can count on being taken care of, where you want to learn to paint or study photography, and where you feel like you can fill your memory bank with riches, I highly recommend looking at Pete and Jill’s website, www.painting-photography-france.com …. and signing up. I had a fabulous time and loved being with them. In fact, I enjoyed my holiday so much that I went back again in May 2009. It was just as wonderful the second time.
I hope you enjoy seeing a little part of France through my eyes.