On my way home to the Dordogne!

This is quite a scary step to start a blog as a Shabby Chic furniture painter who finds it nearly impossible to even write a letter as I am so rubbish at writing anything. However, I really wanted to show you my summer holiday back home to the south-west of France as I feel that it is a part of the world that is not so well known or even advertised and having travelled extensively and lived abroad I think there is no-where that is as special. Let’s see if u think the same!

I will be frequently if not daily updating my blog so you can really feel like you are there with me! I will be visiting many villages and vintage markets which should be of some interest to those of you who are also upcyclers like me. Of course I cannot wait for the wine and amazing food either (my diet will be on hold for 2mths).

For those of you who don’t know me let me introduce myself!

I am a brit or rather half of one as my mum is english and father french. I grew up in the Dordogne in a small village called Monsac near Bergerac (famous for the story of Cyrano de Bergerac or the remake movie Roxanne in 1987) for the first 9 years of my life.

My mother moved back to the UK after that and left my father behind which was very hard for me. Saying goodbye at 9yrs old to your daddy and leaving the beautiful countryside which I thought no-one on the outside world knew even existed but me.

At the age of 24 I met the love of my life when I was working in Paris and of all things he was British (lucky me) and then the rest is history! We moved  to 3 countries ( USA, Belgium and Cyprus ) for his work, had 2 children and then finally moved back to UK after 13 years abroad!

Now this is where my Shabby Chic life begins!

We moved to a cute little market town in Buckinghamshire called Buckingham which is near Milton Keynes.

I was looking for work but it was nearly impossible since I had been abroad for nearly 12 years. A stranger in my own country feeling very un-welcome. Buckingham held a market once a week and that is when I was inspired! I saw a lady selling some chairs that had been painted very shabbily (not sure it is a word) and she was asking for quite a lot. I then asked around and found out what this trend was, upcycling secondhand furniture and turning it into a profit with a little chalk paint! I could not believe this was such a craze but I strangely liked the rustic look as it reminded me of my home in France. The paint in France is not that great so it is always chipping off. I thought to myself -Is this something I can do? As a teenager my mum would let me paint huge murals on the walls and sometimes paint our furniture so I knew that painting was in my blood and I loved it but did not ever think of it as a potential money earner!

I then tried it out. Bought my first piece, a dresser and painted it in Annie Sloan chalk paint. It sold within 2 weeks and that was it! I was hooked, obsessed, addicted! This was it! This was my calling! This is what I was always meant to do! I always hated working in a office wasting my life away staring at a screen arriving in the dark and going home in the dark. There had to be more to life..

You see, I believe there are two types of people in this world, the intellectual and the artist. We are all different and we are all given a talent. Parents need to spot that talent and encourage their child to pursue it in life as this is what they will succeed at and end up loving all their life. When I had to choose my GCSE’s, I desperately wanted to take art but my mum told me it was a waste of time and pushed me towards languages so I took german. Did I pass german? No. Have I ever used german? No

I wonder what would have happened to my life if I had taken Art! Well I probably wouldn’t have waited till I was nearly 40 to start an artistic career!

Anyway, after I sold my first piece and many others I decided to take the plunge and start my dream. Rustique c’est chic was born.

After a couple of months, we moved to Amman, Jordan and that is when my dream truly took off!

It was a challenge to introduce Shabby Chic to a country that had never heard of it or even sold chalk paint. I luckily brought my own with me from the UK and managed to make it last until we left Jordan 18mths later. I did many custom orders and sold my smaller items in a popular handmade shop called Shams shop in the Abdoun area. I will do a separate blog later all  about my time in Jordan. I was so busy near the end that I was literally painting the day before I left!
I am now in Pretoria, South Africa starting all over again. Luckily for me chalk painting is already a craze so at least I do not have the job of educating people about shabby chic and why repainting an old piece and distressing it to make it look rustic is actually beautiful😂😂

Instagram – rustiquecestchic

Facebook – Rustique c’est Chic

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Sienna in Siena!!

Although we have been to Tuscany Italy several times over the years, the main reason for this trip was to finally show our daughter Siena where her name came from. We have been in Siena twice before and loved it. Most people visiting Tuscany prefer Florence as their must see city. We do not like crowds and fighting with groups of tourists so Siena became our new preference. It is slightly quieter but still a large city. The old city is made up of cute little streets filled with the usual bars, restaurants and shops but it has kept it’s history and one can still imagine living there in medieval times. You can still find some streets where you are totally alone.

All streets lead to the Piazza del Campo which is the main square. We tried to reach it twice on this holiday but we were defeated. Check previous blogs for details. As this was the last day of our Italian trip, we had to give it one more shot. 3rd time lucky as the saying goes. How could we leave Italy without showing Sienna SIENA?

Well, funnily enough we managed to find parking right in Piazza del Campo carpark which was impossible before. Still had to walk a bit but this was the closest place to park.

Here is a video of us entering the square and Sienna seeing it for the first time.

Flags of the provinces who took part in the Palio.

The sand still on the ground from the Palio horse race.

Check out how close to the wall they have to park.

Sienna in Siena!!

Love this pic so much I may just pop it on my instagram. My instagram

My facebook

Next blog – France – Rennes-le- Chateau. If you are a fan of the Da Vinci Code check this link out to swat up on the story of this sleepy little hamlet.

Rennes-le -Chateau

Under the Tuscan Sun

As we came closer to the medieval city of Cortona, I was getting increasingly excited at the prospect of showing Sienna the location of my favourite movie Under the Tuscan Sun. We had been once before but did not realise at the time that this was where it was filmed. We made sure we watched it again before we left on holiday so it would be fresh in our minds when visiting Cortona.

Do you remember the clip at the beginning when she sat in front of the church and wrote a postcard? “Ding Dang Dong goes the bells”. And there we were standing in the middle of the square looking up at that very spot…

I asked Sienna to recreate the scene.

We were lucky with the photo’s because we arrived so late that we ended up having lunch at 3 and tourists had thinned out so the square was relatively empty. Last time we came in 2006 the place was packed with coach tours.

And now for the real treat of the day! When sat at lunch we looked up where the house Bramasole was. We were not sure if it was close or was even filmed in a studio in LA. What a surprise when we found out it was only 2km down the road from Cortona.

Apparently it is now called Villa Laura and can be rented as a holiday home. How exciting is that!!

It turned out to be at the bottom of the hill on the edge of a road.

It has been restored and is smaller that I expected. If you zoom into the middle picture of us driving away, you will see the place on the wall where the old man used to put flowers on a memorial and she used to watch from the balcony!

My Furniture painting business called Rustique c’est Chic is centred around the colours of Provence and Italy and sunflowers and lavender. Naturally this movie must have had a huge influence on my work as it is my favourite movie. I feel accomplished now that I have been there and lived it!

More about Cortona

Next blog – Siena Piazza del Campo

Montepulciano

What can I say about this place? We love it! Our favourite place in Italy. I remember when we went last time in 2006 this was the place we adored the most. It was special. Is it because there was a medieval show in the square? Is it because there was less tourists than everywhere else? Is it for the breathtaking views or is it simply because we did wine tasting on the way up and by the time we actually made it to the top we were relieved and spent the rest of the evening chilling watching the show? Who knows? All I know is that after that visit, we loved the wine and whenever we veered off from french wine, we always chose Montepulciano f”Abruzzo which never dissappointed.

Up and Up we went! It was so high and so far!

Gelato stop half way!

Love the way they used shoes as plant pots!

Above is a mosaic shop. Shame it was closed.

Just round that corner is the square! Why do I feel like this holiday is actually more of a challenge to survive these hilly medieval towns..

Yes we made another hill!! Now where is the cafe??

There always seems to be a table free for us for a sit down and have a drink right on the edge!

Also by the way, this square is where New Moon was filmed!

This is the clip in the movie.

For more info click Montepulciano

Next blog – Cortona (Under the Tuscan Sun) And you may even get to see the house where it was filmed😉

The City of the beautiful Towers

After a tiring trip to see the Palio in Siena the day before, we decided to take it easy and go to San Gimignano where the movie “Tea with Mussolini” was filmed as it was close by.

It has 14 towers which were built by wealthy families in the 12th century as a way of showing their wealth and power. It is now a very popular town for British tourists in Tuscany who nickname it San Gimmy’s!

You will notice from my blogs that I give a step by step account of my day through pictures in exactly the order the day went. I like to take you with me so you can understand how the place really looks from start to finish. We do not spend our time visiting museums as we try to cram in as much of the area as we can but we are not ignorant of the place we are visiting and try to brush up beforehand. I may name a movie filmed in that location but that is just for my readers. There is of course much more history and depth to these medieval villages. I will drop a link at end of every blog so that those of you who would like to know more can check it out. I am writing a blog everyday and finding it quite hard to find the time or the wifi so they will be short and sweet. Let’s start!

The entry gate to the city.

Entrance to the famous square.

Had to sit at first table we could see as we entered the square as mum could not walk anymore. Here you see Sienna, Steve and mum.

I went for an explore alone and look what I found at the other end of this path!

Turned the corner right and I was back in the square right where the others were sat cooling off with gelato and cappucino. I had to show Steve the view I found.

We went straight to Siena to see the festivities after the Palio but we could only get parked far far away so we tried walking but it was too hot and was impossible for my mum. Here is a pic of Sienna and mum admiring the view waiting for Steve to get the car to go home defeated once again!

Temperatures have been in the 30’s so afternoons are spent by the pool and early evenings cycling around the beautiful countryside. Coming from South Africa, it is so nice to enjoy the freedom of walking around wherever you want safely. One of those luxuries you take for granted in Europe. Never will I again!

To read more info –San Gimignano Info

Next blog – Montepulciano

The day of the Palio in Siena!

We were so excited to be here for this major event in Siena. The last time we were here was 2006 and Siena was 1 years old. I remember sitting at the restaurant in the square and seeing men in tights walking around wafting their brightly coloured flags and wondering what it was all about. We were very lucky although we did not even realise it then as it was the celebrations after the Annual Horse Race. Fancy being there at that exact time of year, day and getting a prime location to eat in the square overlooking the festivities.

We arrived at 5:00pm and drove around for a while looking for a parking space. We managed to get one right next to one of the entrances to the old city. We had been advised by our concierge back at the residence that we needed to be in the square “Piazza del Campo” by 6:30 when the doors close. We rushed down the street together with many others with flags around their necks in support of the horse from their local area. We had no idea how far we had parked from the Campo square. It seemed to go on forever and finally we arrived at one of the entrances of the square.

We were told that only one entrance was open which was on the other side so we started running. It was nearly 6:15pm.

Up and down the windy streets passing various entertainers heading into the square. We finally made it to be told that the gate had just closed. It must have been full earlier than planned. I was relieved personally as I was actually dreading being in a middle of a crowd of people with horses racing very close to us! Siena however was very disapppointed. She loves horse riding and this was to be her special day. A day she would always remember….

As she sat on the pavement tired, hot and sad, she turned to me and said” You know how you always say everything happens for a reason. Do you think we were not meant to make it?”. I replied that it would have been dangerous and we were probably better off watching it on tv at home. We promised her we would go back the next day to see the celebrations. We got home at 8:30 and it had still not started. They have to wait for all horses to be lined up before the race can start. It finally started at 9 and lasted 3 minutes. This means we would have been in the square in full sun for 3 hrs or more with no water and no way out. Yes I do believe everything happens for a reason or maybe it is the work of our guardian angels or spirit guides……………..

Here are the pictures of our crusade! Enjoy x

This is the gate we entered through the old city. See map below. We were on the far left side of map and had to get to the large Square in red on the right.

This is when we arrived at the first entrance to the square and were told to go round to the other side.

This is the gate we were turned away at. Not a bad view.

We did manage to catch a glimpse of the square as the entertainers were coming out. You can just about see the important people on the main balconies in the background.

Even though we did not get to see the race in person here is an image of the winner.

Next blog – San Gimignano

Residence Il Borgo Poggiaccio

Presenting our accommodation for 5 days. Staying in a beautiful apartment for 4 in a medieval resort near Siena in Sovincille. My daughter’s name is Sienna and we always promised her we would go back to Siena to show it to her. Hence this trip. We have been to Italy several times and love this area. For those of you coming from very far I would recommend a driving holiday around the whole of Italy. One must not miss Rome, Naples (Old city of Pompeii), Assissi, Perugia, Florence, Siena, Positano (Amalfi Coast), Pisa, Vienna and The Italian Lakes in the North. Rental cars cost 45 Euros on average for a full sized car. We arrived in Pisa and dropping off car in Rome.

5 days is barely enough to visit Tuscany but we have been before and we need to visit family in France and UK. We always try to have a week or 2 on holiday somewhere and then visit family. Our apartment is self catering but we do prefer to cook as the food is so nice in France and Italy. We do occasionally eat out though. Having a car is a must. It gives you the freedom to explore at your leisure and make you feel at home.

Lovely place! The Palio in Siena tomorrow!

From South Africa to Tuscany

We made it here in Tuscany!

This is the beginning of our European adventure so please come along for the ride!

Last year I documented our trip in the Tarn et Garonne and the Dordogne where I come from. This time we will be exploring the following places:

Tuscany, Italy

Siena (To experience the Palio horse race in the square )

San Gimignano ( Location where movie Tea with Mussolini was filmed)

Montepulciano (Wine region)

Cortona (Under the Tuscan Sun)

Languedoc/Aude, France

Carcassonne (Where they filmed Robin Hood Prince of Thieves)

Rennes-le-chateaux ( The place with the conspiracy theory that inspired The DaVinci Code)

Dordogne

Beaumont du Perigord ( My home town)

It is here that I will be taking you with me on the journey of my past!

Monpazier ( Where we will be staying)

And that is it for now! We will probably visit many other places but this is the plan. I am so excited to show you my hometown and my life as a child in the South of France. Please comment if there is somewhere you would like me to go and visit and blog about.

Next blog – Residence Il Borgo Poggiaccio, Italy.