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😂😂

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The Jewel in the Indian Ocean

Mauritius! Always dreamt of coming here like many others but never thought my life would turn in a such a way that I would be that lucky to make it! As we move countries every three years for my partner’s work, we manage to see a big chunk of the world and experience it together as a family. Now that we are in South Africa, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to go to Mauritius as the country is closer than it would ever be. 

Yesterday was Diwali. Most of the population here is of Indian descent so Diwali is their New Year. It is the festival of lights. Last night we experienced Diwali for the first time. We have never been to India or Asia as a posting so not familiar with that side of the world apart from a surprise holiday to Thailand last year for my birthday.

As soon as night fell we started to hear fire crackers and fireworks. We decided to walk into town to find a restaurant to see the full extent of the celebrations. 

As soon as we stepped out onto the main road, we realised this may not be the safe option. Kids were throwing fire crackers at buses, cars and as many as 20 at a time. 

Luckily, Steve lead us on an alternative route along the beach. It was pitch black so we had to use our phones for torches. It was not just sand and I let out a shriek as I slipped on a rock and very nearly fell flat on my face. Sienna turned to me and said “Did u see that man next to u?” Hiding in the shadows in the bushes was a figure. No idea what he was doing there but I am just glad that I had not see him or I would definitely have fallen. Needless to say, I told Steve I was braving the main road on the return journey!!

The houses decorated for Diwali

Fireworks. View from our apartment. We were sat having a drink after dinner and they just happened to come on. We had the perfect spot!
This is the view from our apartment in the day. So lovely! We are are in an apartment overlooking Grand Baie in the North of Mauritius. Although it is an apartment, it is nearly the size of a villa. 2 floors 2bedrooms living room kitchen and large outside area.

How did we manage to be here for the major holiday of the island? This has happened to us several times before. I remember being sat in the square at a restaurant in Siena, Italy when the Palio celebrations started (and we had no idea what it even was) and spending the weekend in Eilat Israel when it was Yom Kippur and everything closed down. That was quite funny as the hotel gave us food parcels and we had to rush to the supermarket to get some bread and dips and wine and that was our dinner spent on the balcony looking out at an empty street. Strange coincidences and there are many more! 

Siena Palio horse race
What we saw

I had no expectations coming here apart from the crystal blue waters and white sandy beaches I had seen in brochures.  I knew a colleague from Mauritius when I worked in Paris so I knew that they were indian origin and spoke french. The thought of a little piece of France on a desert island excited me. I was hoping for baguettes, croissants, croque monsieur, steak frites etc…

Having lived in 9 countries so far, I always try and imagine what it must really be like living in the country we are holidaying in.

Mauritius has definitely intrigued me. We have only been here 6 days but I feel that I have a pretty good idea of the life people living here have. If you know Mauritius or you are originally from there, this is my own observation only. 

We hired a rental car from the airport and drove to the very north of the island to Grand Baie where we are staying. The drive only took an hour. Sienna sat in the back with her earphones in, looking out of the window. The drive reminded me a little of Thailand. Lots of mopeds, unfinished houses and beautiful lush greenery. Sienna sadly only noticed one thing. “Mummy, I hate this country” she said “You know why?” “Because I see stray dogs everywhere and they look so skinny and I saw a pack of dogs fighting over a small scrap of meat!”

That is coming from the animal whisperer. Did I choose the wrong holiday for her? I had read about stray dogs but thought she might like to see so many dogs around…

Waking up to the view from our veranda. Steve’s first dip in the water.

Meet Mo, our human tourist office and concierge for the apartments. We see him everyday. 

Every time we step out onto our veranda to admire the view for breakfast he appears! Do you want me to cook you a lobster? £44 only. What? No way. Thought he was just making up the price but it turns out that the food in Mauritius is imported and a fortune as we discovered on a trip to the Super U supermarket. Surely seafood here would be cheap. No. He also offered to book some trips to Flat island and a catamaran. Having been used on several occasions abroad, we did not take him up on the offer as we always like to arrange our own schedule. Our idea of a holiday is hiring a car and exploring the island ourselves. So many times have we ended up down the wrong road and found something interesting or beautiful. We do not consider ourselves typical tourists but I do understand that many people prefer to know in advance and budget for the trips.  Steve had already planned that one day we would go to Isle aux Cerfs but that was all. It is an island with beautiful beaches and the biggest tourist hot spot.  Apart from that, we only had 7 days so we would plan according to the weather and beaches we find. Many tourists book in a 5star resort all inclusive. It is very expensive but no hassle. Trips are planned for you and food is not a worry. I personally do not understand why you would travel to the end of the world and not want to see anything. Granted, beaches are the main reason for coming here but surely meeting islanders living in the jewel of the Indian ocean is something special in itself!!

I asked Mo why there are so many stray dogs. He simply replied “People dump their dogs on the beaches where they know they will find food!” I did not ask further. The cost of living here is so high that I imagine there is not enough money to feed your animals as well. We saw many on the beaches and I had to stop Sienna from touching them but that did not deter her from feeding them. They jump when you go near them so they are probably scared of humans. 

This was the only downside. Islanders are very friendly and naturally very welcoming towards tourists. We are their major income. Many work in the hotels and restaurants and others in the Sugar mill. Sugar is the main produce here. Yesterday, we took a road trip to the south and west of Mauritius.

Meet Teddy. 

Teddy was our guide at Rochester Falls. We drove down a dirt track through some sugarcane fields in the south of the island following some rustic signs.

Sugarcane

And Teddy was there to greet us and lead us down to the falls. 

We were offered refreshments on arrival of a coconut drink and pineapple and bananas. Just what we needed after a long drive and a trek down the hill!

Then the fun starts! Steve decided to proove the old adage “there’s no fool like an old fool” and jump from the falls. After what seemed like hours of him being taken up by a local man, he eventually arrived at the jump zone and leapt off.

Sienna tasting sugarcane! She loved it. Knew she would!

Teddy’s job is to walk up and down the hill everyday. Then you have the coconut and pineapple chopper and now the waterfall jumper. Who has the best job?


PART 1 – to be continued……

Provence is my Inspiration!

As a Decorative Chalk Painter specialising in transforming wooden furniture and bringing it back to life, I decided to take my inspiration from Provence. The old town in Nice, Cote D’Azur inspires me the most. 

I have been there several times ever since we lived in Paris and it has become our number 1 holiday destination whenever we go home to France to see family. 

Below are some pictures of past trips. You will notice the glorious colours of the buildings each different yet complimenting each other nicely. Why would this not work on furniture too?

The story behind my inspiration goes back to where it all started in Buckingham, England when I first started doing this. I liked the concept of Shabby Chic, making outdated run down furniture look french country rustic but I could not understand why most were selling white only pieces. Surely this was an opportunity to be creative and have unique pieces in colours that you would not usually find commercially.

That’s when I decided to be a little different. I saw how white pieces sold so well as people like to follow the crowd and have something their neighbour has but I took a chance. Remembering Nice in France, I decided to paint these pieces below.

Sure enough they took a while to sell. People loved them but could not imagine where to possibly place the small yellow table or the purple coffee table.

I realised then how different we all are. I personally would love a unique piece made with love full of colour and I would jump in head first and give it pride of place and maybe get the rest of my furniture to match it later. 

I started with Annie Sloan Chalk paint as there was a stockist nearby and heard it was the best chalk paint out there!

I have never looked back…

The colours really work with the look I want to achieve and it is top quality. I have tried other brands but not happy with the finish. The colour range shouts out Provence!

Annie Sloan Colour Chart

I have my favourite colours of course which I will show you examples.

                   EMPEROR SILK

I love the richness of this red and the similarity with the colour of red wine when dark wax is applied shown in both these pieces.

                      LOUIS BLUE

I use Louis blue very often. It is a very soothing colour and matches nicely with other wooden or plain coloured furniture. The top sideboard is mine now. Originally a tv unit, I loved it so much and realised it fitted perfectly in this space and matched the blue painting we bought in Newport, Rhode Island in the States when we lived in New York. I had bought it to sell but some things are just meant to be.

                         EMILE

This was one of my first pieces and I was looking to recreate a lavender colour for a Provence theme. Emile was perfect for this. It is darker shade of purple so I added white wax to give it a powdery effect to match the colour of lavender.

                 COUNTRY GREY    

Country grey works well with most furniture. It is a light colour that fits in perfectly in almost every household. A very popular choice for those who want to keep the neutral look but maybe try something different.

                    OLD OCHRE

The most popular colour. Not white and not cream but slightly darker. Why not!

                  VERSAILLES

This colour has the wow factor! It is officially green but very light and still bright. I love it!  It is noticeable but also plain. 

                     OLD WHITE

Old white works so well on dark wood when you distress the edges to give it that rustic look! It is a vintage white. Slightly see through so you achieve the Shabby Chic effect but definitely looks old and used. I only use it on dark wood though. If you want a perfect white then go for Pure white. 

                       FLORENCE

Omg! What a colour. It is bright and catchy. I personally would paint everything in this colour but not for everyone. If you want a statement piece then this is the one!

              ENGLISH YELLOW

What can I say about this one. If you like yellow then yes yes yes! If not choose old ochre. I will let the picture speak for itself. Up to u!

                FRENCH LINEN

French linen is soooo popular in the Annie Sloan world. Matches all furniture and very classy! Here you see it on the seat of the Vanity and on cloth of the headboard! Yes you can paint on cloth with Annie Sloan. 

And below is a mixture of Florence, Emperor Silk, English yellow and Louis blue. I had fun with this piece and just went for it. It is a crazy look and looks similar to Boho chic or gypsy influence but I feel that this one represents me totally.  

Unfortunately these are not very good pictures and do not show the brightness of the Florence and all the colours coming through. Shame as it is sold now. 

Was going to tell you about the inspirations I had this summer in France but do not want to overload u with too much so will blog it another time!

By the way, I was nominated for a Liebster Award! How exciting!!! Given to new bloggers who are worthy so,  very humbled. That will be my next blog! Until then! A bientot xx

The Fortress on the hill

Back to our travels in France.

One more village left to tell you about.

For those of you who have not read my previous blogs, here is a quick re-cap of the day.

Steve, Jade, Sienna and I left the villa rental promptly at 9am. Mum decided to stay as the day involved a lot of walking up villages
Beautiful countryside on the way
Bl
Breakfast stop with a view. Most cafe’s in France do not sell croissants but allow you to go to the bakery and get them. This provides business to their local bakery. 

First stop was Bruniquel. The village we had to walk up to reach the chateau with the view of the river.

Then we headed to Puycelsi where we had a coffee after our long walk up Bruniquel. Luckily, we could drive to the top of this village.

As all the streets led to an open view, there were birds flying through them.

We went on to Castelnau de Montmiral to have lunch where we always do.

On to Cordes sur Ciel where we took a mini train up to the top.

And we finally ended our medieval adventure day trip in Najac. It has one street which leads to The Fortress on the hill,  Le Chateau de Najac where the Knights Templar were once imprisoned.

If you missed the blogs on these villages click on the links below

A step back in time

Puycelsi Je t’aime

The mountain from which you see

Cordes sur Ciel “The floating city”

My next blog will be showing you my work at last so I hope to see you then!

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Wild at Heart

Quick blog post to show you what I did today! Named after Sienna’s favourite show.

Moreleta Kloof Nature Reserve in Pretoria is only a 10 minute drive from our home.

A great place for a hike, see wild animals such as Zebra, Springbuck, Duiker, Bushbuck, Impala, Blesbok Ostriches and different species of birds.

This is what I love about SA. There is nature everywhere. You do not need to go to a game park to enjoy the day around wild animals. There are plenty of small places to have a hike where you can walk or bike around them. 

Last sunday we went for a hike with the dog but we promised ourselves that when we returned from the long summer in Europe, we would make the effort to come back to this park that we love so much. 

I am not a fit person but hikes are a big part of South african life here and we have to make the most of the sunshine all year round and the nature around us. 

We especially love it here because we can have a long walk seeing wildlife on the way and enjoy a well earned drink or lunch at the restaurant named “A place in the Sun”. 

It is free to enter and park and eating out is cheap over here compared to European prices so a no stress day out. Shame we couldn’t take Sandy (our dog) but obviously not allowed due to the animals in the park. He has plenty of long walks so he will survive.

You do not always spot all the animals as it is a large park but today we were very lucky.

We think she is pregnant
How lucky is Sienna to grow up with such amazing memories of her childhood. I would love to hear the stories she shares with her grandchildren one day.

You may wonder why Steve has a stick in his hand. He found it on the way. It is not for the animals although there are ostriches who can be quite scary but SA is not a safe country and there are plenty of muggings especially in parks. Not sure the stick would do much but every little helps😁
I think these are Bushbucks. Why are the animals all lining up for us today? I think they know they will be in the blog!

My guess is zebra poo

There is a bridge but Sienna has to be more adventurous
The wooden bridge
Into the wilderness. Hope we don’t run into an ostrich. Steve is ahead with his stick so we will be ok!
Some areas are tricky but that is the whole fun of hiking
peekaboo I see u. Bushbuck
Springbuck again lining up. How strange

It is ok when you see one ostrich alone but last time we saw a group and that is scary!
A baby duiker
Arriving at the bird hide

Did you spot anything?

It is winter at the moment but still warm in the day so you should still be able to spot a White winged flufftail

40 minutes later and we arrive at the restaurant for lunch

South african sauvignon blanc. The restaurant is very quiet as everyone shops on a saturday. That’s why we came today. The whole point of a family outing is to have time together. Am I right?
Here comes an ostrich. Perfect timing. We don’t usually see much when there are crowds on a sunday
Why is it looking back? Watch out!!! Here comes a Blesbok to chase you off
Nearly missed it as I was concentrating on the zebras walking over but if you zoom in you will see the ostrich being chased by the Blesbok.

It wasn’t long till the animal whisperer strikes again. Another strange fact. My daughter’s initials are “SKY”. The car we bought was called Sky so we saw it as a sign. So many times we have seen the word sky and today the waiter came up to Sienna and told her the cat’s name was Sky! I can’t believe it. We were just talking about it at the beginning of our walk. Spooky!!
Two reasons why we are drawn to this place specifically apart from the wildlife. The restaurant is named “A place in the sun” and this was our favourite tv show in the past as we wanted to buy a house abroad and the second reason is the entire place is decorated with Shabby chic furniture which if you don’t know already is my job. I paint Shabby chic furniture.

So….. lesson to be learnt from this blog is…. do not ignore the signs around you. They happen for a reason and they may just guide you through life. Till my next post back in France…..

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Cordes sur Ciel ” The floating city”

Built in 1222 by Raimon VII, The Count of Toulouse as a bastide. It was renamed in 1993 as Cordes sur Ciel (in the sky) to attract tourists as it seems to be literally floating above the clouds at certain times of the year!

After climbing Bruniquel and walking around Puycelsi and Castelnau de Montmiral we decided to take the mini train up to the top and walk down. We were all exhausted and it was a particularly hot day. Cheating I know but we walked it once before and let’s just say never again! The ride is very pleasurable as it climbs up the outside of the town giving you the opportunity to soak up the beauty of it’s endless views.

Finally reached the top
Still a little to climb but nearly there
These hilltop villages are exhausting but well worth the effort. Poor Sienna took some persuading though.
We are dragging behind because every part of this town is a picture opportunity. Now that I have turned to blogging, I see myself in your shoes and wonder what you would like me to take a picture of. Best to take many when you are away somewhere so you have no regrets. I used to only take a few but now I look back and wish I had taken more. Views are nice to shoot but without a loved one in there it means nothing… You will notice that I am not in any but I hate seeing myself and don’t really understand people who can take endless selfies. It bores me. I don’t want this blog to be all about me but more how I see the world.. My daughter is far more photogenic and if this blog does not interest anyone at least I have my memories…

This town is full of Art and Craft shops. I could seriously live here. The perfect home for an artist

“Let’s just get souvenirs at the bottom”
We are in Occitanie, region of the templar knights
A side street falling into the abyss. They were all like this

The building above was the highlight on this trip

As we walked past I noticed these huge sculptures in the windows and I knew I just had to go in. As I turned the corner to enter I saw a picture of an elderly lady and assumed it was her exhibit and she was the sculptor. Now that would be impressive to still be sculpting these huge pieces at that age!

The sign said free entry and it said “we are responsible for ourselves.”

strange statement

Once I was in, I understood why. The impressive wooden sculptures were plonked everywhere and some quite dangerously. There was no-one working there to sell or explain or even to stop you from stealing anything but then again I would love to see someone trying to walk out with these large pieces of art unnoticed.

The house was untouched.  It was as if someone had bought it but not yet restored it or decorated. There were pictures everywhere of this indian lady with some strange quotes and I along with many was fascinated and intrigued. Who had done these art pieces? Who was this lady? Were these items even for sale? There was nobody here to explain…

As I climbed to the top floor I saw a meditation room and a small garden. It felt quite eerie and at the same time very peaceful. I took a quick picture of Sienna in the garden overlooking the square and left as Steve and Jade were waiting for us.

One of the large sculptures

I could have stayed there so much longer and tried to figure out what it was all about. There seemed to be a clear spiritual message and I like to consider myself a little on the mystic spectrum but as usual my family are sceptical and don’t really see the world in the same way so I could not stay as long as I would have liked.

I later googled this exhibit and this is what I found out.

The sculptor is apparently a man called Jean-Jacques Enjalbert. He used to be a racing driver and took part in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1983. He lived in Paris and one day picked up a book in a library which changed his life. He subsequently went to India and I guess came back a changed man. Spirituality had engulfed him. He then moved to this area of France and bought several houses which he restored and became a sculptor. This house on the square is his latest purchase and has not yet been renovated just as I had thought. He has dedicated this exhibit to a famous Indian spiritual leader called Amandamayi Ma ( the lady in all the pictures) who must have changed his life. I still do not know if his pieces are actually for sale or he just sculpts for peace of body and soul. I find his story fascinating as he has probably found true happiness, a way to express himself.

Jean-Jacques Enjalbert
Monte Carlo Rally 1983. He is the driver

I feel like I understand him because when I paint I think of everything. I actually have time to contemplate life. It is a very peaceful existence being an artist.

Coffee/wine break with a view before we head down the hill.
View from our table
We were sat on the left of this picture but on the right was a couple sat on the wall kissing and hugging. I really wanted to take a picture of them as it was a perfect example of the romance you see all the time in France. I deciced it probably was not appropriate to do so.

The start of our descent

What a great place to put a bench

The other two disappeared ahead of us. I don’t see the point of going somewhere and not exploring

View from the bottom

Next blog – last village of our busy day – Najac

Najac

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Back in South Africa

Yes we are back in the land of blue sky and eternal sunshine. These couple of months back home in France and the good old UK have made me realise how lucky we are to call Pretoria our home for the next 2 years. 

Life is different here…

Time slows down. No-one is in a hurry. I myself do not wear a watch so I love the slow pace. I realised years ago how fast my heart was beating every time I looked at my watch and how stressed I felt. My line manager in Paris had passed away of stress and I realised then that the pressure of time plays a huge role in causing stress. 

I do not worry about being late any more. So many times I left early for work and still managed to be late. I was a different person then, very highly strung. I believe in fate and everything happens for a reason so you will get there when you were meant to get there…

As you know I am new to blogging and still trying to find my feet. I realise that so far it looks very much like a travel diary as I have been showing you my summer in France. This was primarily to show my chalk painting clients where I am from. 

I promise you that it will not be a travel diary. I know there are many travel blogs out there and I do not want to compete with the professionals. 

I do however lead quite an interesting life where we move countries every 3 years and I have been to so many places and done so much that I have endless stories to tell. I plan to show you what I am doing now too as in my painting projects and take you with me on my travels within South Africa, Swaziland,Botswana,Mozambique,Lesotho,Namibia and Mauritius. So many travel plans ahead and day trips. 

I basically want to make this blog more personal and show you how I see the world. I observe people alot and consider myself a little psychic as I feel what they are feeling and know what they are thinking. Strange but I have always been right about my feelings. 

 I am looking forward to taking you along for the ride and hope that my content is not too boring. Please let me know if it is😊

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The animal whisperer

The animal whisperer. That’s what we call our daughter Sienna.  

She has this magnetism towards animals which was very apparent during our holiday. Cats and dogs would just appear out of no-where and hang around her. If anyone else approached them, they would leave.

Living in South Africa right now is a dream posting for her as we are lucky enough to see and interact with so many animals. 

Here she is petting baby lions (not really babies) on her first week in SA.
Same Lion Park but different litter.
Milwane Nature Reserve in Swaziland where various deer,  warthogs and zebra roam free around your camp. In this picture, a whole group of springbok came and stood next to her. Why?
She also misses her dog Sandy whom we adopted in Jordan over a year ago. I will do a separate blog all about him as he is the cutest dog ever.

Enjoy the pictures below of the animal whisperer at work in France. 

This dog was just sitting in the square of one of the villages we visited. He must belong to one of the shopkeepers but what a beauty!

This man was sat at a cafe with his dog on the seat next to him. Had to get a picture

Needless to say she wants to work for WWF and save animals😊😊

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