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

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…..

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

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😊

 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😊😊

“The mountain from which you see”

     CASTELNAU DE MONTMIRAL

 A bastide village founded at the beginning of the 13th Century by Count Raymond VII of Toulouse. The original name meant ” The mountain from which you see” 

No guesses why due to it’s prime position with a 360 degree view over the surrounding countryside.

We have just left Bruniquel on the way to the town of Cordes sur ciel which is the main tourist destination in the Tarn. The following picture will explain why it is so popular.

Cordes sur ciel

Even though Cordes sur ciel is a spectacular place, we have always preferred the small village of Castelnau de Montmiral. It is much more peaceful so you have the time to amble the streets imagining how it must have been in the middle ages as well as always finding a good spot in one of the two restaurants on the square.

The first time we came, it was off season and a sunday. We stopped for lunch and there was a group of local people next to us having a 3 course meal whilst their children were playing. We arrived at about 3pm and they were still on their main course so I imagine this was an all day event and probably a regular occurrence. Everyone knew each other and the chef would come and sit with them and have a chat and a glass of wine.  This is what I love about french people. Time stands still. They make time for each other. No one is ever in a rush and being sociable is number one in their world. 

I remember as a child when I lived in France my parents popping in on friends uninvited and being welcomed with open arms for an aperitif and most of the time a meal. They always made enough food in case anyone popped by. The adults would eat and drink all evening and the kids would play outside and then just crash anywhere to sleep until their parents picked them up and took them home. Growing up in the Dordogne at that time was very rustic. Time meant nothing. 

This village still breaths. It is still building memories unlike some of the more touristy places. 

Enjoy the photos of our tour below. I always post too many but I believe everyone of them is important to show you around the village properly.  I hope one day you will come here and explore the magic of this medieval secret in the forest of Gresigne. 

Don’t miss my next blog The Animal whisperer. If you haven’t guessed already, that is Sienna. Animals are drawn to her whenever she is near. It is so strange that we named her The animal whisperer. 
Love the way these shutters have faded to leave a blend of blue and white. Will try and re-create this look when I get back

Restaurant Les Arcades where we had lunch. Perfectly positioned to enjoy the beauty of the square with it’s medieval architecture

Now that is a cemetery with a view

Next blog: Cordes sur ciel

A step back in time!

Our next adventure takes us on a medieval road trip around L’Occitane through 5 villages/towns perched on hilltops around the departments of Tarn and Tarn et Garonne named after rivers. 

We managed to see them all in one day but I took way too many photos to post them all in one blog and I thought each place deserved it’s mention.

First stop is on the edge of the Tarn et Garonne about 2hrs from Beauville. 

Welcome to BRUNIQUEL!

A medieval village perched on a hilltop overlooking the Aveyron River and valley.

We have been here several times and always make sure we make the effort whenever in the area. It is spectacular!! 

You have to park at the bottom unfortunately and walk up but the village is so cute and very rustic. Nothing seems to have changed since medieval times.

  • As soon as I step out of the car I see this shabby chic bicycle. I take that as a sign that they were waiting for me😊

Jade looks so interested🙄not. Sometimes wish we could go back to the time before mobile phones. What did we do? How did we manage? Did we actually speak to each other? Did we use a pen? Life seemed happier then and less stressful. We appreciated a trip out as a family. Maybe we have lost our kids to the world out there these days. All these quality moments we had with our parents, we will never get from our children. Lucky for me, Sienna is not interested in social media and loves to explore so she is my little travel buddy. 

So nice to see her appreciating the beauty of flowers.

Steve is always ahead of me. Probably because I stop every 5 seconds to take a picture.
For the rustic furniture lovers out there.

Jade stopped half way up. See if you can spot her sat in the square. Would have been nice if the cafe was open.

I translate the word Rustic as – Old, quirky, interesting and different. If I am right, this door is definitely rustic!

Finally arrived at the Chateau. Not a very secure fence to see the view!

On the way down again.

This is the view of the village on one side
And the other side
A closer shot

Interesting fact – Each year in July and August Bruniquel hosts the music festival which is a medieval musical act held up high right next to the chateau. What a treat!

Next blog will be in Puycelci in the Tarn. See you then!

Puycelsi Je t’aime❤

We could not have asked for better weather for our day trip around the Tarn. It was 30 degrees and the sky was nearly as blue as South Africa!

Our next stop after Bruniquel was only 20 minutes down the road. 

Welcome to Puycelsi. A medieval hilltop village up high in the Forest of Gresigne.

We have never stopped here before. How could we have missed it?

You cannot see it from the main road unless you look up. We would always go straight to Castelnau de Montmiral from Bruniquel and completely ignore the signpost.

 If you are ever travelling around here please do not overlook it! 

You follow the long and windy road up and then you finally see it! Similar to finding treasure.

We drove up to the top of the village and parked up next to the cafe’s and restaurants. 

Hope you can see this panoramic view!

Breathtaking view! I have seen so many amazing views on this trip so far that it makes me wonder how this area is so very quiet. Surely if everyone knew about this part of France they would move here in a flash. There are many british people living in the Dordogne, Lot and Tarn et Garonne but not so many here. Perhaps it is too remote. 

Everyone was pretty exhausted after their trek up Bruniquel so this was only meant as a coffee stop. 

 I do not understand people who don’t make the effort to explore a place after coming so far. Luckily my little travel buddy Sienna thinks the same so we went to explore the village whilst the other two stayed behind.

As we wondered through the village,  we were amazed by the birds (hirondelle in french) swallows flying around us as if the streets were tunnels. 

Each street seemed to lead to a view so they easily entered from these openings. 

See the bird?

There was a restaurant right on the edge that we will definitely go to next time we come here. Steve loves views and driving along gorges and cliffs so we are always looking out for a cafe or place to eat right on the edge! We had already planned to have lunch at the next stop in Castelnau de Montmiral as we always do but I couldn’t help feeling like that table was waiting for us.

View down every street

Cute little art shops. I inherited a shop in The Dordogne that I plan to open one day when we finally stop travelling. I am always checking out village shops for inspiration. This one I like!
Sienna was so happy when she saw this one as it is her favourite colour. Another sign that we were meant to walk down here. I believe in signs and I get them all the time. Do you notice yours?

Did you see and hear the birds in the video?

Well someone is lucky enough to look out of their windows every day and see this wonderful village!

Puycelsi, we will return…