citron de nice by Julian Merrow-SmithThere are a few treats which I look forward to when I am not in France – whilst I try to keep up with news and events in France through numerous different sources (many of which I just skim for the interesting bits), there are just a few emails which really evoke the charm, the atnosphere and appeal of France.

Firstly there is Amanda Lawrence’s Lot and Quercy Life monthly emails. This has much to recommend it from my point of view – it is from a favourite part of France which I know quite well and which in many ways encapsulates so many aspects of the “real” , essentially rural, France. She often writes about the seasonal produce in the local markets and I can almost smell the flowers and vegetables. But what makes this newsletter even better is that Amanda is an accomplished Author who has the ability to write so easily, tantalisingly and charmingly about where she lives and the life around her – for example an extract from her latest issue:

Below the kitchen window, where I sit and write, a long, long vine entwines itself in and out of various rocky cracks, the rapidly lengthening tendrils chasing the newly emerged lizards. It has been there for six years and I bought it cheaply in a local market. Of course I’ve entirely forgotten the variety, I’m not sure I ever knew, but it’s certainly a table grape, sweet, dark and musky. I counted the tiny developing bunches yesterday. A hundred and seven… too many, it’ll need a little judicious pruning I fear. Not my forte, it goes against the grain to prune away a perfectly healthy little bunch of grapes, but it’s either that or they will drop anyway. A single vine can’t support that many. And then lastly, but probably first in my heart, is my lovely herb garden. It’s a long arc of delicious beauty, a paean to the Mediterranean. Rosemaries and lavenders, thymes, sages and santolinas, stand side by side with a spreading silver curry plant, savory and parsley, oregano and sweet cicely. Alliums soar heavenwards, their fat globes of lavender florets reflected in the smaller chives. Mint is hedged in at one end, beside the emerging leaves of the beautiful borage and sorrel . A bay tree stands proudly in the middle, huge artichokes rear above crouching marjoram and chamomile and the early basils have just made their temperamental entrance in the old terracotta pots.

Amanda is the author of White Stone Black Wine and writes stylishly and knowledgeably about the Lot and this part of SW France/

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My other more frequent treat is Julian Merrow-Smith’s Postcard from Provence which is a daily diary in paintings – following the changing seasons of his adopted home in the Vaucluse, in the South of France. His still life paintings are inspired by objets trouvés, pottery and seasonal produce from the local markets whilst many of his landscape paintings represent scenes within walking distance of his studio. Ocassionally he includes paintings from trips further afield, and of course not every picture is to my taste, but every week there are some which truly capture the essence of France – whether it be a landscape of lavender in the sunset, or a still life of ripe tomatoes or a solitary but juicy lemon!

You can subscribe to the daily postcard at – and you can also purchase some at an online auction – although you have to be quick as they usually sell out straight away.

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