Where does the world touch your heart? My answer to this powerful question lies in French village life and its rural culture. For some inexplicable reason I am enchanted by a love of all things French.
In 2006, I felt the urge to follow my dreams into the heart of the southwestern French countryside, where I uncovered a pastiche of romantic images. Beneath an azure-blue sky, down narrow tree-lined lanes, through medieval villages shrouded in mystery, amid fields of golden yellow sunflowers and hillsides tufted with sheep and cream-colored cows – I found a new home.
It is a long way from the west coast of the United States where I lived, and yet decades of commitments, complex decisions and a variety of life experiences brought me to the magical landscape of Gascony, in the Gers départment of the Midi-Pyrenees region in southwestern France. It has been an endlessly rewarding and interesting adventure.
Nine years ago I launched a monthly blog about living in France that is now read by Francophiles in over 80 countries, and I’ve written over 100 articles for the internet magazine, Bonjour Paris – Paris Photographers: Brassaï, The Transylvanian Eye and Madame de Pompadour: The Uncrowned Queen of France etc. I have also been hired by the British magazine, France Today, to write in-depth articles for print and for their website on the history and unique character of Gascony; An Insiders Guide to Gascony and Hidden France: Memories of the Resistance in the Gers
Now residing in France, it is my pleasure to share my discoveries with fellow lovers of travel, art, history, cuisine and culture. I have designed personally guided, vacation adventures to provide you with an intimate portrait of French rural life. My vision and desire is to impassion adventurers to learn about the real life of the people who make SW France so unique and there’s no better way to do that than by drawing upon the rural communities themselves.
Colby Chester lives in the Gers départment of southwest France. He has been an avid landscape and travel photographer for much of his life, working in 35mm, medium & digital formats..His images have been published in literary journals and art magazines, shown at galleries, sold as posters and published in the book Developing Vision & Style: A Master Class In Landscape Photography. You can view his website at http://www.colby4photos.
zenfolio.com. He will be your guide to some of the most beautiful scenery in the Occitania, Midi-Pyrénées region.
Oenologist, Tom Fiorina, lives in the Haute-Garonne départment. He is a journalist and wine expert and one of the few Americans to obtain France’s highest wine diploma, the Diplôme National d’Œnologue (DNO). He will be your guide to the region’s wineries and Armagnac distilleries.
Pierrette Lalanne taught English for nearly 30 years in the collège de Peyrehorade and the Lycée de Dax in the départment of the Landes. She lives in the village of Estang and will be our formal French translator when necessary.
Diane LaVonne of Diane’s Market Kitchen in Seattle, Washington, is famous for her personal approach to sourcing the finest local ingredients in creating her delicious, healthy meals. Diane brings her passion for food and wine and her talent for teaching, cooking & good conversation from her kitchen to ours with her signature flair. Visit Diane’s urban cooking school website. She will be your guide to the epicurean delights of Provence.