For ten years, I'd heard so much from members of our Art Guild who travelled to Europe and Mexico to paint in such dynamic, cultural surroundings. When I heard that Fran Alley was organizing a group trip to Frayssinet in the south of France, I might have been the first to sign up. The place was certainly right for me; and the time was right too.
After flying to Toulouse, I joined several of the group attending, spending two days sight- seeing in this historic city. Then I met up with Fran and Diana to take a train to Albi, home of Toulouse-Lautrec's family and museum. Fran ensured that there was time to visit the museum and Albi's magnificent cathedral before moving on to Goudon, a town near Frayssinet. Bill and Corrine run Le Vieux Couvent where we (eight of us) would be staying for the next two weeks. Having led and taught groups there before, Fran was able to balance our desire for instruction, whether in watercolours, acrylics or collage, with sight-seeing, outdoor sketching sessions and for time spent painting in the centre's large, cool studio. Fran's flexible approach encouraged creativity, while giving ample time for quiet and relaxation among the convent's maze of secluded, small gardens or wading pools.
I have vivid memories of this trip. Hearing the name of a town will always evoke feelings and tastes of life in the south of France. Labastide-Murat reminds me of the street markets of long tables laden with foods, cheeses, fruits, cakes as well as with jewellery and clothing, a sight common in many of the towns we visited. For those of us who love to shop, temptation was everywhere. But, Fran managed to bring us back to painting, in the peaceful studio of Le Vieux Couvent.
As we parted after two weeks together, with old friendships strengthened and new friendships created, we travelled on, some back to North America, others to visit other countries in Europe. Thank you, Fran, for a trip like no other.
The venue is terrific, Bill and Corrine have done a wonderful job setting up the place and are wonderful hosts. We had terrific food (Corrine should do a cooking course and cook book!), nice excursions, good shopping. And of course ART! Fran is a great instructor, presenting all the basics, and helping us explore each at our pace, whether novice or professional artist. At the end she reviewed our portfolios and helped us see what we have learned.
Le Vieux Couvent is a place to rejuvenate your life and art. While eating wonderful food, enjoying the garden, country walks, historic villages and learning new art concepts from teacher Fran Alley, there is still lots of time for your own painting and development. I have been to Le Vieux Couvent twice and would certainly go again.
Fran's art classes proved to be a turning point in my life. She is lively, hugely amusing, illuminating about art and painting, a dedicated and outstanding teacher. Fran is one of those gifted people who could make an introduction to the telephone book totally fascinating. I went to any and all classes of hers that I could take and was desolate when she decided to return to University to get her Education degree.
I cannot over-emphasize my respect and admiration for Fran, both for her wonderful personality, her absolute integrity and her great character, and her superb ability to pass on to others her love and understanding of art.