Cape Town-born B&R Guide Tatjana Buisson has been splitting her time between South Africa and France since 2014 and has stationed herself permanently on French soil since 2017. An artist and avid nature-lover, the light and landscapes of Provence proved a perfect fit. Here’s a look into a day in her life in the South of France.
I know it’s Sunday morning because the squeaky wheels that carry the wooden sign-post from the house down the road have stopped under the tree in front of my house. It’s market day, and the sign saying “organic, home-grown vegetables and roast chicken 150m down the road” has assumed its position to inform passers-by.
I live in L’Isle Sur la Sorgue; a tiny old village built on an island that was formed by the Sorgue river’s course, where it splits and then merges again.
But this little village isn’t so little anymore—having sprawled with schools, urban developments and supermarkets beyond the island—but it’s managed to retain its charm. It’s famous for concentrated collections of antique brokers, artists and a beautiful Sunday marché.
I open my shutters and check to see if the weather is market-friendly, and it is! I decide to message a friend.
“Frederique! would you like to join me? I’m about to head out to some vide greniers…” (Vide grenier directly translates to attic-emptying, similar to the concept of a garage sale). Fred’s thumbs-up is followed by a quick jump in the shower while the coffee brews. The doorbell indicates it’s time to go.
We meander through the famous Sunday village market where people are just finishing setting up. Visitors and locals alike are surfacing with their empty bags and baskets. We find my car parked under the tree where I always find a parking spot, and off we go with coffee-flask in hand.
The first rule of the vide greniers is the early bird catches the worm. That’s what makes treasure-hunting so appealing: that edgy feeling that the very object you don’t yet know you need to have in your life might slip through your fingers.
So, we hop in the car. The crinkling of a brown paper packet in Fred’s hand indicates two possibilities: 1) Pain au Chocolat or 2) croissants. I’ll be happy with either!
One of my favourite things about living in this region is the recycle/re-use culture of these local village attics-sale markets.
Locals sell anything from kitchen appliances to children’s clothing, furniture to artwork and knife collections. Some bring their current harvest of seasonal fruit or homemade jams from this week’s fruit. There are also people who sell their grandfathers’ lighter collection, collectible LPs or leather sofas.
I try (hard) to stick to a couple of self-imposed guidelines for the treasure-hunting: It must be something that I need or something I absolutely love, but nothing in-between.
It’s easy to get caught up in the dance of bargaining which then has one arriving at home with a bunch of beautiful things for next to nothing, but the bookshelf is already full…
Once we’ve inspected all the old things and found (or not found) our treasures, we head home as I’ve made plans to meet with my friend Mika for a bike ride.
The gorges around here are magnificent and the Gorges de la Nesque is an ideal Sunday mission. The late mornings are still shady and the climb—although it’s consistent—is moderate.
We meet at the start of the ride, get our bikes out of the car and start pedalling. You can imagine my surprise as we stumble upon the not-so-wild-boar, that Mika says, he’s seen before on this route.
We stop to soak up the epic view and make our way down to Sault, the village known for its lavender (the true lavender that only grows at elevation) in late July. For now, the lavender fields are a dusty grey colour as they work their way towards July with the help of our Provençale sunshine.
As much as I’d love to ride all day long, we decide to loop our way back to the car so that I can spend a little time with the canvas this afternoon.
The springtime makes for some incredibly inspiring scenes, and they’re not going to manifest on paper or canvas unless I’m there to hold the brush. The bike ride was epic and always makes my heart explode with joy. The roads and scenes around the south of France never cease to inspire awe. I get home and before picking up a paintbrush, I head to a little secret spot upstream for a “swim” in the river.
I’m no Wim Hoff, but I love a quick dip in and out of the icy stream on a warm day. It’s a vivid reminder that I am alive! Sometimes it’s good to check…
The water is crystal clear and the trout can be spotted swimming upstream. The river’s source is only a few kilometres away at Fontaine de Vaucluse; a magical place with a mystical cave underneath a massive wall of rock from which this 12-degree water gushes with crystal clear vitality. I like to hike around the fountain. There’s a special kind of energy there.
Magnificent trees, ducks and the energy of the gushing water is quite a force to watch. And easy trigger to get back to the present moment. Today I’ve been super lucky with the treasures: I’ve spotted a very old piece of porcelain wedged in the wall of the riverbed. Magic! It’s definitely a good omen…
In the evening, Benedicte has invited me for dinner, along with my friend and neighbour, Anthony. Benedicte used to run the local vegan restaurant, Vert Bouteille (Bottle Green), so this is an invitation I don’t ever wish to turn down. She’s a magician when it comes to food.
The swifts are swooping over the village as I walk home. They serve as gentle reminders that the summer is on its way.
It’s been a beautiful day.
To see more of Tatjana’s artwork inspired by life in France and her adventures around the globe, you can visit her website or follow her on Instagram.