September 2023 – a year completed already

I can’t believe we have come to the end of our first year in France. What a year it has been!

So, the arduous task of renewing visas for work begins and I’m waiting on the French Government to OK my business plan – which is like starting completely again and forecasting over 5 years how you will make this business succeed. Fingers crossed for the Yes but I know there will be a few hoops they will make me jump through first.

In terms of the manoir we have completed my little studio, 5 working bedrooms, a beautiful salon, dining room and boutique bathroom. We are one month off completing the grand studio as well as commencing the second bathroom and kitchen – phew!


After a summer of the most amazing volunteers (and some lovely blogs detailing their time with us) September brought a dummy run for future painting courses. Five of my UK art ladies came over to test my en plein air days planned for the art holidays.

Day one was a visit to the bastide village of Monpazier. Set high with amazing views and beautiful architecture, this is the perfect spot for a day of sketching. We visited on a Thursday, market day, bustling with life and stalls filling the medieval square. Buying goods or drinking coffee and enjoying “people watching”.

First a shop and tour around the village and market, then a light lunch before we settled down for the afternoon sketching the amazing streets and buildings. Then, we added a touch of watercolour to bring the scenes to life whilst chatting to locals and visitors who stopped to see what we were doing.  A pleasurable, relaxing day at Monpazier was a hit.

Day two was en plein air landscape painting. I arranged for my friends Sarah and Guy to open their farmhouse auberge for my ladies. They have the most wonderful changing views at their farmhouse near Lauzun.

A full day of painting the scenery together with coffee and homemade biscuits, 3 course lunch with regional wines plus tea and cake in the afternoon. A wonderful day of painting in the French countryside, easels up, acrylic paints out, hats on and we were away. At the end of the day a chat about our gallery of paintings while sipping chilled rosé wine – perfect.

These test days were a great success and will feature in the painting holidays scheduled for 2024.


We are now looking towards 2024 and updating the website with our planned art holidays as well as short breaks to the manoir without painting. Costs and booking details will be available soon.

After spending a year following the seasons here I thought you might like to know what different times of the year are like here. I plan to offer painting holidays between April and early October.

April and May is a beautiful time to visit, warm but not too hot with the orchards filled with blossom and tremendous light to paint in.

June and July are much warmer, the sunflowers are out and fields are bright yellow against beautiful blue skies. Night markets and music events are in full swing and everywhere is bustling.

August is hot with long lazy evenings by the pool, night markets to visit and marché gourmands to experience. A marché gourmand is where the whole village sits at communal tables while local food and wine producers have stalls for you to buy your evening meal. There is always live music and fun to be had with a marché gourmand every night through July and August at a different village.

September is still very warm, but the landscape is changing colour and the day markets a little quieter which makes a perfect time to sketch villages and views calmly. This is my favourite time to paint as it’s warm but not too hot.

October is a riot of colour, true autumn with a warm glow late into the month. Great for walking, painting and exploring the bastide villages. The pool is still open but is cool and fresh.

If you would like to join our mailing list for holidays with us please email [email protected]


Heather and Lynne, our August volunteers, helped prep and paint the fifth bedroom. This room was definitely the scariest in the house – old, dark, not used in over 30 years and piled with old furniture. I really needed this ready for my art ladies visit.

Here are a few pictures of the transformation.

As everything from food to furniture is so expensive here recycling anything I can is a must. Two old chairs from the kitchen and a forgotten sofa from the scary dark room were bought down. They were a beautiful shape under the frills but needed updating. A lovely lady called Corrie Phillips who is an upholsterer did a wonderful job of breathing new life into the pieces while still keeping their charm.

Corrie did such an amazing job that I have joined her upholstery class (a skill I may need for future projects!). Here are a few pictures of the chairs and one of me in action! Still a beginner.


We are on track with the studio and finally at the end of September the floor went in. Under floor heating and the final fluid pour of this enormous space means we now just need to put doors on, glass in windows and paint.  Electrics all done and toilet in.

The day the two liquid cement lorries arrived Alastair was nervous as it quite a thing to manage. Here are a few pictures of the chaos of the lorries and the crane pipe full of cement. It’s a very big space.


If you would like to join us in 2024 either as a volunteer, for an art holiday or simply a girls weekend away – just drop us an email.

Thank you for all your comments on the blog last month. We hope you are finding the trials and tribulations of interest.

We would love to hear any questions you may have so please ask away.

With love from France – a bientot

Leesa, Alastair & Cersei xxx

6 thoughts on “September 2023 – a year completed already”

  1. Hi Leesa, it all sounds so adventurous, loving the updates and pictures, keep them coming, best of luck with the business plans with the French government xx Amanda

  2. I can’t believe how much you’ve achieved in a year. I always knew you were a tour de force. What an amazing home and new life you are making. It’s been a joy to follow your journey.

  3. What an amazing adventure for you all, so exciting
    Would definitely like to come for an ‘art hiloday’
    Much love xx

  4. I know exactly where your sitting under the arches in the café in Monpazier❤️ as we spent many hours there! Happy memories of that area, our home was a few kilometres away!

  5. It looks amazing Leesa, you’ve achieved so much! Interested in everything, especially a trip with the Wednesday ladies ???? xxx


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