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Sweet Summer

Photo by Katy Lawrence

So long sweet summer. I normally settle into the change of season with ease; relishing the change in flowers, colour palettes and textures I can use, embracing and adapting to the seasonal shifts. However, I can’t quite seem to shake this summer just yet. It was a true assault on the senses in the best way. In between flowering beautiful events and weddings, I managed to escape for a few days of rest in between here and there, spending a little time in France, Cornwall and the Greek islands too. When I think of each trip, the native florals of each country spring to mind; the wildflowers on the roadside, climbers rambling over tiled roofs and shutters, and the potted plants lining the doorstep of a particularly pretty (usually pink) painted house. I forget a lot of important things in life, but the flowers of faraway places are imprinted in my memory.

Photo by Katy Lawrence

We shall start in Paris, where it was too sweltering in the midday heat to do anything but look for shade and rest. We found solace in the cool basement gallery of the Musee De L’Orangerie amongst Monet’s water lilies. The cool, calming palette of this masterpiece both beautiful and soothing, a real joy to see close up. Seemingly rather too soothing I discovered, as it was here in front of the water lilies that I surprisingly (most of all to me) burst into tears. It may have been the sheer relief at finding a cool spot at last to be still, or could have been the half hour I had spent sitting and self-assessing my life/achievements/failures, but it took me by surprise. I think back now to that moment, and maybe I was simply allowing my thoughts to breathe for the first time in a while. It was a little uncomfortable, I became terribly British and apologised to the lady next to me through deep breaths and continued to stare at the water lilies until I could blink away the tears. All very Emma Thompson in Love Actually, you know the scene. Poor Katy appeared with a concerned look on her face, not knowing whether I was profoundly touched by the beauty in front of us or whether I had just sat on my last croissant. I confessed I was having a moment, she gave me a pep talk, we had a jolly good laugh and meandered our way back out of the gallery. I’m sharing because I think it is good to practice humility. It is a story that makes me, and my friends, roar with laughter now and quite frankly I wouldn’t have got away with writing this post and not sharing the ‘that time you cried at Monet’ story. Thank you dear friends.

Photo by Katy Lawrence

When not lying on benches in the shade, singing a lot of 90s R&B (badly) and mumbling ‘its ‘effing hot’ every 5 minutes, we slowly walked the streets of Paris in search of bakeries and flowers. It was the Jasmine Nightshade that caught our eye on one street corner, cascading down the beautifully crumbling old walls of a typically beautiful French building. It is the kind of wispy curled tendrils that look perfect tumbling out of an old stone urn – had we been in England it would have been making its way into several weddings this summer.

The Jardin du Palais Royal was, of course, heavenly too. Row upon row of blooming garden roses, slightly sun scorched but beautiful. Simply by being French they are a thousand times more romantic. A certain decaying elegance you wouldn't get away with back in Blighty. The fountain splashed, the bees ambled by and we refrained from picking said roses before deciding it was time again for more French cheese. Off we went, straw baskets swinging and terrible broken French out in full force.

Then to dreamy Provence. Earlier on in the year when Katy and I had booked the rose farm in Thor, we joked a LOT about how funny it would be if we turned up and the roses weren’t in bloom. I mean we really joked about it. In the weeks leading up to the trip it tipped to nervous laughing and limited eye contact when said joke arose, but still the joke was said so we couldn’t be too worried. No roses in early July? Don’t be daft.

Photo by Katy Lawrence

We did not, however, accommodate for the scorching heatwave that hit Europe this summer. Cue to turning into the long rose laden driveway we had pictured from the air bnb photos, to a smattering of stoic but struggling roses. A pop of candy pink, red, yellow here and there but not quite the Marc Jacobs running-through-the-rose-garden perfume advert we had dreamt of. Hilarity ensued, doubled up laughing in the little tinny hired car as we started on the long sun scorched drive to the front of the farmhouse.

Photo by Katy Lawrence

Not to be disheartened, and still giggling away to ourselves, we explored the gardens of the farmhouse, shouting to one another from different pockets of the grounds when we found something beautiful to shoot. Guara, lavender and oleander planted in the garden, with dacuas carota and wild rose lining the pathway down to the stream.

I was woken early on our first morning to Katy’s shouts of delight, claiming she had found a beautiful wildflower meadow behind the house. Having explored the grounds the day before, knowing that missing a whole wildflower meadow would have been quite some oversight on both our parts, I was concerned that the sun had possibly got to her head. Trusting her, as good friends do, I stepped out squinting into the sunrise still in my nightdress (sorry neighbours) to a wildflower meadow that had seemingly appeared overnight. On further investigation, the lilac flowers of the chicory plant bloom in the early morning sun and close by early afternoon in the summer, hence our oversight arriving mid afternoon the day before. It was a sight to behold, and within a mad 5 minute flurry of tea making (priorities), white dress choosing (always) and rubbing the sleep from our eyes, we were back out there in the meadow. It really did feel magical; the early morning gentle light and an unexpected sea of palest lilac flowers. When I think of Provence this is one of the first memories that come to mind; that magic meadow as the sun rose.

Down by the river, the most delicate wild scabious in soft lilac and white grew in abundance, in between swathes of dancing cow parsley and mallow blooms. Mini bouquets were made, swiftly wilting in the midday heat and thrown like confetti into the river. We sat in the shade of a cherry tree laden with fruit, eating nectarines and nattering. It was all very Darling Buds of May, unsurprisingly.

Sunday was market day, so we headed to nearby L’Isle Sur La Sorgue for the famous antiques and vintage market. I won’t pretend that I didn’t fill my straw bag with flea market treasures; a frilly white French shirt, a faded floral bowl and a little broidery anglaise pinafore that is neither use nor ornament as it is peppered with rust holes, but I couldn’t leave without it. We stumbled into the most dreamy shop - pale pink walls, rails of white vintage nightdresses and Edith Piaf playing on the radio. I could have lived in there happily. Following lunch on the river, we explored the pastel streets of the village where the oleander scrambled up walls and over shutters in every hue of pink imaginable.

All was not lost on the rose front however, as on our last morning on the farm we were treated to a few bucketfuls of just picked roses by Benoit and his wife Shaw. They were just off to market but we managed to spend a few minutes with our heads buried in them, asking as many questions as our broken French could manage before we had to head back home. The scent was intoxicating, some of the sweetest smelling roses I’ve ever had the pleasure of holding. Apparently the rose garden is its very best in May. I won’t pretend like we haven’t discussed a return trip.

Of course Katy made a film which I hope to be able to share with you soon, but for now, so long sweet French summer. You were a peach.

Charlotte xx

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