Welcome to the Prieure N.-D. d'Orsan in Maisonnais, fourteen miles from our workshop headquarters in La Chatre.
In 1996, I stumbled upon the Priory, heeded a welcome sign, and found myself in an enchanted world. Here was a recently derelict group of marvelous buildings brought back to life through the vision of two architects, Patrice Taravella and Sonia Lesot.
At this stage the project was only three years old. They had, nonetheless, made great strides in protecting and restoring the buildings and in making the garden.
Everything was very informal, and I found an opportunity to talk with them both. But eventually their unrelenting tasks, and my need to make some drawings, sent us all off to work. Here's a drawing from that visit.
The Priory began its life in 1107. All that the monks needed would be produced here. The owners have made an extraordinary garden, respecting the monastic heritage but invigorating every design touch by their consummate taste.
I have just been in touch with Patrice, and we are welcome to come paint in the garden during our French Workshop. What fun we shall have! The Priory is also a tiny hotel (3 rooms, I think) of the Relais et Chateau group, We'll be able to get some lovely things for our lunch break. Patrice has said we may come any of the days, so we'll be sure to pick a gloriously sunny one.
We can paint from ten in the morning until seven in the evening. The fee, so you can save up, is 10 euros. If, however, you are able to convince them that you are a child of less height than one metre ten, you can get in for five euros.
I, for one, couldn't be more excited to paint at Orsan. Here's a video from the BBC, featuring Patrice interviewed by English gardening writer Monty Don.