I’m excited to finally blog about my trip to the South of France last summer, shooting for author, Larry Taunton. In case you missed my last post about Larry and our trip to NYC, I’ll include his bio again. Larry is an American author, columnist and cultural commentator. A frequent television and radio guest, he has appeared on CNN, CNN International, Fox News, Al Jazeera America, and BBC. You can find his columns on issues of faith and culture in The Atlantic, USA Today, CNN.com, and The Blaze. Mr. Taunton has been quoted by Rush Limbaugh, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, TIME, Vanity Fair, and NPR, among others. He is the author of The Grace Effect and The Faith of Christopher Hitchens.
Mr. Taunton is also the founder and executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation. In that role he has debated such high profile atheists as Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Michael Shermer as well as Muslim cleric Zaid Shakir. He has organized or chaired debates on science, religion, and ethics at Trinity College, Oxford University; The Edinburgh International Festival; the Melbourne Town Hall in Melbourne, Australia; Princeton University; and the Oxford Museum of Natural History. He currently divides his time between the United States and Europe.
Larry and I met because of some work I had shot for his friends Rick and Sherri Burgess. He was in the process of rebranding and revising his website and needed P.R. images of his work in Birmingham and Southern France. I jumped at the opportunity. Not only would I get to see France through my camera lens, but I would also see the work of Larry’s ministry there and benefit from being with the best tour guide, who has a vast knowledge of European history.
I brought along my good friend and fellow photographer, Emily Kicklighter, as my assistant and travel companion. Can’t think of anyone else I’d rather do work travel with. She so much fun and keeps me laughing all the time!
Larry, his family, staff and The Fixed Point Institute students were the perfect hosts at the grand French estate, which was once owned by one of Napolean’s generals, Jean-de-Dieu Saoult, who later became a Prime Minister of France. Guests are quite comfortable in the well appointed rooms, furnished with Country French antiques. The gardens are a wonderful place to lounge, read or take a nap in the hammock. We enjoyed the gorgeous scenery, excursions to nearby villages, historical tours, delicious food and interesting conversation…all in the name of work! Have camera…will [gladly] travel! And, you can experience this amazing experience in the French Countryside as well! Find out how at the end of this post.
Fresh french roses, hydrangeas and lavender, all on property, are clipped and used in vases as centerpieces for long and relaxing dinners al fresco. Step out the back iron gates of the estate, and go for a walk or take a jog on the path that meanders for miles through villages and rural farmland.Or, take the winding road above it to the gorgeous flower covered mountaintop overlooking the villages below.
(Instagram photo from running trail)(Instagram photo from running trail)
(Instagram photo from running trail)
Look at this incredible view!
Our visit to the city of Albi and the largest brick structure in the world, which happens to be the cathedral in the center of this village.After spending a day touring nearby villages, it’s back to the estate for a lovely dinner prepared by staff and Fixed Point Institute students. The French love 2 hour long meals with lots of bread and wine. (Did I mention all the fresh bread from nearby bakeries?! You don’t count carbs while in France! It would be quite rude.) Crepes are a specialty in France, whether savory or sweet, and Larry has mastered the art of crepe making. Here he’s making me a sweet crepe filled with speculoos, which is like cookie butter. Oh so delicious!Larry’s lovely wife Lauri, daughter Sasha (read The Grace Effect about Sasha’s amazing life story and adoption from Ukraine) and son Chris are delightful hosts.During the day, Fixed Point Institute students attend seminars, led by Larry and guest speakers, in the upstairs classroom. When they aren’t in the classroom, students work on projects around the house and on the property, cook, clean guest rooms, read and study.
I looked forward to visiting nearby villages each day. When I could get a minute of spare time, I would sneak away looking for unique doors and shutters to photograph. The soft palettes, muted colors and perfect patinas in southern France are amazing! It’s quite different than Paris. Paris has more formal architecture, whereas southern France is more rural and buildings living is more quiet, casual and relaxed. If you were following my trip on Instagram or Facebook while I was there, you know that 6 out of the 7 days we were in Southern France, we did not have our luggage! We got very good at rinsing out clothes in the sink and leaving them to dry on the window ledge. We also borrowed clothes from some of the staff and students until we could purchase a few necessities when we went into town. Quite the adventure! We were glad (and relieved) when our luggage arrived the day before Emily and I left for Paris.
I spotted this house with orange shutters and cute little truck as we were driving up the very windy Black Mountain. I begged for us to stop just long enough for me to grab these shots. The medieval fortress of Carcassonne, which is one of the most visited towns in all of France.
Inside this medieval fortress was a modern amphitheater for concerts and events. From the top of the fortress you could see miles and miles of vineyards.
One of our excursions was to the Clos Bagatelle Vineyard and Winery. Owned by the same family since 1623, their story was interesting and the wine diverse. Christine was a lovely hostess for our tour and wine tasting. One of the vats was from the 18th century! If only it could tell stories about all the people who have enjoyed its wine!
We also made a visit to the village of Minerve, a 13th century medieval fortified village, which is situated on top of the gorge of the River Cesse. Population, approximately 150 people. I’ll remember it for its handmade pottery, french soaps and delicious bruschetta.
We all looked forward to experiencing the lovely meals when we arrived back at the estate, never knowing where on property we would be dining…on the lawn, in the mill or in the gazebo, with Frank Sinatra serenading us. This beautiful dinner was set in the Old Mill.If you would like more information about traveling to this beautiful place to experience tours with Larry, or you have a college student who might be interested in the Fixed Point Institute, contact Fixed Point Foundation. Phone: (205) 414-6311
Floral Design: Tiffany Robertson of Studio Flower