I woke up to the sound of the church bells ringing.
It was Wednesday at 7 o’clock in the morning – our third day into the food styling and photography workshop and still as excited as day one. I made myself a quick tea and headed out for a walk. The air was crisp and fog had set into Beynac. I walked up the cobblestone path alongside the castle and took a deep breath. I was beautiful beyond words.
I was ready for more.
For our third day, we had planned a trip to the Sarlat farmers’ market. We were to gather local produce and cook lunch for our students back at the Manoir de la Malartrie. Of course, we would style and photograph it all.
Sarlat is one of the main urban areas in La Dordogne. It was a crowded day with lots of tourists, but we still felt deep into the Perigord food culture. Stands full of the best local cheeses, jams, honey, charcuterie, and lots and lots of produce. Winter squash, hearty root vegetables, greens, and local dried cèpes and morels. Lots of them.
We walked the back streets of Sarlat and watched people come and go. Filled our market baskets with ingredients for the day and made one last stop – potatoes fried in duck fat. We sat next to the park while we shared this decadent snack. No plastic forks – only our fingers and insatiable appetites.
We were happy.
Back at the manoir, I cooked a swiss chard and cèpes risotto for everyone to style and photograph. I loved seeing everyone’s brains turn. You could see the level of commitment in each of their faces. They walked around, found “their” light and styled and shot until there was no more to do. It was beautiful to watch.
After all was set and done, we sat around the garden table and ate this satisfying risotto along with some salad, local cheeses, olives and crusty bread.
We continued styling and shooting into the afternoon until we decided it was enough. We were all ready for a relaxing evening. Stephanie hosted at dinner for all of us at La Maisonette (you can read Olivia’s post). It was such a beautiful night. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. Really, I laughed until I cried.
That night I slept like I hadn’t slept in years.
We left our last day in Beynac to do a little bit of sightseeing. Toured the medieval castle right next to La Maisonette. The views were breathtaking. From there we took a stroll down to the village center, along the river. We stopped for some coffee and tea and chatted up a storm.
A surprise awaited us by the river.
Stephanie had arranged a beautiful picnic for us to enjoy with crusty bread, cheeses, charcuterie, chocolate and lemon custard tarts. Everyone raved about them (unfortunately not gluten-free for me). I loved spending time with these women in a scenario that wasn’t only work. I felt we had known each other for years – like old friends.
After the picnic, we drove to a walnut grove where walnut oil is pressed. We learned about walnut trees, harvesting and the methods used to extract the oil. I always love seeing trees perfectly lined. They make the best photos. We couldn’t stop photographing as we knew this was such a special place.
This put an end to our trip. I was sad to leave yet so excited about what we had shared and the new friends I had found. I think every one of them will say the same thing. We became close.
We drove to Paris that night where we spent our last day before heading home. It was great to be back although it was too short and I was by this time exhausted.
After some more walking and a few failed attempts at finding dinner reservations, we ended up at Les Cocottes. It reminded me very much of how we eat in the Basque Country with an assortment of small plates and desserts written on a chalkboard. I spotted a lot of Basque cheeses, meats and fishes in fact, which of course made my day. I had a poached egg salad with lardons and a dish of cod, potatoes and cèpes. Lovely. And once again, I was ready for bed.
Our flight left early in the morning the next day. I left with my belly, heart and mind full.
This was an experience of a lifetime and I hope we can make it happen once again. We will keep you posted.