Sunday, 11 September 2016

The Art of Living Well

Avenue Lazare Carnot where Baron Haussmann practised his deigns before moving to Paris to transform that city.

What I love about France is the artistry that invades every aspect of their life – from the preparation and presentation of food, to the art of combining a limited wardrobe into a variety of casually elegant outfits and for the time taken for small courtesies as in greeting and farewelling people – friends and strangers alike.
The elegant Eglise Paroissiale Saint-Etienne.
While this is no doubt a learned aspect, I think living amongst beauty - both natural and built - also plays a part.

In particular this applies to our architectural surroundings. You can choose not to look at artworks you don’t particularly like, but architecture is always there, in our faces, every time we venture outside.

I'm sure that if you live in a place that is agreeable to look at, is loved, elegant and kind on the eyes, you can’t help but absorb this into your psyche.

The decoration of early buildings –  the care that went into making them not just a structure, but a work of art in themselves - is one of the reasons we enjoy of wandering through towns and cities in all parts of the world.

Street overlooked by the clocktower.
In France – some of the buildings may be magnificent edifaces, others more humble – but in the vast majority, you can see that the builder was also a craftsman who was proud of creating something both useful and beautiful.

A mural decorates the side of a building.

Just to the north of Les Arcs-sur-Argens is the former capital of Var - the town of Draguignan - where Baron Haussmann first practised his ideas for the grand boulevards and elegant buildings that later became the beauty of Paris.

Avenue Lazare Carnot that leads into town from Les Arcs is well worth a stroll, just to uncover the restrained beauty of Haussmann's early designs with a Provencal twist.

When its status as the departmental capital was transferred south to Toulon, and Draguignan’s rail link to the rest of France was closed (with buses running to and from the station at les Arcs), the town suffered and was in danger of being forgotten.

The Place Comtes de Provence.

Yet it is rebuilding itself as a centre of both art and history with grand murals enhancing plain walls and the development of an Art Walk.

Each summer the town hosts the ’L’Eté Contemporain’ exhibitions that fill various spaces throughout the town creating a summer art exploration on its own.

Draguignan has become the centre of the 'La Dracénie' region and as such is developing an exciting tourist circuit through the tiny 'perched' villages that surround it.

Multi-archway that is part of the Art Walk.
But for now it is enough to walk – exploring the alleyways and narrow streets, finding the unexpected delight of a quirky shop front; a hidden gallery; the sudden view of the church spire or the distinctive wrought iron dome housing for the bell above the clock tower.
The ‘Musée d’Art et Tradition’ is a ‘must’ to get the feel of the town and the region in days gone by. It also has a shop selling beautifully made local crafts and a signature exhibition that changes regularly.

Although it isn't mentioned in France’s ‘most beautiful towns’ category (there is a lot of commercial development on its edges), many of the small towns in La Dracénie do.
And Draguignan is a great place to start your exploration.


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