I wouldn’t. But I did drive nearly 1000km. Driving to Southern France is, possibly unsurprisingly to some, a really long bloody way. Take into account the ferry crossing and the drive the other side, and it’s maybe around 17 hours travelling from Brighton. And er… don’t take this drive lightly, especially if you’re doing it solo like the strong, independent, travel illustrator you are (ahem… but then don’t have anyone to share the driving with). The drive for me perpetuated a niggling case of RSI into full blown 2 month long, unable to work (or much else), excruciatingly painful RSI – hence the lateness of this blog post!
I did the drive in 2 long days, and really it should have been 3 or 4, but Jane Fonda the Honda, her epic collection of card CD’s, and beaut little scenic chateau stops got me and my RSI pain through (for now!).
Nevertheless driving from the north to the south of France is a really beautiful journey, you get to pass through huge mountains, to dense forests, and then just farm land that seems to span forever. I decided to avoid motorways a lot of the time, the tolls in France really and up, and yeah, I fancied the scenic route!
Most towns in France have market days where you can buy all the amazing local produce form the local farmers and artisans. You’ll find a hell of a lot of cheese, duck confit, and other meaty goods, and I had the benefit of driving through about 3 on the Saturday! Did I mention I was actually vegan at this point? I have so many travel illustrations I want to do from these markets!
Castres is a pretty little city a bit south of Toulouse, it’s centred around a river, which has on it a row of beaut higgledepiggedy, towering and rickety, multi coloured houses, that half look look like they’re about to fall in. Apparently these houses used to belong to artisans like dyers and tanners (the city is an old textile town), and so they needed the river water for laundries in their basement. I spotted some of them being used for pretty special looking restaurants, with people enjoying their wine and cheese on the balcony…
Like most places in France, everything is closed on a Sunday, though instead you get the bonus of a really great vintage market instead – little old bits of antique French furniture, trinkets and paintings, yes please.
So obviously, being a travel illustrator, I thoroughly research my destinations before I go to them… right? I had NO idea that Castres is a city very very into it’s rugby, and that may even be the whole reason you visit there (apparently they have a very impressive stadium and team, I didn’t go). But while I was here I was illustrating the #StopWhaling campaign for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, for the Rugby World Cup which was just about to start, so being to be honest, being surrounded by rugby and being able to (slightly) chat about something work related to it with the locals, definitely worked in my favour. Allez au rugby!
I was pretty busy with work while I was here, but the skies were beautiful, my vegetable garden was poppin’, and the walks up and overlooking the city were so perfect after my long drive down, and it was a pretty ideal place to get on with some work before making my way west towards the coast next.