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Bordeaux with Botanica

03/08/2019
River cruising at its best
Wine tasting, gorgeous gardens and art – what’s not to like? This was the prospect in store for a select group of Botanica World Travel guests from the UK, Australia and New Zealand with yours truly as their art guide and watercolour tutor on board the lovely Amadolce for a Bordeaux and Dordogne river cruise. I was, in truth, a little apprehensive, as I knew this had originally been advertised with a much better known TV celebrity doing my job as lecturer, with me just focusing on the workshops. Subsequntly I was asked to perform both roles, but I needn’t have worried! First up was an impromptu presentation on “Brian’s favourite gardens in art” which went down a storm and set the tone for the whole cruise – guests immediately warmed to the theme and bombarded me at regular intervals with all sorts of horticultural and artistic questions!
When we visited the château of Latour-Marliac, which still houses the nursery where Monet used to obtain his waterlilies, I was once again drafted in at short notice as our local guide failed to turn up. Together with our botanical guide, the redoubtable Anthea Guthrie, we walked around the gardens with me chipping in on the art side whilst Anthea provided the more detailed gardening bits – and it all worked a treat, so much so that guests commented that couldn’t have imagined it being any better even if the guide had been there!
Other highlights were a tour of St Émilion, a trip to a Cognac distillery, a sturgeon farm and a number of impressive chateaux and gardens, and all the while the sun shone beautifully!
En route I had a great turn out for my water colour classes: the first on a highly appropriated bunch of grapes and the second entitled “paint like Matisse” – well what could be easier? Certainly we had some great efforts – some more abstract than others of course, but we all had terrific fun.
Matisse was the main subject of my final lecture “Artists of the South” which was really well received – especially by the boss of the company! So then there was just the little matter of my guided tour of the Bordeaux art museum which I had hoped to reconnoitre in advance. As it turned out, I had to do it unprepared and unseen, but once again, impromptu commentary, a number of lucky paintings and a very willing audience conspired to make this a great success – not least as we were protected from the pouring rain outside- the only rain of the week. How lucky is that?
The icing came on the cake at the end of the cruise, when Botanica boss Judy Vanrennen announced she was so pleased with what I had manage to deliver, that she wishes me to escort “Scottish Gardens and Norwegian Fjords” cruise on the delightful mv Island Sky in June 2021 – a repeat of what I did for them last year. Needless to say, I really can’t wait!