Our nearest town, Brioude, is usually very quiet and sleepy. It has a population of just over 6,500, and whilst it does attract some tourists in the summer, it’s not exactly swamped.
All that chamges for a fortnight every other year, during the month of July, when Brioude hosts its biannual watercolour festival – the Biennale d’Aquarelle. It’s a truly international affair, this year featuring artists from countries including Japan, Poland, the UK, Switzerland and Slovenia, as well as all parts of France.
The town has got the bunting out, and it’s crammed with people browsing the exhibitions, admiring the newly-restored cathedral, attending workshops, painting in the street, and enjoying a coffee and a chat outside the cafés.
I tend to associate watercolour with hobby painters turning out pretty views (probably very unfairly), so I’m always amazed by the incredibly diverse range of styles and techniques on display at the biennale, from very precise little illustrations right through to huge, messy abstracts. I could have spent many, many euros if I had them, but instead contented myself with some postcards. This is one of my favourite paintings from the exhibition, an abstract landscape by the French artist Reine-Marie Pinchon.
Just to add to the celebratory atmosphere, Romain Bardet, a young cyclist from Brioude, won a stage in the Tour de France yesterday, much to the delight of the local paper.
The festival ends tomorrow, and Le Tour reaches Paris on Sunday, so the town will be back to normal soon enough.