Latitude Cultural Center

La Toulzanie (Lot)   France


(plus some comments from past participants --below )

June 3-10

I Think, Therefore . . . What? : French Thought from Descartes to Foucault

(in English)

Photo of Dr. Don Palmer, instructor Instructor: Don Palmer, Ph.D.

Don taught philosophy at the College of Marin in Kentfield, CA. and, most recently, at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Don possesses a rare talent to make philosophical ideas accessible--as well as very interesting and relevant. He has authored seven volumes--text books and popularized philosophy books--including his most recent, Why It's Hard to Be Good (McGraw-Hill, Summer, 2005). A multi-talented man who enjoys a beachside hike as well as a good joke accompanied by a glass of  good Cahors red wine, Don illustrates his books with his own imaginative drawings.

June 3-10

Discover and Appreciate Little-Known Wines of Southwest France

(In English)

Photo of Rahsaan Maxwell, instructor Instructor: Rahsaan Maxwell, Ph.D. Candidate, Political Science, University of California at Berkeley; Winner of 2005's WIWPie award for Best Internet Newcomer; passionate market-goer and cook of (vegetarian) food from Japan to Paris and California (and beyond); teacher extraordinaire, respected wine buff; seminar-giver on wine pairings, and on-line wine commentator. Note: There will be a $200 supplemental fee for transport to tasting sites and a $50 supplemental fee for two fine wine tastings at Latitude. However, if a participant chooses to provide her or his own transport to the tasting sites, including vineyards producing AOC Gaillac and AOC Cahors, the transport fee of $200 will be waived.

Course synopsis: This course offers a fun introduction to the wines of Southwest France, a region tracing its viticulture roots to the Roman era.  The region has long produced some of the world’s most illustrious and prized wines, famously contracted by Popes and Russian Tsars and often used in blends to improve the quality of substandard Bordeaux . Unfortunately, the region was hit hard by phylloxera in the 1880s which wiped out almost all of the vines; it lacked the financial resources to remerge as a major wine region until the second half of the 20th century. Today Southwest France is the perfect place for the curious wine traveler and, as London's Financial Times (July 2, 2005) put it, a "Haven for the Epicurious." It boasts a diversity of wines (sparkling whites, dry whites, easy quaffing reds, sturdy aging reds, sweet dessert stickies, intriguing oxidized gems along the lines of vin jaune or sherry) made from both internationally-famous grape varieties (malbec, merlot, sauvignon blanc) and local curiosities (duras, mauzac, ondenc).  Ambitious local winemakers are working better than ever before, both in traditional and modern styles, to much applause from the wine cognoscenti.  But because the region is so remote, it remains underappreciated by the larger public, offering great value and a chance to explore beautiful untouched scenery while drinking undiscovered wines before they enter the mainstream.
Photo of Rahsaan Maxwell, instructor
After a  Sunday afternoon wine tasting, we will spend two days visiting winemakers in Cahors and one day in Gaillac, exposing participants to the spectrum of wines and grapes available in Southwest France. We will also spend a day visiting food producers and farmers, giving you the opportunity to appreciate first-hand the heavenly marriage between local gastronomy and local wine. Before the Au Revoir banquet on Friday evening, we will have another wine tasting! In the Cahors  AOC area, we will visit a variety of producers, including the benchmark for classic wines: Clos du Gamot, with a personalized tour from the Jouffreau family themselves, the top winemakers in the region since the 17th century as well as the benchmark for modern wines: Chateau Lagrazette, owned by former Cartier PDG/CEO Alain-Dominique Perrin, who is at the forefront of pushing Cahors to develop a hierarchical cru-system.In Gaillac we will visit the mad geniuses at Plageoles, a father-and-son team working with varietals unseen since the 17th century.They use a variety of techniques long since fallen out of favor but which produce quirky yet pure, clean, terroir-driven wines that are the rage among wine-industry insiders.  We will also visit a more modern production.

June 10-17

Painting the Beauty of   Southwest France

(In English / Mornings+)

photo of Gil Perry paintingInstructor: Gil Perry, distinguished Vermont oil painter and winner of many awards, including American Artist Drawing Magazine, Contest Winner, 2004

This course is a workshop in oil painting. Gil is also a master of drawing, particularly of landscapes. 

For Gil, painting consists of Drawing, Value, Color and Edges. He will guide participants to better   understand these elements in order to to convey the light and mood of southwest France . He  uses a carefully-controlled, prismatic palette which he will share and help each student to organize. Classes will take place in  plein air where he will demonstrate  key principles and  approaches to painting the landscape.

Please note: This course will entail 30, rather than 15, hours of instruction. There will be NO supplementary charge for these extra hours. There will be a supplementary charge for transport (price will depend upon the number of cars needed, but it won’t exceed $175) unless a participant chooses to rent her or his own car and drive to painting sites, in which case the participant does not pay a transport fee.

June 10-17


(In English / Afternoons+)

photo of Rob O'brienInstructor: Robert O'brien , award winning Vermont Painter

 This course is a plein-air, watercolor workshop with Rob O'Brien. Rob is an award-winning artist from Perkinsville, Vermont who is also an excellent teacher!  In 2005, Rob won an award at a major national watercolor show: The Adirondack National in New York. He is also a top ten finalist in the American Artists Magazine watercolor competition. He uses a watercolor technique known as "drybrush" for textural effects, and, he says,  the Lot Valley and its environs fit this technique perfectly. His website:

Please note: This course entails 30, not 15, hours of instruction. There will be NO supplementary charge for these extra hours. There will be a supplementary charge for transport (price depends upon the number of cars needed, but it won’t exceed $175) unless a participant chooses to rent her or his own car and drive to painting sites, in which case the transport fee is waived.

Level of expertise: Drawing and some painting experience is recommended. A materials list will be furnished. Rob writes that “This workshop will focus on  painting en plein-air, using  watercolors. We will travel to various locales in the Lot valley where I will demonstrate  my technique for capturing the light and textural beauty of this enchanting part of the world. My emphases: composition and value. I will provide hands-on assistance, and there will a critique at the end of each day’s session."

June 24-July 1


(In English)

Photo of Ann Bishop, instructor Instructor: Anne Bishop , M.A., art history

This course is a seminar in literature and culture offered by Anne Bishop , M.A. in art history, experienced teacher of French  literature, culture, and language (University of California at Berkeley Extension, Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA), a 20-year resident of France (14 in southwest France),  international business owner, and  very supportive seminar leader!  (While presenting in English, Anne speaks enviable French-- one hesitates to say perfect French as only the Academy in Paris passes such judgments)!

Anne Bishop brings to life legendary French lovers who lived long ago but whose stories still speak to us. She starts in the 12th century with the story of (1) Heloïse and her ill-fated lover, Abélard, a great Christian rationalist thinker who threatened the mysticism of his time. Heloise was ready to defy convention to remain true to her carnal passion and personal beliefs. Next comes the sensuous and intelligent (2) Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen of two kings and two countries; she upheld the art of Courtly Love while going on the Second Crusade dressed as the Queen of the Amazons. Then Anne explores one of the last --and most famous-- courtly love relationships: (3) King Henri II and his mistress Diane de Poitiers. Nineteen years his senior, Diane captivated Henri, usurping the power of state as well as the king's heart from his queen, Cath erin e de Medici. (4) Molière and Armande were playwright and actress in the time of Louis XIV’s Versailles, where art forms served to glorify the King. Interestingly, passages from Molière’s plays reflect his own experience of passion and jealousy with the beautiful Armande, who carrie d his work on 21 years after his death. Anne ends with (5) Voltaire’s passionate love affair with the Marquise du Châtelet, an example of equality in love. She was the mathematician and scientist who translated Newton "pour les dames", and he was the poet, playwright and philosopher who helped usher in the Enlightenment.  As 18th century aristocrats, they pursued other lovers but remained soulmates, living at their chateau in Cirey where a guest once wrote: “one makes verses, the other triangles.”  Editor's note: Anne's lively style and passion for her subject add greatly to the enjoyment of an inherently-interesting topic!

June  24-July 1 Back by popular demand!

 Taking Flight: A Creative Writing Workshop

(in English)

photo of Carolyn Miller
Instructor: Carolyn Miller , award-winning and widely-published poet

Carolyn is an experienced workshop leader of prose and poetry in Northern California and Europe (e.g., La Serrania, Mallorca).   Carolyn's workshop is meant for people who have never fulfilled their long-held desire to write as well as for experienced writers. She writes that "participating in a writing workshop is an act of daring!" You will  respond to writing exercises encouraging you to produce poems  and prose that will surprise and delight you. Further, Carolyn says, "In this workshop, you will learn to silence your inner critic and focus your attention on creating new work in either prose or poetry." During the course of the week, participants will read and discuss model poems and short   prose pieces, using them as springboards for in-class writing exercises. One exercise will be also be given  to work on after class and to bring to the next day’s session. The workshop will include discussions of the form and content of poetry and  prose, as well as how to make writing a part of your daily life and how to complete a writing project and pursue publication. For an in-depth discussion of earlier work, participants may bring up to 10 pages of poetry or 15 pages of prose to discuss in a 30-minute private conference. Each participant will read his or her favorite new piece on the final night of the workshop.

Carolyn led a most successful workshop at Latitude in July, 2005; several experienced writers and some total novices (including a high school student, a landscape architect, a homemaker, a real estate agent, and a recently-retired navy pilot) produced  pieces that surprised them and delighted us all. Carolyn has a special gift for gently encouraging writers and would-be writers .

July 1-8: Two Courses offered in the French language

July 1-8 Back by popular demand !!!

Romantisme et Revolutions: le XIXe siecle francais

(en français, avec diapos)

with Renée Morel.  Renee enjoys a very loyal following in and around La Toulzanie-- as well as in the Bay Area of Northern California -- because she is a fabulous teacher: well-organized, full of fascinating information, and appreciative of questions.  She speaks so distinctly that middle-level French speakers will not be lost. This will be Renee's 6th year of teaching at Latitude. (During the week she's here, Renee will give a conference on the Paris Commune.)  In French. Mornings.

renee morel

Instructor: Renée Morel , Doctoral candidate, French Literature, University of California at Berkeley . Instructor, French & Linguistics, City College of San Francisco . Instructor, The French Class, San Francisco , and San Francisco State University . Mme. Morel donne des cours d'art et de civilisation. Elle écrit des articles sur la representation en peinture et en litterature. Instructor at Latitude: Summers 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002  and back by popular demand! Les matins.

The Course (en français): Romantisme aristocratique et réactionnaire qui va a contre-courant de l'heritage des Lumières ou Romantisme engage qui reve d'accomplir les promesses socialistes? Theoricien ou acteur, romancier ou poète, musicien ou peintre, le romantique vit dans son temps. C'est Werther aussi bien que Garibaldi. Ardent et tourmenté, le puissant imaginaire romantique reflete les bouleversements politiques et sociaux de son epoque - veritablement le "mal du siecle".

July 1-8

1000 Years of Knights and Days in Southwest France

(en français, avec visites guidées)

(1,000 years + in the quercy region of sw France : from the celts to civil war) IF DESIRED BY ENGLISH-ONLY SPEAKERS, A FRENCH-ENGLISH TRANSLATOR   CAN BE PROVIDED FOR THIS COURSE. Instructor:   Paul Verdier , docteur d'état en litterature comparée (thèse sur le conte africain); professeur d'université à Paris XIII et à Tananarive , chercheur émerite à CNRS; auteur, Le calendrier celtique et Les Druides (co-auteur). Paul is very knowledgeable not only about the Middle Ages (with a specialty in medieval churches,) but  also earlier inhabitants of the region, including Celts and Romans. Afternoons, Paul parlera des Celtes en Quercy vers le IVe siècle a.c. et la réutilisation du mobilier autochtone: dolmens et menhirs; les envahisseurs"> en Quercy: Divona et Auxellodunum conquises par César; le royaume wisigoth de Toulouse-Barcelone et sa limite quercynoise: Tour de Faure et l'arianisme; quelques aspects de la Guerre de Cent Ans : Plantagenêt et Valoisà Saint Cirq Lapopie, une guerre franco-française; cathares, protestants et catholiques en Quercy. Les après-midis. 

Aug 26 - Sept 2

Finding Your Inner Artist

(in English)

Photo of Sandy Granzow Instructor: Sandy Granzow . Before Sandy studied and taught art, she worked in international communication and development on several continents, including Africa, Latin America and Asia, as well as in the U.S. She remains vitally interested in (and has written books about) world poverty and possibilities for decreasing it. At the same time, she found her artiste manqué! After a graduate degree in International Relations, she studied painting, drawing, and digital art at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington , D.C. ; the Academy of Art University in San Francisco , and the Mendocino Art Center . She is currently completing her MFA at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Sandy is passionate both about drawing and drawing out the creativity she believes resides in everyone. She is an aficionado of the spontaneous beauty of works by people who never thought they could make art.

Sandy writes, "Here is my guiding principle for this workshop: Most people have creative desires and talents that can blossom with time, thought and feeling. We start by looking at the creations of novices. Then, we'll reflect upon our own creative impulses and where they might lead . After that, we'll loosen up with some amusing art experiments. During the course we will explore abstract creations; draw the world in squares, rectangles, triangles and circles; try out 2-3 types of composition; -create art in the beautiful nearby village of St. Cirq Lapopie. ("discovered" by surrealist André Breton & now considered one of the most beautiful medieval villages in France), and learn how to take care of and encourage our inner artists. When you register for the course, you'll receive a list of materials to bring, such as brushes, paints, and stamp pads. Three hours per day is not enough for us to engage in the labor-fun-intensive activity of art-making. Thus, we'll start in the morning and continue after lunch."

Here is the tentative daily schedule:

Sept 2-9

A Taste of Southwest France

   (in French & English)

photo of E. Barbara Phillips Instructors: E. Barbara Phillips , Professor Emerita of Sociology & Urban Studies,San Francisco State University,  and local historians, artisans, producers.

Discover culinary/social history of  southwest France via visits/discussions with  farmers & artisans who continue to produce gastronomic specialities in  traditional ways, e.g., "cabecous"(small goat cheeses),  & country bread. "Cazelles" (shepherds'  drystone huts), "pigeonniers" (dovecotes) & other Quercynois architectural gems will also be visited, including the church at St. Cirq Lapopie, with an explanation of how medieval churches were sited.  Explore connections between food, f ami ly life, & national identity.

Typical schedule: 

Sun a.m.

Buy or just enjoy/experience local produce at nearby market at Limogne; talk about food & national identity after lunch; free evening (no dinner served)


 Morning:  Visit the 25,000 year-old cave paintings at Pech-Merle (not a facsimile!) ; Free afternoon after lunch; dinner at 8


After breakfast: Take a guided tour of the Michelin-starred Chateau of Cenévières. Lunch. Free afternoon. Dinner at 8.


Free day (only breakfast served at Latitude)


Visit the goats at a farm and see how goat cheese is made


After lunch:  Visit St. Cirq Lapopie, preserved medieval village, and architectural gems nearby ( cazelles, bread ovens, etc.)

Domaine Dols 1999

Pastis Quercinois

Dols' winery is a small, family  
business -- & a way of life.

Making this"pastis" requires a   long 
white linen sheet --  & great agility!

Sept 9-16

The Search for Community in 'Modern' or 'Post-Modern' Society

(in English)

Instructor: E. Barbara Phillips , Ph.D., who taught Sociology at San Francisco State University and Stanford University and who has lived in a variety of communities and communal settings. The class will consider such  questions as these: Over time, what kinds of communities have existed? Can individuals feel BOTH intimately connected to their community AND autonomous at the same time?  What roles may culture & nationality play in finding different forms of community, e.g., the French sense of f ami lyhood . Do some religious or spiritual groups (e.g., Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, drumming circles) represent contemporary attempts to find togetherness? Can globalization and a sense of community co-exist? The great German thinker, Max Weber, once wrote that we (us moderns) live in a "disenchanted garden" and "an iron cage":  if so, is a sense of community -- together with a new sense of enchantment, mystery, and shared fate-- possible and/or desirable?                      

Please note:  In loving memory of Ferne Halgren, a Latitudinale, we will offer one partial scholarship of $300 to a full-time student for a 2006 course conducted in French. Fern's indomitable spirit, optimistic savvy, and  cross-cultural curiosity will long be remembered by friends and acquaintances in the U.S. and in France. She participated at Latitude for several years, and she was a member of a Marin County, CA, group who called themselves Les Dames qui Dejeune.  Please contact  Latitude's director, E.  Barbara Phillips, for details at

What participants tell us. . . .a sampler

"There is definitely a Latitude attitude. It begins with the welcoming beauty of the place and extends through the days. Must be the terroir!" --B. J. Shabel, New Hampshire

"This [Latitude and the surrounding countryside] is like living in a postcard-- only better -- because it's real!" --  David Rubsamen, Oakland , CA

. .. we had never heard of the Lot ...we did not expect such charm and beauty-- it was staggering.... We enjoyed every moment, from our arrival  to Latitude's swimming pool... the fun of seeing the River Lot ... Pech Merle's 20,000+ year-old paintings, the market at Limogne...the Fete de la Musique with Michel Griffin singing his own songs and playing the guitar. It all added up to a great time for us!" -- Basil and Reina Powell, South Africa

"I just have one question about the mill.... how do you get anyone to leave it? [Our response: "Counseling!"] Thanks for the wonderful week!"
Joan Levinson , Bay Area

photo of guests at lunch in the 'hangar',summer 2002 Left:  Instructor  & chef/ owner of Liaison Bistro in Berkeley , CA ,  Todd Kniess (on right hand side) & participants  say "Bon Appetit" before eating the lunch they made under Todd's supervision. Right: Instructor Renée Morel (in red dress) with some participants in her Art History course during a poolside coffee/tea break.

"Latitude has truly expanded our horizons. . . a stimulating combination of French culture, language, and most of all, les gens français. A MUST for francophiles."  --- "Nicole" (Neil )and Eugene Barth , Bay Area  (two-time participants)

"Gorgeous surroundings, warm and companiable people, great cooking, a terrific writing class--what more could anyone ask for?" -- Liz Bedell , New York

"What a gorgeous setting! What great food! I'd like to stay here forever!! I know I'll be back!!" -- Marquille Randall, Orange County, CA

"Who knew this was a lapideria? What incredible butterflies! And the hummingbird bug! Wow!" -- Karen O'Rourke, Oakland, CA

"... a superb setting with complimentary accoutrements that Latitude and nature designed...  Sorry that the others in my class [Paleolithic Art/Consciousness, July, 2005]  did not have the experience at Latitude of seeing:   a) A Cave Bear running down the road, b) A Neanderthal peeking over the gate in the stone wall, and  c) a Mastadon having a sip of water from Latitude's pool. "-- Dr. James Turner, San Francisco

"After a week of living in a [former] tobacco hangar with stone and rock, ancient and beyond ancient, and the fat, slow meander of a river...lively chat at meals...medieval ghosts mingling with Cro-Magnon brush strokes.. hot sunshine carrying the scent of cut grain and lavender, I am reluctant to pack my suitcase. Would anyone notice if I remained in my room and didn't catch the train to Paris? I wouldn't be much trouble. Promise."--
Sandra Choate, San Francisco

"I shall remember this lovely place as where I first put my more inner thoughts on paper. Quite an experience. The setting is marvelous, the food scrumptious, the rooms enchanting." --Marle Hewett, CDR, USN, Retired

"Dental floss and poetry will change your life! What a wonderful week at Latitude!" -- the Writing Class, June 25- July 2,2005

"The mill is wonderful and interesting and I covet it! Great food. Beautiful area."   --Eric Menninga, Seattle , WA

"Hearts and flowers... vin et food... what a  wonderful place to relax and enjoy. Although I have spent time in France before, I never saw THE REAL FRANCE   and the wonderful people that I was able to meet and enjoy this time, thanks to Latitude.  Vive la France ! Vive le Lot! Vive Latitude!"
-- Jim Scott, northern

". . . a pleasure to pass some time Latituding"[after an evening jam session at Latitude] -- -- Mike and Françoise Griffin, Pasturat ( Lot )

"I am so sorry to leave Latitude after a wonderful, happy week of fun, beauty, relaxing, and marvelous food.  I'll never be the same-- and hope to return again and again!" -- Marian Forman , San Francisco

" Quelle agréable surprise! C'est un Américain qui nous fait découvrir notre Paris ."(after Leonard Pitt's talk on Baron Haussman's redo of Paris )
   -- Emile Andissac, La Toulzanie

"Crossing the magical footbridge with the moon reflected in the river [ Lot ] below, I was transported to another time, another place. The moulin is a perfect setting for these informal, stimulating salons on all sorts of fascinating subjects. Chapeau for providing these visual & intellectual gifts."
-- Ferne Halgren,
Corte Madera , CA

"Lotoise d'adoption, j'ai enrichi mes connaissances sur la région merci de votre soirée[ d'histoire locale]." -- Suzanne Bru, St Martin Labouval ( Lot )

"It is clear that the climate -- intellectual and environmental -- at this particular Latitude is ideal for human growth and development.  A sojourn at this Latitude should be obligatory for all who work at the United Nations--not just one idealist who's working on disarmament."     -- Randy Rydell , UN Dept. for Disarmament Affairs, New York City

"I cannot imagine a more exquisite setting than Latitude on the Lot River . . . thank you for the terrific experience at Latitude. Iam raving all around about the beauty of the Latitude site and the genius in locating on that curve of the river, with that exquisite view." --  Joan (and Marty) Rosen, Kentfield , CA

"This week marks the second 'trip of a lifetime' for me. The first was China . Both gave me a chance to observe how people live. Both were totally new experiences. I appreciated my time at Latitude so!" -- Natalie Goldberg , New York City

"Meeting the French in their homes and at their work was so special. . .  I enjoyed my walks in nearby townsand found a wonderful hike through the woods connecting Limgone and Lugagnac--just follow the signs at Limogne and the Dolmens and keep hiking!"   -- Carol Watson , San Francisco , CA

"I loved my stay at Latitude."-- Alice Rudebusch Racine , WI

"We adored the visit to the goat farm, viewing the mother goats in their straw-covered quarters as a " chambre goat."-- Mary and Tex Kimball", Texas

"Un cours excellent (grâce à Renée Morel), la bonne compagnie, la bonne cuisine, le vin copieux, un endroit incroyablement beau. Merci bien de votre hospitalité gracieuse."   -- Arleen Glenn , Northern California

"Cette visite à Latitude a été une introduction au Paradis!" -- Ricardo del Villar ( éleve de Renée Morel), Texas

"There are no words to describe this place. I had a wonderful time." -- Giselle Barroso, Mi ami

"A magical week!"   -- Barbara Andrews , Princeton , NJ /span>

"Tout est 'luxe, calme, et volupté.' "   -- Anne Norris , Nice

"The class, the setting, and the camaraderie were truly memorable.Thanks."    --- Mike Jones, San Francisco

". . . un cadre pittoresque et saisissant"   -- Veronique de Cadoguere, Cajarc ( Lot )

"Our professor [Renée Morel] was perfect--five times-- I hope she returns so I can take another class --any class--with her."   --Mme.Yves Jolly, Larnagol ( Lot )   Editor's note: You've got your wish! Professor Morel returns in July, 2006!

"Un moulin, le rêve, et quel Moulin! Magnifique !"   -- Michel Prayssac, Chateau de Camboulan ( Aveyron)

"I enjoyed the stimulating lectures and discussions, the conviviality among guests and La Toulzanie residents, the picture-postcard scenery, and the immersion into the slow-paced world of yesterday. Wonderful. Wonderful. I shall return."   --- Susan Hoehn , New York City (and she did! two-time participant)

"Parmi ces beautés architecturales, c'est d'un accueil chaleureux que je me souviendrai."   ---Alex (et Pauline) Rubio, Paris

Latitude is a real treasure! You have a beautiful place in one of the most picturesque settings that we have seen in France . We could happily spend weeks in this idyllic spot. What a special place!" -- Rick Wojcik and Susan Feldman, Bellevue, WA

"Thank you -- and nature -- for a perfect vacation . . . . How can you beat low-key learning in the mornings, hiking & biking in the afternoons, freshly-picked melons & haricots verts anytime, the starriest skies I've ever seen, & a lot of laughter with new friends? (This is a rhetorical question!)" -- Harry Melone, Washington, D.C.

"Hats off! Chapeau! Latitude's a super place, and my French really improved.  I appreciate not only your willingness to provide meatless meals but your talent at making them such taste treats." -- Duncan Campbell, London

Goto Latitude Home Page