The French are born Cartesian. We are told to repeat “je pense donc je suis” from the moment we look like a peanut in the womb and educated to ignore anything that is not hard science, except astrology since we are also sticklers for exceptions. When I arrived in Painswick on a hot day (by British standards anyway), my Cartesian side deserted me and my immediate impression was that I had been transported into a cursed fairy tale.

Don’t get me wrong, this little Gloucester town is absolutely stunning but there was no one outside, really no one, pas un chat as we say over the pond and I suddenly knew what it must feel like to be an archaeologist discovering a forgotten but intact ancient city. Painswick is nicknamed the Queen of the Cotswolds but in this instance, it looked more like Sleeping Beauty waiting to be woken up by Prince Charming and I am a frog, hence the fairy tale spin.

As I walked through the deserted streets, I couldn’t help noticing how homogeneous and harmonious Painswick looks like. Virtually all houses in the centre are built in Cotswold stone and everything looks as it would have centuries ago. I don’t know where all the inhabitants had disappeared to. They were perhaps keeping cool behind their sturdy walls (well it was almost 21° out there) or as I mentioned before, a curse had transformed them all in invisible elves and fairies.

Wandering through the streets was both a pleasurable experience and a slightly unsettling one. Everything was picture perfect in a calm before the storm kind of way. I didn’t spend a long time there, feeling as an intruder disturbing the quiet and the stillness.

Eventually Painswick has left its mark in my mind as one of the most harmonised Cotswold town I’ve seen, with every house complementing the other to offer a coordinated architectural ensemble. In my fairy tale, such a Sleeping Beauty should never be awoken as it already looks happy ever after.


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