Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Mechoui...defined by Larousse as a whole roast sheep. I define it as a good reason to spend another evening having a darned good time! Sunday night...7pm...the village begins to gather once again. We stake out our places at the long tables, and everyone gets a cup of wine. The guy mic'd up with the guitar begins to sing and play. The sun slowly arcs its way west and as we wait for dinner, the lights come on...
Here's the thing about dining with the French. You can never be in a rush to eat. It's more about enjoying the company, sipping on a little wine or other aperitif, and listening to the music. When the meal did begin, we started with a country onion soup, followed by big chunks of meat and a simple lettuce salad. There was eventually a cheese course and some ice cream for dessert.And as always, bottomless wine bottles and overflowing baskets of sliced baguettes. And as we ate and then finished, the guy with the guitar sang and sang and sang...almost 4 straight hours without a break! He was fabulous! As the crowd loosened up and began singing along, he roamed through the tables, singing from both benches and table tops. Lots of French songs that everyone knew the words to and some covers of songs that even I knew and could sing along in English. The crowd sang and clapped and eventually danced. The little kids started it out...they simply could not sit still when there was music to dance to. Soon they were joined by their mamans and a few papas, then women dancing without partners, the guys at the bar dancing with themselves, and finally couples. I can't remember when I've had more fun! I've put together a brief video of our musician. It really doesn't do him justice; he was quite an entertainer. The young man who he is singing to in the first part is Jean's grand-nephew, Grant, who is English and didn't understand a word he was singing....
And I leave you with a lovely bit of Jean dancing with Alain...such a nice way to end the evening.
I think I can safely make the generalization after living here almost a year that the French rarely celebrate without music, singing and dancing. I LOVE this place!
Monday, July 30, 2012
Sunday, July 29, 2012
|Cadrieu cup sellers...|
Saturday, July 28, 2012
The day that Lucie and I explored the fortified church in St-Pierre-Toirac, we also wandered around the village a bit. Looking at the huge cracks in this pigeonnier, I wondered whether it was safe to go inside. But being an intrepid explorer, I couldn't resist. I was rewarded with lots of pigeon poop and this shot of a few nesting baskets hung high on the walls...
a pretty green gate....
and a pot of basil...
I think the most intriguing thing we found, though, was this very old road leading from the pigeonnier to a small meadow a few hundred meters up the causse....
What you can't see in the photo is that the road is lined on each side with a low, dry stone wall that is almost completely covered by dirt, vines and bushes. You can see that the road is only wide enough for a wagon pulled by one horse or ox. It would be fun to know the history...just how old is it and where did it go? Mysteries to solve another day!
Thursday, July 26, 2012
But here is my reward! The sunflower fields along the Lot are in full bloom. They cheered me on the way to Cahors and were my reward for doing the dreaded deed on my way home. Couldn't resist stopping and taking a couple of photos. Let's hope their sunny faces also shine on my renewal papers!
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
I love hats! And aren't these two adorable? That's Greg and Therese at the village bar d'ete (summer bar) last Sunday. Unfortunately, I look awful in hats. I think my head is too big or something. But maybe I'll have to try one like Greg's, because I do love hats. And I also love a village that serves free hard liquor at noon on a Sunday! Only in France.
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Friday, July 20, 2012
You can see remnants of other gates as you walk though the village.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
The long, vertical lines you see here are actually narrow openings into the keep. Constructed to give archers many different angles of fire, they are also tall enough for three or four archers to shoot, one above the other. Each level of the keep can be sealed off from the lower level, thus enabling them to be defended separately
|115 steps later: the opening at the top!|
|The village of Najac|
|Overlooking the village church and cemetery|
|Looking down on the Aveyron River far below|
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Richard the Lionheart signed a treaty of alliance with Alphonse of Aragon, strengthening his hold over all of Aquitaine. I hadn't realized until I began reading about the area that Richard spent most all his life here in France and actually couldn't speak English...he spoke the ancient langue d'oc and is reported to have disliked England as it was 'cold and rainy.'
This open area inside the thick walls was designed to hold up to 300 people in times of siege. Various partially restored rooms open into it. In one area the wall has been opened up to allow a view of a multiple story cylindrical room built inside the wall. At the bottom is the dungeon where prisoners including some Knights Templar were held.
There's more to see, so come back!
Monday, July 16, 2012
Sunday, July 15, 2012
|Dazzling dahlias, leaves as big as dinner plates, a bamboo forest....|
|Neat & tidy rows, gardener's bike, a French scarecrow, an orange gardener....|
Friday, July 13, 2012
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Hundred Year's War (between the French and English) and the Wars of Religion (between Catholic and Protestant factions). In style, the church is a unique blend of both the old Romanesque style and the emerging Gothic style of church architecture.
|Gothic ribbed vault, a type of barrel vaulting|
|Romanesque columns and carved capitals.|
Saint Roch is a popular saint in this part of France...probably because he was a 'local boy.' Born c. 1348 in Montpellier, France, Saint Roch nursed victims of the plague in Italy before dying in prison, accused of being a spy. He is typically shown in pilgrim garb, displaying a plague lesion on his thigh. He is invoked to cure the plague,cholera and other epidemics, and to cure skin diseases. He's also the patron saint of dogs.
I've already shared the mystery of the tiny door outside the church which I can find no evidence of opening into the interior. The church body is in the shape of a very tall tower that appears to be open at the top. This was part of the addition to fortify the structure. In other fortified churches, this open area was large enough to hold the entire village if necessary. I can find no access to this tower. Has the opening been filled in? Is there a stairway hidden someplace? There also appears to be an addition on the south side of the church (see photo below) built in 1827. Why was this built when there was already an entrance to the church? I'd also like to find out if the church was ever used as a fort or safe haven for the villagers especially since my reading revealed that in the 1370's, major battles were fought in both Figeac, a few kms upriver, and also in Balaguier d'Olt, directly across the river from St. Pierre-Toirac. The invaders, called routiers, were supported by neither England nor France. A peace treaty signed in 1360 put hundreds of professional soldiers out of work. These soldiers banded together to form companies that pillaged, murdered and over-ran vulnerable towns and villages, setting up their own war garrisons in the process. Did they cross over into 'our' side of the Lot as they marauded? Lots of mysteries and questions to answer!
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Eglise." Even as I walked through the arch and into a warren of ruelles and old stone houses, I still couldn't see anything resembling a church until I reached the very end of the rue.