Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sete


It's been a busy week as I've had a friend visiting from Ireland. One of the things on her 'to do' list was a trip to the Mediterranean, specifically to Sete. When she left Dublin the day before, it was bucketing rain and so cold she could see her breath when she exhaled , so even though the water was a bit cool, the air in Sete was balmy and in she went! Braver than me, I have to say. I sat on the beach and took pictures.

I think this young man was digging to China

Sete wraps around and up Mont St. Clair. The views from the top are panoramic. To the right is the Bassin de Thau, an enclosed salt water lake...
You can see where the traps are placed for oyster and mussel farming in the bassin
The bassin is on the right and the Mediterranean on the left of the long, narrow isthmus that connects Sete with Marseillan. The beach we visited is on the strip of sand along the Med...very nice, clean and full of beautiful shells
While Sete is more a working fishing port than a charming seaside resort area, it's definitely worth a return visit. Maybe next time I'll actually dip my toes into the water!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Horse Barn

Notice anything unusual about this lovely stone structure on the outskirts of St. Pierre Toirac?
Look a little closer...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Meeting of the Minds



Lucie and I frequently meet our friends, Greg and Megan, when we walk each morning. Here we've met on the road outside Laury's house, and she snapped our picture through her open window. I'm sure we were discussing important things like world peace. Or maybe we were just gossiping about who in the village is on vacation and where they've gone?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Assier

Market hall
You might think that I only take photos of old churches here in France. Not true! While churches are usually the most interesting buildings in these medieval villages, there are sometimes other things that catch my eye. Like this 19th century market place in Assier. It was built in 1884 for the weekly sale of cereal grains, apples, chestnuts and other nuts. Farmers raising those crops now deal directly with large companies. The current weekly market here is much like those in other villages offering fresh produce, cheeses, charcuterie, etc. Sheep are the main livestock raised locally, and the village boasts of a sheep market held in its industrial area where 1000-1500 animals are sold each week.
This is the main road through the village, the D653. The village was electrified in 1932. A water system was installed in 1962; prior to that time, residents obtained their water from either wells or cisterns. Population records kept since 1793 reveal the village reached a peak population of 928 souls in 1861. Interestingly, its current population (684) is just about the same as it was in 1793! If you're interested in more village history, click on this link. Unlike most Wikipedia entries for small French villages, this entry is very complete. I wish I could learn as much about every village I visit.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Church of St. Peter or Galiot?

Church of St. Peter
Assier France
During a recent snail expedition (a story for another time), Ankie and I drove through the village of Assier. Located about 25 minutes northeast of Cadrieu, it's a well-laid out and attractive village of about 680 people. Its church is dedicated to St. Peter, but is actually more of a shrine to Assier's most famous son, Jacques Richard Genouillace called Galiot de Genouillac. Galiot de Genouillac served four different French kings, but is most noted for his service to Francois I. He was the King's armourer, supplying all the armaments for the Kings' army. Francois attributed his victory at Marignan in 1515 to Galiot who was well-rewarded (as most arms'dealers are). He amassed a great fortune...and a great ego! A brief exploration of the exterior of the village church proves this point.
If you examine the tympanum over the church doors, you can see Galiot's insignia being offered to the Virgin. The keystones bear his coat of arms. The angels on the door carry messages the read "Long Live Galiot!' If you look carefully at the first photo, you can detect a line going around the entire church at about the height of the doors. Looking more closely, you'll see this is no ordinary religious frieze full of saints and holy figures...
The entire frieze depicts the glories of Galiot...battles
swords supplied by Galiot....
as well as cannons spewing fire and death...
with Galiot cannonballs lying ready....
and Galiot's castle being defended by...you guessed it, Galiot's cannons!

My sources tell me there are more 'odes to Galiot' inside the church, but those will have to wait for another day. The church was locked up tight when I was there. All the more reason to return.  In the meantime, though, I have a few other things from Assier to share with you in upcoming blog posts. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Smelling the Flowers



Lucie and I go for a walk almost every morning. We pretty much do the same loop around the village. She never gets bored with it...it's like every time is the first time for her. She finds something interesting to sniff even in the middle of winter when everything is dead and brown. I'm happier, though, on mornings like today when the air is cool and fresh and the sun is shining. Today we stopped to smell the flowers and thought we'd share a few with you....

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Gift of Light

Laury took me to lunch today in St.Cirq-Lapopie. We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day...warm sun, a little breeze, clear, blue sky and only a few tourists roaming the village. We ate on the terrace at Lou Bolat and enjoyed both our lunch and our view of the rooftops of St. Cirq. I didn't take my big camera as I thought I wouldn't be taking photos in the bright noonday sun. I did, however, stick my old point-and-shoot in my purse 'just in case.' When we walked into the church, I was very glad I had it with me. The holy water font was bathed in golden light from the stained glass window over the doors. What a gift!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Father and Son


I went wandering today and explored some villages about 25 minutes northeast of me. I'll share more of them in another post. As is my habit, I spent a little time in the cemetery next to the church in Issepts where I found this on one of the tombs. Father and son died within a month of one another fighting in WWI. What sadness must have descended on this village and this family.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mary in Villefranche

I haven't shared a Mary photo in awhile. I took this one in the Collegiale Notre Dame church in Villefranche. I love how her sepia tones are repeated in the stone wall behind her.

Friday, May 9, 2014

From the Archives: Vail


I have very few photos here from my life in the US. Most of them are stored on my computer that's currently in storage in MT. While looking at documents on an old jump drive, though, I found a few that I'll be sharing occasionally. This one was taken in 2009. Can you tell where I am? France, Switzerland, Germany? None of the above. I'm in Vail, Colorado spending the day with one of my dearest and oldest friends, Anne. Looks pretty international, doesn't it?
Anne in the Betty Ford Gardens
Vail, CO

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard
I'm fascinated by old things. And when really old things are really big...all I can say is "WOW!" I said that a lot when Maggie, Bill and I visited the Pont du Gard on our recent trip. This Roman aqueduct was built over a five year period beginning in 50 AD. It brought water from its source in Uzès to the Roman city of Nimes, supplying water for drinking and for the many fountains, pools and baths there. The water ran through a trough at the very top of the structure over 48 meters from the Gardon River that flows under it.
In 1743 a second bridge was built alongside the main aqueduct to allow for heavier cart and foot traffic. Maggie and I walked across this bridge to view the aqueduct from the other side and then to climb up to view the very top...
This is the trough that carried water across the span of the aqueduct. As the crow flies, the distance b etween Uzès and Nimes is 20 kilometers. The route of the aqueduct, however, was over 50 kilometers as it skirted around natural features. Its elevation drops 12 meters to ensure a flow of 35-40,000 cubic meters of water a day to Nimes' 50,000 residents. It's an amazing engineering feat!

As well as being quite a beautiful structure.

If you visit, be sure to spend some time in the wonderful museum onsite. It's included in the price of admission and is well worth an hour or so of your time. You'll be amazed to learn just how they built this huge structure.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Wine in the Gard

We couldn't have been happier with the weather by the time we reached St. Hippolyte-du-Fort. From 1 degree Centigrade on the mountaintop to a balmy 24 degrees here in the Gard, the weather definitely improved!  This cave was Maggie and Bill's reason for the trip. They stocked up on the local Lirac AOC wine here...


Maggie watching her wine flow
You can bring your own container (or buy one at the cave) for the vrac, which is an old village way of buying wine directly from the wine barrel in bulk. You can buy boxed wine and bottles as well. Maggie and Bill bought a little of everything.

Wine on board, we drove across the street and checked into our lodgings...the Auberge Cigaloise. Quiet, friendly, great food....good value for the money. And I can't complain about the view from my window either!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Weather or Not in the Cevennes

Gorges de la Jonte
Thanks to an invitation from my friends, Maggie and Bill, I got to explore a new part of France last week. They were headed to the Gard department via the Cevennes and asked if I'd like to join them. You bet! Our trip began in miserable rainy, foggy weather and with a decision to make. Should we travel via the Gorges de la Jonte, gambling that the weather would improve or take an alternate route? We gambled and won....kind of! While the skies were not blue and sunny, the Gorges de la Jonte was lovely. Not as famous as its neighbor to the north, the Gorges du Tarn, the canyon carved by the river Jonte is equally rugged and beautiful. The river is lined with tiny villages and dotted with abandoned mid-19th century factories that one time produced silk, wool and cotton textiles, and nails. This area of the Cevennes was the historic home of a large number of French Protestants (Huguenots) who were alternately persecuted and welcomed by kings and revolutionaries.

The canyon is a very popular destination for campers, climbers and bird watchers. The area economy depends of this tourism and agriculture for its existence. But as you can see from the photo below, agriculture is the result of back-breaking terracing; the steep hillsides are otherwise unusable.
Terraced hillside
The windswept views from the top of the causse were expansive. In the distance, we could see our next stop...Mont Aigoual. The view from the weather station (1567 meters) atop it was supposed to be spectacular, but the top was shrouded in clouds. This time our gamble did not pay off....
Weather station atop Mont Aigoual
Ice-encrusted wire fence
Snow, fog, a biting, ferocious wind making it difficult to even stand up, 1 degree Centigrade and ice! Maggie and I hopped out of the van long enough to snap a couple of photos and then shivered all the way down the mountainside. If you click through to the Wikipedia site about the mountain, you'll read that on a clear day you can see the Mediterranean from here. No such sweeping views for us!

At a lonely intersection of two mountain roads on Col du Pas (833 meters), we found this huge Cross of Lorraine monument to the WWII Resistance fighters who hid in this wild area. You can see a peek of blue sky behind it. Was our weather improving? or would we spend the next two days shivering in the cold and wet? You'll have to read my next blog post to find out!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Kill Your Darlings**

I'm such a visual person. I've been collecting images for my not-even-written-yet novel since I first came across the story that inspired it. It all began in the village cemetery in Goult, 2005. The main character is Camille, and the book will be the story of her life. Look closely, and you'll see her life swirls around the convent and the countryside outside Goult, Paris and WWII. There are brushes with the Resistance, the German army and the vines of the Rhone valley. Don't rush out and order your copy just yet, though. First novels range from 80-100,000 words in length. I've written a mere 5600 and of those 'darlings' probably a third will be 'killed!'

** 'In writing, you must kill your darlings,'
                                    William Faulkner

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Writing Weekend

It's been a really busy few days around here starting last weekend with a Writer's Workshop held at Richard and Anita's home in Mazerolles. Our writing group, which we've dubbed the Parisot Writer's Group..not very original, but a name that accurately describes us...hosted British author, Amanda Hodgkinson. Amanda has published two books, one of which ("22 Britannia Road") was on the New York Times bestseller list. She spent the weekend working with us as we try to become better writers. It was an intense two days, but wonderful! I think we all learned a lot and have been freshly inspired to work on our 'stuff.'
Lunching but still talking writing
Everyone brought food and drink. Anita's husband, Richard, was the perfect host, keeping the coffee pot fresh and full, heating food, scraping dishes and loading the dishwasher...many times! His work was very much appreciated!
Richard working at 'blur' speed to keep us fed!
Three of our group have actually finished novels; Vanessa's has been accepted for publication, the other two are now in the stages of re-writing and polishing. And after such an inspiring weekend, I'm ready to get on with mine!
Anita's next-door neighbor