Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Way Markers

It seems that everyone who walks the chemin is an artist!. Lucie and I walked about a half hour before we turned and retraced our steps back to the car. In this brief time, we saw many examples of these artists at work.
I think I'm going to have to brush up on my wood arranging, rock stacking and shell gluing skills before I walk the Way!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rambling on the GR 65

As much as I love Paris, Provence, and exploring picturesque medieval villages, my heart really sings when I can ramble along a well-marked trail through meadows and forests. My guess is when you think of France, you don't necessarily think of wide open spaces, hiking and views like this. Neither did I until I moved here. Lucie and I found the GR 65 (which is also the chemin to Santiago de Compostelle) some weeks ago. Yesterday I decided to return and give my wonky knee a test run to see if it's ready yet for pilgrimage.

The chemin is marked by scallop shells
Sometimes the way enters private property. It's okay to enter the gate; just be sure to close it securely behind you! The woods were cool and refreshing after trekking in the hot sun.
This part of the path was also marked with these cute drawings. This one says roughly "it's not the destination, it's only the path."
"It's going well for you?"
"Super! I've found great spirit!
Some of the bushes and trees along the way were identified with signs.The sign for this one said 'chevre-feuille,' or honeysuckle
I couldn't resist photographing this sign! Who knew there was a Ste. Lucie? And she even spells her name right!

Tomorrow I'll share some other 'way markers' we found on our hike.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Gardens and More

I spent a delightful two hours Sunday afternoon exploring some new places in one of my favorite villages...St. Cirq Lapopie. Officially designated one of the plus beaux villages (most beautiful villages) in France, St. Cirq is full of artisan shops, tiny picturesque ruelles, and lovely restaurants. I usually pay a visit to its fortified church and climb up to the ruined Chateau at the top of the village. This trip, though, was a bit different. It was organized jointly by the Maison des Art Georges Pompidou in Cajarc (it's a center for contemporary art that sponsors internships for artists in St. Cirq) and the Parc Naturel Regional des Causses du Quercy (the association that runs the national parkland here). It was a guided tour through the gardens of  Maison Daura, former home of painter, Pierre Daura, a talk by the garden specialist whose project it is to restore the garden and terrace at the Musee Joseph Rignault, and historical commentary by our tour guide. While I didn't understand a lot of the French, my friends Ankie and Jean filled in the gaps for me
We accessed the museum via a back path that wandered through a small meadow with stunning views of the valley below.

While our guide spoke to us about both the medieval history of the village and the artists of the 20th century who lived and worked here, like Daura, Andre Breton, Rignault, and ManRay, she was able to show us examples of their work on her iPad...oh, the wonders of modern technology!
This is the paysagist explaining to us how he will restore this medieval garden and terrace and imbue it with a sense of imagination that will complement the avant garde and modern artists who worked here. It's a trick the French pull off very well...think of the I.M.Pei pyramid in the courtyard of the I'm eager to return when the project's complete to see how he manages!
Our tour ended here at here at the maison de la Fourdonne, another museum and visitor center for the village. More lovely views up the valley of the Lot and...
into the soul of the village. I've uploaded a public folder to Facebook with some photos of the beautiful garden elements we were able to see. Click here to view it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Prolific Poppies

While the irises in my garden are fading away, wild poppies are prolific all along the roads where Lucie and I walk every day. They are so cheery! This is a new time of year for me in France. Last year by this time, I was back in the States, getting ready to spend the summer in northern Wisconsin working at Red Pine Camp. I'm excited about spending this summer here in my new home. Already the calendar is beginning to fill up with fun things: brocantes, town celebrations, village fetes, aperos, music, art exhibits, and more. Sounds like it will be a busy summer!
I keep trying for the quintessential poppy picture! Do you have a favorite?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Muddy River

It's raining again and has been on and off since Saturday evening. This is the color our normally deep green river turns after a few days of rain. I'm ready for sunshine, blue skies and a green river. And my lawn is more than ready for mowing!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On the Way Home

You always have to keep alert when you drive around the French countryside. Otherwise, you might miss sights like this...a castle sitting on the top of a hill! This is the Chateau at Cornusson, a tiny village between the Abbaye de Beaulieu and Parisot. Blink and you miss the whole village. I saw only a handful of houses, a restaurant, and the Chateau. Braking quickly, I pulled into a parking area next to the church to take this photo. And yes, I did find a road up to the Chateau, but actually couldn't even get close enough to see if anyone lives there. This is its best view. Sleuthing on Google reveals only that the Chateau was built in the 15th-16th centuries. If you're interested in old photos, click here for several black and white images of the Chateau taken around 1900. You can actually see more of it since the trees haven't overgrown it yet and the photographer had access to some of the interior grounds.
The church where I parked, L'eglise Saint-Pierre de la Vernede, is a new addition to the village being built in 1883. It was locked when I visited, but if you're interested in what it looks like inside, click here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Center for Contemporary Art

Is this what you expected to see inside yesterday's Cistercian monastery? Me, neither! In 1959, the abandoned  monastery was purchased by Pierre Brache and Genevieve Bonnefoi who began restoration on it in 1960. In 1973, the restored building and the couple's collection of contemporary art were given to the State, the Centre des monuments nationaux, and became a center for contemporary art. There is a permanent collection housed in what used to be the lay brothers' dormitory; the church itself holds traveling exhibits. This one is a collection of fabulous papier-mache gargoyles.
I've never been a huge gargolye fan. In fact, I think the ones on the Notre Dame in Paris are a bit scary-looking. But these guys were so charming and fun, I couldn't help chuckling as I looked at each one perched on the high walls of the church. Like this one who is made from...
crossword puzzles.
How about this fantastical sea monster made with maps of the world with mostly the oceans showing? Makes him look blue.
This monster's slightly green cast comes from the topo maps he's made with..
I think this skinny Asiatic dragon was my favorite, though. He's constructed using...
Chinese newspapers. Clever, eh?
Don't forget to wave as you leave!

I've posted these photos and few others of the gargoyles on my Facebook page.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Beaulieu Abbey

I seem to be drawn to Cistercian monasteries. This one, L'Abbaye de Beaulieu-en-Rouergue, sits nestled in a secluded, remote valley in the Tarn-et-Garonne. The Abbey was built in 1144, destroyed during the Albigensian crusade in the early 1200's and re-built in 1275. Only to be destroyed again during the Wars of Religion in the 16th century. It began to dwindle in the 17th and was deconsecrated and sold as farm property in 1791 as the French Revolution raged. It's had a hard life!
But the site met all the requirements for the Cistercian monks who built it. Situated on the Seye River, it had water access as well as enough land surrounding it to support the monks who lived here The site is far enough off the beaten path that the monks could live, work and pray in their ordered silence. It's located 11 km from the market town on Caylus and 7 km from Parisot, a smaller village to the north. Not far by today's driving standards, but a substantial distance by foot or ox cart during the Middle Ages. Yet, both were close enough for the monks to make trips to sell their products and buy necessities.
As is typical of Cistercian monasteries, it does not have a large, impressive entrance. The public was not invited to worship here; services were exclusively for the the ordained monks and lay brothers. And even the lay brothers were kept segregated from the 'real' monks.
Want to see inside? I'll show you what it looks like tomorrow. I think you'll be surprised!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fidler Souvenir

You may remember a post I did a couple of weeks ago about the vernissage I attended during my trip to Provence. While I couldn't afford one of Eugene Fidler's drawings, I did buy a signed poster print and a beautiful book of his paintings. Yesterday I picked up my now-framed poster from the frame store in Figeac and hung it on my wall. I'm very pleased with it. I had originally thought to frame it in black, but the woman who does the framing suggested red. Once I saw the red frame, none of the other colors we tried were right, so red it is!

The book is primarily about Fidler's paintings, but some other examples of his art are included such as his ceramics, drawings and collages. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Here's the Wikipedia link in English if you're interested in knowing more about Eugene Fidler: 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New Animal Act at the Circus

There was a new animal act at the Cajarc circus this morning when I walked by on my way to the post office.
He posed very nicely to have his picture taken.