Thursday, November 29, 2012

From the Archives

When I was in Iowa this past September packing up my household goods, I grabbed my photo CDs from all my previous trips to France. I thought it might be fun to do an occasional look back into the archives. So here's one of my first photos ever of Notre Dame. I love this view from the back where you can really see the flying buttresses. Amazing feat of architecture! I thought it might also be fun to link you back to a blog post from my previous blog, Musings from Red Bell Farm since many of my posts about Paris and Provence started there.

Funny...when I pulled up my old blog to find a link, I noticed that the banner photo is the one I took of wisteria on my very first time in Goult. The banner photo on this current blog is of that same house, draped with a gorgeous wisteria vine!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Wasn't Kidding

In yesterday's post, I mentioned that horsemeat and donkey meat are food products in France. I wasn't kidding. We stopped at the small Sunday morning market in Castelnau Montratier before going to our lunch with the donkeys.. There in the sausage vendor's display was donkey ('ane') sausage. I have no objection to eating either horse or donkey meat; I might even be persuaded to try it myself sometime. It was just a bit unsettling, though, to see it right before we had a date to dine with donkeys who had only just narrowly escaped this fate!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Save the Donkeys!

I dined with donkeys yesterday! Sort of. I actually had lunch at a small farm deep in the Tarn-et-Garonne. The mission of this farm and its owner, Jan, is to rescue donkeys. The donkeys come from  situations of abuse and neglect. from owners who, for whatever reason,  are unable to care for them anymore, and from butchers. As you may know, horsemeat (and apparently donkey meat as well) are consumed as human food products in France. If a donkey comes in for slaughter and has any kind of infection, it is unsuitable, and Jan receives a phone call to come and take it. Yesterday there were 23 donkeys under her care; she had just re-homed 4 others. Regular lunches are a way of fundraising. Although Jan receives some help from the the Brigitte Bardot Foundation to help defray costs, caring for these sick, neglected and abused animals is very expensive.  Before lunch, she introduced to each of her charges. They are sweet and friendly. It is beyond my comprehension how anyone could abuse them.

Sixteen of us gathered in Jan's warm and rustic kitchen/dining room. A fire blazed in the woodstove...a welcome warmth on the cold, drizzly day. France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland, Canada, America and Holland were represented 'round the tables. Conversation was lively, the company was convivial, and the food was fabulous! For 10 euros we feasted on sweet butternut squash soup, bread, paella, chicken, salad, a wonderful cheese platter, two different kinds of pie for dessert plus all the wine, water or juice we wanted. No one left the table hungry!

Hats off to the cooks!
Meet the donkeys!

If you're interested in more information about Jan's efforts to rescue and rehabilitate donkeys, please click on Liberte des Anes.

Friday, November 23, 2012

To Make Bread....

Weathervane, Promilhanes November 2012
Yesterday afternoon in French class (yes, while you were eating your turkey dinner, I was embarrassing myself with poorly-chosen  prepositions!) Eddy talked about the bread-making preparations for the upcoming Telethon. The men in charge will gather at Suzanne Dupont's next Friday to fire up the huge outdoor bread oven. By Saturday morning, it will be the right temperature to bake 140 boules of bread. It takes a truckload of wood, many hours and a lot of standing around gossiping to complete the bread which will be sold next Saturday night as part of the fundraising event. I'm thinking I might crash the party and take a few photos of this time-honored tradition of men baking bread.

PS....I wonder if there will be a cat keeping warm under the oven??

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Universal Children's Day

Thanks to, I know that today is Universal Children's Day. In 1954 the United Nations General Assembly asked the nations of the world to observe their Declarations of the Rights of the ChildMillennium Development Goals for all humankind set in 2000 by the world's leaders address children's rights in the areas of poverty, education and prevention of HIV/AIDS. Not all the world's children are as lucky as my beautiful grandchildren who live comfortably, in safety, with parents who adore them (grandparents, too!). They have enough to eat, they're warm and protected, and they can aspire to do or be anything they want. Every child in the world should have these basic needs met as well as be allowed these same opportunities!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Le Moulin: An Unexpected Pleasure

Seeing a windmill on our walk around Promilhanes Wednesday afternoon was not a surprise. It's on the map and there are several signs directing you to it. The unexpected pleasure was how truly beautiful it is. It's been cared for and restored. On special occasions, its graceful arms still turn. And I loved the graphic quality of its construction and its shadows.
I was pretty excited to meet its gatekeeper as well!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Secret Garden

Maggie timed inviting her friend, Sue, and me for a walk around the Promilhanes area just right. Yesterday afternoon's clear skies and warm temperatures made our almost 6 km stroll through the countryside absolutely delightful. We walked on little-used roads, chatting and enjoying the beautiful weather and each other's company. Maggie promised us a surprise, and as we turned off the paved road onto a gravel lane through the trees, I never imagined this is what we'd find....a sculpture garden tucked into a cleared area in the forest! There a fenced 'garden' containing several metal sculptures carefully mounted and displayed. Each had a title.

There were no houses anywhere near the garden, but Maggie is pretty sure she knows who the sculptor is and where he lives. Completely fenced with a locked gate, the garden is also surrounded by numerous signs warning 'propriete privee' (private property) and 'entree interdite' (entry forbidden). Like good law-abiding citizens, we stayed on our side of the fence and took photos as best we couldd. It was so tempting, though, to try and sneak in! Maybe someday Maggie will muster the courage to knock on the artist's door and ask if we could have a private tour.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bonus Post: Rodin

Good ole! I love that it reminds me of important Auguste Rodin's birthday. Born on this date in 1840, Rodin is considered the father of modern sculpture. I dug through my photo archives and found this one of 'The Thinker' that I took on my very first trip to Paris in 2005. Rodin and his mistress, Camille Claudel, are two of my friend, Marie's favorites so a visit to the Musee Rodin was at the top of our 'to do' list. As we strolled through this lovely house showcasing Rodin's creations, we played our game of 'if you had all the money in the world, which piece of art would you buy?'  There were a few of Camille's pieces on display (the rest were 'traveling' and on display in another country) While Rodin's works were beautiful, my favorites were actually Camille's. I would buy one of hers, I think. They seemed more organic and real to me, dare I say....more tortured?? Much like she was at the end of her life.

Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos of the few pieces of Camille's work on display. I was more intrigued then by Rodin's work. I'd never been a big fan of sculpture until that first trip to Paris. I'm convinced that sculpture is something best appreciated in person. Photos do not do it justice.

If you're interested in more about Camille, try this 1988 film about her life starring Isabelle Adjani and Gerard Depardieu

Fall Color

Taken 10 November along the D24 between Limogne and Vidaillac
The fall colors were stunning Saturday morning when I drove to Parisot. The trees on the causse are at their peak although all the red vines were stripped of their leaves by last month's strong winds. I feel very lucky this year; I've had three months of fall color....September and October in Iowa and Nevada and now November here. You can't get too much fall in my opinion!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Book Launch

Yesterday "Foreign Encounters," the third annual anthology of short stories and poetry published by Writers Abroad, was formally 'launched' at the Parisot Mediatheque. About 20 people attended to hear about Writers Abroad, the publishing of this year's anthology, and listen to some short readings from the book.
Vanessa Couchman, blogger at 'Life on La Lune', spoke about Writers Abroad which is a virtual community of writers from all over the world who meet in cyberspace to support and critique each other's writing. Of 231 submissions, 95 were chosen for this year's anthology. Mine was one of those! All the work of gathering submissions, choosing, editing and publishing was done online. The anthology can be purchased here at Lulu in dollars, pounds or euros. Any profit made from sales of the book go to Books Abroad, a UK based charity that provides recycled books for school children in developing countries.
After the presentations, the crowd lingered over aperitifs. Vanessa sold all her copies of "Foreign Encounters." I'd say the folks liked what they heard! Thanks for the Parisot Library for hosting this fun event.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Different Perspective

Yesterday Lucie and I saw our river from a different perspective. Creatures of habit that we are, we usually walk upriver when we stroll the banks of the Lot in Cajarc. Yesterday, though, we decided to explore downriver. It's much the same with stone houses overlooking the water interspersed with small potagers, large colorful plane trees, and a few weeping willows.

One of the first things we noticed was evidence of pilgrims passing this way.
Then I spied this fruit-laden tree in the distance. The fruit looked like big oranges, but I think they may be persimmons...I couldn't get close enough to tell. Somebody needs to do some picking!
Same river, different view. It's always good to see things from a new perspective.

**A note about the first photo. It's been manipulated in my Picasa software. I like the almost oil painting quality of the image. What do you think about it?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Paul Abadie

The things you learn when you open up your Google homepage! Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Paul Abadie whose major claim to architectural fame is the design of the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. While this famous Paris landmark is very lovely, it's not one of my fav's. It's a bit too ornate for my taste; I'm more into the simple lines of early Romanesque architecture.

It is hauntingly beautiful at night, though.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

View From My Window: Election 2012

I've purposefully avoided politics on my blog this past year. What I witnessed during my three weeks in the States...non-stop political ads and commentary...and on Facebook...more political cleverness... convince me that I was right to keep my two cents worth to myself. I couldn't compete with the eloquence of some voices: I didn't want to compete with the negativity and strident tones of others. I  logged onto the internet with some trepidation this morning, but was thrilled to see that my guy won! So, here's my political opinion: YAY!

That being the hard work begins. I think Abraham Lincoln said it best in his Gettysburg Address. We have a 'government of the people, by the people, for the people...'  'Of the people' means we get to choose; that's democracy in action. 'By the people' means we all have a responsibility to do the work of government. 'For the people' means that government is responsible for, poor, black, white, gay, straight...everyone. Last night in his victory speech, President Obama said this again, eloquently. I'd recommend that everyone--Democrat or Republican--listen to him share his vision of America. I listened to it here on CNN. This is the vision our country was founded on and the vision I hold for its future. We've elected the right leader to move America towards its vision. Now it's up to rest of us to help him do the work to get us there.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Wet Stone

I live surrounded by stone--stone houses, stone walls, limestone cliffs, the rocky causse. It rained last night; everything is dripping this morning, and the air is heavy with the fragrance of wet stone. It's a sharp, metallic smell, distinctive, mossy, gunmetal gray with a tinge of green--just enough to let you know it's alive, this stone. The smell holds hints of prehistory men, gallo-Roman traders, Knights Templar returned from crusade, peasants and oxen toiling to fill the coffers of an absentee lord. There are whiffs of the Hundred Year's War, as well as the Wars of Religion fought here. Pilgrims and priests, rivermen and Resistance fighters all put down undertones that support the top notes of family, food, and good wine. I breathe deeply taking in all the wet stone offers my soul. This smell, this fragrance will always remind me of this place---my home in France. Surrounded by stone, wet and dripping with the lives and events of its past.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gateau Basque*

You may remember this photo from a previous blog post I did about our stay in Bidarray, deep in Basque country. It's a photo of the sweet little patisserie where I had my first taste of gateau Basque ( Basque cake*) Cake is rather a misnomer for those of us from the States who think of cake being light, fluffy layers separated and topped by thick, luscious frosting This cake is more of a pastry. with a short crust pastry spread with a layer of thick dessert cream, topped by another layer of short crust pastry.  The flavor is subtle with hints of almond, vanilla, and lemon. I had a bite here of one with cherries in the cream and have also seen a recipe that calls for rum. Since I'm not particularly fond of either cherries or rum, my choice is the traditionally flavored one.

Yesterday I decided it was time to try my hand at making this yummy treat. I bought a little book of Basque recipes in Espelette that included a recipe for gateau Basque, but thought since this was my first attempt at the cake, I had better find a recipe in English. I went online and picked this one. I couldn't find almond flour at my grocery store, but they did have powdered almonds, so I used that. Maybe it's the same thing?? It was a bit of work especially since I'm not very adept at rolling out dough. I don't even have a rolling pin, but hey, a wine bottle works fine, and I have plenty of those! The result was wonderful. Actually, it still is wonderful...I have enough to share. Won't you come for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake? You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jet Contrails

My copy of Foreign Encounters arrived yesterday. After I ripped open the packaging, the first thing I did was  check the Table of Contents...yes, there was my story, 'Jet Contrails', listed on page 113. I flipped to that page, read the two-line bio I submitted about myself, and promptly closed the book. No way could I read what I had written! That's weird, I know. Why not? I haven't a clue except that it feels very strange to have something I've written in print for all the world to read. I'll get over it, I'm sure. In the meantime, I read the bio's of all the other authors; what an interesting group of people! I could read a book just about them and their lives.