Thursday, February 28, 2013

Good Morning, Cadrieu!

Cadrieu, France
Mornings have been cold and frosty the past few days....-4 yesterday, -2 this morning. Of course, that's centigrade, so although it's cold, it's not Montana-cold or Nevada-cold where my family lives. Still the air is crisp when Lucie and I walk. And I start off wearing a jacket, hat and gloves. I usually peel off the gloves and hat before we get home. Walking up and down hills really warms you up fast! The days are getting a bit longer. The sun peeks over the causse across the river a little before 9am now. On these clear mornings, it bathes Cadrieu in a golden glow. Wake up, Cadrieu! It's brand new day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

They Did What!?

You may remember that in my blog post, History Heaven,  I told you I had been given some pages of a translated history of this area, specifically about Cajarc. It's a treasure trove of information, and I enjoyed reading it. Well, most of it. I read something rather shocking about La Capelette, the remaining part of the chapel for the medieval leper colony located here. Let me quote from my translated history:
" In 1321, after a meeting in Toulouse of delegates from 60 leper colonies in the South West, the lepers decided to kill the Christians and steal their goods. The plot was uncovered, the lepers accused of having poisoned the fountains and violence ensued. At Cajarc, as elsewhere, the crowds burned them alive in their leper-house of which only the choir of the chapel remains."
 They did what:!?!

This is the plaque that tells about the chapel. No mention of burning people. I can see why they left that part out. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

From the Archives: The Pyramid

The I.M. Pei pyramid at the Louvre 2007
You either love it or you hate it!
I happen to love it.
I was with a group of friends a few weeks ago...four French, one Brit, and me. I was the only one who didn't hate it; the rest of them detested it!
Do you have an opinion??

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Je Chant!

I've mentioned in blog posts before how much the French love to sing. They frequently form local choral groups for the pure joy of singing together. I know of three just in my area; there may be more. Christiane asked me if I'd like to come to her group in Larnagol. I replied a hesitant 'oui,' with the qualification that I'd try, but it might be too hard for me to sing in French. She said, "Oh, don't worry...we mostly sing in English." Well....mostly in English turned out to be English, French, Bulgarian, Latin and Israeli. We even did one verse of a song in German! It was a bit of a challenge for me as only two songs actually had music to read. The rest were just the words, and I hummed along until I got the tune. It was such fun! I haven't sung in an organized group since my church choir days under the direction of the fabulous Mary Parker. I loved it.

I'm not sure, though, how much I contributed to the group. I do have a few pluses in my favor: 1) I can carry a tune most of the time. 2) I read music so I don't have to sing the melody...which is good because I'm an alto/tenor. 3) I'm direct-able. I must not have been too awful, because they said I could come back. The fact that there were only 5 of us singing might have something to do with that...any warm body will do! I wish I had a beautifully clear, strong voice. I don't...mine is a bit husky and low, but it blends well with others and hey, I provide 'filler' for the group. I'll definitely go back. Next time should be easier; I'll know the tunes and will just have to work on my pronounciation of Bulgarian!

Why the photo of the rooster? Crowing is the closest I could come to singing in my photo archives. And BTW...'je chant' means 'I sing.'

Friday, February 22, 2013


While the past few days have been clear, they haven't been particularly warm. But it still feels good to bask in the sun.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Taupe Gun

I took Lucie across the road this afternoon to let her run along the river. We like to walk's handy, and she can be off the leash...but we haven't been in the past several weeks because with the almost daily rain, it's been too wet. After a week of dry weather, though, we were ready to enjoy a walk through the grass. And there on Willy's land, we saw yet another sign of spring! The taupes (moles) have really stepped up their digging activity, and Willy is out to put a stop to it. When I googled 'taupe gun,' I found an article saying that every year in France, 20,000 people are injured trying to rid their gardens of taupes...amazing! People try poison, gas, flames, cherry bombs, anything to kill the poor things. I tried to find information about this device in English, but their website is in French. From what I can translate, though, it appears that you look for a fresh mound of dirt (indicating taupe presence), dig down into it to disturb the taupe, and then implant the gun. When the taupe touches the long wand that goes into the ground, it discharges and voila, dead taupe. For 85 euros you get the gun and 10 cartridges. Does seem a bit much to kill little animals whose only sin is to leave piles of dirt in your pretty lawn. Will you groan if I say it's 'overkill?'

Monday, February 18, 2013

Extremes of Spring

It feels like the weather pattern has begun to shift towards spring. Birds are a bit more active, and I've noticed some fresh green spears in my iris plants. Living in a river valley, though, means you never know which kind of spring morning you might get. The last few mornings have been brilliantly clear. The dawn jet contails stream hot pink across the sky.

But morning is just as likely to bring dense fog, making everything look just a little ghostly. Such are the extremes of spring along the Lot!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Lenten Love Note

Message from Parker
Travis and Becky sent me a small, spiral-bound journal for Christmas. I decided to use it for my Lenten online retreat; I can write my reflections in it and also use its unlined pages for drawing mandalas. I've written a couple of pages, and yesterday, I drew my first mandala. When I turned the page to write about it, I found this lovely surprise...a love note and drawing from my six-year old grandson, Parker! Earth, sun, sky, a dinosaur, a tree, and other things important to him. Hildegard, my Lenten mentor, found God is all things, but especially in nature. I think this fits right in with her spirituality, don't you?

Friday, February 15, 2013

History Heaven!

Le President September 2009
I'm in history heaven today! This morning's mail brought a book I ordered after hearing Martyn Cox speak on the Resistance here in the Lot. Entitled "In Search of the Maquis," it's written by distinguished British historian, H. R. Kedward and is about the French Resistance in the south of France during WWII. It looks to be quite academic, but intriguing.

Then I met Caroline, an English woman who reads my blog. She lives just across the river from Cajarc in Gaillac where she has a chambre d'hote and a small gite that she rents out.  She offered me an English  translation of French history book of this area done by a friend. We met here at Le President for coffee and a get-acquainted chat. It's only a partial history beginning with the Bronze Age and ending at 1443, but it's actually the portion that is the hardest to find information about.  Not a lot of record keeping going on back then. And almost everything that is available is written in French, of course. I'm thrilled!

And you, too, will benefit from these 'finds.' Expect lots more blog posts about both ancient and modern history in and around the Lot.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Lenten Retreat

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I'm participating in an online Lenten retreat this year at Abbey of the Arts, my favorite spiritual website. I'm looking forward to spending the next 6 weeks in the company of Hildegard of Bingen, who was just canonized by the Catholic Church last year. Hildegard was truly a 'Renaissance woman.' Abbess, mystic, poet, composer, playwright, writer of books on medicine and spirituality, she was a woman who was definitely ahead of her times! At the age of 60, she felt called to preach and did so traveling on horseback throughout Europe. And she did all this in the 1100's when women were hardly considered human and were treated with very little respect, even women of the Church. One of the spiritual concepts she developed was that of 'viriditas,' the greening of all creation by God. She saw God in all living things...people, plants and animals. After a gray and rainy winter, I could use a bit of 'greening' myself. I plan to sink into Hildegard and let her bring me to spring and to resurrection.

Monday, February 11, 2013


My blogger friend, Vanessa, has written a post on a very grave subject. I thought it would be fun to link to her post with some equally grave thoughts of my own. I speak of graves and cemeteries which are actually some of my favorite places to visit and photograph here in France. I'll let you visit her post to read about the rules and regs of dying and being buried in France. I'd like to further illustrate some of what she's shared....for instance, this apparently abandoned gravesite in the Cajarc cemetery. While most of the tombs and plots are meticulously maintained, this one and a few others here are not.

Here is a close-up of the sign posted in it. Essentially it says anyone who has information about this site is asked to speak with the mairie. This is the first step in reclaiming abandoned 'contracts' and re-using the site.
Some of the stone carvings and iron work on the old graves and tombs is quite beautiful.
But I am most intrigued by the people....
'Died at sea'
'The Survivors of the Nazi Camps and Resistors of the Lot
To Our Comrade'
and their stories.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

From the Archives: La Tour Eiffel

I'm planning a 3-day trip to Paris in May, so I've been rummaging through the archives looking at photos from previous trips. I took this image of the Eiffel Tower on my very first trip to Paris in 2005. Yes, I did the very touristy night boat ride on the Seine accompanied by the 'Paris Illuminations' tour. Worth every penny and one of those tourist things that everyone should do. I've actually done it more than once. There's nothing so beautiful as Paris at night! It's fun to have been to Paris enough times now that I don't feel compelled to visit every museum or monument each time. This time I've got a 4 hour session booked with a street photographer learning how to 'see' what I photograph and also a walking tour of literary Paris to visit some of the haunts of my favorite writers like Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I'll also be taking a peek into the lives of some of Paris' more unusual characters like Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach and James Joyce. I'll definitely stop by Notre Dame...a girl only celebrates her 850th birthday once, you know. And maybe take in the Marc Chagall exhibition in one of my favorite venues...the Musee du Luxembourg. And the best part? I'll be meeting up with old friends from the States! Should be a fun 3 days.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Flocons de Neige

Flocons de neige this morning, but Lucie doesn't mind. She has more hair than any dog I know, and a little of the white stuff doesn't even faze her. We walked as usual. I emailed my brother yesterday and shared a few French weather words like neige, nuage, vent, pluie(snow, cloud, wind, rain) with him. He remarked on how similar they are to the Spanish words, but that he didn't think he could pronounce the French ones. Heck, these are easy French words! Try the hard ones like ecreuil, feuille, or chevreuil. My American lips just will not pucker up like they need to for these words...kind of like tropical fish do when they 'kiss.' So, I avoid any conversation about squirrels, leaves or deer. It's just easier that way!

Flocons de neige is easy, though. You knew I was talking about snowflakes, right?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

La Capelette

I've been hanging onto these photos of La Capelette that I took last winter until I could find some online documentation of its story. Yesterday a friend sent me a link to a French website that confirms what I translated from the engraved stone plaque by its archway.  This stone facade with its tiny interior room is all that remains of an 11th century chapel built here on the outskirts of Cajarc. These days it's a drive-by attraction on the edge of an aire de repos or rest stop. What makes the chapel interesting, though, is that originally it was part of a and home for lepers. The exact date of its construction is vague...11th century 'before the Hundred Year's War,' but there is documentation  that the Bishop of Cahors ordered its reconstruction due to collapse of part of the building in 1321-22, and because the town's (Cajarc) resources were not sufficient to do this, the Church guaranteed the costs.

Assuming the sign is accurate, it appears that the chapel and the leprosarium existed at least into the 15th century. As leprosy declined dramatically all across Europe in the 1700's, I would guess by that time everything was abandoned. There are still many questions, though, that don't yet have many lepers lived here? were they all from this general area or did they come here from all over France? how were they treated? what were living conditions like? The documentation that I found does reference another publication about leprosy in the Quercy, so perhaps I'll find more information to share.
Now, the ruin is merely another of the many wayside chapels and crosses that dot the French countryside...
watched over by Mary and Jesus.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The 'Real' Charlotte Grays

Notre Dame des Graces
If you've seen the movie, Charlotte Gray, you may recognize this chapel as the place where Dominique/Charlotte Gray meets Julien towards the end of the film. I've blogged about the movie before; it's a favorite on mine. Some of it was filmed in Cajarc and in the Tarn-et-Garonne at St-Antonin-Noble-Val, as well as at this chapel outside Lacapelle-Livron. Last evening I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Martyn Cox, a documentary film maker who is very well acquainted with the 'real' Charlotte Grays. He worked on the documentary, Behind Enemy Lines: the Story of the Real Charlotte Grays, which was broadcast on British TV just prior to the movie premier as part of its pre-release publicity. In it, seven of the remaining women, all special agents in covert operations during WWII who parachuted into occupied France, were interviewed and their amazing stories told. As part of the evening's program, we were treated to a showing of the documentary film itself. The womens' stories of courage and determination as they helped the French Resistance disrupt and destroy as much of the German presence as they could held the rapt attention of the 45 people gathered in the salle des fetes at Le Riols. No one was ready for the evening to end.

Mr. Cox is a man of passion, and his passion is to interview and record on film as many of the stories of the surviving Resistance fighters as he can. As they age, time is short adding urgency to his mission. You can read more about it here.

Everyone agreed that we'd love to hear Mr. Cox again. There are so many stories to hear and questions to ask about the war and Resistance activities right here in my backyard!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Snowdrops for Candlemas

Yesterday during a conversation with the Vicar after church, he shared that when he was growing up in England, his little Anglican parish used to give tiny nosegays of snowdrops to parishioners on Candlemas Sunday. What a lovely tradition! Snowdrops must grow in profusion in England as they do here in France. They are so pretty and such hardy harbingers of the spring to come.

This is the last day of my participation in the '30in30' challenge. Thirty photos in thirty days. It hasn't been hard to post a photo a day; what's been hard has been taking a decent one and/or coming up with something interesting to say about it!

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Bit of Spring in My Kitchen

Sometime during the day yesterday (and obviously when I wasn't looking!), the bulbs on my kitchen table bloomed. Spring is like that sometimes....creeps up and catches you unawares!

Sunday, February 3, 2013


The church celebrates Candlemas this Sunday. It's the day that the baby Jesus was officially presented at the temple and Mary was ritually purified after His birth.Candles are lit and blessed. Here in France, it's called Chandeleur and has become a mostly secular day of eating crepes and fortune-telling. If you're an ancient Celt, a druid, or a wiccan, you may know this day as Imbolc...the quarter-day mark between the winter solstice and the summer equinox. In many cultures, it's celebrated as the first day of spring. Whatever your beliefs are about this day, there's no denying that change is in the air. The hard winter is passing; the new growth of spring is beginning to rumble deep in the earth. For that reason...and for crepes...and for baby Jesus and his mom, I lit a candle today in church.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Happy Birthdays

Happy, happy birthday to my two favorite people in the whole son, Travis and my daughter-in-law, Becky. It's so handy that their birthdays are only two days apart. Travis' is Feb. 1st; Becky's is the 3rd. Who would have thought when Travis was born all those years ago (I'm not saying how many cuz that makes me feel old, and this blog post is about them, not me!) that he would end up happily living in a place he loves and doing his dream job in Yellowstone National Park with a lovely wife and three beautiful children? It's what every mother wishes for her child and in this case, that wish came true!