Saturday, June 28, 2014

Our Helen

I never need much of an excuse to visit Faycelles. It's one of the prettiest of my neighboring villages. So when Helen announced that her art teacher there was putting on an exposition of her students' work, I knew I wouldn't miss it. Helen is already an artist, but hasn't done any art for awhile. She decided to pick up her paintbrush again and started lessons earlier this year with Madame Felzines of Felenzi. Madame takes students of all ages; some of the art on display was done by children, but you certainly couldn't tell that by the quality of their work. Helen had only two pastel life figure drawings on exhibit. I'm sure by next year, though, she'll command a whole wall like some of the other students!

The village salle des fetes was full of paintings and
paper maiche people. I especially liked this one, very blue,white and red French!
These are Helen's life drawings. She signs her work with her maiden name which confused me a bit as I searched for her work. Good thing she was the only 'Helen' among the artists!

Welcome sign at the Faycelles salle des fetes.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Can You Stand Another One?

Now that I've 'seen' red geraniums, I'm seeing them everywhere! I was in Faycelles this morning to visit an art exhibit and this little pot hanging by someone's garage door tucked on my sleeve and pleaded...'take my picture, please!' So, I did. I hope you can stand one more red geranium photo.

I've had a couple of comments from people who didn't realize the iris is the national flower of France. There is some debate as to whether the iris or the lily was the inspiration for the French national symbol, the fleur-de-lis. If you Google it, you can find arguments for both sides of the debate.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The French National Flower?

The pretty red geranium in yesterday's blog post prompted a comment on my FB page from a friend in the States. She noted that whenever she sees photos of France there seem to be red geraniums in it 'Are they the French national flower?' she pondered. Well, no, they aren't, but you do see them everywhere in summer, usually like this...marching up stone steps to a pretty French farmhouse!

Vanessa's front door at La Lune

Monday, June 23, 2014

Pujols Panorama

After a relaxing lunch in Villeneuve-sur-Lot, we set out to find Pujols, one the France's 'plus beaux' villages. Philip asked some folks who told us we could actually hike there; it's only about 2 kms. However, you can tell by this panoramic photo from the gates of the village that those 2 kms are straight uphill! We chose to drive. You can also tell why the village's original name during Gallo-roman times was Podiolus which means 'village on a raised hill.' It's a perfect place to build a fortified town. If you look closely at the photo, you can see (almost right in the middle) the tall, red tower of the Ste. Catherine church in Villeneuve
This village like Villeneuve was also a heretic (Cathar) stronghold and was destroyed during the Albigensian Crusade. It was rebuilt in the 15th century with its two streets oriented on an east/west axis consisting of 50-60 dwellings.

The tiny village has been beautifully restored and like other 'plus beaux' villages, it is full of flowers. There are two churches; the church of Ste. Foy is used now for art exhibitions. There was a watercolor exhibit during our visit, and we weren't allowed to take photos. Which is unfortunate because there are some lovely 15th century frescoes still visible on its walls.
Jean and Philip graciously agreed to have their photo taken by the Porte des Anglais which gives a nod to a consistent English presence here in the Aquitaine region since it came under English rule with the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry II of England in 1152 AD. Pujols today welcomes tourists from all over the world...

Sign outside the Porte des Anglais
but not those who come on horseback!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

That's Odd

We were enjoying our lunch under the shady arcade in Villeneuve-sur-Lot when someone said "That's odd." Looking at the building on the other side of the square, we noticed the unusual roof line. It slopes up to a point at the back left corner. We asked our waiter if he knew the reason for this. He said he'd never even noticed it before! Duh! We puzzled over possible explanations, but couldn't come up with anything that sounded reasonable. Any ideas??

Here's a closer look.

Friday, June 20, 2014


I spent yesterday exploring Villeneuve-sur-Lot and the small villages around it with friends. We were in the Lot-et-Garonne department about a 2-hour drive from Cadrieu. Our first stop was the bastide town of Villeneuve-sur-Lot. The medieval town, built by Count Alphonse of Poitiers, was erected in 1254. Divided by the Lot River, the town sits on the site of the older village of Gajac which housed 'heretics' and was destroyed during the Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229).

The two parts of the town are connected by this 13th century bridge of which only the stonework survives. Interestingly, all the medieval houses lining the riverbanks sit with their 'backsides' toward the river, their fronts opening onto the protected streets of town. While modern city dwellers would, of course, reverse the orientation to take advantage of the stunning river views, medieval citizens were more interested in commerce  and self-preservation!
The central market squares of the town are reached via these vaulted arcades. While there are some charming and historically significant medieval buildings and half-timbered houses, the old town has not been restored to high level of other medieval bastides. It does, however, provide a few hours of pleasant exploring as well as this arresting early 20th century church...

Dedicated in 1937, Sainte Catherine Church is built of red brick and stone in the Byzantine-Romanesque style. Its stained glass windows date from the 14th and 15th centuries and were saved from the old church that previously stood on this site. Its bell tower is easily seen from the hilltop village of Pujols two kilometers to the south of town.
Ste. Catherine's bell tower 
If you like your churches a bit more simple, be sure to stop in at the tiny chapel guarding the right bank of town at the old bridge. Notre Dame du Bout du Pont chapel comes with its own legend about a stature of the Virgin found here in the waters of the Lot. Built in the 13th century, it has been nicely restored.
Interior of ND du Bout du Pont church
Tomorrow I'll be looking for an answer to an architectural question. Be sure to come back!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Keyboard

I'd love to have a piano here. I won't for several reasons, the first being that I don't have the money to spend on one. And I don't have room. And I already have a piano in storage in the States, so I know how much hassle they are to move around. But when I saw that Sue and Trevor were selling one of their electric keyboards, I emailed her right away that I was interested. Eh voila! I'm now the proud owner of a reasonably priced, easy-to-move around, small keyboard. Not a lot of bells and whistles, just a simple instrument that works for a pianist who has no rock star ambitions. I'm already practicing Christmas carols. Come sing with me!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Lady and the Unicorn

My friend who has just sold her family home here in the village continues to empty it of decades of memories. Some items have gone to antique auctioneers. Some things have been sold at weekend flea markets and via internet sites. Friends and neighbors have made purchases. And she's given away a lot. This large (110 x 80 cm) framed needlepoint tapestry took her two years to complete. I've done needlepoint in the past; I know how much work went into this. The detail is exquisite.
Because she hasn't been able to sell it, she gave it to me! I promised it a good home. It's hanging in my sunroom. This wall was once the outside wall of the train house. It's not very attractive, so I'm happy to have something pretty on it. I've always loved 'The Lady and the Unicorn' tapestry and have seen the original that hangs in the Cluny Museum in Paris several times. The panel reproduced here represents touch; the rest of the tapestry depicts the other 4 senses with one mystery panel that has never been definitively interpreted..
Detail of The Lady and The Unicorn

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Morning Fisherman

As I was eating breakfast in my sunroom this morning, I caught a glimpse of movement through the window. There by the opposite river bank drifting lazily downstream was an early morning angler. What a peaceful way to start a summer day!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Season Finale

My writing group, the Parisot Writers' Group, met  Monday morning for the last time before our summer break. After a lively session of reading and critiquing some of our members' amazing writing, we convoyed out to Vanessa's lovely home, La Lune, for a season finale potluck lunch.
La Lune's pigeonnier

Gathered around a massive stone table under welcoming shade trees, we enjoyed good food, good company, and good conversation for most of the afternoon. Topics ranged far and wide...Ann's 46th wedding anniversary, Vanessa's novel that will be published in late July, grandchildren, children, books we've read and writing we've done. We giggled, remembering Bob's unintentional double entendre during our weekend writing workshop in April. His piece about an artist and his paintbrush made us laugh and made him blush! Which, of course, led us into a discussion about writing sex scenes into our novels. Necessary? How much detail? etc. None of us aspire to "50 Shades of Gray" fame, but sex is part of life and how do you tastefully include it in your stories? Anita threatened to assign writing a sex scene as summer homework! you think she'll really do that? Stay tuned....

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Saturday Market

With temperatures in the low 30's (yes, I've gone to the dark's all centigrade and metric now) and all these yummy fruits and veggies on offer at the Saturday market, it feels like summer is in full swing here. Wish I could send you the fragrance of those strawberries...they perfumed by whole kitchen. Most of this made its way into my Sunday lunch today along with little cabecous of goat cheese wrapped in thin slices of cured ham and then sauteed briefly in olive oil. Oh yum! The melon man asked me when I planned to eat my melon. When I told him today, he handed me the one you see here. "It will be perfect," he said. And he was was!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Good News/Bad News

Lots of good news/bad news around here lately. The good news is my friend has sold her house here in the village after having it on the market for months. The bad news is that means I won't see her during the summer anymore. Good news, though...she lives year 'round in Cannes, so that means I have a great excuse to visit the Cote d'Azur. Bad news: she's had to sell or give away decades of memories that have lived in her pretty house up the hill. The good news for me is I've bought three of her beautiful tablecloths, two of which are lovely Irish linen decorated with cut-work and hand-embroidery. They fit my extended dining table perfectly. A little fancy for every day...I see a dinner party in my future!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday Worship

I've blogged about Monday church before...a small group of Anglicans worships twice a month in someone's home. Being scattered hither and yon over three different departments, we gather at a central residence where a priest from the Chaplaincy comes once a month to lead the service and offer Communion. The second worship Monday is morning prayer.
Recently Pere Serge Golignac, who oversees the Catholic diocese which includes Parisot, offered us the use of this pretty 13th century church in the tiny village of St. Peyronis for our bimonthly services. The dwindling population of France's rural villages, fewer people attending church, and the shortage of priests means that many of these lovely small churches sit unused for much of the time. A village is lucky to have Mass celebrated in its church once a month. Today we had Monday worship for the first time in a church!
There are only a handful of us each Monday, so Andrew and Alan arranged a few chairs in the area in front of the altar rail, while Polly and Ted visited by the door.

The church could probably hold 75-100 people, but our small group sounded mighty with the wonderful domed ceiling amplifying our voices. Pere Serge joined us at the end of worship for a truly ecumenical service

The interior of the church has been very nicely re-done and updated staying true to its Romanesque origins...nothing too gaudy. Even the stained glass windows are tastefully simple..
The most ornate decoration in the church is this unusually carved crucifix...
We will probably only worship here during the warm summer months as these old stone churches get very cold in winter. Today's service was a success. Everyone agreed that the church is lovely and feels very welcoming. Of course, coffee, tea and John's famous homemade shortbread could have had something to do with the good feelings of fellowship we experienced!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Mary in Assier

While most of the exterior of the church in Assier is devoted to the glory of Galiot de Genouillac and the weapons of war he supplied to Francois I, there is a nod to Christianity in a niche above a small side door to the church. That's where I found this pretty Mary offering her blessings to the villagers.