Friday, February 27, 2015

Is Somebody Home?

The other morning I was taking photos of the Chateau when I was startled to see what looked like a light shining in a window of the wing that stands in ruins. Can you see that spot of light right above the bare trees in the shadowed part of the photo? Now my rational mind assures me that light is merely the morning sun reflecting on something...maybe the stone...inside the ruins. But my imagination did run a little wild! The story goes that this wing of the Chateau was destroyed during the French Revolution. It's merely a shell of half tumbled stone walls now. But if a light is on, does that mean somebody is home? Ghosts, perhaps??

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Soft Water

I take virtually all my photos in variable aperture (AV) mode. I learned how to use this setting during a street photography workshop I took in Paris. Now the only time I use automatic point-and-shoot mode is the rare time I can't get the lighting right in an interior shot. But my camera certainly has other settings that can add a little creativity to my photos. So...I've been experimenting lately with Manual mode. I love the 'soft water' effect!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Icy Mornings

Icy windshield
We're in that weather pattern of cold nights followed by brilliant blue sky days. Some nights are below freezing; the days aren't particularly warm unless you're in the sun. Frost lingers on the north sides of buildings and hedges some days as well. Often icy patterns greet Lucie and I on our morning walk...
Icy puddle

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Religion and Art

Cathedrale Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption
It seems that Montauban has attracted a great deal of religious turmoil during its long history. Being the home of many Cathars, the city was attacked and taken during the Albigensian Crusade and suffered then under the Inquisition that followed in the early 14th century. It was later ceded to the English who held it for only 64 years before being ousted. In 1560, the city embraced Protestantism and the bishop and monks were expelled and their Cathedral demolished. It became a Huguenot stronghold and the seat of the Huguenot rebellion of 1621. It remained Protestant until 1685 when the Catholics rose and took it over once again. Of course, with the French Revolution of 1790, all religion was banned. A complicated and bloody religious history, I'd say!
Spire of the Church of St. Jacques seen above the square
Today there are several churches in Montauban. The Cathedral is a very imposing building. We didn't go inside, but I found the outside rather graceless and in need of a good cleaning. It's difficult to see, but the statues and stonework were all coated with the black grime that comes for automobile exhaust.
Entrance l'Eglise St. Jacques
We did visit the Church of St. Jacques. It was a little disappointing as well. It was very dark and dank inside making it difficult to see the many large oil paintings hung around the building. The walls had been beautifully painted, but the years have taken a many places the paint is peeling and moldy. The entire interior could use a good restoration crew.

Last time's trivia question...did you guess the identity of the famous lady who hid out in Montauban?? It was Mona Lisa who spent a few months hidden in a secret room in the Musee Ingres during WWII. Moved from the Louvre in anticipation of the German occupation of Paris, she and over 3000 other works of art stopped first at the Abbey Loc-Dieu in the Aveyron. She was only there a few months, though, before it was determined that conditions in this remote Abbey were too damp for the priceless art. Everything was moved then to Montauban. When the Germans occupied the Free Zone in November 1942, the Mona Lisa was moved once again...this time to the lovely Chateau de Montal in the Lot near Rocamadour where she spent the remainder of the war. It's a hard life being a war refuge! 

Friday, February 20, 2015


Arcades enclosing Place Nationale
Yesterday morning I accompanied a friend to Montauban, a small city lying a little over an hour southwest of Cadrieu. After her brief appointment, we explored the heart of the old city. While Montauban was established in 1144, the photo you see here is from the 17th century Place Nationale. The old city is built mainly from this distinctive pink brick which just glowed in yesterday's sun. The square was stunning!
Place Nationale
After a hearty lunch of tartiflette...potatoes, onions, lardons baked in a cream sauce topped with reblochon cheese...we continued our wanderings eventually ending up at the Musee Ingres which showcases the work of two of Montauban's most famous native sons--artist, Jean Ingres and sculptor, Antoine Bourdelle. A visit to the museum will have to wait for another day, but here's a sample of the Bourdelle sculpture that graces the cobbled courtyard of the museum....

Today Montauban is mainly a commerical agricultural center, but in its past, it was a hotbed of religious uproar. More about that in my next blog post. And oh yes, it was the hiding place of a very famous lady! Can you guess what her name is?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mardi Gras Monk

Bishop with a crozier
Corcomroe Abbey

I think he looks as if he's smiling...enjoying Fat Tuesday before the 40 days of Lent, perhaps?

He's found on the wall of the ruined Corcomroe Abbey where I visited in September last year. Look for him above the niche holding the effigy of King Conor O'Brien laid to rest here in 1267.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Winter View

Chateau at Cornusson
On my home from visiting the snowdrops at the Abbaye de Beaulieu this week, I took a little side road at Cornusson. As it wound up out of the valley, this view of the Chateau appeared. You can see from all the bare trees that in the summer you would see very little of Chateau which is very difficult to photograph any time of the year. In the spirit of full disclosure, the road didn't go where I thought it would....I ended up on a muddy track entering someone's farmstead. Oops! But this view of the Chateau was worth the detour.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fairyland of Flowers

Abbaye de Beaulieu
Walk in back of the abbey...
past the worn blue door...
cross the bridge that spans the tiny River Seye...
and enter a fairyland of flowers!
Thousands of snowdrops are in bloom.
Is spring just around the corner?? I think it is!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Keeping Sabbath

When I was on pilgrimage in Ireland last year, one of the topics we discussed was 'keeping Sabbath.'  This practice can mean attending church, of course, but it can also mean a myriad of other soul-enriching activities that are a break from your normal routine. Taking a nap, reading something inspirational, walking contemplatively, and meditation all qualify, for example. Today I kept Sabbath by listening to On Being's Krista Tippett interview one of my very favorite poets, Mary Oliver. Ms. Oliver grants very few interviews, so this was a rare treat. During the course of the hour, she read several of her poems. I can't think of anything much more soul-enriching than hearing this poet read her work. She's created so many moving images with her words, but this quote is one of my favorites:

"Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
                  ~Mary Oliver

How will you keep Sabbath today?