Since medieval times, the village of Rocamadour in the Occitanie region of southwestern France has attracted pilgrims from across Europe for its historical monuments and its sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Free French Kiss!
These brave young men were walking across the plaza in the nearby city of Narbonne with their sign, smiles and three other friends (one female). However, they were the only two willing to be photographed. I suspect they were just grateful that this not so young woman was not going to demand that kiss. This is just a small example of just how friendly the French can be.
Despite the brevity of this post, I do believe the photo says it all.
As per usual, the summer has flown by all to fast for some of us. I must admit that I include myself in those numbers. However, the Autumn does have some delicious things going for it and what could be better than French wine?
One might imagine that things get rather quiet in a small rural village after the tourist season draws to a close. Yet, that is not the case. As early as late August, the vignerons begin the harvest. There will be some unfamiliar faces as young people from all over europe arrive to help get the raisins (grapes). From before seven in the morning until the last shards of light fade away the streets are a hive of tractors, grape harvesters and vehicles filled with pickers on their way to the vineyards and large trailers brimming with freshly harvested grapes.
The Languedoc-Roussillon is the largest wine-producing region in France. More wine is produced in this one small region than in the entire United States. A wide variety of grapes are grown here such as Grenache, Syrah as well as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. While Languedoc wines cover a rather broad spectrum, from white to red; sweet to dry and of course sparkling which pre-dates Champagne (but that will be another post and another time). The region proudly cultivates the vines on over 700,000 acres here along the Mediterranean coast. It is thought to be the single largest wine-producing area in the world.
The Languedoc-Roussillon is arid, warm and brimming with sunlight. The rugged terrain of herbs, brush and resinous plants infuse the wine with their scents and flavours. It is the ideal terrain and climate for growing grapes. While the quality became secondary to quantity for a time in the early twentieth century the hard working vignerons committed themselves to turning it around with remarkable results.
A neighbor, Remy, makes a lovely collection of organic wines and also grape juice. If I am lucky, I can buy a few of the days pickings that did not end up in the vats. Gait is a manager for Remy and has the “honor” of having the buckets of grapes from all the pickers loaded into the large container on his back (porter). Being quite tall, he must bend to allow the pickers to dump the fruit into the container on his back which quickly fills. He follows around all of the people who are cutting the clusters of grapes and then transports his container when filled to the trailer which will quickly be transported back to the cave and on its way to the vats. While it is true that large machines harvest a vast amount of the grapes, a number prefer the hands on approach. Additionally, some of the terrain is such that this is not a viable option.
Most of the workers are seasonal and some speak little french.
The perfume of fermenting grapes begins to fill the air as fêtes de vins fill our weekends with tastings, dances, music and more. They last well through November even though the last grapes have been harvested. While these photos are all taken at Domaine Sainte Juste, and Embres – Castlemaure there are a several wonderful options in just this small village alone (pop. 700). There are many more vineyards just a few kilometers away. Embres – Castlemaure is a cooperative and Durban has a wide variety of Vigneron (wine grower) There are at least thirteen seperate caves here. In addition, there are many who have smaller vineyards and make wine just for personal use or sell to a cooperative. If you want a workout, try your hand at the porter’s job. The receptacle on his back hold 60 kilo or just over 132 pounds. They carry those on their backs up hill and down for several hours a day during the harvest.
If you want an extreme workout, try the porter’s job. The receptacles they carry on their back hold 60 kilo or a little over 132 pounds. They are carrying these up and down hills and then taking them to the awaiting trailer to be hauled of to the cave.
In our village, a huge party is hosted after the vendange for all who participated. There is music, dancing and refreshments. This lasts well through the night.
Alas, this year, March was quite warm and enough to coax out those early shoots. April followed with two separate nights of frost and destroyed crops all over France. While some did not have severe losses, one of our local vignerons reports a loss of about twenty percent. Losses could be found on one side of a road with the opposite spared.
With the wine safely pressed and in the vats, the wine festivals commence. They are everywhere and one can pick and choose which to attend.
Semain bavaroise or Bavarian Week was the theme in Narbonne last week. I hadn’t noticed any mention of it in the paper but there are so many such events year around and even more in the summer when crowds of tourists line the streets. I first glimpsed the little white chalets set up for selling traditional food and drinks. The were set up in the center square in Front of Place de Ville and facing the Via Domita. Then as I turned and walked up Rue Droit (Right Way) I began to see men and women is costumes heading toward the center square.
The participants gathered on the steps of Place de Ville for a brief welcome was given and an invitation for people to come to the performances of singing and dancing in the evening. The traditional food would also be available in the evening so no chance of sampling it. Alas, I knew I would not be able to remain.
Enjoying a café in the square is something I usually do once a week. It is delightful when the sun is shining. Of course I always have a book or two in my purse and on my table you will see one of the books I am currently reading.
The group assembled on the steps. Inside you can walk about and perhaps as far as the massive ballroom on the upper floor. The offices of the mayor and his council are all there as well. Extra tables with canopy had been set up to accommodate the additional guest and so that the cafés were not over burdened.
Unfortunately, there were throngs of individuals trying to photograph the group and being rather short, I was quickly pushed back to where I couldn’t get more shots. They group reassembled for more photos on the Via Domita but once again, I was unable to get any closer and they didn’t remain for long.
There are events and festivals all year around but through the summer, there is always something on. If you are traveling to France and would like some idea of what may be available in the area you plan to visit, just look on line for the area and the local Office of Tourism. Information is available in both French and English. It will also give you a much broader picture of what you can expect to find.
In the past, a three post series has been made to share the art from this excellent annual exposition of hidden art. I do not see how I can possibly limit myself that harshly this year and so I hope that some of you will bear with me. One thing for sure, you never know where in Albas you will turn a corner and find some art you will never forget. It will inspire you, and get those creative juices flowing.
Claude Espada is a local artist and lives in a most charming village on the edge of the Mediterranean. I’ve no doubt that is where much of her inspiration lies… You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or search for her on Facebook. Alas, I am not on Facebook so I cannot provide the link.
For additional information on mme. Gourvil, please see her website. While it is in French, a click of a button will translate it for you. http://gourvilgenevieve.com/
Daniel Cordonnier takes his photograpy to some fascinating levels. His mission, to make the invisible, visible. Please check out Daniel’s website for much more art and information: http://www.danielcordonnier.com You can also find him on Facebook.
This is the third post in this series. For me it is a delight to return to the charming little village of Albas for this expo each year. I do hope to attend both days next year as there is never enough time to really appreciate it all and a chance to meet the artist. I never photograph without the artist’s permission and they must be available for that. Please do visit the Eurocultures site as there is more than I can possibly accommodate here. There are a number of photos left from the exposition and I shall endeavor to create one more post in this series.
For additional information, to communicate with the sponsors of this and many other events, please contact Eurocultures en Corbières: https://eurocultures.fr/ or https://www.facebook.com/eurocultures/
“I know a freedom, and that is the freedom of the spirit.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
It isn’t just about setting up and serving on the day. The Durban mon village Association has put in considerable time choosing a menu, the music, and the myriad of other considerations required to make this a memorable event. Just prior to the day, I witnessed several villagers creating the new countertop you see in the above photo.
Celebrants begin arriving at about 7:00 in the evening and staking out where they want to sit, speaking with friends and taking a beverage from this willing crew.
The food begins! Bread, water, wine and such have been put in place and now the servers bring the first course. A half melon into which they will pour Muscat, a sweet, pale golden, wine. Though it is lovely, I opt for plain melon as I don’t have a sweet tooth.
A young couple with their three year old daughter join our table as the melon is being served. The young lady and her mom pass on the wine but watch her appreciate the melon as only a child can do.
Curried Coconut Chicken and Rice, it was delicious!
As always, a good time was had by all. The DJ, sometimes a band or more, and the music and dancing go on will into the night. Even the smallest children, barely walking, are out dancing with parents, and grandparents. The French truly wrote the book on celebrating life.
As one who lives to write, I appreciated this next artist immensely. Isabelle tells stories with bits of rock, pebble and other bits. I was thrilled when she walked me about her mosaics and sharing their tale. It was a visceral experience and you could feel the different tableau’s secrets.
Isabelle Delacampagne’s work is not limited to the mosaics you will see here. Yet this story was so compelling and the work so evocative, I prefer to stick with the tale. The story is of the all too short life of the young girl in the red dress, her parents and her journey. The entire set is on the website delacampagne.com. Her email is: email@example.com and there is much more there than was even on exhibit. She is absolutely on the list of the artists whose atelier/workshop/gallery I should love to visit and do an exclusive post on.
There are many more mosaics to the story and other pieces that space here does not allow me to share. I do hope you will visit her site.
You can visit Marie-Jose’s site at http://mjmaleville.com
Erick Fourrier sculpts with wood and plastic. It was fascinating to watch him at work. That is not an opportunity one has often. His website includes a link to a video of the artist on youtube, erickfourrier.fr
There is much more to see on the website so I do hope you will check it out.
As you may notice, the old barn where monsieur Fourrier’s work is exhibited, was at one time utilized making wine. Wine making is the major industry in this region and though it may take second place to sheep in Albas, it still is part of the lives of most of the residents.
Perhaps some of you don’t feel the last two photos are relevant to the art featured here. You may be right but I feel that the setting is very much a part of an exhibit of Hidden Art.
There are still quite a number of photos to share and artists to exhibit. I do hope that you will return for more Hidden Art. I should also like to send big kudos to Eurocultures for allowing me to continue to bring this art and these artist to you. Please check out their site: https://eurocultures.fr/evenements/lart-cache-3/