14 Juillet, 2017

“I know a freedom, and that is the freedom of the spirit.”                                                    – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Preparation – before the crowd

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!




À votre santé!

 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. 




Camp Joffre: “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” – Albert Einstein

La belle France. Yet even the most beautiful of gardens has both thorns and weeds. The group Eurocultures invited me to visit Camp Rivesaltes otherwise known as Camp Joffre where we would visit a memorial to some of its darker past. A very short distance from the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean, and just the other side of the tracks, lies the remnants of a concentration camp.

For over five years I have tried to share with you some of the beauty in my chosen home. However, this scar must not be glossed over nor forgotten.




Dedication of museum by Manuel Valls 2015
Inside the new museum




La Fuente Family






A starving child 1941



Belongs confiscated along with hopes and dreams…


Testimony to man’s inhumanity to man.

Though the walls are crumbling and little remains of the buildings, many artifacts are carefully preserved in the new climate protected museum.

Rivesaltes Internment Camp – Camp Joffre opened in 1938 and was not to close its doors until 1970. For nearly five years, I have shared with you the beauty, serenity and the joy of La belle France. Yet this beautiful Country has had much pain, cruelty and suffering inflicted on it and its people. Many of those coming through this camp did not originate in France but may have spent their final days here.





Quote page…

Perhaps you have never visited the Quote page? If you have, it may have been awhile. I have just added some new quotes. Some may inspire you. Some may make you angry. Some you may write down for further examination. Regardless, if any of them get you thinking, inspired your creativity, or help you see another side to a situation, then I have done my job. Here are a few to get you started. If you have a favourite, I would love to know. Now please check out what else is there. 


“People feel like the system is rigged against them, and here is the painful part, they’re right, the system is rigged.”  Elizabeth Warren


“Peace cannot be kept by force; It can only be achieved by understanding.”              Albert Einstein.

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” H.L. Mencken

“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” Thomas Jefferson


I hope you have found something that captures your imagination among these examples. Now, please check out what else is new on the Quotes page… 





Over eight years ago when I was in my early days of the hunt for a house to call home, I briefly visited the village of Cailhau. The house I had been taken to see required more work than I was looking to do but the village seemed to have much to be proud of. However, I should have explored more as there are treasures to behold. The artist community is thriving there and I have finally made it to one of their events. I may have to return soon.


I followed the path and found the first gallery of my journey. “La Bohème”, While I managed to snap a few photos, it was lunchtime and being France, it was closing until late afternoon. Happily I have a few pieces to show from here. There is much more information available on the artists collective if you visit their blog, artcailhau.blogspot.com or if you are on Facebook you can visit at facebook.com/cailhauartistes  

Artists of Cailhau carry on in the illustrious footsteps of a great artist who lived in the village and whose family still do. The group of artists that reside there are continuing the path of the earliest well known artist from Cailhau. Archille Laugé (1861-1944) moved to Cailhau in his youth with his parents. Despite his father’s wishes that he study Pharmacy in Toulouse in 1878, he followed his heart enrolling at the Beaux-Arts where he met the artist Bourdelle. At Beaux-Arts he came in contact with artists Alexandre Cabanal (1823-1889),  Jean-Paul Laurens (1838-1921), and Aristide Maillot (1861-1944) and the two were to become lifelong friends. He made his debut at the Paris Salon in 1884 with a depiction of his friend Bourdelle. 

Four years later, he left Paris and returned to Cailhau. He made many friends among the locals. During his time in Paris he adopted the divisionist touch of the Neo-Impressionists under the influence of Georges Seurat (1859-1891), he also had a high regard for the works of both Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) and Paul Signac (1863-1935).


Archille Laughé: Reproduction’s available in Cailhau

Laugé’s paintings and compositions reflect the harsh sunlight so prevalent in the south. Like a number of his contemporaries whose work followed a similar vein, Henri-Edmond Cross ( 1856-1910), Henri Martin (1860-1943) he too was drawn further south continuing to work in and around the area of Collioure.  Collioure, the beachside village that charmed Picasso, van Gogh, Cézanne and many more continues to inspire artists and is a must if you are in the south of France.

In 1894 three of his paintings were exhibited at the Salon des Independants, additionally,  a number of works at an exhibition which included Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Paul Sérusier (1863-1927), Henri de Toulouse -Lautrec (1864-1901) and Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) in Toulouse. There is much more about the artist available online. Today his great-granddaughter continues to live in Cailhau.

La Bohème Gallérie


Christine D.

Christine’s creations are available at her Atelier/Boutique located in the centre of the village or you can email her directly at christine.daunis@orange.fr Additionally there is the Art Collective site as listed in the beginning of this post.

Atelier Du Verrier

Bijoux by Matthew/Objet d’art by Matthew 

These pieces were on display at the foyer. However, we shall get to his private gallery but most likely in a later post.

Vincent Langlard

You can find Vincent on the Art Collective site and at his private site http://www.vlang.net

There is more of his work in a future post.

Anne de Vylder

More of Anne’s work can be viewed on her site or by visiting Atelier Al Trial.

Le jardin de Jürgen
Le jardin de Jürgen
Les Sculptures de Jürgen
Les Sculptures de Jürgen
Les Sculptures de Jürgen
Le sculpture de Jürgen 
Le sculpture de Jürgen 
Le jardin et maison de Jürgen 

While Jürgen Engels passed on in January, his wife has graciously made their garden and some of Jürgen’s work available for us to see. While some of his work is still for sale, I did not find contact information. If you are interested I would contact the collective site or one of the other artists. 

Atelier Al Trial
Atelier Al Trial

There is more to see and inspire at Atelier Al Trial in a future post. 

Mireille Fourmont

You can find Mireille’s work at Atelier Al Trial, on the main website for the collective or her own personal site: http://www.mireillefourmont.fr

Unfortunately, not all artists had contact information available and I was referred to the collective site. I have been on the site a few times trying to identify some of the work. Alas some of the individual sites are temporarily down. Hopefully that will soon be rectified. 

In my experience, these art exhibits have something for everyone. I do hope you found something that appealed to you or perhaps some inspiration?



Carcassonne and La Cité

Carcassonne will always have a special place in my heart. When I first visited France it was with a backpack, rail-pass with eyes and heart wide open! I was privileged to stay within the fortified cité for a week. That six weeks traveling France went by in a flash. The lovely bridge leads you into the heart of the town and all that lies beyond. Between the ancient fortress and the river Aude are a playground, picnic areas and vast parkland. To the rear are vineyards.

La Cité
La Cité

This ancient Roman town was established around the VIII Century BC, the Carsac oppidum was just two kilometers south of the present city. The town extends over more than twenty hectares on the apex of a plateau protected by both a ditch and the angled entrances. Due to demographic growth it was reorganized around the late VIIth Century. Another ditch was reinforced by levees and palisades of wood and made to protect the new extension. While we don’t know why, the Carsac oppidum was abandoned in the early Vith Century BC then moved to its current resting place on the mound which dominates the Aude plain. Vestiges acquired from archaeological excavations show us that it was occupied from the beginning of the Iron Age up until the Roman conquest. Among the artifacts are drystone walls, grain silos, bronze foundry ovens and pottery. The discovery of the vast number of goods, especially earthenware (amphoras, vases, goblets…) attests to the activities that took place in this colony which was accessible to trading in the region of the Aude and also the Mediterranean basin.

Drawbridge or main entrance
Drawbridge or main entrance


A pathway to the side off drawbridge
Drawbridge from the inside
Cité walls left of entrance
Cité walls left of entrance
Un café
Un café
Walking along the central path inside the fortified city
Walking along the central path inside the fortified city
Temptation is everywhere!
Sweets for the sweet!
One of the courtyards inside the walled cité
One of the courtyards inside the walled cité
Souvenirs abound
Souvenirs abound
Off the beaten track
Off the beaten track
One of the many paths you can take
One of the many paths you can take
To the right of the entrance you can see the moat is often dry these days
To the right of the entrance you can see the moat is often dry these days
Below the walled fortress the river forks
Below the walled fortress the river Aude forks


This little bridge takes you across the river into the heart of the town. If you look closely you can see some delicate metal arches to walk under.
This little bridge takes you across the river Aude into the heart of the town. If you look closely you can see some delicate metal arches to walk under.
At the bottom you can partially see the local boules club
At the bottom you can partially see the local boules club

The citadel takes its reputation from its 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) long double surrounding walls which are interspersed by 52 towers. The town has approximately 2,500 years of history which has seen it inhabited or invaded by Romans, Visigoths, Saracens and of course, the Crusaders. It originated as a Gaulish settlement then in the 3rd century A.D., the Romans began to fortify the town. It was annexed to the kingdom of France in 1247 A.D., and provided a strong French frontier between France and the Crown of Aragon.

After the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, the province of Roussillon was included as part of France and the town no longer had military significance. The town became one of the economic centers of France focusing on the woolen textile industry and the fortifications were abandoned.

The French government decided to demolish the city fortifications in 1849. The local people were strongly opposed. The campaign to preserve the fortress as an historical monument was staunchly aided by the efforts of Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille and Prosper Mérimée, a renowned archaeologist and historian. The government reversed its decision and the restoration work commenced in 1853. The architect, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc was charged with renovating the fortress. Viollet-le-Duc’s work received criticism in his lifetime. Claims were made that the restoration was inappropriate for the traditions and climate of the region. Upon his death in 1879, the work continued under the direction of his former pupil, Paul Boeswillwald and later by the architect Nodet.

If you are interested in the area, may I recommend the book Labyrinth by Kate Mosse. Her descriptions of Carcassonne are excellent and her story weaves in and out of the 12th century and modern day.  It was her book that I was reading when I first arrived in Carcassonne.

There are accommodations from four star hotels to the youth hostel within the fortified cité and it can provide an excellent place to stay during a visit. The train station is a short walk away from the centre of town and the airport is nearby. It is not to late to plan a holiday here in the south west of France the summer will be here soon but there are activities here all year around.





Poisson d’Avril – April Fools

All Fools Day is celebrated 1 April each year across much of the world. It is a day of hoaxes, practical jokes and all around good humour.  Many people believe that the holiday originated in France. Few facts are available and you will make up your own mind. Regardless, it is just a bit of silliness and fun in a world with too little silliness and fun.

French Origins of April Fools Day

Although the origins of April Fools is obscure and debated, the most widely accepted explanation actually credits the “holiday” as starting in France. The most popular theory about the origin of April Fool’s Day involves the French calendar reform of the sixteenth century.

The theory goes like this: In 1564 King Charles XIV of France reformed the calendar, moving the start of the year from the end of March to January 1. However, in a time without trains, a reliable post system or the internet, news often traveled slow and the uneducated, lower class people in rural France were the last to hear of and accept the new calendar. Those who failed to keep up with the change or who stubbornly clung to the old calendar system and continued to celebrate the New Year during the week that fell between March 25th and April 1st, had jokes played on them. Pranksters would surreptitiously stick paper fish to their backs. The victims of this prank were thus called Poisson d’Avril, or April Fish—which, to this day, remains the French term for April Fools—and so the tradition was born.

Poisson d'Avril
Poisson d’Avril

Today, those who are fooled on 1 April are called the “Poisson d’Avril or April Fish. It is common especially among school-aged children to place a paper fish on the back of an unsuspecting person. That person is declared a “Poisson d’Avril.

Often you can find a large Poisson on the last page, first section of the morning newspaper or le journal.

Le journal
Le journal – L’INDEPENDANT

Most mornings I read le journal at the local café. Sometimes I buy a copy from le boulanger, Jacques.  This morning he had the lovely, fruity Poisson d’Avril made up in a flakey puff pastry with pastry cream and your choice of apricot (apricot) or fraise (strawberry). He is a lovely man who lives in the village and has several family members working along side him.

Jacques's son
Jacques’s son

Of course there is always croissants, pain au raisin, baguettes and much more. If other shops are closed you can pick up milk, honey, jam, coffee and more here.

La boulangerie
La boulangerie

While I have you here just outside the bakery, I want to share something that I really love. Outside some businesses are old metal signs that without words, show you exactly what kind of shop it is. Despite the wind today, I have taken a photo of the one outside the bakery. Unfortunately, it is at an angle due to the strong wind. However, I think it is charming and there are a few others still around but you do have to look up for them. Great care in design is taken to tell a story in picture.

Sign for the bakery
Sign for the bakery

I do believe if you look closely you can see the moon over the sleepy village while le boulanger is watching his oven. They are reminiscent of a quieter time and I do love each of them that I have found.

Perhaps when I have collected enough photos of such signs, there will be a blog post on those.

Poisson d’Avril or April Fools!



Quatorze Juillet 2014

Quatorze juillet is also known as la fête nationale de la France. English speaking countries often refer to this most important day as Bastille Day. The French National Day commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution with the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July  1789, as well as Fête de la Federation which celebrated the unity of the French people on 14 July 1790. The celebrations will be held in every city, town and village around the Country.

Get there early and reserve a spot!
Get there early and reserve a spot while the DJ sets up!
À la table
À la table – Vivienne seems to be enjoying herself!

The evening was hosted by the Club de chasseurs (Hunters Club).  No doubt the main item on the menu, sanglier – Wild boar, was hunted down by the members. The sanglier are known to do a lot of damage to the vineyards. The sanglier was presented in a sauce with white beans on the side. The entrée was a small plate of charcuterie (sliced meats) and salad was served after the fresh baugettes were passed around as well as bottles of red and rosé wine and plenty of water.  Afterward more baugettes are passed out as is the cheese course. Ice cream and then a cafe´ rounded off the meal.

Up behind the chateau, the pompiers are busy preparing the feux d’artifice or fireworks. Once the fireworks are finished, tables and chairs are rapidly moved as the large round cement area is cleared for dancing.

No age limits on the dance floor!
No age limits on the dance floor!



…into the wee hours!
Dance,  dance, dance!
Dance, dance, dance!
Amusements in the background
Amusements in the background
Barbe à papa (Papa's beard) or Cotton Candy!
Barbe à papa (Papa’s beard) or Cotton Candy!
hey Macarena!
hey Macarena!

Thank you for enjoying 14 Juillet with us here in France.