Another Walk About my Village…

“My wish is to stay like that, to live quietly in a corner of nature.” – Claude Monet

“Just living is not enough… You have to have the sun, freedom, and a little flower.”   – Hans Christian Anderson

“Nature is the source of all true knowledge. It has its own logic, its own laws. It has no effect without cause, and no invention without necessity.”     – Leonardo da Vinci

20190424_075201 Grass disappears without electric or gas power. The mother and her two children are led to available grazing spots as needed. Their permanent home is located north-east of the village center in a pasture behind the chateau.

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20190522_091817How a neighbor’s garden grows and grows.  Father and mother on one side of the tiny intersection, son and his family where you see this garden. Together, they maintain this and a small orchard/vineyard across the road. As things ripen, the excess is sold to those who are in search of excellent produce after 5pm in the evenings.

20190522_091914-1The fledgling orchard they have created may appear small but more than adequate for their needs.  The olive trees in the center and a border of vines. In addition to what you see in these to photos, they have several vineyards on the north-east end of the village. If you walk down the road between the orchard and Michel’s house, you will find our village waterfall approximately 200 meters up the path.

20190522_092326  These lovely, proud roses greet those who would enter the post office from that direction. The perfume they emit is intoxicating. There is no way I can just walk by. I  must stop, inhale and say thank you. Behind the post office is a small area with a bench perfect for escaping that hot Mediterranean sun as the trees are filling out. In the evenings, you can frequently find petanque teams who are determined to bring their game back up to where it was the previous season. In late summer, every village will host tournaments and offer prizes for the winners. Despite the smallness of the area, it is adequate for a game and there is much more space for gaming a short walk down the path.

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This photo has been shared in a larger size than the others so that you can see the structure of this plant. The geometric centers and the petals are fingerlike in shape. The bees that hover and lite upon them to feed are huge, noisy and have a reddish, purple glistening back and wings. To the right of center, the photo is one such bee if you can spot it. Between the bees and the wind, I just could not get closer and keep them in focus. If anyone is familiar with the plant, I would appreciate knowing more about it. Directly behind the plant are the tennis courts followed by the swimming pools. Off to the right of the plant is the soccer stadium and beyond that, there is a campground which has some cabins for rent and also room for tents.

Thank you to all for indulging me in my little walkabout. Some may even see a few of the reasons I love it so. When you visit France, please remember that France is more than Paris and while there are similarities among villages, each has its own charms.

While you are out and about enjoying nature, please remember all she has given us, her survival and ours, is in our own hands.

Bisous,

Léa

URGENCE ECOLOGIE! / Ecology Emergency!

20190513_124051 Two days after seeing this poster on my weekly shopping trip to Narbonne, I saw an announcement in the local paper for a demonstration on the 25th of May. There was no question, I had to be there. 

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It may appear a bit disorganized but it was very early and people were still arriving. I do apologize for the photos I wanted to share but missed. My phone/camera was showing nothing but a blank, dark, screen. I don’t know how much of that was due to the strong Mediterranean sun but I am grateful to have the few photos I managed to get. The drummers were from two groups, one in Narbonne and the second joined us from nearby Carcassonne. They kept us all in beat and let everyone know we were there. There were close to 100 drummers in total. I can’t begin to imagine how many people were there as I couldn’t see past them all. 

20190525_163917-1   World March For The Climate / It is time again

20190525_164003  And The Sea?

The last two photos are the two sides of the sign I was given to carry. Signs were collected upon our return so that they may be used again. I do wish I could have photographed each and every sign as they all had at least one message that needs to be heard.

20190525_161032     Plastic, no thanks / PLASTIC = NO MERCY

20190525_163340    Your climate is heating up / You can guard it!

20190525_151844  Outside the Narbonne Courthouse, we paused to listen to a few speakers from Les gilets jaunes / The yellow vests. As they have every Saturday for the past several months, been in force. We had paused at each of their locations along our route and they were most supportive. Despite being there for their cause, some of them joined us for part or all of the march. 

20190525_141627  TAX ON THE MEAT  – As a vegan myself, I appreciated how the word meat has blood dripping into the land…

As many of you are aware, livestock is a major contributor to global warming, accounting for at least 18 percent of all global warming gases. For those who have been unaware, it is past time that you educate yourself before it is too late. The meat industry is not going to tell you. We must band together, share what we do know and hold the government and food industry accountable. The internet is rich information, alas there is always misinformation so be wary of your sources. Our responsibility is to know and to act. The children know and in rising numbers, they call on us to account for our neglect and to join them. Greta Thunberg travels Europe by train or with her parents in their electric car to speak to the world on Climate Change and what we all must do. YouTube is filled with her speeches. She has been nominated for the Nobel Prize and has just recently turned sixteen years of age. All over the globe, they are walking out of schools protesting. We are not doing enough and so the children have picked up the gauntlet and are shaming us for we have left them vulnerable with little to no future in sight.  Here is a link to Greta addressing the EU and I hope all will listen to this girl’s words. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWsM9-_zrKo

 

Thank you for bearing with me. I will not apologize for my diatribe. What I would love to know is where you are on this planet and what steps you are taking to save the world that has given us so much and what changes you will make so that our children and grandchildren can survive? 

Bisous,

Léa

Printemps – Spring

Spring has been gracing us with her vibrant colors for a month. Overnight we began by finding almond trees bursting with buds. 

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Not to be outdone, flowers began to appear and remind us of their seductive charms. If only I had the ability to share the fragrances that lace the air and cling to my laundry as it dries on the line. 

 

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Each day another tree or plant unveils her secrets.

20190313_141447  20190416_10510220190416_105142 20190416_105119 Walking about my village, there are new buds revealing themselves daily. For the last few weeks, the poppies have been showing their scarlet beauty. I don’t include any photos of them at this time as they deserve a special post with a field making an appearance, hopefully soon.

The Mimosa trees are filled with blossoms and fragrant as are many of the other blooms. The frogs are making a racket with their song but they stay hidden during sunlight hours as do the crickets. 

The figs are growing rapidly and I can almost taste them. A friend halves them, stuffs them with goat cheese and drizzles them with a balsamic honey mixture then grills them. They are delicious but I just love them right off the tree. No tree, no problem as they are everywhere and plenty that are not on someone’s private property. Bon appetit!

 

Bisous,

Léa

during this 3h-hike, I was in awe at the wonderful landscape, and after I saw the ruins of an old farm among the Andorran chalets, I recalled Steve Jobs’ wise and realistic encouragement:“I’ve looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: if today were the last day of my life, would I want to […]

via TODAY is here and now…:-) — my virtual playground

Petit Hibou / Petit Chouette – Little Owl

Life here is filled with surprises and delight and this morning was no exception. Hibou is the word for owl while Chouette is one with tufted ears.

Petit Hibou
Petit Hibou

When my neighbour, Gait, came out his door this morning he was face to face with a little visitor. He took a photo with his phone and stopped to show it to me on his way to walk his dog. He said it was still there and to take my camera so I shall share with you the pictures I was able to get.

monsieur hibou
monsieur hibou

He/she made no attempts to fly off and the agency that deals with bird rescue has been contacted. For the time being, Gait has placed it in the container and covered it loosely.

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Petit Chouette

The owl did not seem to object to being petted or when picked up. However, we felt it best to let it rest now until the experts arrive and can assess the owl’s health. Being nocturnal, we assume it would be more comfortable out of the bright sunlight at least.

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While I know little about owls, I find them fascinating and if there was a magical bird, it would have to be an owl. The first time I got this close to one was in my youth while staying in Canada with my grandmother. While walking through and undeveloped area on my way to the local swimming pool, there was a snow white owl perched on a fence. It took my breath away and I couldn’t wait to get back and tell my grandmother about it. Swimming took a backseat that day.

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The feathers are so very soft… like a small chick.

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Gait and his little visitor at my front door
Gait and his little visitor at my front door

Don’t forget to click on the photos to see them enlarged. No doubt there are some of you out there who know much more about these fascinating creatures and perhaps even the type of owl this is. If so, I would love to hear from you. I hope you have enjoyed this little visitor to our village.

Bisous,

Léa

Thoughts of Spring

Chilly, grey days such as today are fertile for the mind wandering down the path to Spring! Spring with its many delights. Here are a few delights from my village and from nearby Albas (sheep) to turn your thoughts to warmer days.  Last but certainly not least, I offer a few photos from one of the greatest gardens of all, Giverny.  Today the photos can do the talking.

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After the rain
After the rain
Almond blossoms
Almond blossoms
Deep purple...
Deep purple…
Poppies scattered in a vineyard
Poppies scattered in a vineyard
Lovely to look at, fragrant but my personal nemisis
Lovely to look at, fragrant but my personal nemesis
Sheep shearing
Sheep shearing
Before
Before
After
After
Milk lamb - unweaned between 4-6 weeks old
Milk lamb – unweaned between 4-6 weeks old

 

Entrée du jour
Entrée du jour – Bon appétit!
Sharing sunshine with a friend
Sharing sunshine with a friend
Mimosas
Mimosas
How's your garden?
How’s your garden?
Lilas (Lilacs)
Lilas (Lilacs)
Wisteria
Wisteria
Monet's garden - Giverny
Monet’s garden – Giverny
More from Monet
More from Monet
The arbor leading to Monet's home at Giverny
The arbor leading to Monet’s home at Giverny

 

Spring is just around the corner and we have much to appreciate when it arrives.

Bisous,

Léa

Seasons change…

Mon village
Mon village

I have heard it said that if you love a place when it is winter, you will love it all year around. This photo was taken in January 2008 when I first saw the village that would become my home. In the centre of the above photo is a group of three houses. The first is a large double and the ground floor is home to an iron forge. The two narrow houses to the right of it complete this group and the yellowish one on the right is mine. To the left is the footbridge which crosses the river Berre. The footbridge leads to the other side of the village where you will find La Poste, La Marie (Mayor’s office) the primary school, la maternelle (pre-school), maison de la retraite (retirement home) Maison des Jeunes, a house with several rooms for activities for the young people of the village. While other groups have use of the facilities, the young have priority. There are such associations all over France.

Roman bridge
Roman bridge

Standing on the footbridge and facing the old Roman bridge, is my favourite view and even though the trees were bare, the river low and the sky grey, to me it was home. The old plane trees across the river now provide shade through much of the year for the new picnic area which was installed last year. On the right, the old stone wall which had been lowered to make the other side of the village visible. It had been as high as the bridge.  The level of River Berre fluctuates and is currently very low. However, that can change quickly and strong rains this time of year can bring concerns of inundation such as was experienced in November 1999. The flood waters reached the top of the ground floor of houses along my road and we have very high ceilings. We came close to flooding last year but the quick response of the firefighters (pompiers), wine makers and others in the village created a run off for the water and prevented a disaster. Over the past year preventative measures have been taken but the villagers are ever watchful and respect the beauty, bounty and the force of nature.

Picnic and giant pits for grilling etc...
Picnic and giant pits for grilling etc…

 

 

This region is known as “Les hommes des souches” is a Corbières saying describing local people whose families have lived in the area for a very long time and who have worked the land, tending the vines and producing wine. The ‘souches’ is the vine plant and the roots go down very deep into the soil. Durban people feel connected with their town, their land, their families and the history of the town which goes back to pre-Christian periods.

Below is my neighbour, Armand, in his atelier. He is a young 90+ and as sweet as they come. His skills are amazing as he creates gates, railings, decorative items and art. In his salon there is a collection of musicians with their instruments all he created at the forge.

Armand in his atelier
Armand in his atelier

 

Work by Armand - symbol of Pays d'Occitan
Work by Armand – symbol of Pays d’Occitan

 

The first fire in my new home. While it was new to me it has been around for over 350 years. The tiles are original and one of the distinct patters in the house.

First flames...
First flames…

The first December here, we had an unusual visitor.

A rare snowfall
A rare snowfall

From the hills

From the south east
From the south east

For me, even in the winter there is nowhere I would rather be. I hope you have enjoyed these few windows into my village.

Bisous,

Léa

 

 

 

 

LES ORGUES D’ILLE-SUR-TÊT – Deux

Sculpted by waters! A natural amphitheatre has been created. Its walls sculpted with gigantic columns 10 – 12 metres high. The fragile and arid landscape  represents an ephemeral work. Despite the fact it appears as if it were frozen in time, it is constantly changing. Each time it rains, large quantities of sand are worn away. The ancient shapes are disappearing and new ones appear. Erosion is the architect and despite similar terrain in the area, nowhere else will you find the results as stunning as here.  The sand rock columns are hoodoos or “chimney rocks” due to the hard rock layer that covers them, protecting them minimally from a more rapid erosion. Note: many are confused by the local name of “Site des Orgues”. When in fact in geology, the word “organs” is preferably used to designate basalt streams that solidified in long pipes. Yet, there is no volcanic origin in this terrain. ... It is where the vegetation is sparse that the rock caps are less protective and first gullies were able to form. As the soft layer was reached, it was cut rapidly. The erosion varies and is more intense where the surface is softer on the column whose diameter is reduced. This causes the rock cap to lose its foundation until it eventually collapses as a while or in sections. In the site’s maze you can see and comprehend the importance of the protective rock cap. Whenever the rock cap has disappeared, the columns will soon collapse.

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The hoodoos or “chimney rocks” develop more slowly than the gullied sides of the site due to their vertical height: in fact, a drop of water dripping down the side of the hoodoo is carried away by its own weight. It takes with it a grain of sand or a flake of clay and the repetition of this is the action that carves the famous “organ pipes.”   DSCN1231

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In addition to the existing formation by water erosion, the site reveals a more ancient history. There are five major steps: – The mountain range we know as the Pyrénées was formed approximately 45 million years ago. At that time, the fold extended as far as the Languedoc and Provence. – Approximately 30 million years ago the eastern part of the chain broke  and collapsed. The Mediteranean as we now know it first appeared. – Than 5.8 – 5.3 million years ago, the Mediteranean was dried out as a result of an obstruction at the straits of Gibralter which was a result of plate movement. With the waters of the Atlantic unable to enter, the water level fell over 1500 meters. – Since plate mobility is constantly changing this situation lasted a short time. In the Pliocene the tectonics allowed for another shift and there was a marine invasion. Perhaps one could picture the terrain looking like the deserts of Africa.  The wildlife present were the as they are in current Africa landscapes. There were Hippopotamuses, elephants, monkeys and of course rodents and the hipparion or small horse. It was a turning point in the earth’s evolutionary climate.  Hot climate became drier and the Mediterranean climate began. – The rock cap which covers the columns at the site are composed of rubble resulting from the first quaternary (1.8 million years ago) colds. The cold was consistent with the fracturing in the rocks due to frost. At the foot of icy summits, landscapes are covered with windswept tundra and arid steppes. Only the sheltered locations hosted any softwood, birch and juniper forests. Animals were of the same kinds found in other parts of Northern Europe: wild horses, reindeer, antelopes, bison, saigas, wolves, bears, lynxes, otters, the Artic foxes, and ermines.  Some original animals: herbivores such as woolly rhinoceros, mammoth, auroch, herbivores, and carnivores such as cave hyenas, cave lions and cave bears. This action was in the site’s long history before the time of the flowing waters. With the climatic changes reminding the interglacial phases, the last phase (erosion) of this landscapes life  is begun. Sand which has been in transit on its way to the sea has been trapped for five million years and will eventually be washed away by rainstorms. This landscape is a heritage and it has travelled through time. While its history may seem ordinary it is in fact the natural mechanisms that have created this most unusual site. It is acknowledged that there are comparable, yet different, sites on the banks of Serre-Ponçon lake (Hautes Alpes), Cappadoce in Turkey and also in Bryce Canyon in North America. The fact is, each drop of water will have a causal effect on this beautiful site.  See it now!   Bisous, Léa

Les Orgues d’Ille-sur-Têt

“Here on the river’s verge, I could be busy for months without changing my place, simply leaning a little more to the right or left.”              –  Paul Cézanne

Walking through the mazes of Ille-sur-Têt, I am in the company of the master. I cannot help but be reminded of his devotion to his beloved mont Sainte-Victoire.  Shortly after the opening of the Aix-Marseille line, Cézanne wrote to his friend, Emile Zola, on April 14, 1878  to praise the mountain which he viewed from the train while passing through the railway bridge at Arc River Valley. That same year he began a series of over 60 paintings of Sainte-Victoire.

I give you the above quote as I seemed to hear his voice as I hiked through Ille-sur-Têt. He kept telling me to turn my head and record what I witnessed. Ever since the first time I visited his Atelier in Aix-en-Provence, I take his messages to heart. Perhaps I was carried away with the camera or just maybe, I listened to the master. I could imagine his response to witnessing the wonder of Ille-sur-Tet and the  great Mont Canigou in the background…

A perfect day to wander...
A perfect day to wander…

Orgues (Organ) of Ille-sur-Têt: The site was listed in 1981 as protected under the Act of 2 May 1930 regarding the protection “of natural monuments, and artistic, historic, scientific, legendary or picturesque sites.” Listing the site concerns outstanding features of the heritage whose preservation is of general interest. The procedure permitted to develop the site so that it could be more welcoming.

Entrance...
Entrance…

The approach to the site follows a trail of approximately 800 meters before entering the actual site. Shortly before the entrance you will find a scattering of metal sculptures. The art and their placement reminds me of the park grounds surrounding Atelier Cézanne in Aix-en-Provence.

Bienvenue!
Bienvenue!
More art!
More art!
Beauty and nature, we do have it all!
Beauty and nature, we do have it all!
Perhaps a reminder to be mindful?
Perhaps a reminder to be mindful?

DSCN1191 This part of the Têt valley is called the Ribéral. The word means “river area” or “born from rivers” due to the number of springs and resurgences present on the territory. The site is situated in a valley wich is 2 km wide at the level of Ille-sur-Têt and surrounded by three massifs – to the south, west and north. Eastward the land widens out to spread gradually to the Roussillon plain. The foothills of Les Aspres lie to the south. These hills with their steep slopes are mainly composed of schists – an impermeable rock accounting for the dryness of the environment. To the south-west you can view the highest point of the Canigou Massif (2784 m) it is also known as the dog’s tooth peak and is the last high summit of the eastern part of the Pyrenees and an important symbol for the Catalan people.

Canigou Massif (center) with peak hidden by the clouds
Canigou Massif (center) with peak hidden by the clouds

The first stop facing the visitor centre is situated at the confluence of two torrents: the Retxe and the Piló d’en Gil. These rivers often run dry (as they were when I was there) but be aware as heavy storms turn them into raging torrents. Autumn rains are often violent, sometimes catastrophic, as there can be 150 to 200mm of water in only one day and there are records of 600 or 800 mm of water which is equivalent of rainfall in the Paris region in a whole year. The locals will never forget the month of October 1940 and the ‘aiguat’ (downpour/overflow). About 1280 mm of rainwater tumbled down over the region during three days.  The Têtriver reached record levels of 700 times more than its average rate of flow or a discharge ten times more than the average rate of flow of the Seine in Paris.  The level of the water rose up to 6m in Perpignan, over 80 buildings were destroyed and there were about forty victims in the department of the Pyrénées Orientales. While such events are rare, they are not exceptional and each generation remembers their ‘aiguat’. I have come to realise that this will not be a single post. Please join me again as we explore the magnificent Ille-sur-Têt. There is more information and lots of photos to encourage us to listen to Cézanne who turns his head searching for each new perspective and sees so much more. Bisous, Léa