La Fête Nationale

“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”  – Charles de Gaulle  (current numbers list approximately 1600 different varieties)

“It was not what France gave you but what it did not take from you that was important.” – Gertrude Stein

“It is better to prevent than to heal.” –  French Proverb

 

Although this post is late, it is still July and though the festival did not happen this year, due to Covid-19, I couldn’t resist the temptation to pull this old post out of the mothballs and share how we normally celebrate in our little village to celebrate this most important of holidays. Thank you for stopping by a small French village. It is my hope that next year’s fete will give us, once again, the opportunity to celebrate and appreciate all that comes with living in such a wonderous village and Country.

When it is spoken of in English speaking countries, 14 July is usually called Bastille Day or (French National Day). Here in France, it is La quatorze juillet (14 July) or La Fête Nationale (Formal name). The actual storming of the bastille was 14 July 1889

Make reservations?
Make reservations?

The medieval fortress and prison in Paris known as the Bastille represented royal authority in the heart of Paris. On the morning of 14 July 1789, the people stormed the building and released the seven prisoners it contained at the time. Yet this action had nothing to do with the number of inmates but the fact that the storming was a symbol of the abuses of the monarchy and was the critical stage which erupted into the French Revolution.

Grab a beverage and start socialising!
Grab a beverage and start socialising!

There were three events that led up to the revolution. First was the revolt of the nobility, refusal to aid King Louis XVI by withholding taxes, the second was formation of the National Assembly and the third event was the storming of the Bastille and the ensuing Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

Christiane (Counsel member) is ready for a lovely evening with family and friends
Christiane (Counsel member) is ready for a lovely evening with family and friends
A Counsel member chats with the DJ - a band takes over when the meal is finished!
A Counsel member chats with the DJ – a band takes over when the meal is finished!
A great view of the castle and fireworks
A great view of the castle and fireworks
Henri et Georgette - await their respective spouses
Henri et Georgette – await their respective spouses
Christiane, Serge et Pierrette
Christiane, Serge et Pierrette

The masses formed the National Guard, sporting tricolour or cockades (cocardes) ribbons knotted together of red, blue and white. These cockades and soon the color scheme itself, become symbol of the revolution and continue today as symbol of France itself.

 

And the dancing begins
And the dancing begins

While the date for the destruction of the Bastille was indeed 14 July 1789, the date for French National Day was actually 14 July, 1790 to commemorate the 1790 Fête de la Fédération. It is a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation and reconciliation of all French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic during the French Revolution. Celebrations are held all over France. A largest and oldest military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, French officials and foreign quests.

Dance the night away... at least until 5am
Dance the night away… at least until 5am

Here in my small village, there will be a meal (repas) attended by all who wish. Each year a different village organization takes charge of preparing the dinner, selling tickets procuring music and everything else that is involved. As the meal comes to a close fireworks are shot from the village chateau. The tables and chairs get moved way back and the dancing goes on well into the morning. Despite the fact that I was, once again, invited to spend the day in Carcassonne where there is the second largest fireworks display outside Paris. However, the evening with my friends and neighbors cannot be matched by a mere firework display. It is one day I truly do not want to be anywhere else.

Trinkets for the little ones, a few small arcade games as well
Trinkets for the little ones, a few small arcade games as well

Seating fills quickly but you can make a reservation by stationing someone from your group or by placing something at one point, tipping forward the chairs you will be using and also with a pen or marker put the name and number of guests you require seating for. While this may sound simple, the claim is respected and your seats await you.

Barbe à papa (Papa's beard) AKA Cotton Candy
Barbe à papa (Papa’s beard) AKA Cotton Candy

 

La Belle Époque 1871 – 1914… on the street where I live

Recently, I offered a post on the street where I live. As I went through some older photos, later, I found two that I had made off old postcards, on the same street more than a century ago. I thought perhaps some of you would enjoy seeing them.

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If I am correct, my home should be just past that group of people seen exiting, or perhaps entering, a house mid-way on the left.  While the foot bridge has a set of steps in each direction, the other side is not visible from this view. It is the second set of steps that appear further back that exist today as you can see if you check out the post of 5 August 2018. Inbetween the sets of stairs, you can see the old pump which still exists, and works, though rarely used.   

If you look closely at the road, you can see some tracks for the old train that used to come through the village. A neighbor has just informed me that a small steam train ran from Portel des Corbières to Tuchan until the 1930’s. At different points it would connect and one could get into Narbonne which had a large number of trains that could take you to many destinations. 

Some of the houses have interesting patterns on their walls which have long been covered up by renderings. Those patterns would be consistent with the era  As you can see it is winter time as the trees are bare and the people at the top of the staircase appear to be bundled up against the cold weather.

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From this second photo you can see there was an épicerie (grocery) just next to where the café was located at that point in time.  No doubt you could stop in and pick up a fresh baugette with ham and or cheese and a thick spread of butter and wash it down with a glass of wine or beer. That is not where it was when I moved here over a decade ago nor where it is now located at the other end of the village. You get a look at the foot bridge that is no longer there, What you don’t see is that there was attached an outdoor toilet, how appropriate across from where everyone is eating and drinking.  The café in this photo had been altered by its owners years later and for many years served as the village pharmacy. At some time after WWI, a number of balconies where added including the old pharmacy as you can compare if you look at the post referred to earlier. https://foundinfrance.wordpress.com/2018/08/05/on-the-street-where-i-live-a-challenge/

I can see, to the left, how high the wall along the river used to be. It has been lowered some years ago. As you can see, the wall is higher than most of the people near it. I am barely five feet tall myself and the wall now, in some areas, is little higher than my waist. Before you ask, nothing around here is level so we shall move on.  It appears to be Spring or possibly early Summer as the trees are quite filled out with leaves and some of the citizens are in shirt sleeves. As you can see, everyone is glad of the opportunity to socialize with their neighbors on a beautiful day as the sunlight filters through the trees. I find it fascinating that in these photos could be former owners of my own home.

Perhaps I can find more such photos and if so, I shall share them here on the blog.

 

Bisous,

Léa

Brittany, Dinan and The Sculptured Rocks

I love Paris but if you haven’t explored beyond it, you miss so much.

Have Bag, Will Travel

Dinan Brittany France

We had enjoyed two good days in Dinard and St Malo but the next morning it was time to move on.  We woke earlier than planned on account of some seagulls flying past our window and screeching so loud it was as though it was a fleet of police patrol cars driving by on the way to attend an incident with emergency sirens blaring.

Before travel I always carry out careful research but sometimes something just crops up while you are away.  At a shop in Dinard I was looking at postcards and came across one for the nearby town of Dinan and it looked exactly like the sort of place that we should visit.  Kim was elsewhere in the shop and spotted exactly the same thing at exactly the same time.  Simultaneously we said “come and look at this, I think we should go here” and we decided there…

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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

Carrières de Lumières: Underground Art

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The beautiful village of Les Baux-de-Provence is a sparkling jewel yet small. One must visit and explore, inhale and touch with inquisitive hand, eyes and an open mind. With such exploration, her riches are exposed.

During my friend’s visit, Rita, we headed to Provence for a few days. Besides strolling about Saint Remy we each had a #1 must see and Carrières de Lumières was hers. My #1 will be revealed on a future post but this exhibit quickly had me under its spell. 

Step into the cave and be transported deep into the 16th century. Let yourself go and be awakened to the visions of BOSCH, BRUEGHEL and ARCIMBOLDO. This is total immersion from the ceiling of the cave down to the very ground you walk on. Walk about freely, stop and look closely or sit yourself down on one of the stone benches available on the caves outer walls. 

20171026_130057.jpg There isn’t a cultural event, landmark, museum or other National Treasure, where I have not encountered groups of school children on a field trip. They are accompanied by a their teachers, are well mannered, respectful and it is such a delight to witness their awakening and appreciation. 

20171026_131035.jpg Perhaps this photo can give you a small idea of just how vast the cave is. Unfortunately, you are seeing only one small area. The projections seem to dance across the ceiling, walls and even the floor of the cave. 100 projectors syncronised precisely with the sound system provide a seemless experience. I had little idea of what I would encounter but trusted that Rita knew we would both love it. As ususal, she was right and I was stunned. The show itself is not long in duration. Yet after wandering around through several showings, I found myself mesmerized and frozen on one of the benches. If I have the good fortune to return to a future show, I hope I shall be better prepared camera wise. What you will see here is from my little smartphone camera as my trusty old point and shoot had run out of batteries. Furthermore, I am unaccustomed to trying to capture stills of a moving target in near absolute darkness. I do hope it gives you of an idea of what a magnificent exhibit it is and perhaps schedule some time to view one of the coming shows. Alas, this particular show ended on 7 January, 2018. The next show began in March and the featured artist, PICASSO.

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If you should plan to visit Provence, this is one of the many delights that await you.  

Bisous,

Léa

Vendange

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.

DELICIOUS!
DELICIOUS!
Tomek
Tomek (seasonal worker from Poland)

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. 

Vineyards are everywhere
Vineyards are everywhere
Porters, Corneilus and Yost
Porters, Corneilus and Joost

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.

Fill those containers and keep moving!
Fill those containers and keep moving!

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. 

 

Remains of the day
Remains of the day
Embres - Castlemaure Cooperative
Embres – Castlemaure Cooperative
Fruit on the vine
Fruit on the vine

Bisous,

Léa

 

 

 

 

Remy owner Domaine Saint Juste
Remy owner Domaine Saint Juste

 

 

Semaine bavaroise

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. 

Bisous,

Léa

L’ART CACHÉ PART III

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 padou1946@gmail.com or search for her on Facebook. Alas, I am not on Facebook so I cannot provide the link.

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Geneviève Gourvil

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/

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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.

 

 

 

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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/

Bisous,

Léa