Located in Central France, Moulins is in the region of the Auvergne and is approximately 2.5 hours south of Paris. The towers of the Cathedral and Eglise du Sacre-Coeur dominate the skyline. The eglise is home to a Black Madonna and child statue in wood and is from the 15th century.
Moulins grew up in the 10th century and takes its name from the many mills, which once lined the department (Allier).
Because Moulins was the capital of the duchy of Bourbonnais (c. 10th-16th century). It has noteworthy artistic and historic treasures. When I visited in 2006, the House of Bourbonn was wrapped in scaffolding and limited my photo options. I look forward to rectifying this and visiting this stunning city again. Naturally, I will post the next visit here.
While in Moulins, visit Grand Café. It has the notable first of having the first telephone and the first automobile in the area. The owner would proudly park his new motorcar outside and watch the tourists pour in.
Until the time of the French Revolution, Moulins served as capital for the province of Bourbonnais and the seat of the Dukes of Bourbon. Its existence can be documented as early as the year 990.
The town gained in prominence when Charles IV elevated Louis I de Clermont to Duke of Bourbon in 1327. Before establishing her career, the orphaned young Coco Chanel was educated here. Moulins was the birthplace of the great 19th century operatic baritone and art collector Jean-Baptiste Faure.
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With its position on the Mediterranean, Collioure has been a highly desired location. It has been occupied by Roman and Greek Sea Merchants and sailors
and they left a very rich legacy.King Wamba of the Visigoths occupied Collioure in 673. He named the village Caucoliberis and the town was established as major trading port.
This idyllic town perched on the rocky coastline. Its colorful houses seem to rise up out of the sea. This tranquil Catalan harbor with its sheltered bay is where the Pyrenees bows to The Mediterranean. My first visit to Collioure was in November and it was not too cold for a relaxing swim.
Art de vivre has its origins in this Catalan village. The artist Matisse brought his family to Collioure for summers and was quite prolific. He was later joined by André Derain with whom he founded the Fauvist Movement. The artists following this school were often referred to as “la cage aux fauves” or the wild beasts. There works wild with vibrant colors and brushstrokes like Collioure itself. Between the two the produced a formidable amount of work with over 240 drawings, paintings and sculptures in Collioure and its surrounding area.
When you visit Collioure you can discover some of their works by following a trail that winds itself through the village, with replicas at 20 sites where these Fauvist works were first painted or drawn. For maps, information & tours visit Espace Fauve, Quai de l’Amiraute, when in Collioure.
Collioure was also a favorite place to work for Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others. As you might imagine you will see many artists at work on your visit and often they will have something you might purchase to take home with you.
Life is all too short. Visit Collioure and discover its magical powers to inspire!
Le Château d’ Aguilar rises in the Cathar country, ensconced in a landscape of aromatic garrigue vegetation. A stark contrast to the order of the Haut Fitou vineyards. Set on the rock like a crown, the castle looks over the village of Tuchan. The first mention of Puy Aguilar appeared in the testament of the Count of Besalù in 1020.
Possession of The Château fell under the auspices of vassals of the Trencavel family. The crusade to eradicate the Cathars began in 1209 lasting until 1255. At the conclusion of this inquisition, the castle was property of the King of France. Ownership was bestowed to Olivier de Termes as a reward for services rendered in the Holy Land.
In 1258, the castle was brought into service in defending the French-Aragon border. In 1260 the castle was integrated info the royal domain by The King of France, Louis IX and became a royal fortress.
The castle is composted of two hexagonal walls. One composed of two rooms (upper and lower) and constructed in the 12th century. The lower floor was designated for the guards and light came through the vaulted narrow windows. The upper floor served as home to the castle keeper.
The outer hexagonal wall added in the 14th century and is flanked by six semi-circular towers to impede invading armies. Outside its curtained walls to the east stands the Romanesque chapel of St. Anne.
A traditional Romanesque chapel dedicated to St Anne stands on the outside of the curtain-wall, on the eastern side. The castle and the surrounding area obtained status as a Historical Monument in 1949.
Information is available in several languages at the bureau located at the foot of the trail. You can purchase books and postcards or grab a bottle of water. The castle is currently undergoing repairs and excavation to the subterranean levels which have long been inaccessible.
The Midsummer day is merely in reference to the period of time centered upon the summer solstice, but more often refers to specific European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice, or that take place on a day between June 21 and June 24, and the preceding evening. There can be a variation of dates between different cultures. In Estonia, Lativa and Scandinavian cultures, is it the most important holiday of the year with the exception of Christmas.
The French will celebrate the Fête de la Saint-Jean or le feu de la Saint-Jean, with bonfires reminiscent of pagan solstice rituals. The association with Saint-Jean was used when the Catholics adopted the tradition. In my village, the festival takes place near June 21st. The festivities are launched by a drumming group. Even though there is a DJ for the dancing to follow, the drummers stay to enjoy the festival and to lead the procession at 11:30 around the village for the lighting of the bonfire. A number of people carried colorful paper lanterns suspended on a pole as we walked about the village.
In some parts of France, the event is called Chavande and also known as Fête de la Musique. In some parts of the world it is known as World Music Day and associated with an event that was launched here in France on 21 June, 1982 and celebrates the gift of music. While music is usually a major component to any celebration here in France, it does not take center stage at this local venue.
The idea of the World Music Day was conceptualized first in France in 1976 by American musician Joel Cohen who proposed an all-night music celebration to mark the beginning of the summer solstice.
The idea was taken up by French Music and Dance director Maurice Fleuret for Minister of Culture Jack Lang in 1981 and first took place in 1982 in Paris.
Since then, it has become a worldwide phenomenon with over 32 countries worldwide having their own celebrations in their own way, regardless of the season.
The Historic Monuments Commission agreed to undertake the restoration of La Cite in 1844. Two concentric rings of curtain wall surround the city, the ramparts cover a total of 3km. Parts of the inner wall show the remains of Roman times. The second wall is separated from the first and was constructed in the 13th Century. There is a total of 52 towers surrounding the city and the Chateau Comtal, the heart of the fortifications. Originally the palace of the viscounts, it was reinforced and protected by a semi-circular barbican and a moat.
The genesis of Carcassonne goes back to pre-Roman time. The Cité’s structure today derives from the 11th and 12th centuries. Throughout this time, Carcassonne was ruled by the Trencavel family. The Trencavel’s were central to the development of the Cathar religion. The Cathars were generally known as “bons hommes” “bons chrétiens” and “parfaits”, they were regarded as heretics by the Catholic Church, and the ensuing conflict was characterized by unspeakable violence and persecution. In the summer of 1209 forces led by the papal legate Arnaud-Amaury, consisting of “crusaders” and armies of the King of France, laid siege to Carcassonne.
Despite this, in August 1209, Carcassonne fell. The young Vicomte, Raymond-Roger Trencavel, was thrown into his own prison and died there aged 24. Simon de Montfort was installed as the new Viscount.
Today the Trencavels’ Château Comtal is a powerful reminder of the medieval need to protect one’s home – a fortified sector within a heavily fortified town. Only one gate was wide enough for carts to pass into the Cité
La Cité is a must for most tourists to this region and children all find something to fascinate them. Money generated by the businesses there insure that the attraction will be there for future generations.
The origins of Carcassonne are traced back to the 4th C BC. In the 2nd Century BC it served as a strategic outpost fortified by the Romans, who gave it the name Carcassonne. The Visigoths succeeded the Romans and overran Gaul in the 5th C AD. When they converted to Christianity, it became a diocese. In the 8th Century the fortress fell to the Franks who later defended the city against attacks from the Saracens. The Emperor Charlemagne besieged the town in 795, and was held by Dame Carcass, a Saracen princess. After a five year siege, the only food left was one little pig and a bag of corn. Dame Carcass gave the bag of corn to the pig and sent it out to the ramparts. Charlemagne raised the siege, since he thought there was enough food even to feed a small pig. Before the Emperor left, Dame Carcass rang out the bells making them sound the word Carcassonne. In 1209, Crusades from the north came down the Rhone valley to stamp out the heretic Cathars. The Viscount Raymond Roger Trencavel publicly offered protection to all those being hounded by the northern invaders. After sacking Beziers, the crusading army besieged Carcassonne. Despite the leadership of a youngl Trencavel, in his early 20’s, the town was forced to surrender after only two weeks through lack of water. The Army council appointed Simon de Montfort, Viscount of Carcassonne in place of Trencavel.
Within a year Trencavel was found dead in the tower where he was being held prisoner. In 1240 Trencavel’s son tried in vain to recapture Carcassonne by siege. Although his mines and missile breached the walls, he was forced to retreat by the royal army. St Louis IX had the small towns around the ramparts razed and the town’s inhabitants paid for their rebellion with seven years in exile. Upon their return they were permitted to build a town on the opposite side of the river Aude- the present Ville Basse. The walled city was repaired and reinforced. When finished, it was so well fortified it was regarded as impregnable. Successive kings reinforced Carcassonne because of its strategic importance close to the border with Catalonia. However, in 1659, the Treaty of the Pyrenees restored the region of Roussillon to France. The new border was now 200kms away, The city of Perpignan now guarded the frontier. Carcassonne’s military importance dwindled and was eventually abandoned and left to decay.
When I first visited France in the spring of 2006, I spent a week in La Cité staying at the hostel and exploring the area. Before arriving, I began reading the book Labyrinth by Kate Mosse. Her descriptions of the area were so vivid and I felt I had stepped into the pages of the book.
La Fête du Muguet, La Fête du Travail, May Day in France is a public holiday to campaign for and celebrate workers’ rights. It is also an occasion to present Muguet, lily-of-the-valley, or dog rose flowers to loved ones. Often it is just a single sprig of Muguet with a few leaves. However, some will incorporate a rose or even add several sprigs of Muguet to a much larger arrangement or plant.
How is the day celebrated: People across France give bouquets (or a single sprig) to their loved ones. In some areas, families will get up early to go into the woods to pick the flowers. Labor organizations will sell the flowers on the streets on May 1. Special regulations enable individuals and some groups to sell the flowers on May 1 without complying with retail regulations or paying a tax.
Parades and demonstrations to campaign for the rights of workers are organized by Trade unions and other organizations. Campaigns for human rights and other pressing and current social issues will be out in number.
May 1 is a public holiday. Businesses will be closed as well as banks, post offices, and shops. Other than a high traffic tourist area restaurants and even cafes may close. In the major cities, the airport, railway station along the highways (tolls) may be open. There could be disruption to traffic in the heart of large cities especially Paris due to Parades and demonstrations. There could also be limited access to Public transportation so check before setting out.
On May 1, 1561, King Charles IX of France was presented with Muguet and was so enamored of the gift that he instituted the tradition of presenting them to the ladies of his court. In 1900 men began presenting them to women as an expression of affection or interest. Today, they are given as a token of affection/appreciation between family members and close friends.
When the eight-hour working day was made official on 23 April 1919 the first of May became a public holiday. During World War II, the holiday ceased but was resumed in 1947. One year later, it became known as La Fête du Travail or Labor Day. It is a day used to campaign for and celebrate the rights of workers across the Country.
“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 have 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 nearly eight 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.
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. 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. With the rise of fascism rampant in numerous parts of the world, I felt it imperative to reblog this post.
TheCertifiablyTRUERavingsOfASectionedPhilosopher: Don't be afraid to think you might be a little 'crazy'. Who isn't? Check out some of my visualized poems here: https://www.instagram.com/maxismaddened/