One of the things I have enjoyed when traveling abroad was visiting or staying in local homes. I have had the good fortune to experience such living from Vietnam to Holland and several countries in between. I am fascinated by the people I have met and the places I have been welcomed into.
What happens to a French home in the hands of someone else? Most of the wallpaper has remained unchanged (It is in good condition). There are four large photos in antique frames that hold a place of honour. Three of these hang in various parts of the house. My favourite of the photos is perched on a bureau against the wall. The frame is too fragile to hang. The couple who had owned this home had passed on and their only child had pre-ceeded them. It fell to her husband (monsieur Pollard) and son to sell it. As you walk into the salon, you will see the brightly coloured tile floor, a red marbled chimney and a large antique cabinet. The door behind leads to the stairs and also to the kitchen. Just inside the door leading to the kitchen is a second large cabinet. They were among some of the furnishings left behind and are still in use here. The table and chairs near the front window have been moved into the kitchen. The biggest change was removing the tiny vestibule. While it did help to keep out the wind, it made it impossible to bring in my sofa. It took me awhile to see the error in what I had done. That is one of the reasons I have changed very little.
It is rather typical for a townhouse in this region. The house has two small narrow rooms on the ground floor (salon and kitchen). Naturally, all rooms have very high ceilings. In the centre you will find the stairs winding up to the other floors. They are elliptical and covered in ancient red tiles which are common around here. The first floor has the two guest bedrooms. The smaller one, at the rear, opens up onto the tiny terrace.
The chambre in the front, I call Rita’s Room. My best friend visits each year for several weeks and always has first option on that room. The window is directly over the front door and looks out onto the River Berre, school and the maire. This is the largest and brightest of the three bedrooms and has a double bed, bookshelves, dresser and a small bedside table. It is the only bedroom that doesn’t have a design on the floor tiles. The are the traditional red floor tile.
Next time, I will show you the final room and up into the grenier (attic).
If I go a bit overboard, perhaps you will forgive me. However, I love my village and can’t get enough of it or of the photos! There were a number of photos I took that I was unable to access while getting the post out this morning so I am continuing with the walk about the village. Even with this post there are still photos left…
The staircase to the left takes you up to the footbridge that crosses over to the school, the mairie (mayor’s office), the poste and much more. Most of the houses on that side are much newer than where my house is which is just a few meters from these stairs. The marker on the way up the stairs shows how high the water rose during a storm in 1999. The ground floor of my house and many others were under water. The old market and a number of other buildings across the river were destroyed. Yet it proves that you cannot keep a great village and wonderful and determined people down!
As I write this, it has been raining since yesterday afternoon. Soon, once again, it will be filled, flowing and watched for signs of flooding. It is suppose to be on a 40 year flood cycle. However, last year came a bit close.
Thank you for joining me on my walk. I do hope that for those so inclined, you will one day leave your footprints here.
One of the many things I love about France and the French is that they truly enjoy life and celebrate it completely. Last Sunday, the village association invited us all to socialise and share; food, music, wine, blanquette and most of all, each other. The tables were covered with white table cloths to allow the green ivy and olive branches to stand out.
This event was organised by Durban Village Association. The event adds to the social calendar at a time when many things are on the quiet side and the small admission of three euros each goes toward the Associations coffers which fund improvements in and around the village.
Les Chant des Corbières, one of the local choirs, was asked to perform and we were happy to do so. Albeit, being in the choir, I was unable to take any photos during the performance. The songs performed included; Les Tourterelles, L’Epervier, Cangaceiro, Je Reviens, El Condor Pasa and Des Jonquilles. Le Chef (choir director) Jacque has included a significant number of songs in Spanish to our repertoire this year.
Like all other social events, people mingle about chatting with their friends and neighbours before settling down to a table. After everyone was seated the choir was introduced and the singing commenced.
After singing, the choir members joined the others. Some sat with their families and the rest of us claimed a table of our own. Plates of chocolates, cookies and a clementine were passed out then someone offered us each servings of Galette des Rois and Couronne du Roi. There were bottles of Blanquette at each table and water of juice as desired.
A tombola was next on the agenda. Each of the several winners received three bottles of wine and one included a large plant. Of the eight or so winners, three of us at our table had winning tickets!
Our next village social is planned for 3 February 2013. Our host will be le maire (The Mayor).
Next month I shall celebrate my fifth anniversary of living in la belle France. I arrived on October 31, 2007. The time has gone so rapidly and so much has happened. The first three months were focused mainly on house hunting. Never did I imagine it would take so long. It did give me the opportunity to see a number of different villages and types of house. While many interested me and one in particular in Les Martys which is situated in Montagne Noir (The Black Mountain) I was not convinced. Something held me back. An agent in Carcassonne (friend of a friend) showed me a few houses but we struck out. Then one day as I passed her office, she waved me inside and said she had a property to show me. Maryanne navigated and I drove.
Something I had not told anyone was that I had a date set when I would start looking out of the region I was convinced was where I wanted to be. That day as I drove closer to the sea than I had considered (thinking it was out of my budget) I tried to keep an open mind to what she would be showing me. It was January 16, 2008 and the birthday of my youngest son. I had been sure that I would have been successful by that date.
Maryanne read her printout from the internet as I navigated the main road then later
some small windy roads. The thought in my head was that even if this turned out to be the house, I would never find it again. We arrived in the village, parked and walked about waiting for the seller to arrive and let us in. We parked by the stone wall which stands between the house and le berre de rivière (the river berre). Leaning over the ancient stone wall, I saw the bridge (shown above) and felt a tug on the heart-strings.
We didn’t have much time to look about when Monsieur Pollard arrived and we began our look around the house. It is a town house with small rooms and spread over four stories. The top one being the grenier (attic).
The house had been empty for over two years. The structure appeared sound which I later had verified and while small it gave me two guest bedrooms which was more than adequate. The house is over 300 years old and the original tiles remain in all the rooms and stairs.
The kitchen contained a sink (typical of homes in France) and remnants of a chimney which could be replaced should one choose to do so. Any purchaser would have to kit out the kitchen on their own.
The village itself had the requisites that I had been wanting and more. There is the boulangerie, cafe/bar, post office. Yet there was so much more. The village has a piscine (swimming pool), tennis courts, a small market, flower shop, coiffeur, notary, bibliothèque (library) even a botanical garden. There is also a man who brings in fresh seafood every Thursday and a Wednesday morning market offering fresh produce, fresh goat cheese and more. The foyer hosts first run movies each Tuesday night and often additional films especially for the children. There is even a campground with cabins and facilities for those with tents. The tourist season here is quite busy so if you think that camping is something for you, I would urge you to book ahead. If camping is not your thing you can rent a house or stay in the small hotel over the bar. There are also several chambres d’hotes ( bed & breakfast).
Needless to say, if you like a place in the dead of winter, it can only get better. I made an offer the same day and it was accepted. Despite everyone telling me that it would take over three months to close escrow, two months to the day of viewing the house I had the keys and moved in three days later when my bed, fridge, stove and washing machine were delivered. Since then I have picked up a few more pieces. That feeling that I got when I first saw the village have grown. Getting to know the people has been the icing on the cake. I have never felt so at home anywhere.
The French word commune appeared in the 12th century, from Medieval Latin communia, meaning a small gathering of people sharing a common life; from Latin communis, things held in common. As of 2008, there were 36,781 communes in France. Just over 200 of these exist overseas. This is a higher number than other countries in Europe and is largely due to the division of the Country during the French Revolution. (Wikipedia) The Communes are a community of villages/parishes/hamlets with the largest often having services for the entire commune. If there is an interest, this could be the subject for a future post. Next to the individual village, it is the smallest unit of government in the Country. Our local Commune, community of villages, invited inhabitants of the Region to join in a day of cultural exchange and celebration. The idea is to all those native to France and all those from other Countries to better know and appreciate their differences.
Each participant will bring a dish (for four) of his area or his country, to share. A number of participants will provide recettes (recipes) for the food they have brought.
If you would like to turn your hand to traditional Irish Soda Bread, here is a link to the recipe that Peter used and it was perfect the first time! http://www.dochara.com/the-irish/food-recipes/irish-soda-bread/
Animation is ensured by the guests, volunteers, who will testify to
the artistic, cultural or traditional way of life of the country or the area of which they are native. It must be admitted that a few will take an artistic interpretation to the idea. Additionally, a few of the French will embrace another culture coming in costume from that Country and bringing food that you would eat should you visit there. There is a prize for the best costume (trophy) and prizes for others who participate in the costume portion of the event. The trophy will be returned the following year for the next winner.
When vide grenier (empty attic) signs start appearing with any regularity, you know spring is on the way.
Before moving to France, I had a series of yard sales and when the house sold, there was a moving sale for everything that I was not taking with me. Occasionally, I would see a block sale advertised and everyone on the block would put out what was for sale.
In France, it takes on a completely new meaning. The whole village comes together to sell what they no longer need. Each individual or family will set up a table and members of the local village association will sell food and café, soda, bottled water or wine. Some villages will have music and more. There is usually a tombola (drawing for prizes). I have been to vide greniers where they had musicians and folk dancing!
You do not need to wait for spring to check out these events. They are part of the scenery all year long. However, they become more frequent in the spring and throughout the summer. There are vide greniers that are for raising funds for groups such as the pompiers (firefighters).
The first year after moving to France, I found two lovely tea services by Limoges. Each was so beautiful that I could not decide and ended up with two. One set was solid white with a scalloped edge and the other (much older) was white and the trim was gold, green with a bit of pink and quite elegant.
You never know what you will find. There are many treasures and more than enough of the used CD’s, DVD’s, old clothes, local wines, furniture, food specialities and more. There are also antiques and treasures to be had. Most of all, it is another opportunity to socialize with your neighbors and welcome visitors. There is plenty of fun for all.