Bienvenue à chez moi!

Ma maison et mon petite voiture bleue
Ma maison et mon petite voiture bleue

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.

La cuisine
La cuisine

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.

Left: front window Right, door to the old vestibule
Left: front window Right, door to the old vestibule
Salon
Salon

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).

Bisous,

Léa

Rita's room
Rita’s room
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That first fire…
A guest room that opens out  to the terrace
A guest room that opens out to the terrace
Winter view from Rita's window
Winter view from Rita’s window
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More L’ Art Caché

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To sleep perchance to dream…

With so many photos of the show to share, I thought I would send them your way.

Bisous,  Léa

The Flying Dutchman: Corneilus Blum
The Flying Dutchman: Corneilus Blum

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Adam Peacock

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,,,

Patric et un ami
Patric et un ami
Patric et Corneilus
Patric et Corneilus

Michel Braibant Museum/ Conservatory of Book Arts & Crafts

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Le musée

When my friend Yvonne pops over from London, we often find ourselves off to explore. This last venture was back to Montolieu – Village du Livre (Village of Books).

While I could spend endless days in the beautiful village of books, we had a limited amount of time this trip and the museum was the focus of this trip. If you would like to see more of the village, I recommend checking out my post of 12/12/2011. Or best of all, visit Montolieu yourself!

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Located in Montagne Noir (Black Mountains) this small village (pop: 1,400) has 18 bookshops.

Le musée traces the history of print from Pictographs to the Alphabet, from Clay to Paper and the invention of Typography (1454), Linotype (1884), Monotype (1887), Stanhope Press (early 19th century) and so much more.

30,000 BCE: Pictographs are pictures and symbols and represent the first written forms. Concepts are represented by figures and scenes.

4,000 BCE: Ideograms/ideographs are a logographic writing system in which graphic symbols are used to represent words. They originated in Egypt and China where ideograms evolved into its current stylised script system.

1,300 BCE: The Phoenicians invent and disseminate the first alphabet. A limited number of letters that they allowed for the formation of sounds.

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1,000 BCE: The Greeks adopt the Phoenician alphabet that they then adapt to their language by introducing vowels.

700 BCE: The Latin or Roman alphabet appears as an adaption of the Etruscan alphabet which had been borrowed from Greek colonists in Italy. Today, the Latin alphabet is the most widely used in the world.

The earliest materials for writing were stones, shells, wood and even tortoiseshells.

4,000BCE: Mesopotamian clay and the tool used was the “calame” or reed stylus.

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3,000 BCE: Egyptian papyrus, a plant found along the banks of the Nile. The “calame” or stylus is made from a blend of soot and resin.

200 BCE: Parchment, is animal skin (goat, calf, sheep…) which has been specially prepared for writing. The writing tool of tis period is a goose feather quill. Ink is made from a compound of vegetable and mineral pigments with egg white as a binding agent.

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105 CE: Paper was invented in China by Ts’ai Lun. It was made from vegetable fibre which was reduced to a paste. The process stayed a secret until 751 CE and later introduced in Europe by the Arabs.

Middle Ages: The majority of the population was illiterate and books were rare and precious objects. Therefore, the thoughts they contained were not widely known. In monasteries, monks copied and recopied  the manuscripts with each copy errors

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compounded and diminished the original meaning of the text.

1454 Invention of Typography:

The German metal-worker/inventor, Johann Gutenberg combined lead, antimony and tin creating an alloy which could be used repeatedly. Gutenberg is generally credited with perfecting metal moveable type.

Linotype: Invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1884 and

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produced solid lines of text case from rows of matrices. The line-composing operation was accomplished by means of a keyboard similar to that of a typewriter. However, it was much faster than hand-set typesetting and permitted the wide circulation of printed material. It was primarily used for the composition of newspapers.

Monotype: Another type of hot metal composition which appeared in 1887.

Stanhope Press: This press appears at the beginning of the 19th century, and consists of a massive cast-iron frame. It replaces wood presses, but

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impressions are still made page by page and inking remains manual.

Plate Press: This press appears in the middle of the 19th century and increases the speed at which printed matter can be produced. The carriage is flat and pedal-driven and rubber ink rollers. It is fed manually.

Heidelberg Press: Appears in the early 20th century. With its high speed cylinder press and an automatic feeding and placing device which pivoting racks pick

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up the paper by the use of suction to the entire surface.

Nebiolo Cylinder Press: First appears in the 1940’s. The base is no longer vertical and fixed, but horizontal and mobile. Print form moves under the cylinder to which the paper is attached.

Lithography: Makes its appearance in the late 18th century  and gives birth to Offset in the 20th century. This method is based on the chemical repellence of oil and water.

Massicot: This cutting device was perfected by Claude Massicot and allows for clean cuts for reams of paper.

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As you might easily imagine, there is much more to see in this museum than can be covered here in a single post.  If you plan to visit the south of France, a trip to Montolieu is well worth the visit.

Bisous,

Léa

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Bookpress
Bookpress
Alphabet
Alphabet
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Making art accessible to the masses

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Giverny Part III

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More than half a million people visit Monet’s gardens each year. However, it is only open for seven months each season.

The many inner alleys are closed to visitors to protect the plants and maintain the garden’s beauty. However, you are free to explore the side alleys and all about the garden viewing its various perspectives.

An underground passage will give you access to the water garden. During the time of Monet you had to cross a railway and road. Yes, you can walk across the Japanese bridge and get stunning views of the numerous hidden recess of the water garden.

Let your camera explore with you as pictures are permitted. However, picnic’s, dogs and other pets are prohibited.

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The house and its gardens became the property of Michel Monet upon his father’s death in 1926. Michel did not live at Giverny so care of the property fell to Monet’s stepdaughter, Blanche. Sadly, the house and gardens fell into disrepair after the Second World War. It was not until 1966 that Michel Monet presented the estate to the Academie des Beaux-Arts as his heir.

IMG_0341When Gérald van der Kemp became the Curator in 1977 he met with Georges Truffaut, a distinguished gardener who had frequently been invited to dine with Monet during his lifetime. Devillers was able to help reconstruct the garden as it was in the time of the master.

Restoration took nearly a decade to

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bring house and gardens back to their former glory. Much had been reduced to shards and shambles from the bombings. Floors and ceiling beams had rotted, a stairway collapsed. Trees were found growing in the former big studio.

The pond had to be dug again. In the Clos normand, soil had to be removed in order to locate the original ground level. Care was taken to replant the same flower species as those discovered by Monet in his time. Private donations from generous donors made the work possible. The house received a facelift. The Japanese prints and ancient furniture were restored. Giverny has been open to the public since 1980.

While touring the house, visitors are asked and reminded not to photograph the inside.

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Stand here and be intoxicated by the perfume!

For myself, I enjoyed the day tremendously. Yet the sad exception for me was that Monet’s studio has become a gift shop. I shudder to think of what the master would have said. I do realize that these treasures must be preserved and that it takes a great deal of money. However, I would have gladly paid more for the chance to see the studio as the master would have left it.

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Don’t forget to click on each photo so you don’t miss anything!

Bisous,

Léa

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One of the smaller bridges

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Châtaignes

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire!
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire!

Once again I am spirited back to the foyer in my little village. Tonights event is Châtaignes and a presentation. Fresh roasted Chestnuts. The evening was sponsored by the village association and for a fee, read fundraiser, of five euros, you had a presentation of restoration work and archeology on the village Château topped off with tables covered with hot, freshly roasted chestnuts, red and white wine and neighbours and friends. What more could one ask for?

As the presentation finished, tables quickly appeared and were covered with newspapers then large containers filled with Châtaignes right off the fire. Naturally bottles of wine were on the tables and magically your glass refilled.

Friends and new friends were gathered around the tables enjoying the spread and company! I had eaten chestnuts once back when living in New York City. However, they were burned, lukewarm and tasted as if they were stale but re-heated. After that, I

Family, friends and fun!
A table filled with goodness and shared with family and friends.                              

 

 

 

 

had no further interest in Chestnuts, that is until I moved to France. That first chestnut quickly surrendered its cracked and willing shell. Warm, soft and nutty deliciousness melted in my mouth. One was not enough and there was no need for dinner this evening.

Another word for Châtaignes, chestnuts, is Marron. As you travel around France you will see vendors selling crêpes. One of the menu options will be Marron and it is a spread made from the chestnut. It can be used on crêpes in pastries of even on plain toast and it is delicious.

Bisous,

Léa

 

Crème de Marron de a Ardeche – Chestnut Spread                                       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serge, french teacher, caught in the act!
Serge, french teacher, caught in the act!       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As one box of chestnuts disappears, another box of hot ones magically takes its place. Naturally, there is plenty of wine to wash it all down with.
As one box of chestnuts disappears, another box of hot ones magically takes its place. Naturally, there is plenty of wine to wash it all down with.                              

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plenty to eat at this table as well. Just so it doesn't get in the way of conversations. Of course there is movement between the tables as well.
Plenty to eat at this table as well. Just so it doesn’t get in the way of conversations. Of course there is movement between the tables as well.                                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Château de Durban
Le Château de Durban

 

Limoux

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Park near the river and it is a short walk to the square

The last day with Yvonne and Pauline they decided they wanted to visit Limoux. It was a laid back day before they flew back to their hectic lives in London. Being Monday, many shops are closed. That is fairly common here in France. Unfortunately, that will mean another trip to Limoux for the spectacular cheese shop there…

The day started out a bit grey but the clouds finally moved on and by lunch we were enjoying the sunshine.

But first a stop in one of many wine shops. While a variety of wines are available the specialty of Limoux is something called Blanquette.

Blanquette de Limoux The Original Sparkling Wine

Blanquette de Limoux was the first sparkling wine which dates back to 1531. At the Benedictine abbey, Saint-Hilaire near Limoux the monks were producing an usual white wine in a unique fashion. The wine was being fermented in flasks of glass with a cork top instead of the traditional oak vats. This resulted in a natural sparkle in the wine.  Blanquette is made exclusively from Chardonnay and Mauzac grape varieties which give it that dry,creamy and full-bodied wine with a clean taste, a long full finish and fruity aromas.

It seems a young monk named Dom Pérignon stayed at Saint-Hilaire long enough to learn the process as he headed north from Spain. Later, upon arrival in the Champagne region, he passes the technique off as his own.

Despite legends to the contrary, Dom Pérignon did not invent sparkling wine. However, he was able to make valuable contributions to the quality and production of Champagne wine.

Having enjoyed both Blanquette and Champagne on a number of occasions, it is Blanquette that I buy, have on hand and serve to friends and visitors. It is Blanquette that I provide for celebrations. Like many things, it is a personal choice. However the taste of Blanquette is un-equaled.  If you can find it where you are, I highly recommend you give it a try. If not, you might consider coming to the south of France.

Limoux is one of the few places where I have seen Blanquette available by the glass at a restaurant, bar or café.  À votre santé!

Bisous,

Léa

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While Yvonne and I won’t pass up a chance for a glass of Blanquette here in Limoux, Pauline prefers to stick with the red wine… Actually, you cannot lose either way!                         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The église
The église is just off the square                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Notre-Dame de Marceille                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The gentleman in this wine shop on the square will be happy to tell you all about Blanquette and other wines of the region as well as delight your palate with his wares.