I am going to start making a collection of blog posts where I just talk about adorable villages in the south of France, I think. There are so many of them, and some of them are so lovely. Without further ado, welcome to the adorable village of Minerve.
Minerve is up in Cathar country, a region in the south of France marked by its 12th and 13th century sieges and massacres. The Cathars were followers of a dissident church that flourished around Europe in the early Medieval period, and I guess they fought a lot. Minerve itself was a fortified village protected by a tall watchtower, remparts, and a bunch of catapults.
The gorges of Brian are nearby if you want to walk around (and also I am…
Early autumn and the fresh apples of every variety seem to be in each market. Their bright colors and crunch are just asking to be incorporated into our menus. This delicious tart is simple and if you include the Calvados, most memorable. The longer I live in France, the more I realize that every French woman has a different recipe for tarte aux pommes. While the variations may be slight, they are there. In the past year, I have been requested to make a number of them for choir functions and other events. Since I have a tendency to get bored easily, I like to experiment with my basic recipe so what I make one time is not the exact tarte I would serve the next. Don’t let the long list of ingredients and directions put you off. Anywhere you travel in France, Tarte aux Pommes is usually on the menu. You will quickly see how fast and easy it is. Bon appetit!
Tarte aux Pommes Ingredients
For the crust: 175g plain flour/ 6 ounces,115g /4 ounces butter, room temperature, 25g sour cream / 1 ounce
For the filling: About 6 medium tart baking apples (I prefer Granny Smith), peeled, pitted and sliced, 3 large egg yolks 145g, sour cream/ 5 ounces (crème fraise), 150g granulated sugar / 5 and 1/3 ounces, 35g plain flour / 1 and a half ounces (about 1 heaping tablespoon)
For the glaze: 160g apricot preserves or jam / 5 ounces 1 tbsp Calvados (apple brandy) Whipped topping, for garnish.
For the crust: 1) Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5 or 375ºF. 2) Place the flour, butter, and sour cream in a food processor and pulse to combine. 3) When the dough has formed a ball, pat with lightly floured hands into the bottom and sides of an ungreased tart pan with a removable bottom and 1cm sides, or a round au gratin dish. 4) Bake for about 18 mins, until the crust is set but not browned. Let cool while preparing the filling. 5) Lower the oven temperature to 180°C/Gas 4 or 350ºF.
For the filling: 1) Peel and thickly slice the apples. Arrange the apple slices in overlapping circles on top of the crust, until completely covered. Overfill the crust, as apples will shrink during cooking. 2) Combine the egg yolks, sour cream/crème fraise, sugar, and flour and beat until smooth. Pour the mixture over the apples. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hr, until the custard sets and is pale golden in color. Cover with an aluminum foil tent if the crust gets too dark. Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack to cool. When cool, remove the sidewall of the pan. 3) To make the glaze, combine the preserves or jam and Calvados. While the Calvados is not essential, it makes an amazing difference. Spread with a pastry brush over the top of the warm tart. Serve the tart warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
Variations: I like to add the zest of an orange or lime and some grated fresh ginger to the custard mixture.
Bon appetit and I hope you enjoy this little taste of France.
Paper was invented in the 2nd century B.C. by the Chinese. In 400 A.D. the Japanese and the Koreans were utilizing blackberry bushes by taking the shoots, steaming them and peeling them, and left to soak in water until very soft and pliable. This is then boiled off in a mixture of ashes and water then laid out on smooth surfaces and beaten with sticks until a paste is obtained. This paste is diluted and then prepared to become a sheet of paper.
The monopoly to create paper was maintained by Asia for nine hundred years!
It was until 751 A.D. when Chinese prisoners in the battle of Tales gave up the secret to the world of Islam. As the knowledge to create a paper spread in the Arabic world it also spread to the Western world where the paste was created from flax and hemp utilizing rags or plants.
The vital component of paper paste is cellulose which is found in every plant.
Since the mid-nineteenth century, cellulose has been extracted from its plant/wood source by the use of chemical treatments. This method dissolves the plant’s flesh and what remains is the cellulose.
In nature, the cellulose is brown. By treating the past with chlorine, a white paper was achieved. A lesser quality paper is achieved by retaining some of the plant’s flesh and the texture is the type of newspaper.
Paper without chemicals is possible. A man named Tripot took out a patent to create paper from horse dung in 1841 after noting that animals such as deer, cattle, and antelopes did not digest cellulose. A factory in Paris turned out paper made from dung. The mill here in Brousses has been making their handcrafted papers from elephant dung supplied by the African Reserve located in Sigean and the dung of horses.
Up until the mid-1800s, paper paste had only been made from hemp, cotton, and flax rags. (ropes, cloth…).However, in the present at Brousses mill paper is made mostly of rags (cotton). Plates of cellulose are purchased from a provider in the Ariège region. This is necessary as currently, fabrics no longer contain either flax or hemp. The factory receives tons of flax and hemp plants every week which they extract the cellulose with chemicals, whiten and make paper or compact paste. This cellulose can be used just like a rag.
The color of the paper will depend on the color of the rag product. Blue paper is frequently made from blue jeans (cotton) and black from black cloth. Brousses mill never uses coloring agents.
Rags into the paper: Rags: old clothing or other materials are stripped of buttons, zippers and even the seams are cut. Then the rags are cut into strips and sorted by color and wear.
Then the rags are soaked in tanks
After a 2 – 6-week soak (fermentation) and impurities have been “burned” removed, the rags are set to become a paste. Then they are cut into very small pieces and lain on large plates.
Mallet Pile: Invented in Italy toward the end of the 13th century and the beginning of mechanization. A bucket wheel drives an axis which drives the mallets in three tanks. Eight to ten kilos of rags are thrown into the first tank. Over a period of 20 hours, the rags are smashed repeatedly by hammers which are covered with sharp nails. The rags are then transferred to a second tank where hammers with flat-headed nails refine the fibers that remain. In the third tank, leather-covered hammers refine the paste even further. While this machine accomplishes its task quite well, it is very noisy and time-consuming.
Dutch pile: Invented in 1670 in Holland the Dutch pile or Crushing cylinder. They were initially driven by bucket wheels then later switched to the turbine. Tanks were filled with 50 kilos of unfermented rags and 1,000 liters of water. The wooden cylinder attached with metal strips kneads the rags rubbing them against other strips of metal or “platen” which are at the bottom of the tank. Due to a clamping screw, the cylinder can be lowered onto the platen. The result is that the paper-maker is capable of crushing the fibers while refining the paste numerous times utilizing the same machine. This machine is still working in numerous paper mills today.
Millstone grinder: This is driven by electrical power. The granite millstones weigh 3.3 tons each. The heaviest lays on the bottom of the tank weigh 4 tons each. It takes the millstone grinder one and a half hours to crush 300 kilos of moistened fibers, which was to recycle old papers.
Dutch pile and millstone grinder: Paste circulates inside the Dutch pile and covers the cylinder. The paste is ready. The plug is removed and allows the paste to flow down into a lower tank then onto the paper machine where water is added to the paste. The Dutch pile has been filled with the previously smashed paste inside the millstone grinder.
Dutch pile produces a very thick past that must be diluted in a tank. The resulting product will be 1 – 3 percent paste concentrate and 97 – 99 percent paste solution. A sieve is used to separate the fibers. A sieve is used to separate the fibers from the water. Each sieve is crafted by professionals and is imported from England. The tightened brass wires keep them parallel to each other with thick embossed seams. The sieve consists of a thin plain metal canvas to create a vellum paper. The paper-maker attaches a wire to the canvas. The wire’s pattern gives the pieces of information on the paper’s size and who created it ( eagle, bell…). The removable frame cover fits the sieve and gives the paper shape and thickness. There are frames to form special papers, envelopes, and other shapes. The marks are called watermarks.
With the paste diluted, the fibers are mixed with a stick then the sieve is quickly plunged into the tank. As the water begins to drain off the sheet of paper is formed. The sheet is laid on a piece of woolen felt. One hundred sheets are called a ‘porse’. The more the past is diluted the thinner the page will be. Increase the paste for thickness.
When the sheets are piled without the felt it creates cardboard.
Drying: The sheets are lifted with a wooden stick and hung on ropes. The thicker the sheet the longer the drying time. The other factor is the weather. It can vary from a few hours in the summer to several days in the winter.
The paper mill of Brousses is located in the Montagne Noir. The village and the mill are nearby Montolieu (village of books).
Once again with someone visiting, it was off and the paper mill was one we both had never seen. There is a tour and you can follow in French or English. I believe there may be printed tours in other languages but will leave their site information so that you may check should you be in the area.
Even without the paper mill, the trip is well worth making. The beauty is stunning and invites exploration, photography, and perhaps a picnic.
Upon entering the mill we had a wait of but a few minutes before setting off on the tour. Yet due to the lush setting, it is a surprise we got in at all. The paths and the river beckoned me to continue wandering.
The Bucket Wheel: This water engine drove the paper machine which stands in the current shop up until 1981 and has produced electricity until the 1950s. The bucket wheel and paddlewheel are both water engines. – waterfalls down onto the bucket wheel to produce waterpower; this type of vertical wheel is primarily in the mountains. – the paddlewheel is driven by water running underneath and can be
found mostly in the plains.
The turbine: Upstream, the watercourse of the river “La Dure” is diverted through a canal and brought into a pond right above the mill. Prior to 1920, there had been three-bucket wheels, one on each floor. In 1920, two wooden bucket wheels were replaced by the turbine, due to the damage obtained with the period of inactivity during World War One. The structure of the turbine consists of a horizontal wheel inside a cylindrical tank; water drives this wheel, which drives a horizontal axis and driving the machines on the upper level.
Watermarks: A watermark is a tiny lightness in the paper, where the paper is actually thinner. To obtain this lightness, the paper-maker lays a wire on the paper canvas; the result is that the paper past is less thick where the wire was placed. The paper-maker can create his own watermark… his signature! The first paper-maker was named Polère; he settled in Brousses in 1694.
The region of Carcassonne was renowned for its woolen fabrics. Among the Royal Factories who would produce fabrics, two were on the river La Dure. The paper-makers produced cardboard used for the presses and leaves used to wrap the fabrics.
There were 617 water mills and hundreds of windmills spread out over the region. The river Dure was home to 67 waterwheels and 27 textile workshops. The village of Brousses alone was home to 12 watermills of which half were paper mills.
Today, the sole working paper mill in the region is Brousses. The Chaila family has been producing cardboards since 1820. They purchased the mill in 1877 and made paper from machines up until 1984. The seventh generation of the family made the decision to handcraft paper in 1994.
Watermarks were used to specify the size of the paper. Bell and grape were among the names to designate what are now standard sizes A4, A3, and others.
When the paper was held against a light source the network of lines could be seen. You were assured that this was laid paper. If the paper were
plain it was called vellum paper. An imperfection or stain was a defect and known as the papermaker’s tear. Normally, the paper is ecru-colored. However, paper-makers frequently add some blue when combining the paper paste with the intention of increasing the whiteness of the product. When this has been done you can see the increased whiteness of the paper when the light has been turned off and it produces a vast difference.
The watermark on banknotes is created by a metal plate that the printer engraves, heats up then presses against the paper canvas. This results in an accumulation of paste in the hollow parts and they turn darker in color. The flat parts which receive less of the paste will turn significantly lighter.
Papyrus: made from a water plant by the Egyptians around 3500 B.C. Stems from the plants were cut into long, thin, and wide strips; these were tightly woven together.
Parchment: From the second century B.C. Pergamon, Asia The hides of various animals such as goats, sheep calf’s were used as writing paper. For a thinner product the hide of a calf that was born dead or died within a few days. This higher quality hide was thinner and whiter.
Somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the Drôme is a place called Hauterives, and in this place, in the 1800s, lived a postman called Ferdinand Cheval. In the daytime he delivered the letters by foot, and dreamed about an ideal, fairylike, beautiful palace. In the nighttime, he built it.
He had already been building his “palace, castle, a type of grotto” in his head for years when one day a weirdly shaped stone rolled into his path. He picked it up and put it in his pocket and everything started from there. For the next thirty-three years he constructed his Ideal Palace, collecting strange stones and sculpting his edifice.
I visited this on a wandering cowboy day. I used to be a travelling sales rep, and I described it as being a “wandering drunk…
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss
“Reading one book is like eating one potato chip.” – Diane Duane
“Reading brings us unknown friends.” – Honoré de Balzac
While still in Montolieu and having toured the Conservatory of Book Arts & Crafts, we were in serious need of refreshments and then there are books to be discovered. We were in luck as just across from the museum was a charming tea shop/bookstore. On this particular day, the books were to wait as we indulged in the tea and delicious cakes. The cakes to choose from on that day were chocolate or chestnut. The small tea cakes had been baked in a rose shaped mold, were moist and delicious. While I am a chocoholic, I choose the chestnut one and it was amazing. Nathalie is a gracious host and as we left we met one of the resident cats. After all, what is a bookstore without a cat or two in residence?Montolieu has much to offer. There are numerous shops, cafés, museums, courses on paper and book making and don’t forget all those bookstores! While admittedly most books are in French, there are numerous other languages represented as well as collectibles. My personal policy is that I “must” find a collection o poems by a French poet each visit. My collection grows and it is also part of my French learning I assigned myself. If you are into books, reading or writing, there is something here for you. If not, it is a beautiful place to stroll and have a picnic.
Besides having the books and tea shop, like many shops in the village there is a good selection of regional products available. When you visit Montolieu, stop in and meet Nathalie and Stéphane.
“Until I feared to lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” – Harper Lee
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… the man who never reads lives but one.” – Georger R.R. Martin
“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” – Ray Bradbury
When my friend Yvonne pops over from London, we often find ourselves off to explore. This particular adventure 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!
Located in Montagne Noir (Black Mountains) this small village (pop: 1,400) has 23 bookshops. Each Autumn, they host an ancient book festival. Naturally, as one might expect, such a village is popular with artists and there are a number of small galleries.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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!
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/