Saturday, September 24, 2011

Nerac

The staircase on the way to the market place.
 We didn’t know what we were getting into going to Nerac, we just liked the sound of the name. (Talk through your nose, kinda squeeze your throat, then say Neewrack, sounding the wr deep in your throat.) It helps if you remember Billy Crystal talking like a French person in When Harry Met Sally.  Anyway…..off we went to Nerac. It was a different direction out of La Romeiu than we had taken before. The land really opened up into rolling hills with lots of farming, though most of the fields were fallow for the fall. There was a large co-op for seed crops, newly built and very modern. Several new houses were being built along the way, although there was on which looked like it had been started last year and never gotten back

If you looked down from the top of the staircase, this was looking back at you.  The French do such fun things with plants and flowers.
We entered the town through entirely new construction. Now we were getting concerned. A turn toward the centreville alleviated our fears. There in the middle of the road was a large staircase with a chateau off to the side. People were everywhere with market baskets; all headed toward the stairs. We found a park in the Credit Agricole lot. (Credit Agricole will be my bank if I ever live in France. They have never charged to use their ATM’s even before it was the law in the EU.) The market was busy. The largest one we had seen in the southwest. But this was Saturday and we were leaving on Tuesday morning, so we didn’t buy anything. Except the Paella in the posting before this. And my new basket.
Panarama of the Castle of Henry II

The chateau was built by Henry II. Turns out he was one of the better Kings of France, really looked out for his people. He built roads, schools, water works, allowed protestants to worship openly, didn’t start wars with his neighbors; all around nice guy. Unfortunately, a crazy assassinated him. Go figure.
After Bill downloaded this picture, he noticed the little boy peeking out from the back of the monument.

Being Saturday, everyone was out and about, including the circus. Round and round they went through the centreville, with loud speaker blaring. It must be a law that all circuses play the same BIG TOP music. Yeah, that one, you know which one I mean.
The circus is coming to town!

There will be Salsa dancing afterwards!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Castelnau-l'Avignon

One of the towers of Castelnau-l'Avignon is all that remains of the castel.

Driving through the countryside admiring the lay of the land, the crops, the farmhouses, when we enter a small village;  just a collection of houses, with what looks like the remains of a castle tower.  When we follow the curve of the road, suddenly there is a large monument, totally out of place for such a small village.  Of course, we had to stop.

The church in Castelnau, l'Avignon, with the memorial to the side.
After the Normandy invasion, a group of freedom fighters, French and Spanish, led by an American secret agent, used this place as a diversion to keep a rather large part of the German army from leaving to fight in Normandy.  It was a bold move that worked.  As the group was retreating from the town, they wired the old castle with explosive, so when the German forces arrived, it blew.   Several of the FreeFrench fighters were killed or injured, but there were more German dead.  In retaliation, the Germans destroyed the entire village.

The memorial to brave men and women.
As a rememberance to the brave men and women who fought here, the memorial was built.  It is just one small story, in a tiny place that helped win the war in France and eventually, Europe.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

La Marche de Nerac

We have visited many marche this trip, but Nerac has been the busiest with the best selections.  Fruits and vegetables, meats, seafood, cheeses, wines, ciders, clothing, housewares, plants, shoes, purses, hats, even furniture; it's a bit like Alice's Restaurants, you can get anything that you want!



The marche is also a social time for the locals.  Lots of people meeting and  bisou-bosou.  Catching up on the latest gossip.  Of course I don't speak the language well, but some things don't need translation!

This day, I even bought a shopping basket to use as my carry on for the plane ride to Paris, where EasyJet only allows one carryon, and then on to Tucson.  Oo La La!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fast Food, French Style

We chose the paella in the last pan on the left.  They had sold out of a couple of selections, but still had lots to choose from.

The owner dishing up our order, seafood paella.  A dish made with rice, chicken thighs, shrimp, calamari, and clams; nice and spicy, Spanish style.
When you want food fast in France, you can always find a McDo's,  but if you want good food fast, try the Marche.  At the marche in nerac, a husband and wife team had several large pans of food ready to be boxed up.  It is priced by the kilo, about 2.2 pounds.   They sold out of some of their selections, notice the empty pans, but they still had the paella!  That's what we had for lunch, just added bread and wine.  Viola!  Even adding in the cost of the wine and bread, it is was just 2 euro more than the hamburgers we had at McDo's in Aden.

We are traveling for the next couple of weeks, so I don't know how the internet connections will be.  We may just have to go to McDo's to use their free wifi.

Getting Ready for Dinner

The kitchen at La Romieu

The dining room.  The glass door leads into the side entrance.  I want a door similar to this for end of the hall in our house.  It lets in light, but still provides privacy.

Table set for dinner on the patio.  Oh no, where's the wine?

The patio seen from the upper garden.

A little nook with places to sit and read.
While dinner was simmering on the stove, I walked through and took pictures.  What a wonderful place to cook, eat, sit.  Simply enjoy living.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunset in La Romieu


We have had some beautiful sunsets during our stay in La Romieu.  I know it has something to do with dust or water vapor in the air; here probably both.  Either way, we have enjoyed sitting on the patio, finishing our wine and watching the sun fade away.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Roman Villa in the Gers

A model of the villa when it was new.
Signposts are our downfall.  We were headed to a very specific location when we noticed a signpost for Villa Romain.  Now how often do you see one of those?  Actually, in France, surprisingly often.  But we are suckers for such things, so we followed the sign.
This villa had an exception number of tile mosaics.

Tile mosaics with circles of designs.  They assume the large one in the middle was where a table would have been.

A long room with mosaic floors.

Part of the baths,

Most of the villas that have been found only had mosaic floors in the private quarters.  This one had them all over the house.

A wave design; I really like this one!

This just proved to me why we put tile down in all our houses.  When they are dug up in 1500 years, the tile will still be there.  Cool!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Drive in the Country

We went to the market in St Cler.  To get there we ending up driving though the horrible construction in Lectour.    We surely didn't want to do that on a return trip, so off through the country for us.  BIB did not appreciate our willingness to ignore her directions, but ignore we did.  Driving along narrow country roads, between fields that have been harvested and plowed, next to ruins that look as old as time itself, we come over a small rise and find fields of sunflowers with an old farmhouse.  I am glad we often take the road less traveled.

The field of sunflowers that stretched on and on.  These were a smaller headed variety than we had been seeing.

Albi

So you can get a feel for how tall the Cathedral is, that little person at the base is me.

Cathedral Sainte Cecile
Cathedral Sainte Cecile in Albi is one of the most beautiful buildings we've seen.  The building of it took 100 years, mostly because it is made from handmade red brick.  It is a huge building, described as a fortified cathedral.  The inside is still painted with bright colors and interesting murals, unlike most of the churches in France.

The ceiling with part of the organ at one end.


Close up of one of the painted columns.  The angels were originally naked, but at some point they were painted holding songbooks to cover themselves.

Painted columns with the organ above.  What I don't like about the columns are the demons at the bottom, they are all female.  Not very appropriate for a Cathedral in memory of a Sainte.
Sainte Cecile is one of my favorite saintes, because she is the patron sainte of musicians.  Gotta love a gal who looks out for musicians!  Of course, since I'm not Catholic, I never really knew about saints until I started coming to France.  They have a saint for every day of the year.

Sainte Cecile

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Heats On

Be careful what you wish for.  We were too chilly in England, so to the southwest of France we came.  Well, it's not chilly here!  (That is not a complaint!)  In the mornings, I put a light hoodie on over my gown, but no shoes.  It's cool downstairs, especially after I open the doors.  Daytime, we have been closing the house up.  There are shutters to pull over the windows so the sun does not penatrate.  It's amazing how they help.  By 5 or 6 it has started to cool off enough, we open everything back up.  It may not continue so easy, though.  Friday is to be 95.

Tres Belle Maison a La Romieu

Our latest house sit.  Lucky us!

The Lord of the Manor, M Laurel, sitting on my map book.

Stretched out on the back terrace.  Laurel is a very talkative cat, when he isn't sleeping.

Sometimes we drive up to a new housesit and have to catch our breath.  Is this really where we get to stay now?  The house at La Romieu is typical French, and we love it.  The homeowner, Sarah, has lived here only 9 months, so there are still things she is working on to make it 'perfect'.  We have changes we would make if it were ours, but it's not so we get to just enjoy!

The main reason we are here, other than to keep the garden and potted plants watered, is Laurel, a neutered male cat.  Laurel loves to talk and sleep and get rubbed and have his hair combed with a fine toothed comb. A total Mr. Personality!  Last night when I went upstairs to get ready for bed, he was sitting in the opened window of the bathroom keeping an eye on what was going on.  This morning he was across the lane sitting on the neighbor's window sill.  Most afternoons, he sleeps on the back terrace, either on a table with a cloth on it, or in a long wooden trough.  Sarah bought it for another use, but Laurel has claimed it. 
Cat in a window of the village square.

Pretty kitty!

La Romieu is a very old town.  Walking around it feels like there is very little which is new.  The Colliegial Church was built in the 1300's.  The square has cat sculptures in memory of cats who saved the village from starving because the rats were eating everything, again in the 1300's.  I love this place!
A small alley by the old city walls.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Take My Picture!

Posing for his picture.

A more relaxed version.

This is what he really looks like, nice smile.

This young man offered to jump off the bridge into the cold water for a picture.  We declined, he was already shivering.

Two buddies wanting their pictures taken.
We have had several people willing to pose for a picture, such as the owner of the restaurant in Sete.  We have also had people say, "Take my picture!"  So we do.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11

My generation of Americans can remember where we were when JFK was assassinated. Our children's generation will always remember where they were when the planes flew into the World Trade Center, as will we. It's been 10 years, but there is still a lump in the throat when I think about that day and the days that followed.

Cordes sur Ciel

Cordes-sur-Ciel, perched on top of a hill.
Built on the top of a hill as a bastide town, Cordes sur Ciel was one of the first shopping centers.  The lord who controlled the area built the fortified town, charged folks to come and sell their wares, then protected anyone who lived nearby. 

The market place now has outdoor seating for the restaurants that surround it.

It's easy to imagine stalls with merchants selling their goods.
Today it is much quieter, but there are still folks selling their wares.  Now it's art glass, wood carvings, paintings, knives, antiques, and several shops full of local foods and wines.

The walkway to our hotel.

Entrance courtyard for Hotel de la Cite.

Our room with beamed ceiling and 8 foot windows that opened out onto the valley.
Our hotel is a half timbered building.  We've stayed here before, but they've done some upgrading of the bathrooms, which was needed.  Breakfast is an additional  12,50 euros each, so we pass and buy a couple of pan au chocolats and make coffee in our room.  The view is better, too.
View from our windows.

Sunset.
The last time we were here, our house was under water in New Orleans.  This little village felt like a safe haven.  The first night, we went for dinner at another hotel.  Just before we were finished, a neighboring table had their ice bucket knocked over, spilling water and ice under our table and blocking our exit.  We waited a bit for someone to come, but no one did, so we just waded through the water.  Another diner, English, said something about us wading, our response, "No big deal, we've from New Orleans, we're used to it."  And we laughed.  Like the old saying goes, 'If you don't laugh.........you'll kill someone.'

Doune Castle

Doune Castle was rebuilt by Robert Stewart, the Duke of Albany, a man who was the power behind the throne as Regent for James I of Scotland,...