Roman Ruins in France

glanum-looking-downWe just got back from seeing the Carnivore’s family in Belgium for the holidays. A white-knuckle drive through a whiteout segued into fog and finally the southern sun. I must admit that we had good weather during our stay until it was time to hit the road. But the northern sun was as satisfying as watered-down coffee.  Didn’t even need sunglasses.

So we’re going to revel in some fair-weather shots from our trip to Provence last fall. Saint-Rémy de Provence has a marvel of Roman ruins just south of town. The archeological site of Glanum wasn’t discovered until about a 100 years ago, leaving it buried for 17 centuries.

glanum-capitalGlanum was first inhabited by Gauls around the 7th or 6th century B.C.  The Greeks arrived in the 2nd and 1st century B.C.  and started building. The Romans colonized it next, around 63 B.C. It fell into ruin around 260 A.D. after the Alemannic invasions of Germanic people, and the inhabitants moved to present-day Saint-Rémy.

view-to-town-and-sea
View of Saint-Rémy from a belvedere, or view point, at Glanum.

For an archaeology nut/wannabe, it’s paradise. We were the first to arrive on a Sunday morning and had the place to ourselves for over an hour. The best way to pretend to be Indiana Jones.

glanum-walls-2The main street is perched over drains the length of Glanum. The slight slope ensures good drainage.

glanum-sidewalkGutters handle run-off from houses and public buildings as well.

glanum-gutterAnd there were interesting drains. Those Romans had plumbing nailed.

What must the market have been like? Probably not much different from those today–stalls, maybe some produce spread on the ground. It was majestically outlined by Doric columns. Nice touch. You can see one of the columns below. It’s the one on the far left.  I was more taken with the “house with antae,” which is in the center of the photo.

glanum-columnsThe antae are the columns with Corinthian capitals. The rooms of the house surrounded an enclosed courtyard with a pool. I approve.

glanum-columns-2All those stones, covered with lichen. What was life like then? Pretty tough, don’t you think? In spite of the plumbing.

glanum-walls

glanum-walls-2

 

glanum-upper-endSo many carvings. Of people and places long gone. Did their monuments to themselves make them happy?

glanum-writing

glanum-tombstones

glanum-three-columnsTwin Corinthian temples were “dedicated to the cult of the Emperor’s family,” according to the site’s brochure. An exquisite decoration, like a butterfly’s wing, is on top of one, which was partially rebuilt to give us an idea of what it was like.

glanum-temple

temple-looking-up

glanum-temple-topThe photo below shows one of the wine-smoking rooms. Who knew? Smoking helped preserve the wine. Pre-bottle-and-cork technology.

glanum-ovenI always think, when I’m in a museum or a place like this, that there’s such an abundance of fabulous stuff, and everybody is so busy gawking at the headline items like the temple above, that they practically walk past wonders like those below:

glanum-four-entablaturesIf this were in my garden, it would be admired every single day, not passed by on the way to something more impressive. Here it’s another rock in a rock pile. Injustice, really.

glanum-carved-designOutside of Glanum, just across the road (where cars and bikes come screaming down the hill and don’t stop for the crosswalk–beware!), are two more Roman wonders, called “les Antiques.”

towerAbove, the Mausoleum, or Cenotaph of the Julii, from 30-20 B.C. It’s unusual for having a rectangular base with a round top. The base is elaborately carved.

tower-bottomRight next to it is the Triumphal Arch, showing Caesar’s conquest of the Gauls. Way to rub salt in the wound, eh?

archAlso, right next to Glanum is Saint-Paul de Mausole, the psychiatric hospital where Vincent Van Gogh spent a year.  We didn’t have time to visit on this trip. Gotta go back!

 

Lastours

683.Lastours10
View from the belvedere

The châteaux of Lastours are among the Cathar castles the closest to Carcassonne. The site consists of four ruined châteaux, perched on hills in the Montagne Noire, or Black Mountains.

672.Lastours7Looking at the steep, rocky terrain, you wonder how they picked this spot to live. Life must have been rough, with good views. The Orbiel river runs at the bottom of the valley, providing an occasional flat and fertile spot for gardens.

The visit starts in a former textile factory, with a great archaeological exhibition—the site has been inhabited since the Bronze Age.

661.Lastours3The climb winds around the hill, which makes it longer but safer than trying to go straight up. Still, it’s challenging. Not handicapped accessible or stroller accessible or even out-of-shape accessible.

657.Lastours1But the vistas are fabulous. On a clear day, you can see all the way across the Aude plain to the Pyrénnées. Lastours has only one road, which just goes further into the mountains and thus isn’t heavily traveled. As you climb, you don’t hear cars but birds and the wind whistling through the low brush. You also pass through a mostly open cave, which tends to be unbelievably exciting for kids.

671.Lastours6The four castles that make up Lastours (which is Occitan for “the towers”) are perched close together on a ridge, so once you’ve climbed, you’re good.

My fireman brother was fascinated (not in a good way) by the spotlight wiring, bundled haphazardly and running right across the trail for everybody to step on, and the guardrails (as in, lack thereof).

685.Lastours12Those who can’t hike can get a bird’s eye view from an even higher spot on a hill across the valley, where a belevedere is set up with benches for an evening sound and light show. Entry is included in your châteaux ticket, or reduced if you just hit the belvedere.684.Lastours11For a village of under 200 people, Lastours punches above its weight gastronomically. Le Puits du Trésor has a Michelin star, thanks to Jean-Marc Boyer, who is a real sweetie besides being a great chef. The restaurant is situated in the same factory as the entry to the châteaux and is open for lunch and dinner. Boyer also has a less-expensive bistro, Auberge du Diable au Thym (Thyme Devil’s Inn) next to the restaurant, with a terrace next to the fast and clear Orbiel.

A five-minute walk away, still next to the river, there’s a little bakery with homemade ice cream and tables in a little garden. And at least one shop sells local products, meaning local FOOD products.

You can’t get out of Lastours without eating, I’m telling you.

658.Lastours2You need a car to get to Lastours. Maybe a Tour de France biker would take on the steep road (no shoulders, no guardrails). Anyway, follow the signs for parking. Do not think you’ll find something closer. You’ll end up driving through town and then you’ll have to keep going until you find a spot wide enough to turn around. The town is vertical, with the road at the bottom next to the river, and there isn’t room for a sidewalk let alone parking, aside from the little parking lot.

The Writing Is on the Wall

1907During the renovation, we stashed a bunch of furniture in the attic. Our kid immediately noted the previous presence of other kids there. I had paid no attention to the scratchings on the walls, but yes, there were many hieroglyphics.

game“It’s kind of scary up here, but it could have been a cool place to play,” our kid noted.

stepsYeah, kind of scary. Starting with the break-your-neck steps/ladder to get up there.

door
A creepy dark room lies behind the little door.
under-eaves
Typical attic junk

But there are several skylights, and the floor is mostly tiled with terra cotta tomettes. This place would be a luxury apartment in Paris.

dark-doorway
A good set for a horror film. Yet note the sun shining on the wall, left.

Back to the kids.

julesHow many generations played under the eaves?

1925

1908

1984
1984 is next to the balloon with JPB CP.

Did they know each other? Not as kids simultaneously, but through the generations….kids turn into parents, then into grandparents.heartI wonder what other marks they made on the world. What marks are we leaving? And you?dramatic-light

Heritage Days

towerIf you ever are in France in mid-September, be sure to take advantage of les Journées du Patrimoine, or Heritage Days. Museums offer free entry, but even better are the government and private buildings that open their doors for these days only.

tan-salon-mirror
An upstairs salon….there were several.

I used to go regularly in Paris, and found it’s good to go with a guide to get the backstory on the history of the place, with amazing details pointed out. It’s also fun to hear the French argue over the dates of various kings–as an American, I cannot imagine having to learn the names and dates for rulers going back to 486. My school spent about a week on everything up to 1776, then the rest of the year it was all pioneers all the time, until a week or two before summer break, when we caught up to World Wars I and II. I longed to know about kings and pharoahs, but all we got was covered wagons, year after year.

skylight
The chandelier was enormous.

On one visit, I saw gorgeously painted ceilings, I think it was at the Hôtel de Marle, in the Marais. The Hôtel de la Marine houses the boudoir of Marie-Antoinette, overlooking Place de la Concorde, where the guillotine was situated during the Revolution. The building was turned into a museum in 2014, so now you can visit any time.

kitchen-fireplace
The old kitchen’s fireplace.

And there was the home of Marie Touchet, the mistress of King Charles IV, whose house in the Marais doesn’t face a street; you have to enter through another building’s courtyard, which is private. But it opens for the Journées du Patrimoine.

tan-salon
One of the salons upstairs, with a Murano glass chandelier.

It was hilarious to see very prim, perfectly dressed Parisiens get down on their hands and knees to examine the underside of the antiques in the Banque de France. One gentleman even thought to bring a flashlight. No better way to educate oneself!

door-knobThis year, we went to a château in a small village near Carcassonne where there also was a food and craft fair (yes, all fairs in France include food and wine). The château hosts large meetings of the Conseil Général, or the department’s council. Apologies for the photo quality–the lighting wasn’t ideal and it wasn’t possible to set up a tripod.

chandelier-looking-down
Set up for a meeting. That chandelier hasn’t been dusted in a while.
cave
The cave

The first two floors have been restored, but the top floor and attic haven’t. I don’t think anybody went through without dreaming of how it could be fixed up into a gorgeous hotel. In fact, I overheard one couple discussing as much.

old-wallpaper
Remnants of wallpaper on the top floor.
gold-chandelier
This was way too big for the room, IMHO. It would be so much better in our apartment. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind…

Have you visited during the Journées du Patrimoine? What was your favorite discovery?

red-salon-1
Another salon
wine
A display of the department’s products. The sign says: “Se l’alfabet era de vin, tot lo monde saupria legir!” which is Occitan for “If the alphabet were wine, everybody could read!”

 

 

It’s in the Details

balconyThere are so many things I love about the apartments we’re renovating.

Obviously the fabulous high-relief carvings are at the top of the list. But many little details make me smile. Like the design of the balcony railings, now painted in regulation gray.

doorknobOr the door knobs. Husband scoured all of France to find matching antique knobs.

He also scoured the hardware stores and online to find feet for a couple of radiators. During the demolition, somebody threw them out!

radiator feet
It’s a small triumph but a necessary one

There are a few weird doors to nowhere. A door jamb on one side of a wall and smooth plaster on the other. Though when we discovered the door to the harnais, we decided to keep it. I wonder how they used to get up there? A ladder?

harnais door

I love the wavy glass in the old interior windows. We had to give it up on the exterior windows, because we aren’t as clever as Daniel of Manhattan Nest, who fixes everything, including making new windows out of old ones, by himself. We had all the exterior windows replaced (by a professional) with double-pane glass, albeit according to strict design rules of the Bâtiments de France.

wavy glass
Can you make out the waves?

I love the little interior room that gives onto the light well of the stairway. The view of the stairs is so typically French to me. And talk about a quiet room!

back bedroom window
More wavy glass! Those stairs don’t ripple like that.

I love that got my way and have black paint on the inside of the window frames in the black and white bathroom. And I got at least a little bit of floor with cabochon tiles.

I love that a friend managed to salvage the Art Deco bed and transform it so artfully from a double to a queen, while improving the frame.

back bedroom bed
This is going to be a great place to sleep. Do you see half of a ghost door in the corner? The wall next to it is solid stone! WTF? No door on the other side, either.

I love the weird things about the place. Like what was the point of the niche below? It isn’t even symmetrical. I can’t wait to scout something to put in it.

back bedroom niche
Suggestions?

I love the furniture we bought with the place. The stories that must have gone with them. Perhaps one day I’ll find out. The previous owner is still around.

kneeler
Who was M???
clock
A comtoise, or grandfather clock

The floors have all been treated, the appliances installed (except for the sauna, which is en route), the kitchen cupboards built. We began moving furniture to the right places. It is taking shape.

Middle Age Spread

glovesThe medieval fête at the Camping de Moulin de Sainte Anne capped off with a dinner, as fêtes in France tend to do.

tables
The slate slabs were roof tiles. I bought some myself at a vide-grenier for use on the grill.

The tables were laid with pottery, slate slabs, knives and wooden spoons. The wine glasses were recycled yogurt pots. You know how Pinterest is full of DIYs for Ball jars? Same thing here, but with yogurt pots, in glass or terra cotta. Yogurt of the brand la Fermière (the farmwife) comes in them.

As we enjoyed an apéritif of spiced wine, the actors and band set up.

arranging skins
Must place the skins just so.

There was a witch hunt, a sword fight, a king crowned and much more.

reading decree
Declaring the hunt for the witch
sword fight
Swashbuckling
knight
Mingling
behind palm
Backstage

As for the food, we started with a tranchoir, a large round of bread, topped with slices of ham, pâté and smoked duck breast, along with a salad, for which we had no forks because those weren’t common until later. (Quizz: when did the Middle Ages end? Answer at end.)

entreeThe actors, who were part of the Echansons du Carcassès club, also served the dishes, which were carried out on a litter.

entree prep

waitresses
The multitalented members of the Echansons du Carcassès. The “witch” is far left.

Next, we had bowls of fèves, or fava beans, with grilled sausages. It doesn’t look like much, but it was delicious and hearty. One tour guide, at the Château de Guise in the north, described the cuisine of the time in detail. For example, a bird like a turkey would be killed, put in a pot with spices, buried with the head sticking out and left to sit. When the beak fell off, it was “done.” No. Thank. You. More medieval dishes here and here.

Wine also was served. Duh.

saucisse feves

Finally, we had a vanilla cream, like panna cotta. It arrived on a litter with a château replica whose towers were aflame. Nice touch of drama.

dessert castleAs night fell, the band struck up. The Artemuses ladies danced, stories were interspersed between songs and much merriment ensued.

band 1As the last song ended, the skies unleashed a much-needed downpour. Perfect timing.

dancing princess
This princess could not sit still when the music was playing. And she was a good dancer.

These kinds of gatherings are open to anybody. This goes for other kinds of events as well. If you see a poster, you can attend (and don’t forget to look for the line about “apporter vos couverts” telling you to bring your own plates and silverware. If it isn’t indicated, it’s probably provided). Best to call the number on the poster to reserve. The price usually is very reasonable. This dinner cost €20 per person. Bon appétit!

If you miss a medieval fête, you can get a medieval meal at La Rôtisserie restaurant in the Château de Villeroute-Termenès, about 50 minutes east of Carcassonne.

Answer: usually Columbus’s discovery of America in 1492 is considered the end of the medieval period and the start of the Renaissance, though, like much of history, that’s up for argument.

Take Me Back to the Dark Ages

 

horse2

The Camping le Moulin de Sainte Anne knows how to put on a show. Yesterday was medieval day.

A field across the road was set up with a medieval encampment and lots of entertainment.

Battles….

battle 1

battle 2

battle 3
The guy on the left “lost” the fight but won top prize for best hair.

Music…

band 1

tatoo
What’s this design? The other guys were from Ariège, but this one was named Leroy MacSomething from Scotland.
cornemuse
A cornemuse, or French bagpipes. Made of animal skin. Another time at the camping, someone fabricated one out of a bag that previously had held boxed wine. That’s ingenuity.

Dancing…

dancer blue

Crêpes made over a fire… It was hot work, dressed like that, on a scorching day, with a big fire.

crepes 1
This really reminds me of the ads for La Laitière.

crepes 2

Stocks…

blocks 1
The medieval cigarette kills me.
blocks 2
He’s going to chop off the kid’s head, and what does mom do? Takes a picture!

Witchcraft…

book sorts
Little Manual for Casting (Nice) Spells…not in the Hogwarts’ curriculum

witch station

book sorciere
Magic Textbook of Witch’s Plants

 

Medicine…

doctor real tools
Doctor tools from the Middle Ages
doctor tools
Reproduction doctor’s mini kit
doctor kit
Reproduction of a kit for a doctor to travel with. The pots would have been of clay, not glass. Bottom right: scissors, used to cut open the scalp for brain surgery. Note the saw–“arm size” for amputations, the woman at the stand told me. Somewhat worryingly, she’s a nurse in real life. 

Calligraphy…(I love that there were so many young people participating)

Games…guess the grain or herb… “Who am I?”

The show was put on by a club, Les Echansons du Carcassès,” based in Villemoustaussou. They can be hired for banquets, seminars, weddings, parties. They rent out costumes, put on ateliers about leatherworking, woodworking, costume-making. If you ask me, they know how to have fun.

The dancers are a troupe called Artemuses, putting on medieval theater, archery, combat, fire juggling.

Later, there was a medieval banquet. Coming up next time!damsels 1

The Truffula Trees

tree 3

The platanes got cropped. Once their leaves finally popped out, they reminded me of the Truffula trees in the Dr. Seuss book, “The Lorax.”

If you aren’t up on your Seuss, “The Lorax” is an environmentalist cri de coeur published in 1971. The villain, the Once-ler, invents a useless “Thneed” that uses the leaves of the Truffula tree, destroying it. The Lorax, who “speaks for the trees,” warns against the Once-ler’s corporate greed and short-sightedness, but Thneeds, despite being useless, sell like hotcakes and soon the Truffula trees are gone, leaving devastation. The Lorax flees, leaving a one word warning: Unless.

Some of us feel like the Lorax these days, upon learning that our village plans to cut down these platane, or plane, trees. Why? It costs too much to clean up the leaves. (When I asked him about it, the mayor pivoted and said it ALSO was because the roots were invading the sewer lines; I want proof.) It isn’t corporate greed but a soul-killing drive for efficiency that we see in many arenas. Over a hundred years ago, the villagers planted these trees along the main road to provide much-appreciated shade for generations. They thought about the future. That was then.

line of trees“The Lorax” was made into a film in 2012. It’s so-so. The book, of course, is better and worth reading even if you’re no longer a kid. Because we didn’t listen in 1971.

UNLESS.

tree 2

A very upbeat post coming on Wednesday. I need time to sort the photos. A BIG surprise happened yesterday!

Treasure Hunt

becane
A mobylette….check out the state of the seat…and the front non-tire.

Vide-grenier season is in full swing. A vide-grenier, or “empty the attic,” is a kind of flea market or mass garage sale. It isn’t like the famous flea markets of Paris, with established vendors and quaint shops. It’s for non-professionals, mostly.

rieux long viewYou pack up your no-longer-loved possessions into your car and then try to unload them on somebody willing to pay a couple of euros. The biggest segment by far is kids’ clothes and toys.

Followed by adult clothes. Then kitchen stuff, decorating stuff, tools and books/records/CDs etc.

LPs and asparagus
French stars: Johnny Hallyday, Serge Gainsbourg (with Jane Birkin), wild asparagus.

Sometimes you find treasures. We got a couple of crystal sconces. Some interesting pictures. A cheese cloche. That’s over about a dozen vide-greniers in a couple of months.

sanglier pot
A bargain for a little dish to cook pâté in the oven!
decorations
Not sure where these came from. Above a door?
cuve doors
Doors to the old-fashioned kind of wine cuve.
hoof hooks
Real. Enough said.

A vide-grenier is an interesting picture into the French culture. You see what people collect.

mortars and pestle
Notice the bookends to the left of the mortars and pestles? You wonder how that collection got going.
feves
“Fèves” from the galette des rois of Jan. 6…..the person who gets the fève is king/queen for the day.
coins
Old coins and champagne caps (right)

There’s always someone with military stuff.

You’re reminded of a time when France wasn’t as rich, when it was picking up after war and one had to make do.

shell spice mill
The long thing is a spice mill made from a used shell, then intricately decorated. Just to the right, a lighter, also made from a shell.

There are métiers no longer as common as they once were.

horse shoe
Tools for horseshoeing

sewing machine

scale
Scale with weights

And, it being France, there is always food.

giant wok of cooking meat
I cannot emphasize how fantastic that giant wok of meat smelled. We were there at 10 a.m., so it was too early to eat. Sniff!
le creuset and wine
This vendor of le Creuset pots had a little picnic lunch, with proper dishes, silverware and a bottle of wine!
birds
Doesn’t get fresher than this.

Sorry for the blurry photos. The sun was so bright I couldn’t see a thing on the camera screen.

What’s the best treasure you’ve found at a vide-grenier or garage sale?

Dirty Laundry

314.Laundry in CaunesJust kidding! This is to remind yourselves to thank your lucky stars that you didn’t live….50 or 60 years ago.

Caunes lavoirBack in the day, women had to haul the dirty clothes to a lavoir, a spot with water and basins for doing laundry. It wasn’t until relatively recently (the 1970s) that villages around here got running water in their homes.

Actually, the clothes were washed by hand at home, because that didn’t require much water, and then taken to the lavoir for rinsing. That’s even more back-breaking, because wet clothes are heavy.

Caunes lavoir in use
In use! The sign says “no bathing.”

OK, so it looks pretty awesome, but remember, there was no wifi then. And think of doing it in winter!

I already had a shot of one of the prettier lavoirs, at Caunes-Minervois, but I decided to go back for another. A woman was walking just ahead of me, and she veered into the lavoir. I figured it was to take a photo. But no–she proceeded to take rubber gloves out of her bag, then her washing. Well, that’s what it’s for. Cars on the road stop when they see me taking a photo (yes!), but she was not concerned about being in this shot.

Another time that I passed by there, somebody had washed a room-sized oriental carpet, and it was left, unsupervised, to drip-dry over the rail. Which is what one does–we wash all of ours every summer, but in our yard. Over here, wall-to-wall carpet is considered not very hygenic. When I see what is under our rugs, which get swept over and under regularly plus washed every year, I can’t help but agree.

Actually Caunes has two lavoirs. Other villages have them as well, sometimes with water, and sometimes not. Another slice of traditional life that is no more.

villarzel lavoir 1
An unused lavoir in another village, Villarzel