Friday, July 29, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011
Invaders. the history of France is all about invasions. It all started with the Gaulois. These folks were nomadic Celts. Their invasion lacked organization, so it took a few centuries.
At some time the Romans began to vie for the same land that the Gauls inhabited. Invading with his machines of war, Julius Caesar did his came, saw, and conquered thing until a great part of France found itself to be a Roman colony. In hindsight, this was an invasion that was good for France. Heavy-duty roads, new building materials, rules and education are just a part of the good life that arrived with the Romans.
Then Rome started its famous fall and there was another period of invasions from northern tribes. Constant fear pushed people to build and live in fortified villages.
Our area of France has known all of these invasions, as well as being host to the 100 Years War between England and France. A whole new generation of castles arrived, the French and British landlords waiting for good weather before arranging for their peasant subjects to go out and battle each other.
The last three invasions of France came from her historically bellicose neighbor to the east-- Germany. A distinguishing aspect of the invasion of 1940 was the speed in which it was accomplished-- it was Hitler’s blitzkrieg-- a lightning strike. We’ve come a long way from those plodding Celts.
All of this history lesson is so that you might better understand the plague of the current marauders spreading out their assault all over France. It is peopled by foreigners as well French men and women--- and even children! They come in cumbersome vehicles that carry all one needs to sustain a brief campaign. This army gathers at the edge of town, ringing in the village and holding us hostage to their needs. They await the good weather to invade. And then they come in swarms. Clearing out the bakeries before the locals can finish their daily chores. Blocking up the narrow streets with their modern day chariots. Speaking louder so that the natives might understand their foreign words better. Standing outside our front doors oohing and aahing and taking photos of us!
The new invaders are Camping Car People.
The scale of this popular French pastime is enormous. Every town has a public campsite, complete with a waste disposal system. (Bourdeilles charges two euros a night.) Lunchtime turns the campgrounds into a massive outdoor restaurant as each camp sets up linen-topped tables, chairs, wine and mountains of food. The post-lunch siesta finds the landscape transformed by dozing bodies splayed out on camp loungers.
With all the little upsets this army brings to town, they also bring us a charming breed of tourist. There are always some campers that are distinctive for their zest for life. They are not traveling simply to fill up retirement time. They are on the road to share an adventure. Their dogs sparkle with a friendly, eager excitement. Even a brief encounter with this rare breed brings a smile that stays awhile.
When the cold weather pushes this army away from our town we find ourselves looking forward to next year’s invasion.
Friday, July 15, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
The french name for sunflowers is tournesol. This means turning with the sun.
This idea has given our daily walks a new purpose, to see if those enormous sunny heads do indeed turn.
We take an hour walk every day. Usually in the evenings and usually a walk we have titled the Ridge Walk. We climb the steep sidewalk out of the river valley and arrive on the slopes that lead to the crest that run the length of the valley. Once on this crest it feels as if one can see for ever and that there is no separation between you and the end of the skies. The enormous sky is often full of billowing clouds or rays of sun descending to the ground with rain drops in them, always off in the distance. This year these skies have been gloriously and dangerously blue. We have had no rain since March and the land is baking. Somehow the sunflowers are thriving in spite of these arid time.
Fields and fields of these beautiful flowers surround us.
We usually take our walks in the evening walking towards the east with the western sunset at our backs. This would mean that all the sunflower faces would be facing west. They are not. Each and everyone of them is facing towards the east.
With temperatures in the the high 80’s by late afternoon, I decided to take the walk in reverse the other morning. I headed off into the eastern sun for a few minutes and then along the grand sweep of the ridge to head towards the west.
The sunflowers are goosebumps magnificent. Sweeping down the sides of the hills. Extending on and on and on. At some points there are sunflowers on both sides of the roads and it seems I might be heading to Oz. Again each and every head was facing towards the east.
Our verdict is that as romantic as tournesol sounds these enourmous giants could no more turn their heads if they wanted to. However-- the other night we were walking along and Tom exclaimed, “Oh look they’re in love.” And sure enough, out of the hundreds of thousands of sunflowers we’ve seen, one was actually facing west! This rebelious one was embracing another sunflower. Leaf to leave, petal to petal.
Funny what one sees on these daily walks. No turning with the sun, but a little love.