|Place de la Grave and Bridge|
12" x 16"
$120 including shipping
available at www.tomviethsketches.com
Friday, June 22, 2012
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
There is an unexpected benefit to having to cross over a magical medieval bridge once or twice a day. One has to slow down, acknowledge other bridge walkers and share a friendly word or two. The bridge is long and narrow having been built at a time when even horse traffic was probably scant and laden carts would likely have been pulled by goats or humans. The bridge’s no-escape narrowness is amplified by it’s short sidewalls. They confine you to narrow and then confound you with curved tops that won’t allow you a quick perch out of harm’s way. And, of course, it spans a river. So if you have to cross the river to go to the other side of town, be prepared for the Bridge Culture experience.
Each passing across the bridge involves some sort of interaction, usually brief and really just for the sake of friendliness and a pleasant way to touch base about little happenings in our small village life. Here are a few examples of the charm of these polite pauses and personal connections with our village neighbors.
On a recent rainy day everyone I bumped into on the bridge was sharing the same concern- there are no baby ducks on the river this year. Usually there are 5 or 6 sets of duckling broods. Was it the late cold snap that got to the eggs or was it the high water that we had the whole month of April? We are all missing the joy of watching the tiny puffballs skim along behind their mothers. This year there are no motherly quacks to keep all the ducklings in a row or frantic peeping from the ducklings as they struggle to keep up with mother as the current carries them along.
Sometimes we gather in groups at the edge of the bridge and watch the trout in the river. We compete to see who can spy the largest. If we’re lucky there is a fly fisherman in the river at the same time and we can mock him as we watch the wily trout slither around his gaiters, nibbling the smelly rubber, but never trying the carefully selected bait.
As in real life sometimes the exchanges are sad. One older lady has recently lost her adult daughter and she greatly appreciates it if one will stop and visit with her for a few minutes as we go to and from our errands on opposite sides of the river. It is lovely to hear about her grand-daughter and the time she is sharing with her. Her brief smile shows her gratitude for a moment shared.
One cold winter day Tom walked across the bridge with a woman out for her daily walk. Her doctor told her she has to walk, so walk she does at 9 and 4 every day. She is of that generation where one was taught to never go out of the house in pants -a skirt is to be worn no matter what. It was a bitter cold, windy day and Tom told her it was time to break with etiquette. She giggled and told him that there was actually another reason she always wore a skirt. If she ever needs to take a tinkle she just stops on the side of the road and lets loose. Tom always gets to hear the doozies.
This ancient bridge has heard so many of these snippets of life. It’s impossible to be in a hurry and if one were to really count the time ‘lost’ on the bridge it would actually add up to a lot of simple, yet precious, life lessons. We are fortunate to have our turn crossing this ancient bridge and time to slow down, listen and share in the small things of the village.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Whatever happened to those crazy, fun-loving Bourbons? They ruled France for centuries! One or two heads in a basket in the shaky transition to democracy doesn't mean this proliferate family disappeared...
"Eight weeks to get a reservation! Everyone who is anyone is there! And you couldn't resist saying, 'What's today's special your lowness?'"
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
It used to be our dog, Jolie, that introduced us to our village neighbors. Now it is our house. Which is a bit unusual as French etiquette discourages casual drop-ins on new homeowners. Actually, French custom dictates that the only time you see the inside of someone’s home is if they just got married or they’re dead. (This is not really the case any more, but the concept of the welcome wagon has not arrived yet either.)
But this is not exactly a normal house, as viewed from street level at least. Nor, as Americans, are we normal new comers. For the French, we funny people live in a funny house. The not-so-typical things for this house on the cusp of the village and countryside include: walls of white cut stone, arching windows, narrow Doric columns on the sides of the front door, funny metal trellises and a wild assortment of roses during the summer months. And all this in an architectural style that has nothing to do with this area, not even anything to do with France. It’s original builder wanted to evoke the architecture of the Middle East. The locals didn’t really get this because the look of the house reminded them of something. Even before we Americans bought it, the locals to called it La Maison Blanche. You know, that white-stone structure on the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue.
For years I tried to peek over the wall of this house, so I’m not the least surprised that others are trying to figure out what lurks behind this intriguing façade.
Now when the gate is open, passing couples strike up a conversation with us. When we ask if they would like to come up and see the house and property there is a bit of hesitation, and then at the same time that the husband is saying “no thank you”, the wife is saying “oh yes please!”
Some people have stopped to ask what is happening in the garden and then ask just enough questions so that it is apparent that they’d also like to see the house. So up we go starting with the front yard and working our way around to the humbler backside.
Last weekend a sweet lady plucked up the courage to come in the gate to find us. Her cover was to say she wanted to know if we had the plant “hens and chicks” in the garden yet – if not she’d bring some over later, but oh! yes! since she was here she’d love to see the house.
We’re glad to make these new acquaintances and secretly we are glad that we have a few ambassadors on the streets that can tell other yet-to-be met villagers the humble truth about our house: The front of the house is quite something, but the back, well the back is just a normal village house. There isn’t even a second floor. No presidents ever have or ever will sleep here.
It would probably be more romantic to keep the world guessing, but then they might expect something grand from us. We’re a little short on grandeur, but we do like the notion of having a little bit of je ne sait quoi.
Saturday, June 9, 2012
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Monday, June 4, 2012
Arriving at the Perigueux farmers market is like finding a beautiful pearl within a jagged oyster shell.
As one arrives at the outer shell of Perigueux, the architecture of the neighborhoods is mostly composed of angular, bland buildings from the 50’s and 60’s. Towards the center of town the styles meld into a mix of even starker buildings from the 70’s that are unfortunately interspersed with beautiful turn of the century apartments.
A little effort and prying is needed to penetrate this grey tough shell.
And still so far there is no sign of a farmer’s market, but the bustling parking lot hints that there is something worthwhile going on here.
And like an oyster with the right twist of the knife and a sense of anticipation the two halves of the shell fall apart to expose the meat of the oyster and the opalescent sides of the shells.
Crossing from the parking lot one immediately slips into narrow sidewalks of another time. Passages clamped in by the walls leaning just a bit off kilter. Here in the heart of the city the architecture is a mix of 19th, 18th, 17th, and 16th century – and even older in the odd corners of this ancient shell. But, still no sign of the market, the pearl of this adventure. The first time I came here I was alone and shaken by the drive into the city center. Lost in this labyrinth of narrow ‘streets’ I stopped in a café to ask where the markets were – I had heard that there are three locations. They laughed and told me that it is here, all around you, just turn the corner when you finish your coffee.
And turning the corner there it was, a gem of a market. Stalls were tucked under linden trees pruned into a great canopy of shade. The square was bustling with vendors and serious people shopping for the perfect watercress, the first spring radishes and cooked beets. There were cheese stalls and bread stalls and stalls that sold all things duck and all things rabbit. There were even stalls selling food things I either never would have recognized or certainly wouldn’t have considered eating. Then I turned another corner and there, under a handsome, glowing, opalescent domed cathedral were even more vendors and more serious shoppers. Here there were cut flowers, bedding plants and vegetable plant seedlings. One more turn and there was the third market, the most charming yet, set under the town hall. A flower-filled space held in by ancient buildings, arching windows, multicolored shutters and lovely ground floor shops. The vendors here seemed a bit more gentle and they were all definitely selling crops directly from the farm. There is one vendor that I buy a lot from, knowing I am supporting her family farm. I can tell by her fingernails that she works in very rich soil. I can tell by her lovely smile and the quality of her vegetables that she is very proud of what she is doing.
Once one has filled their market basket with the best of the season’s offerings and a fresh baguette, it is time to purchase the oysters for today’s treat. There’s no reason to look inside for a pearl as one’s senses have already been rewarded by the discovery of Periguex and her glittering secret center.
Join me for a morning market outing with Oohlalafrance.com