Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Tarne et Garonne ....

This is the Pilgrim town of Lauzerte and our villa was about 6kms away.  From the bedroom window and the terrace we had this view.  Very beautiful.  

The first afternoon we arrived and walked around 'our village' we found the Barbacan - or art Gallery  - and you can imagine my surprise to find, here in Lauzerte, a contemporary art gallery.  Furthermore, I noticed that Kitty Sabatier, and lady whose work I have followed on tumblr for some time was one of the artists exhibiting.  Of course a return trip during opening hours was warranted.  The next visit to the Gallery was marvelous - I was able to see Kitty's work and was also entranced by the work of Pierre Cambon.  I spoke with the lady looking after the exhibition and mentioned that I was a printmaker and book artist.  The serendipitous outcome of that conversation was that a few days later I was able to meet Kiity Sabatier, Pierre Cambon who came in from Agen also had an appointment to meet with Marjon Mudde and see some of her etchings *a couple of which are coming home with me) and some of her inspiring artist's book.  She is a true talent and very proficient in all she does.

We visited the town of Auvillar which was another of the market/pilgrim towns and loved it.  These sculptures were in this village and in Lauzerte and provided a lovely touch of whimsy.  

I loved this little town of Auvillar as it had a beautifully preserved/renovated market building (once a grain market) and it was far less full of tourists than other villages we wandered about.

Everywhere we drove there we glorious avenues of trees - this one taken through the car windows whilst travelling.  Mostly I was way too absorbed by the beauty of these avenues I forgot to take photographs but there were abundant in this region.

I love the way these simple little chapels perch on hills overlooking breathtaking scenery.

Back in our the village of Lauzerte,we attended a free classical concert in the square.  Not quite a full orchestra though close ..... The strings were missing but all else seemed to be there an we were astounded that so many people and children turned up for the concert which started at 8.30 and ran until after 10.30 when we departed.  Seeing children of all ages enjoy the music was a thrill.  Many of us listening were sitting further back on restaurant tables.  Some people brought picnics and used these tables as well.  No one seemed to mind at all.

This is the approach to our villa 'Montage' which was jsut below the village of Sain Amans de Pellegal and as mentioned, only 6kms from the beautiful hilltop town of Lauzerte.  

We could have lazed here all the time, and had intended to (well in my mind anyway!) but there were so many lovely villages and towns close by to visit and long walks to be done.  

My favourite town was Moissac and again it was a Pilgrim village and thus was full of those hiking or riding Pilgrim routes.  Some years ago I foolishly though there was only one Pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostella but found out there were pilgrim routes from many directions.

The Abey here was particularly beautiful as were the cloisters.  I told Steve I would be happy to spend a week in there drawing!

You can see why ...... So many gorgeous things to draw and linger over.

I loved these sculptures and grew to love them more as I saw more and more people come to sit on the benches.  We had dinner in Moissa and as we were sitting there two different choirs were singing, this one below around the corner of the church and another along the road leading up to the Abbey entrance.  A bond was setting up in the local square as well, no doubt to entertain the French who seem to start having their dinner at about 9pm.  We have been in Moissac for hours so we're ready to leave before the band started.  Both choirs kept us beautifully entertained though.

Another of the towns we visited was Cahors and apparently there is some devilish story about this 12th century bridge which I have yet to find out.  It was written there of course, but my French was by no means adequate to translate the story.  Google here I come ....

And the gardens along the river were quite beautiful.  We found the secret garden behind Saint Etienne's cathedral as well - and many other pretty gardens about the town.

Again, a beautiful interior and lovely quiet cloisters but they were in no way as restored as the cloisters in Moissac.

It seemed that restoration had begun in one of the fat corners .... Something to be said about the old and the new I think.  I loved both.

Beautiful detail of the side of the main entrance.

We drove quite some distance to see Cirq Lapopie which indeed is a very quaint little village but on this day full not only with tourists but also demonstrators.  We didn't stay very long as it seemed like the French equivalent of Montville!

On our last evening we did a gorgeous 11km walk in a circuit and joined in the last 6kms of one of the pilgrim routes heading towards Lauzerte.  It was such a beautiful walk and I may post on that next time.  I fell in love with a home on the hilltop ..... Dreams too large!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Reluctant to leave Carcassonne .....

We only had a day and a half in Carcassonne and really did not want to leave - not just because of the town itself, old/new and medieval but because the B&B in which we stayed just outside the medieval town was pure delight - the hosts, the room, the position, the enormous breakfasts and the good chats all helped to make us feel more informed and thus more at home.

The first evening we were there we decided to walk into the new/old town, passed the medieval town and see what Carcassonne had to offer.  En route the landscape get almost Van Gogh - Cezanne.  The sun only set about 9.30 pm so this late evening light is gorgeous for photography.  As I mentioned in my last past, I have been so swept up in the atmosphere that I keep forgetting to take photos - which is really as it should be.

As Australia is such a young country I. Am always fascinated by age and the slow decay of buildings.  This boulangerie sign has seen better days though  the fascade still evokes lines of deliciously tempting pastries and breads.

The medieval cite of Carcassonne is really quite something viewed from a distance - from any angle driving back towards this city it is spectacular.  We had been here before and were enchanted by it though this time, did not enjoy sharing it with so many tourists so enjoyed the vista more from a distance (though could not resist buying both almond and pistachio nougat as we wandered through in the direction of home!).

I loved the contrast of this sculpture in the park against the walls of the Beaux Artes Museum.

I overheard our host Eric speaking with other guests at breakfast, suggesting places they might like to visit and as you can imagine as soon as I heard the work 'booktown' I was engaged.  It turns out that jsut up the road from Carcassonne is one of France's 'booktowns' called Montolieu.  As it happened we took a walk along Canal du Midi before heading up there and arrived almost exactly at midday.  We all know that from midday to 2pm (or even later) everything shuts and that was almost true here in Montolieu.  Such an incredible beautiful village up in the hills, with ravines either side and sadly, not many book shops open at the time we were there and a sign on he museum saying it would not be open until 3pm.  We did not want to wait that long but had a lovely wander around and I ended up having a lovely chat with one of the open bookshop owners who spoke beautiful English as he has been an importer of sheepskin 40 years earlier and had spent much time in Brisbane.  He explained that they were the second booktown opening in France, about 50 years ago I think he said, preceded only just, but a booktown in Bordeaux.  Not sure about my spelling here ...

One of the other quaint things in this village, and I have never seen it elsewhere was that around one of the corners we came across a fresh vegetable vendor - filled with produce by local farmers.

On the way to another mountainous area just outside Carcassonne, whose name I forget for the moment, we came across this derelict house.  Without even asking him to, Steve pulled over and we ignored all the signs not to enter and went exploring.  This is one of my great pleasures - poking through forbidden places (mostly because they are not safe) and imagining the life once lived there.  Imagining the splendor before the rot.  I took a number of photographs here and hope to write a short piece about this aging though once stately villa, make some images for an artist's book perhaps ...

Glorious colours inside one of the hallways - not that I would use them in my artwork, or would I?
Certainly I am thinking about it!

These were the 5th century ruins we went to visit - fortifications built precariously in guard positions to protect the gold mines in the area.  Quite a climb up, but glorious views of the valley, or valleys below.

This is L'Orangerie where we stayed and were looking after so well.  We happened to be there on both Saturday and Sunday nights and on Sunday's Jeanette cooks for the guests.  We had such a pleasant evening all sitting around a large table, chatting for some hours and enjoying good food and company.

And of course I had to photograph some of the ivy patterned wall and the wood shed.

As I said, we were loathe to leave this area and feel very sure when we return to France, we will spend a great deal more time in this region.  Both of us are keen to learn more about Cathar HIstory before we return.

Next stop - closer to the Dordogne region.  An area of many small pilgrim towns .... In the next post.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Milan and Aix en Provence .....

It is difficult to write about Milan and Aix en Provence when we have already moved on from there but I am using this blog as my travel blog while away and will write sequentially while my mind is presently absorbed in the glorious sunshine here in Lauzerte, and full of wonderful serendipitous moments from the last couple of days.

Already eight of our precious days are gone and every day has been a wonder - fully of beautiful sights and smells, a different light, different colour spectrum and of course, a delicious meander through the cuisine of different areas.

Just over a week ago we arrived in Milan having flown directly from Brisbane via Dubai.  We staying very centrally and wandered the streets absorbing all the beautiful architecture and enjoying the change of season after leaving behind a very wet and cold Australia.  Mostly I walked without my camera - just soaking in the different cultural flavours.  I did however have my camera when we visited the cathedral and I was very glad.  IThought the sun was shining on a few patches of the huge front dorors but as this photograph above shows .... These beautiful highlights are created by visitors running the sculpural reliefs in just those couple of patches.  I imagine much like rubbing the boar's nose in Florence - for luck, or fortune.

Every detail of the Cathedral bespeaks of artistic ability and grandeur ... I wonder if we could make such marvelous things these days, or if we could afford to build with such attention to detail.

The light in such spaces if mysterious and majestic, adding to the experience as you wander about enthralled.

The bliss .....

And the angst .... Though this seems an emotion much deeper and more heartfelt than angst.

The knowledge of the workings of the body - though I am not sure that the quality of these photos an the mobile blogging sight allows for you to zoom in and look at these musculature details .... Which actually look so out of place in this instance when all other edifices seem more ecclesiastic or poetic.  The realism here seems misplaced even though absorbing in its detail. 

The marble colours seems to be issued from my favourite palette .....

And in Aix en Provence again the deep mystery of the religious or spiritual havens.  And the glorious light .....

The preserve of the ancient .....

And for me the joy of finding so many crosses in the streets and round about, in the architecture, the shutters and so forth.  Way too many to send to this posting!  Though I am tempted.

This perambulator is way past the point of use and yet has plenty of visual appeal ... It is a good attention grabber for the antique store behind.

Not only the colours of spring and summer but everywhere the smell of spring - jasmin covered walls and orange blossom.  Though not in these photographs, peony roses seem to abound in Aix en Provence - almost reason enough to pack one's bags and move.

I take great delight in the colours of the stonework and blue shutters we see everywhere.  This image reminds me of the colours of Morocco as well.

Steve noticed this painting in an alcove by a residential doorway .... A lovely touch of the creative but such a sorrowful image.

And though I am stopping here, as you can imagine I have any number of gorgeous images from these two cities - how could one not when everywhere you look there is something quite remarkable to see.  I am trying very hard on this trip to not take thousands of photographs which is my usual approach when travelling.  Instead, I am more often jsut gettign lost in the moment, enjoying this lovely weather and the privilege of being able to enjoy such memorable moments.

The trip continues with the next posting..... I am hoping I remember how to post this blog, so far it seems easy even though the image quality is poor.  As long as I press all the right buttons ......

Here goes ..