Saturday, October 15, 2016

Change-Over Day

On the Cape, it's Saturdays when one group of vacationers start their holiday and another group ends theirs.  The bridges are jammed, both ways, and if you don't need to be anywhere, you're smart to stay off the road til things calm down.

At summer camp it was also Saturday, when one set of campers left and another set arrived.  Those who had never driven the camp road before could be a little put out by the signs, "Camp Around The Corner,"  and a mile later the sign, "We Didn't Say Which Corner!"  Those who felt camp was their other home were thrilled by the humor!

This day was my changing from Toulouse by myself to Chateau Dumas with a group of 12 women, 1 husband, Anna the artist, Jane the assistant, Lizzie, the owner, the chateau staff and me.


 I took the train to Caussade and had a very easy time of it getting my luggage on & off the train and across the tracks.  I cheated and asked a man with what I assumed was a train uniform if he would mind hefting my bag on the train.  (It was over 50 lbs).  If he didn't work for the train, he was a very kind man!  At Caussade one arrives from Toulouse on the 'wrong' side of the tracks and you have to take your luggage down a flight of steps and then back up another.  By the time I moved my bags to the stairs, no one was around,  I really hate looking helpless, so no one had to see me drag the bag down stairs and then move this monstrosity up one step at a time!  I had dreaded this part of the trip...nice to discover it was an unfounded worry.

At the Chateau I was greeted by fen-fen and he is much less fierce than the one picture shows.

By sunset all the participants had arrived.  What a lovely group of women (& husband).  This looks to be a wonderful week!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Getting Lost in Toulouse

Friday wasn't an early day for me.  I even considered just staying in bed.  But really, that seemed entirely too self-indulgent and boorish!  So I ventured out, unfortunately, after all the local eateries were no longer serving lunch.  I have been known to skip a meal, so I figured I would survive.  I made my way back to Place St-Georges, where the Walking Tour started, and wandered around.

Place St-Georges

Cathedrale Sainte-Etienne 
The seat of the Archbishop of Toulouse
and a French National Monument.

For all those purposes and importance, this building was very welcoming and open.

During World War II, Jules-Gerard Saliege, the Archbishop of Toulouse was outspoken in his condemnation of German and Vichy treatment of Jews.  He read out a letter which actively admonished the Catholic church to protect their Jewish neighbors.  He was responsible for saving many lives and was made a Cardinal after the war.  Outside the church, in a little park there is a bust of him and the words of his letter on a plaque.

Inside the church are these beautiful images.
My apologies that some of them are a bit out of focus.

Choir  Stalls

Rose Window at rear of the church

After the Cathedral it was time for tea at this amazing place!
I'm afraid I had eaten my raspberry & pistachio tart before I thought to take a photo.
It looked as good as it tasted! 

One of the lovely things about getting lost in Toulouse are the unexpected shops or buildings or even people I encounter!

Government Building

Royal Gardens

It's a stationary and art supply store!

Yes, I know, I hang out in these kind of shops at home, but here all supplies, even the index cards, are in French.
How cool is that?
 I wonder if they were in Spanish ( a language I have a passing familiarity with) would it seem so exotic?

As often happens for me, I found myself at Place Wilson.
I ended my day treating myself to a film in English before returning to my hotel room.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Toulouse Walking Tours

I discovered Penny Dickinson's tours online -- click on her name to learn more.  Two years ago I took the "Key Sights" tour.  We walked 3 kilometers in two hours and saw a large part of Toulouse.  This year I contacted Penny to see if there might be a tour while I was in the city.  As it turns out, she offered the "Beyond The Postcard" tour.  It is also two hours, but covers only 2 km, as there is a lot going on in this old part of the city.  Much history to learn and wonderful architecture.  I am so delighted I was able to take this tour and visit with Penny again.

This shop sells ballet things.
It's not really part of the tour, but the window display is so clever!  They sent out a request for women to send in their pointe shoes.  Each pair of shoes notes the name and age of the person who wore these ballet shoes.  The ballerinas range in age from 14 to 88 years old!

And now the amazing architecture:

Home to a wealthy resident of the 16th Century
The brick wall around the inner courtyard is curved, not an easy task for bricklayers!

I think somewhere in that frieze there are lambs, rams, sheep!

One of only a few half-timbered structures left in Toulouse.
They were banned centuries ago because they burned so easily and took the neighbor's homes with them!

Cathedral St-Etienne.
On the walking tour we only saw the outside, but I returned the next day and the inside is beautiful.

I have friends who are able to post everyday while on trips.  I have no idea how they do it.  This trip is so full of adventures that I can barely catch my breath, let along blog.  Still I am committed to sharing the trip, so next post continues my rambles in Toulouse.
Thanks for coming along!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


 My lack of French language skills has been a real challenge for me this year.  The first couple times I visited, it didn't matter.  The city was new to me, I didn't expect to understand, I never studied French.
But this is my fourth visit.  I know some places, I feel a little at home here.  But without the language I can see how much I miss.  And it's not like people don't make every effort to communicate with me.  They are lovely that way.  But I actually think it's a bit unfair that I make them do all that work, when it is their country I am visiting!
If I return I vow to bring a French-English dictionary, at least.  But I may actually have to make an effort, check out Rosetta Stone from the library and learn rudimentary French.

That said, I have had a wonderful time exploring areas both new and old to me and I still love this city!

Toulouse is not just one thing.  It is an old city, a university town, the home of Airbus, full of fascinating history and so many more things I may never know.   I will do my posts about some of the things that I have found -- mostly through getting lost, but then Toulouse is a wonderful city to get lost in!

This is the delightful shop

The owner is a textile artist.
She covers all her mannequins with vintage and antique lace and linen.
As well as make 1920's style headbands.

Finding this shop was such a gift.  It was a grey day and cold.  I had chanced out after lunch was served, so there was no where to eat, which made me a bit cranky.  Walking in was lovely, made me smile.  I was able to converse about the lovely work the owner did and left with a beautiful piece of linen and lace.  The day went so much better after this!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Back to the Chateau

Chateau Dumas

When I went to France as part of my birthday year celebration in 2011, I thought that would be it.  I had been to Aix and Paris with my brother years before and it was nice, but I didn't think I would return.

I was much more of an anglophile.
When my dad offered each of his adult children a trip anywhere in the world, I chose England.
I knew English horse racing from reading Dick Frances, and Regenecy history from reading Georgette Heyer, and the geography from hundreds of cosy English mysteries.  It was a world I felt comfortable in.

Then my birthday year happened and different artists I admired were part of two separate week long workshops in rural France.  I had to go!

In between the workshops I spent 10 days with my husband, mostly in the Langedoc Roussillon region -- Carcassone, Collioure, Ceret.  I love that it's also known as the Spanish Frontier!

The Fauve Walk in Collioure

We discovered a double-walled medieval castle; a town dedicated to "wild" artists and the views that inspired them; two museums featuring the amazing work of Josep Reira I Arago; a full set of Picasso ceramics; amazing food.
My husband, who told me before we married that he didn't like to travel, was bitten by the travel bug!

France is a beautiful country.  But there are a lot of beautiful countries.  What touched my heart were the people.  I speak no French (tho apparently I can say that sentence in French with an acceptable accent!)  Sometimes the people I met spoke no English, like lots of the flea market vendors or the deli owner who sold us wonderful take away food.  It was a surprise to discover I know the words for different meats (as a cook, I'm a vegetarian, so that ability is odd).  Sometimes they knew English, but  weren't comfortable speaking it.  I'd ask combien (how much)? And then have to ask them to write the numbers. . . I got good at charades!

What I found were people genuinely helpful, and kind.  They made me feel at home.
I love the climate and know a lot of the plant names (interesting how similar those aspects are to where I grew up)! Oh and have I mentioned the brocantes and flea markets?

So since the 2011 trip I have been to France and the Chateau twice more.
Paper/mixed media art workshops two years ago and last year Shibori.

 Shibori at the Chateau

So it is with a great deal of joy that I will return to France next week.
I'll spend 2 weeks at the Chateau assisting my teacher friend . . . 

. . . and about 5 days in Toulouse
Walking around, paying attention to art & architecture, taking in a yoga class (the teacher is from Australia -- I'm adventurous, but yoga in French is prob too much for me!), and hanging out at my favorite flea market on as many Saturdays as I can manage! 

I have never found the chateau's internet particularly robust!  Still it is my goal to document this trip as I am on it, so come back every couple of days and see what I'm seeing and doing!