Monday, November 17, 2014

Winter is coming

Europe went on standard time before the US did, so maybe the impression that winter is on its way is more entrenched. It's cold and wet. When the sun does come out, it's beautiful, but mostly it's cold and wet. The grass in the yard doesn't seem to dry out during the day, even on a dry day. This being the Paris region, I'm not talking about snow cold, no, not yet, just uncomfortable cold.
Yesterday, I took a photo out of an old post and updated. That seems to have sent out an email to those of you who get these blog posts via email. Sorry. There was nothing new in it.

13th century St. Blaise bridge at Najac

What's new? Well, we went down to the Tarn-et-Garonne and visited Emma and Gabriel for a couple of days. We stayed at a different hotel in Najac, the Oustal del Barry -- up at the top, at the entrance to the medieval town. The hotel is fine, but the cuisine is over-rated. Najac is a town built on the crest of a hill, so it's one street that goes along the ridge, up and down and up again to end at the castle. There's a gigantic church at the bottom of the last down part before you go up to the castle and we've never made it past the church. The church was built during the reformation, as punishment for Protestant sentiment in the town, the authorities made the townspeople finance and build it, and then, attend it. At the entrance, where the hotel is, there is an almost flat length, with arcades and a square, then you start downhill and find the old center with the town hall and more shops, then uphill with some Renaissance buildings. It's empty in November and packed in summer. In fact, our hotel closed for the winter after the long Nov. 11 weekend.
We also went up to Villefranche-de-Rouerge, a 13th century fortified royal town. This was on the frontier of the Comte de Toulouse's territory and the King of France's territory during the Cathar period. Each of them built these fortified towns on the frontier, guaranteeing settlers a town (protected) residence, fields outside the walls, and tax-free status. It's one of the things that brought the end of feudal states. The town is still a main city for the Aveyron area -- very busy on a Saturday morning, even in November and even if it wasn't market day.
Emma and Gabriel are busy doing their renovation work. While we were there, they were still digging the trenches to lay the pipes for water, wires, and whatever else. The problem is they are on a hill top and the trenches are in rock, not dug in earth. It's hard work to break the rock about 50 cm. deep. Since our visit, that seems to be done; the rubble has been move to one of the fields and they'll use that to create terrace walls on the slope. They'll finish filling in the trenches and get on with finishing the floors of the "gite" (closest thing in English is a "holiday home" where the owner lives close by) and installing the last door window. The aim is to be able to move into that for the winter. Then they can start working on the rest of the site and the main house. They are well and working hard. They also have fun. They've got lots of neighbors, not all that close that you would just walk over, but close enough, so that they do get together and it's not lonely.
We went to Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val for the Sunday market and had a lovely Sunday lunch at the Auberge des Sens. I did my marketing before lunch -- so much less expensive than here in Nogent and most of the stands were producer, not retailer. The market was crowded, hard to get down the single lane street with stands on each side and people milling around. This is where neighbors meet and talk. Emma was telling us the street was almost empty, but it sure seemed full. Again, it must be packed in summer. And with the movie Recettes du Bonheur having been filmed in St. Antonin, there have already been more American tourists.
Saturday afternoon, we spent a pleasant time walking around the center of Toulouse, completely oblivious to the demonstrations that were going on until we were on our way out and heard the helicopter circling above and then we couldn't t take the normal route out of the city center because of police blockades, and once we got on an alternative route, we saw the tear gas flowing in our direction. We did manage to leave without getting the fumes in the car, nor any other excitement.

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