Saturday, 25 June 2011

153. Thoughts on midsummer

21st June 2011. We've arrived at the longest day of the year.. and no doubt Stonehenge will have been well & truly hugged this morning by touchy-feely New Age crystal gazers et al. There's a good cross-section of them here on this clip as well as the beginnings of that old hippy stand-by - the circle dance.

My reliable old BS Detector flicked straight into the RED zone and almost burnt out when I saw what Father Christmas gets up to in the above clip between January and November..! It keeps them off the streets I guess.

I visited Stonehenge about 20 years ago and it was a curious experience. These old stones have defied a convincing explanation over the years and, standing as they do at the side of a busy main road, I found it difficult to separate them from the mundane everyday world that passes by. However, they continue to fascinate and intrigue each successive generation and their mute silence seems to exert a powerful hold over those of alternative views. So now we have druids there in some make-believe ceremony greeting the sunrise accompanied by - and I'm guessing here - flutes and bongos..
There's another site at Carnac in Brittany with rows of standing stones that remains mysterious to this day. 

Another hot outing this evening in a beautifully built wooden shell coxed quad sculler.. I must admit to being glad to see the clubhouse again afterwards! 13km (Running Total: 779km).

There's the Fête de la Musique tonight in Bayonne.. and on Saturday, there's the Marché Montmartre where local artists exhibit their work in the streets around the cathedral.

22nd June 2011. We drove up to Condom in the Gers today to meet up with A & I for lunch (A is an old colleague and was on holiday up near Bergerac). France is a big country and that was brought home to us (I mean me!) as we had a long drive (almost 3 hours) in the rain to Condom (which hadn't looked that far on the map!) past vast fields of rustling corn - which, curiously, despite the rain, were still being watered. There were fields of sunflowers too, all focused on where the sun should have been. And then there were the vines. Row upon countless row of vines.

After driving through a largely empty landscape, we entered the small village of Montréal and there was a sudden clustering of a large number of creatively parked cars.. and the slightly surreal sight of a crowd of people who were all engaged in playing boules or pétanque (is there a difference?) - in the rain.

It was good to see A & I again and we enjoyed a nice little lunch here.. Tried some of the local white wine - Domaine de Monluc - which I'd like to be able to find locally but I don't think there's much chance of that. 

We went for a walk around Condom afterwards and visited the Musée de l'Armagnac - but not the Musée du Préservatif which celebrates the product for which Condom is perhaps better known. (I've kept you waiting a few paragraphs for this - in Condom, even the buses come in threes..!) If you really must, scroll down this link for an idea of what awaits you there if you decide to visit.

Finally, we hove upon La Librairie Gourmande (3 Place Bossuet) which is a bookshop-cum-tea shop on three floors and highly recommended! The menu featured page after page of various teas, coffees and hot chocolate - none of us had ever seen such a variety and choice. The friendly owner also serves her own cakes - which were moist and delectable - and the customer is invited to graze from the surrounding bookshelves at the same time. I needed dislodging with a pointed stick! 

23rd June 2011. Another sultry evening on the river in the same boat we had on Tuesday.. 14km (Running Total: 793km)

24th June 2011. Went to St Jean de Luz in the afternoon - which was girding its loins for celebrating its Fête.. many people in red and black.. with temporary bars set up in the streets ready for the evening. After, we called in at our friends' restaurant in 'our' village where we always used to stay. Had a sangria under the platanes outside and realised with something of a shock that it was 20 years ago this summer that we made our first visit there. Back then, we were staying at another small hotel in the village but it was quite noisy at night as it overlooked the fronton.

We asked in the restaurant if they knew of anywhere else in the village where we could stay and next minute, the chef (the father of P, the current owner) emerged from the kitchen in his whites and his tall chef's hat and said he'd take us somewhere.. He jumped in his open-topped 2CV (right) and, with his chef's hat poking out through the roof in the breeze, he careered off at speed through the village - with me sticking to him like glue - before pulling up outside a white painted Basque house 5 minutes away. There, we were offered a spotless chambre d'hôte room (ie, B&B) for £10 a night - and this was in the height of the season. Many happy memories of summer holidays in that village.

25th June 2011. Warm out there on the river this morning - did 14km in a coxed quad sculler. Not the best outing of the week. (Running total: 807km)

It was hot out on our west-facing terrace last night so I made a couple of caipirinhas.. which really hit the spot. The Met lady is forecasting temps of 36C for here today and tomorrow.

26th June 2011. I've mentioned Tiens! before here - it's a privately produced free online magazine about South West France that, in my view, has set the standard for fascinating content, design & beautiful photography - and all accompanied by great music. Produced by Perry & Caroline Taylor (a creative Anglo-Dutch couple) in partnership with Marc & Jacqueline Receveur-van der Grinten as a labour of love, Tiens! reflects their view of life in la France profonde by scratching below the surface to reveal the old values, habits, customs and traditions of a rural France that are in danger of disappearing in the face of the relentless advance of modernity. As far as I know, no-one 'out there' is doing anything remotely similar that portrays these aspects of rural French life so lovingly.

Tiens! - Issue #1
Tiens! - Pilot issue
Here are the first issues of Tiens! - I found Tiens! to be the most charming, informative and interesting read about rural south west France.

Unfortunately, time is up for Tiens! and regrettably the editorial team of Caroline, Jacqueline, Perry & Marc have no plans to continue producing it beyond Issue 3.

Tiens! - Issue #2
Up until now, Tiens! has been distributed freely by word of mouth. I believe it's worth better than that. If ever something was crying out for sponsorship or financial support, it's Tiens!

If you know of someone, perhaps in broadcasting, the media or publishing, whose interests cover this area then why not give them a nudge, and send them a copy of Tiens! I'd be extremely surprised if they didn't fall under its spell and see its potential. Go on!


Lesley said...

On my first read through, the star attraction was the good old days of holidays in France when a good overnight stay could be had for £10 !
I had a laugh at the Druid/Pagan Boss who swops his circlet(?) for a flat cap. Why we laugh at their beliefs and 'order of service' when the main stream religions are just as weird. A trip to Condom is just a bit too far for the tea shop....but tempting.

Pipérade said...

It stayed £10 (inc. breakfast) for a few years in the early 90s until we switched to the hotel/restaurant - where we paid 235Ffrs each for half board (dinner, bed & b'fast) which is about £26.50 at today's rate. I'd've been happy to pay double that.
Worth making a note of the tea shop - every kind of tea you can think of and many more that you can't. And then there are the cakes!