Friday, 5 September 2014

Laundry and the lavoir at Massignac.

The view of Massignac taken from Lac Mas Chaban, a giant artificial lake just down the road.  For posts on Massignac see HERE and HERE.  Not sure why I missed out the lavoir when I posted these!

Lavoirs in France were first constructed around 1870. Before that, the village ladies had to go to the river (if there was one) or find a local spring or pond where they could wash their clothes. The process was aided by the use of large stones and timber frames. They were women's territory! Here, information and news were circulated; reputations were made and unmade and arguments were sometimes settled by fights with wooden clothes beaters, with the losing participant usually ending up in the water!

 A close up of the wash boards. See two on the side of the lavoir and two hung up on a roof beam. I wonder how long the clothes used to last with this scrubbing!

Piped water supply to the lavoir.

I would guess this bench is placed here in memory of one of the local people who was associated in some way with this lavoir. Perhaps in later life he used to sit and contemplate in this quiet, peaceful and pretty spot?

I should have taken a separate close up of the plaque on the bench, but only when I went through the photos did I realise my mistake! This is an electronic enlargement! Francois would have lived 83 years, through a great deal of the 20th century and all the change that brought!

At the back of the church garden.

There is a framed display hung under the lavoir's roof, informing visitors of stories and anecdotes of life at that time. The shots above and below, from September 2001, show local ladies re-creating the scene.

According to one anecdote, laundry washing at "grand houses", which possessed a lot of linen, was done twice a year, in spring and autumn  and the process wasn't a small affair! The calendar and state of the moon were taken into account and some luck was needed for drying! 

The washing procedure (called the  Budjedo) took place over two days and I'm summarising the French description of quite a complex process! I'd be glad to know if you have heard of this  activity! In the early morning of the first day, the "couleuse" (a woman skilled in this type of washing) arrived to supervise. Water was heated, over a wood fire, in a giant clay pot (a budjadier) with a cast iron overflow; a sack of wood ash being put in the bottom before the laundry was added to the very hot water. Cold water was added slowly to the pot all day while the laundry soaked. Water flowing from the overflow had always to be very hot, hence the skill required of adding wood to the fire as necessary to achieve this! 

Early on the second day, the ladies came to take their washing out of the budjadier, transporting it home in wheelbarrows reserved for the process (see photo!). They washed the laundry again with Marseilles soap, using river or other clear water and rinsed and dried it. Thankfully, it's all much easier now!

My thanks to Nigel for translating the writing from the framed display, and for writing most of this post for me.   Also for the use of his computer as mine is completely dead at the moment.  If I am slow on answering comments please note that my computer has not yet been fixed!!  (If it can be fixed!)

Monday, 11 August 2014

A walk down memory lane.

The local tourism organisations have recently laid out a new circular rambling trail through wood and farmland near the tiny hamlet of Le Chatelars, commemorating and dedicated to the memory of the World War 2 Resistance group members who were brought up in and/or operated in the immediate area. The French Resistance is often called the Maquis, named after brushwood landscape common throughout France.

The walk is not too long and can be covered in an hour and a half or so, but at each of the seven points along the way, one is reminded of the important events of 1943-45 which took place in the surrounding countryside. To be able to walk in the footsteps of these brave Frenchmen and Frenchwomen, remembering their sacrifices, is a most rewarding way of spending time on a sunny Charente summer day!

The welcome sign at the start of the walk. It shows the area, the route, the insignia of the local group (named Bir Hacheim after the North African desert battle) who started the organised resistance  against Nazi occupation in September 1943, and photos of the group's three founders. Firstly, Helene Nebout (known as "Chef Luc") is still alive and living locally. In the centre, Andre Chabanne, the commander and to the right, Guy Pascaud.

Close to the welcome sign is another, identifying the ruins of an ancient priory  probably built in the 10th century. The Resistance fighters built a platform high in one of the priory's towers, in order to observe the activities of the occupying troops in the nearby town of Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure.

See more about the abbey HERE

A direction arrow at a junction of pathways.

Not too far off the path and guided by arrows, you find the "gourbi" - a foxhole, deep in the woods, where resistance members would have gathered. Many were young men escaping the S.T.O - compulsory transportation to Germany as forced labour. 

The hideout has obviously seen better days, but I hope you can imagine a timber roof structure covered with clay tiles! The sign above includes a sketch of what the entrance may have looked like.

The village (pronounced "Plam-bo)was where the Resistance had their fuel depot. After refuelling here on the night of 5 February 1944, a Resistance patrol was caught in a German ambush at Saint Mary, another village, a few miles away. Maxence Simon, a 17 year old Resistance member, out on patrol for the first time, was killed in a two hour gun battle.

The village of Plaimbost along the route.

Andre Chabanne was brought up by his grandfather in this nearby village, after being orphaned in the Great War. He went to school locally and in 1939, joined the French Army. Captured in 1942 and sent to Germany, he escaped, but was recaptured. Six months later, he escaped again and went to Paris. Knowing that the Gestapo were watching him, he returned to the countryside and rejoined the Resistance, later founding and commanding the Bir Hacheim group. His code name was "Blanqui". He survived the war, but died in 1963, killed, I understand, in a car accident.

Reprisals -supplied with information from the French Milice about the Resistance, a German motorised division surrounded the town of Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure on 22 March 1944 and the Gestapo arrested 150 people. Many were later released, but Guy Pascaud, with others, was deported to Germany.

 A grassy lane along the route

The main activity of Bir Hacheim was sabotaging of the vital railway line between Limoges and Angouleme. In June 1944, they attacked the German command post at La Rochefoucauld, a nearby small town. In all, their disruptive and harrying tactics forced the Nazis to divert important troops to the Charente area from the Normandy battlefront.

Put in place in 1940, this artificial border was created between the area of France occupied by the Nazis, generally to the North, and the "free zone" or "Vichy France", generally in the South, controlled by the French "Milice" (Police), who were  collaborating with the invaders. Identity cards had to be produced to the guards at crossing points and the Line caused great disruption in the everyday lives of French people living near the border.

You can see more about the Resistance Memorial HERE 

Stone plaque at the foot of a cedar tree planted in 1978 in Le Chatelars to commemorate the activities of the Maquis Bir Hacheim.

See also My Life Before Charente (updated 9 March - I will catch up in winter!)
and my daily blog

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Short of time!

I am having a difficult time keeping up with Life in the Charente at present! Having just returned from 3 weeks holiday in Spain and Portugal, I have not got the time for lots of research which most of my posts need. Nigel is great at helping me, but there is so much to do in the garden, we are both very busy.  I am, though, doing my best to keep up the daily photodiary and adding a few holiday photos to each day, so if you are interested, please take a look at it HERE.  Winter should be a good time for me to catch up once again, but if I have time I will pop in a few posts before that.  As Arnie S once said,I will be back :-)
A taste of our holiday photos - the way to travel in Seville, Spain.

A new blog for France - friends just making the move take a look Here.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Anne has a week's holiday in the Charente!

We are going away on holiday in the next few days and will be pretty much without an internet connection until we return in early July. I thought I would put a few photos of Anne's visit on a post before we go.  You can follow more of her travels (with more detail) and what we saw at her blog Anne in Oxfordshire. Be patient with her though, as she has 100's, maybe 1000's of photos to go through!!
Part of the  superb and very well preserved heating system discovered by archaeologists at the Roman complex of Cassinomagus, near Chassenon

Anne taking a photo of the privately owned Rochechouart chateau.

One day in the Dordogne at Brantome. The idyllic river Dronne!

Anne in Brantome at the weirs

Abbey de la Couronne;the ruins near Angouleme.

Waiting for a  storm to pass; the covered market in old  Angouleme

The ruins of the  Chateau of St  Germain.

We were lucky enough, while at the above Chateau, to meet up with  Citroën Traction Avant enthusiasts on a club run :-)

We both left with one of these badges.

Anne at the 13th Century courthouse entrance in Confolens.

Saw this flowery bike in Lesterps.

A visit to the chocolate factory in La Rochefoucauld. Yum!

Anne at the Lavoir in St Adjutory.

Eglise St Jacques at Tusson.

This strange coniferous tree was growing in Nanteuil_en_Vallee Arboretum.

Anne hugging a 250 year old plane tree at Peyrassoulat.

and another hug from me. Thanks Anne for taking this photo.

Time to say good bye at Angouleme station.  We all had a great week thanks to Nigel's planning, despite the constant and prolonged showers, which always threatened to disrupt things.

Hope you all have a good month; see you sometime in July.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Vegetable casserole.

Firstly I must apologise to you all for the slow rate at which I am posting!
Time just seems to fly by and  keeping up with everything is not easy, especially at this time of year, when the garden needs a lot of attention!  

I have still not managed to edit my photos of the Lot region of France and we go on holiday next month, so there will be loads more photos to edit on our return after 3 weeks of travelling.  I have, however, managed to keep up the photo diary, for those who are interested. Catching up with 'My life in the Charente' in summer may be difficult but I will do my best when we return from holiday.  Tomorrow we have a blogger friend arriving and we are looking forward to showing her around; sadly the weather has taken a turn for the worse and lots of rain is forecast!

Meanwhile, I have discovered an amazing way to make a vegetable casserole and decided to pass on my 'invention,' as we thought it was so good.  No amounts or weight are involved; just decide how much you need for each person.

You could use pretty much any vegetable of your choice but I used:

2 carrots
1 parsnip
A large stick of celery
2 leeks
A few mushrooms
Two sticks of asparagus that I had in the fridge.
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Chop all and put into a dish with a lid.  I then added liquid 3/4 of the way up the dish.  This was a 50:50mix of box orange juice and dry white wine with a vegetable stock jelly added.  Put on the lid and cook in the oven at about 190C (375F, gas mark 5) until the carrot is just tender; mine was done in a little more than an hour. Pouring in heated liquid  first would speed up the cooking time if you were in a hurry.

When the vegetables were cooked, I drained off the liquid to make a sauce and kept the vegetables warm meanwhile. 

Butter - about 60 grams or 2 ounces, melt in a small saucepan then add some flour (about 2 tablespoons), Add a couple of heaped tablespoons of lemon and lime marmalade, stir well then slowly add the vegetable liquid, stirring all the time until you have a thick pouring consistency.  Serve up the vegetables and pour some of the sauce over.

I served it with a potato cooked in the slow cooker, and a grilled pork chop, it was delicious.

Pasta sauce.

We had some of the above vegetables left over, as I had cooked more than we needed. I made up a little more sauce using butter, flour, wine, orange juice and marmalade and adding the left over vegetable.  We then poured it over our favourite pasta and hey presto, what a great sauce it made.

I hope that you get to try this out as I thought it was really exceptional and the lemon and lime marmalade just finished it off with a novel taste.  It may work with any marmalade, but that is for you to try and experiment with!

See also My Life Before Charente (updated 9 March)
and my daily blog

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The beautiful city of Rocamadour, a commune in Lot, a department in south-western France.

On the first day of our little trip to the Lot, I took over 100 photos, and after editing, I still had 70 that are pretty good, so again I have whittled down, and am left with what I consider to be the best for you to appreciate!

We left home early, but were held up in a minor traffic jam  in Périgueux; they were sweeping the streets!  We arrived at Rocamadour just on lunch time, so decided to stop at the first "traveller recommended" place to eat. This proved to be a mistake, as we should have waited to see what else  was available. The meal was passable, but nothing special!   I digress though, and on to Rocamadour!  It is set on a cliff 120 metres (390 feet) high forming the side of a deep gorge on the Alzou river, a tributary of the Dordogne.  The city also gives its name to a small goat's milk cheese, which is made locally. 

The name is said to come from Roc (cliff in the local Occitan language) and Amadour, who might have been either a saint, a hermit or the bishop of a nearby diocese. There are several legends related to its foundation, but the scholars believe them to be untrustworthy, so the distant past is "lost in antiquity"! The city declined during the religious struggles of the Middle Ages, wars and the French Revolution.

By the beginning of the 19th century, Rocamadour had fallen into a state of disrepair, with trees growing in the 'grand stairway' (see later) and the traders having left.  In 1855, the bishop of Cahors decided to promote a lottery  to help fund the essential restoration work, but nearly 20 years passed before the major work was finished.  

We started our our walking tour where we had parked the car at lunchtime, in the hamlet of l'Hospitalet (presumably taking its name from the nearby gateway - see below), where there is the gorgeous chapel of Saint-Jean-de-l'Hospitalet built in the 13th and 14th centuries, next to the ruins of the original chapel, founded 200 years earlier. 

The chapel of Saint-Jean-de-l'Hospitalet and ruins of the original chapel.

The ruins of the old chapel

The chapel, seen through the ancient entrance arch.

Inside the chapel

The première porte (gateway) to Rocamadour, just beyond the chapel

Along the pilgrims' route in the city, one sees many  fortified gates built in the Middle Ages.  The first gate (above) called Hospital's Gate, marks the beginning of the holy way leading to the lowest part of Rocamadour.  There are five major gateways on roads or pathways that lead up to  Notre Dame, the pilgrimage church in the city and other smaller churches at the same level. Here at the first gate, the pilgrim can contemplate and enjoy the view, across the valley, of the ultimate goal, the vertiginous city built on the rock above the river.  The pilgrim can then give thanks, and worship God for all his wonders.

The view as seen from the première porte.

We decided that the  downhill walk  was quite possible, but we would not have the energy to return!  We took the car down to another car park right at the  bottom of this photo, where we managed to park fairly easily, as this was the low season. How crowded it becomes there in high season, I dread to think!

We then caught a ride on one of these little trains which took us up to the bottom of the village, about half way up the cliff face.

Upper and lower Rocamadour, taken from the car park.

The narrow streets of the city, looking up to the château built in the Middle Ages to defend the pilgrim sanctuaries.

Walking through the narrow residential streets of the lower town. At the top of the photo, see how part of the château is built on a rock overhang. Those ancient builders were brave, but they didn't have health and safety regulations then!

Closer to the centre of the town, and Porte Hugon in view at the centre of the street. I think this must be the second gateway.

Porte Salmon, the third of the gateways.

I passed through the fourth gateway at the bottom of the 'grand stairs'. With its 216 steps, it is the last stage to the sanctuary. The stairs were stabilised with reinforced concrete and carefully restored (often stone-by-stone) in a 3 year exercise (2008-2011) to put right defects  and wear caused by freezing winters and the millions of visitors since the last repairs in 1872. Many pilgrims including saints and kings have climbed these stairs, so I felt as if I was in good company! There's a plaque on a wall listing visits of the most prominent from 12th to 15th centuries, these including Henry II of England, many kings of France and Pope Jean XXII.

After the first flight; looking up to the château far above me. I never did make it up that far!

From much the same position, in a different direction, I could see the bell tower of  the Notre Dame church.

The final flight to the 5th gateway on the 'grand stairs', the entrance door to Notre Dame church beyond.

The last few breathless steps on our walking tour!

La Porte Sainte.   The church entrance, which is the fifth and final holy gateway to the shrine of Notre Dame of Rocamadour.   I only went through the gateway; there were a lot of people inside the church, and more steps to climb once in there!

Looking back at the archways over the  church entrance, from inside.

From here we travelled on to Cahors where we stayed 3 nights, so watch this space for the next part of the trip.

See also My Life Before Charente (updated 30 March)
and my daily blog