Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Le coeur vivant de la Cité

On my past visits to this corner of France, I have never spent much time in the center of Toulouse, the fourth largest city in France, after Paris, Marseille and Lyon, so yesterday my Soreze friend M showed me some of her favorite sights in the "living heart of the city".

Though construction on the original building to house the regional government in the center of Toulouse was started in 1190, the
current façade of Le Capitole (the Town Hall, above), built of the distinctive pink Toulousian brick, dates from 1750. Inside we visited les salles Gervais, des Illustres et Henri-Martin to view the walls and ceilings painted by Paul Gervais, Benjamin Constant and others, and Henri Martin (impressionist stylist) respectively.
Then we walked a few blocks over to Les Jacobins, church and cloister. The church is an amazing space with 92-foot-high ribbed vaults supported by “palmiers”, single columns whose ribs fan out resembling a palm-tree. The church was part of the former monastery of the Dominicans, an order founded in 1235 to fight the Cathar religion. It is the site of the final resting place of the remains of St Thomas Aquinas, the Dominican priest, theologian and influential philosopher of the 13th century.

As we walked back through the city to the metro station, the students from the University of Toulouse, first established in 1229 and the second largest in France after Paris, were out enjoying the sun.

I felt like I'd just started to get to know la Cité. I'll have to find the time to make the short drive from Soreze again soon.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vernissage de notre amie Anne Subercaseaux

Another event on the list of activities this past weekend was the vernissage of one of the ExP ladies of whom I had heard for some years, but only met this year, Anne Subercaseaux.

A vernissage is the name given to the opening of an art exhibit, usually a reception with the artist(s). According to the fr.wikipédia, calling this type of reception a vernissage (literally a varnishing) derives from the past practice of painters to lacquer their paintings after they were already hung for exhibit at the Salons of Paris, before the general public was allowed in.
The poster (l'affiche), above ( for the inauguration of the joint residence of the artists in Soreze) lists the three women taking part in the exhibit at the Atelier du Pont Vaillant, Catherine Huppey and Josée Catalo as well as Anne. Each one has a strong style very different from the others.

Above, Josée Catalo on the left with her sculpture center and Anne Subercaseaux, far right.

Josée's child's head sculpture with two of Anne's paintings from her
series "Reflections on Crossing" to the right of the sculpture.

More of Anne's "Reflections on Crossing" paintings with Josée's smaller sculptures in the front.

Catherine Huppey left and her paintings, right and below.

It was superb to see the powerful works of these three women on display together in one artful space here in our petit village.

Une autre partie de notre week-end culturel en France profond.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Les Journees du Patrimoine

Les Journees du Patrimoine were this past weekend -- the weekend every year during which everyone is encouraged to get out and get in touch with their history. It started in France but has been renamed "Les Journées Européennes du Patrimoine" and has spread to 49 countries.

Historic buildings which are usually closed to the public are opened up and tours are given and, in some locations, re-enactments of historic events are done in costume. G, N and I drove up to the Chateau Montgey, about 14km or a 20 minute drive from Soreze. We were given the tour of the outer walls, the courtyard, the chapel and the great hall, portions of which were built in the 12th, 13th and 17th century, by the daughter of the house.
There's a good picture of a model of the Chateau Montgey and a bit of the history here.

Back home, it was great to see Soreze teeming with families and children of all ages out to see the historical sights here in the village: l' Abbaye-Ecole, le clocher Saint-Martin, l'oppidum de Berniquaut.

But we had a vernissage to attend. More on that tomorrow.


Films, des châteaux, des tableaux, oh my!

By the time I was informed, they were seven days into the schedule of the Culture & Cultures Internationa Film Festival organized by Denis Piel and projected at venues in Soreze, Revel and Lampault. And yet I managed to see five of the films shown over the remaining eight days -- L'Amant by Jean-Jacques Annaud - Fr, Looking for Pallidin by Andrzej Krakowski - USA, Breaking Upwards by Daryl Wein - USA, Boatman by Gianfranco Rosi - It, and Love is Blind by Denis Piel - Fr/Aus. The interesting subject matter and quality of these films made me sorry that I hadn't caught more of the fifty-five films shown during the festival.

Last Saturday the festival wrapped with a gala dinner at the home, Chateau PADIES, of the festival founders, Denis Piel and Elaine Merkus. The festivities started with a showing, in a tent down by the pool, of a short documentary on the history and mission of the chateau.

The PADIES great white Pyrenees dog led us up to the chateau for apertif and dinner in the grand hall.
As stated at the film festival site online "CCiff, both a Film forum and Film Festival - is a unique platform committed to intercultural exchange and dialogue. The program is designed to immerse audiences and participants in...intercultural experience through screenings of substantial documentary and fiction films of excellence coupled with extensive dialogues..." The dinner served this objective very well. It was a gathering of local French and ExP residents, artists, filmmakers, volunteers working in the organic gardens of the chateau through the WWOOF program and at the film festival... and an interesting dialogue was had over dinner by all.

Amazing what a rich cultural life we have out here in the far countryside of France!
More on that in the next post.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Les Petits Villages

Here in the village on the other side, the weather is temperate, the food and company good. Last night G threw a birthday bash thé buffet for her visiting friend N, with J, A and me as invitees. It was an intimate expat event here in the center of our southern French village, Soreze.

This morning, four American ExP ladies were off to the vide grenier ("empty the attic") sale in Massaguel (population ~400), a village five times smaller than Soreze (pop. ~2,100). Half the fun of running out to the vide greniers is getting familiar with the villagettes hidden in the surrounding countryside here, following one of the many black and white signs that point off into the fields which you've wondered about as you passed on the country road, and finding another small community gathered around a tiny church and café et bar.

We brought back our choice items and took Gwen (one of the ExP ladies) back to Durfort (pop. 270), the aincient village just over the hill from Soreze, known for centuries for metal work powered by the river Sor, which sends its tendrils through the village.

G kindly invited us in to see her house, La Cascade, so named for the little waterfall which spills through the sluice gate in the stream facing the back of the house.

Behind the house is a lovely terrace overlooking the stream.

Just below, on the stream bank, a green figuier stood dipping its roots, drinking deeply and plumping its fruit to bursting.

Warm ripe figs, indeed!

Thanks to all the ladies for sharing.

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