Wednesday, August 31, 2011


In the United States we seldom think about where our water comes from. Generally we just turn on the tap & take it for granted that there will be water. Here in France, however, there is a greater sense of awareness of the water supply. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that here in the countryside, indoor plumbing did not even exist until the late 1950's & in some cases even later. Really, this is shocking but true. In my village there are people much younger than me, who remember going to the town square to get their water in a bucket for household use.

This area has a long history intertwined with water. My little village & many others in the area were originally Roman towns founded because of an excellent source of water. The photos above & below, are of a beautifully preserved Roman source in the town of Varen, not far from here. The spring that feeds it continues to flow freely from the lovely ancient spout. Although, the town has now posted a sign reading "non potable" for legal reasons, people still come with bottles to fill, believing in the superiority of the water.

In the early 19th century, people started coming as "tourists", to "take the waters". There are also many old wells still to be found in the village, like the one below. It is on the grounds of a what was once a convent that took in the ill, the pure water filled with minerals, being part of the treatment. Although no longer in use, these wells are lovely reminders of a time gone by.

At some point, more modern water sources were put in the town squares, where villagers could continue to gather for their water & to connect as a community.

Replicas of these older faucets can be bought & installed as decorative elements in gardens of today.

There are any number of interesting old water receptacles, like the old pump below, to be found & admired.

I love the fact that they are appreciated & preserved in all of their forms.

The formidable town pump below, is found in the the town of Cordes sur Ciel.

While, in a hill top village, a cool mountain spring still feeds the lovely fountain below.

I could not help but finish with this sweet little well house, spotted recently on one of my adventures. I hope these photos may give you pause, to consider your water source, & how valuable pure clean water is to all of us.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


After a stretch of rainy weather, the cèpes have made an early appearance. Everyone, with the know how, is out in the forests with their baskets in search of them.

I so want to see them growing in the wild, but the closest I have come are these wooden sculptured cèpes in someone's garden. It is hard to tell from the photo but the larger mushroom is about 2 feet high , very funny & realistic replicas.

My neighbor, however is a seasoned forger, & he gave me these that he had found.

For cooking, the recipe is simple. The first thing to do after cleaning them is to cut them up & add salt. The salt will draw out the excess moisture & then you are ready to sauté.

I used a combination of butter & olive oil, garlic & parsley. That's it! Remembering a line from "Julie & Julia" I tried not to crowd the mushrooms.

Unfortunately, this photo does not do my dish justice. They were beautiful & earthy & delicious. I served mine over a thick slices of country bread.

Another friend made this wonderful tart de cèpes , which was to die for. What could be better or more French than a dinner of wild mushrooms.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Letter Boxes

Although mailboxes are not the first thing one notices in France, they can be very interesting if you take a look.

It is always fun to send & receive mail, especially so, for me, here in France. The official yellow French boîte aux letters, like the one above in my small village, is a cheery place to post ones mail.

How one receives ones mail though is a personal choice that can be creative & interesting.

Whether, an elegant home or a simple doorway, every house has a means of receiving mail & they can be varied indeed.

Many houses have letter slots in the door, like the one below. I wish you could make out the neat French handwriting, giving the name & address of the occupants on the slip of paper.

I love the weathered look of this door & the simple geometric letter slot.

I also like the combination of hardware on doors, like the beautiful old knocker & letter slot below.

This red door seems to have it all, an elaborate peephole, lovely old keyholes, even a heart keyhole, a beautiful old doorknob, & a simple slit in the door for the mail.

In fact many old doors simply have a slit carved in the door for the post.

Later elaborate & decorative mailboxes came into fashion.

The one below was once an official French postoffice box, with the number of pick ups for each day noted by the postman. No longer in use in it's official capacity, it is now a most intriguing personal mail box.

I like looking at the different styles of letter drops & boxes, each with its own unique charm.

I especially liked this old handmade version, old but not nearly as old as the door it was hung on.

Or this opening in the stone wall of an equally old house, which may be my favorite.

Friday, August 19, 2011


The landscape of Southwest France is dotted with pigeonniers. These unique buildings were originally used to house pigeons, at a time when pigeon droppings were highly valued as fertilizer.

Today they represent an important part of local history & architecture. In this area alone, there are some 1700 documented pigeonniers, built in varying shapes & sizes. The property, above & below, boasts two beautiful brick & timber examples.

Although, many were constructed in conjunction with barns & other buildings, traditionally they were free standing & built in the middle of a field.

Many have fallen into disrepair over the years. This one, which appeals to me, in spite of its simple design, has a sculpted pigeon on top indicating its purpose.

What could be more Southwest France than this lovely one standing in a field of sunflowers?

In towns some kilometers north of where I live, the building products change & you find darker stone & slate roofs....

.....instead of the lighter stone & red tile roofs more common in this area.

I was very excited when I came upon this lovely example of a raised pegeonnier, built on columns, not far from my own village.

As well as this one, that just happened to have a horse trotting by as I snaped the photo.

Having a pegeonnier on a property, highly increases its value & today many have been beautifully restored into elegant homes.

My town has two distinct pegeonniers, which define the look of the village, by proudly towering over the other roof tops. One, at the twelfth century château, is unusual in that, it is round, with a flat yet slanted roof.

The other, I can see from my studio window, perhaps some of you remember the small painting I shared sometime ago, in a post called "A Room with a View".


OK, I know this is not Italy, & I am certainly not Italian. But when your neighbor gives you a giant basket of tomatoes, from their garden, what are you going to do, but make tomato sauce?

I do not pretend to have any special recipe for this, just all these fresh ingredients & the desire to do it. I did not even bother to peel the tomatoes.

Along with the onions & garlic, I also sautéd two hot peepers & bay leaves.

It starts out chunky .....

....but in no time becomes a thick rich sauce. Finish it off with a little more olive oil & some tomato paste & you are good to go.

Yum, what could be better! Pasta with homemade tomato sauce, a sprinkling of fresh basil & parmesan cheese, makes a simple yet delicious summer dinner.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

People Watching in the Square

While whiling the time away, in the café in St. Antonin, one can not help but enjoy the pass time of people watching. Here are a few photos, I took the other day, while doing just that.

There is just something so French about the French tourist.

I loved this big sister fixing her younger sibling's hair, while she ate a late breakfast. I guess though, with the GAP sweatshirt, this could have been anywhere.

There was just something about those green shoes hurrying by.

I tried to be pretty anonymous, but this little girl looked right at me & did not seem to mind being photographed. We shared a good laugh afterwards.

There was a little impromptu jazz concert, adding some nice tunes to an already lazy day.

There was a heavy game of cards going on.....

....& the this young lady, who seemed lost in her own thoughts.

But it was this little girl with her oversized handbag & her little French dog, that really made me laugh.

I hope you have enjoyed doing a little people watching with me here in the square.