A night at the theatre

Recently, friends invited me to join them for a visit to the theatre in Pezenas.  They had been telling me about this historical theatre for ages, and I had been longing to go – so this was it!  The theatre is tucked away in a narrow side street, and the facade of it is rather plain, save for a very ornate doorway.  If you look at the top half of the door casing there is nothing much to hint at what lies behind the entrance:

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There are no flashing signs, no names up in lights!  With the large wooden doors closed it would look like many other buildings in Pezenas.  BUT, the wooden doors were open and allowed a glimpse into the foyer:

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Very little is known of the early history of the theatre, but a description of it was made by the then town architect, Joseph Montgaillard, in 1855.  The town of Pezenas purchased the building in 1857, and in 1899 a series of renovation projects started, improving seating and stage machinery, as well as replacing the painted stage curtain.  In 1925 (!!) the theatre was electrified. I couldn’t find out whether it was lit with gas or candlelight before then. In 1947 the theatre closed down – I am assuming that it might have been due to the poor state of repair of the building.  You can find out a little more about the history of the theatre here.  There are also some pictures of it before the restoration began, on that website.

Work on the restoration didn’t start until 1998, after the theatre had been closed for more than 50 years!!  It finished with the re-opening of the theatre in 2012.  During those 14 years absolutely everything was worked on.  The building was made watertight, the interior restored and up-to-date technical services were installed.  Here is what it looks like today:

Door to the stalls

Door leading to the stalls

Former box office windows in the foyer

Former box office windows in the foyer

Detail of art deco decorations in the foyer

Detail of art deco decorations in the foyer

The foyer did not prepare me for the sumptuous interior of the auditorium

Auditorium of the historic theatre in Pezenas

Auditorium of the historic theatre in Pezenas

The photo above is of the view from the first floor balcony straight down to the stage.  The walls in the stalls and on the balcony are covered with striped wallpaper, faithfully reproduced after fragments of the original paper.

The ceiling was intricately painted and had been painstakingly restored:

The coat of arms of the town of Pezenas adorns the proscenium:

Coat of arms of the town of Pezenas

Coat of arms of the town of Pezenas

A new chandelier was created to light the auditorium:

the chandelier

The chandelier

Unfortunately the main stage curtain was not lowered during my visit, but apparently it is very much in keeping with the decorations you can see below:

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Top of the proscenium arch

Bit by bit the other patrons arrived, and the theatre filled up.  When it was time for the performance to begin the theatre was pretty full!

The auditorium filling up

The auditorium filling up

During the performance I took no pictures – I was too self-conscious of the loud click of the camera, and aware that the pictures might not be all that good with the low lighting conditions.  The piece we’d come to see was L’homme qui voulait voir les anges, The man who wanted to see the angels.  It was an amazing mix of storytelling and music, performed by Kamel Guennoun and the Trio Zephyr. I was totally mesmerized and carried along by the story and the music.  The simplicity of it was breathtaking – only the four chairs on the stage and the lights, which dimmed a little at times, but that was it!  A totally amazing evening all around!

Feeding frenzy

I promised to share some of the food pictures I took during my nephew’s visit, and I like keeping my promises.

To start with, here is one picture which should really have made it into last week’s post:  the wonderful ice creams at La Nomada on the beach at Valras Plage.  Here’s their version of a banana split:

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During the week that my nephew, Thomas, stayed in Saint-Chinian, we went out for a few meals.  It really started on the way back from Toulouse airport.  Thomas arrived at just after 5pm – too early to have dinner in Toulouse.  We therefore decided to head in the direction of Saint-Chinian, and along the way had the idea to re-visit a restaurant in the centre of Carcassonne called L’Escalier.

When I last visited this restaurant it was specialising in Mexican food, and I was looking forward to that.  However, since that last visit the theme has changed, and now Bistro food is all the rage.  The ambience was still the same, somewhat ramshackle and haphazard, and at the same time very cozy.  We were quite early and had our pick of the tables.

We started with a Greek salad to share between the three of us.  A wise move, since that salad was huge!  At this point I have a confession to make:  I cannot find the photographs of the entire meal – they have somehow disappeared into the ether :(

Luckily I can always remember a good meal!! :)  Thomas had chosen mussels for his main course, just plain moules mariniere – fresh mussels are very difficult to come by where he lives.  The mussels were absolutely wonderful!  They were served in a large salad bowl, with another bowl the same size for the empty shells, and they were piping hot and freshly cooked.  My partner had ordered a dish called pluma de porc, which is a cut not unlike the filet, but with more marbling.  It was deliciously tender and the portion was very large.  I had chosen the house speciality burger:  a submarine roll, filled with slices of grilled duck breast, foie gras and onion marmalade – total decadence!!  After all that food we skipped dessert – we had all eaten very well!

Our next outing was to Pizza Tillou in St Chinian, and once more there are no pictures of the food.  To me one pizza looks very much like the next, although the taste experience can be very different from one Pizzeria to another.  Tillou’s pizzas have a very thin crust and I always ask for mine bien cuit (well done) – then it comes with slightly charred edges, and is very crispy!

The food highlight of Thomas’s visit was dinner at Au Lavoir in Colombiers.  I had taken his brother two years ago, and Thomas deserved that treat too.  It was a perfect evening, warm enough to sit outside.  We were kindly given one of the two tables right at the end of the terrace, from which you have a view of the Canal du Midi below – such a great start to the evening!!

Canal du Midi as seen from the terrace at Au Lavoir in Colombiers

Canal du Midi as seen from the terrace at Au Lavoir in Colombiers

Here’s the food – at long last some pictures!!  For starters, Thomas had chosen Bellota ham, my partner had decided to try the carpaccio of octopus and I had plumped for foie gras as usual. :)

For the main course, Thomas had chosen rack of lamb and when it came he was somewhat disappointed – he felt the portion looked rather small.  He’s into eating big portions.  The lamb was cooked to perfection, pink and juicy, and ever so tender!

Rack of lamb

Rack of lamb

My partner had filet of sea bass with a celery cream – yummy!!

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I had chosen the tuna steak for my main course – beautifully juicy and oh so tasty!

Tuna steak

Tuna steak

Desserts at Au Lavoir are always delicious!!  Thomas wanted the moelleux au chocolat, a kind of half-baked chocolate cake with a melting centre.  It was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream – Thomas was in seventh heaven!!   My partner opted for the crispy green banana fritters, with ice cream and a salted butter caramel sauce – I could have very happily eaten that instead of my dessert.  But then I really liked my dessert too – a raspberry tiramisu, served in a little kilner jar!

As it got darker the lights came on, and the terrace took on a completely different allure.

The terrace at Au Lavoir in Colombiers

The terrace at Au Lavoir in Colombiers

The sun set over the Canal du Midi, a wonderful end to a fantastic meal!!

Sunset vewed from  Au avoir in Colombiers, France

Sunset vewed from Au Lavoir in Colombiers, France

Our last meal out with Thomas was at Valras Plage.  He had set his heart on going to eat at a restaurant where we had spent an evening when he had last visited with his parents.  “This will be my treat, I am inviting you”, he announced.  He confided that he had brought enough money, so we could have anything on the menu – so sweet!! :)

L’Auberge Provencale is on Allee Charles de Gaulle, a square which opens right onto the seafront.  There are many restaurants surrounding this square – I don’t remember what made us choose this particular one the first time we went, but we’ve been back a good few times.  We all opted for the set menu which was priced at EUR 16.90 – it had a good choice and we all found something we liked.

Thomas started with a Caesar’s salad – almost a meal in itself, but then he likes big portions! :)  My partner enjoyed a goat’s cheese mousse, and I had a platter with a selection of starters, a bit like tapas – very delicious.

For his main course, Thomas had his longed for mussels.  He wanted moules mariniere just as he had on the day he arrived in France – so he could compare them!  He said that they were every bit as good as they had been in Carcassonne, and he did finish them all!

Moules mariniere

Moules mariniere

My partner ordered a plate of grilled gambas and cuttlefish, which came with a cute basked of fries.  We had previously seen these cute baskets at the Maison du Cassoulet in Castelnaudary, but weren’t allowed to have any, remember?  The gambas and cuttlefish were finished with a persillade, a mixture of chopped garlic and parsley.

Grilled gambas and cuttlefish

Grilled gambas and cuttlefish

I had a hunger for mussels too – I don’t often prepare them at home.  I decided to try the mussels with sauce campagnarde, which is bacon, onions and cream – a great combination, and one which went well with the mussels!  Both the mussel dishes came with a bowl of fries, and they were very good too!

Mussels with bacon and cream

Mussels with bacon and cream

The dessert menu was fairly standard, with the usual creme caramel, mousse au chocolat, etc…  We ended up ordering ice creams.  Thomas was tempted by the “Bounty” coupe, which was coconut and chocolate ice cream.  My partner fancied the “authentic Italian gelato” with caramel sauce, and I ordered a strawberry sundae, which came with an almost obscene amount of whipped cream!  All very good and not a spoonful left at the end of the meal.

What a wonderful finale to what we hope will have been a very exciting holiday for Thomas!

Flying high

Last week, my nephew, Thomas, came to stay during his school holidays.  He had just turned 15, and this was his first holiday without his parents.  It was also his first time on an aeroplane, so you can imagine how excited he was!

His elder brother had come to visit two years ago, and we had had a week of outings and visits to keep him happy and amused.  I was wondering what would keep Thomas happy, and when I asked if there was anything he really wanted to do, his reply was: “I would like to go to the beach”.  He arrived on Wednesday, and as Thursday was a beautifully sunny day we went to Valras Plage in the afternoon.

Coming into Valras Plage from the eastern end, I noticed a little street, which seemed to lead right to the beach, the Chemin des Pecheurs.  There was space to park the car, so we stopped and decided to explore.  It was the perfect spot for us – the beach was beautifully sandy, and there was a boardwalk leading to a bar/restaurant right on the beach!  The restaurant had a covered dining area, as well as a bar area, and there were armchairs and coffee tables right on the sand.  Absolutely brilliant – I could watch my nephew in the water, whilst having an ice cream! :)

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The restaurant is called La Paillote Nomada.  Paillotte means a straw covered hut, and refers to the temporary nature of the beach restaurants, which are usually dismantled over the winter months – there are several such restaurants along the beach in Valras Plage.  Thomas quickly changed into his swimming things and after a cursory rubbing on of suntan lotion he was off into the water and the waves.

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There was a bit of a breeze, and I was glad to have brought a light jumper, sitting as I was in the shade.  The water was barely 15 degrees, but Thomas was having the time of his life, swimming, diving through the waves and paddling!  I had a job to persuade him to take a break, but he did come out of the water and I treated him to a nutella filled crepe.  No sooner had he finished it, than he was off into the water again.  The beach was fairly empty, so he had it pretty much all to himself.

On the Sunday we went to the beach again – this time to Narbonne Plage.  I had seen an advert for a kite festival there, and I wanted to see what it was all about.

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We could see the kites as we drove down the hill into Narbonne Plage.  It looked very exciting!  Where Valras Plage had been almost deserted on Thursday, Narbonne Plage was positively heaving with people on that Sunday .

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A huge area had been cordoned off on the beach, and within that area a large number of kites were anchored.

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A lot of the kites were carrying other inflatables – there were all kinds of fun shapes floating around.  Can you see the black witches in the picture above?

On the other side of this area, an arena had been set up.  This arena was used for demonstrations of kite flying, and they were doing some amazing stuff there!!  I tried to take a video, but could not catch the kites, they were just too fast!  A number of stalls had been set up next to the arena, selling all kinds of merchandise related to the festival.

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I was very taken with the windmills on sale at this stall!  At another stall, I overheard in passing that a competition kite can cost anything between 2,000 and 5,000 Euros!!  I was totally floored!

Back at our “base camp” on the beach, I watched someone flying one of these expensive kites close-up.  The precision and skill were totally impressive!

Somehow, the kites left Thomas pretty cold – he was far more interested in the water and the waves!  :D

We were back at Valras Plage Monday afternoon – Thomas wanted to take us out to a restaurant in the centre of Valras Plage, L’Auberge Provencale, where he had eaten some wonderful mussels on his last visit with his parents.  We went early enough, so that he could have another swim, and went to La Nomada again.  This time it was a little warmer, but the waves were not as big as during our previous visit – much to Thomas’s disappointment.  Once again, there were very few people on the beach, so it would appear that weekdays are best for going to the beach during the off-season!

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I promise that I’ll write about my restaurant visits with Thomas in a soon to be published blog!

 

 

Marie Celeste?

About eight years ago, one of our neighbours died suddenly.  He was an elderly man, and he had had a physical handicap from birth – one leg was shorter than the other.  But despite the handicap, he had worked hard all his life, and had valiantly earned his living running a market garden.  In his retirement he continued to garden.  He had a large piece of land, not far from his house, and he shared that with some of the neighbours.  I would often see them all sitting there in the shade, watching things grow and chewing the fat.

Our neighbour died intestate, and he had no close relatives who would have inherited his house and lands.  The French genealogists have not been able to track down any heirs, or if they have, the heirs have refused the inheritance.  So the property has gone to the state, and was recently sold by means of a postal auction.  Before the sale, a viewing day had been arranged, and since I am incurably curious, I went along! :)

The house is half of one of the grandest buildings in Saint-Chinian, built in the 18th century for a wealthy merchant.  Under Napoleonic law, property has to be divided between the children, and so it came that the grand house was divided into two, some time ago.  Our neighbour’s half was the “poor” side of the house, with a large garage on the ground floor. I had visited the “grand” side of the house some time ago, and had seen the  immense stone staircase, with the most gorgeous wrought iron balustrade, as well as some of the very large salons.

The “poor” side of the house interested me, since no major renovation works had been carried out for absolute ages.  I took my camera and took as many pictures as I could.  There is currently no electricity, so some of the pictures are a little under-lit.  As you can see, this is a bathroom:

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On the first floor, the floor tiles had been re-laid – by the look of the tiles, sometime in the 1930’s perhaps?

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I love old wallpaper – you’ll see more patterns later in the post.

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Some of the rooms were large, and others much smaller and oddly shaped.

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The staircase in this half of the house must have been a later addition, or perhaps it had been a servant’s staircase, which had been updated.  The doors on the landing are the originals from the 18th century!

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Another beautiful door on the second floor:

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I’m not sure if the pattern in the picture below is stencilled onto the plaster or printed on paper.  It could have been intended for a child’s bedroom?

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On the second floor there were a number of small, interconnecting rooms, and there was some wild wallpaper!  The imitation-tile paper was in what looked like a walk through store-room, or dressing room.  Or perhaps it would have held the commode?

Another surprising room on the second floor – this was the only ornate fireplace in this half of the house.  There are several in the other half.  Perhaps the others had been taken out?  With the white tiles along the wall I imagine that the room would have served either as a kitchen or a bathroom, but without much evidence of plumbing.

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Here is a glass door knob from one of the doors.

P1150610The real surprise/mystery was on the ground floor, which was mostly taken up by the garage.

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To the left of the door, in the corner, you can just about make out a toilet, presumably the only one in the house, when it was first installed.  To the right of the door is the base of an old wine-press.

On the wall which divides the two houses there was still a door and a key:

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But the mystery was this:

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A hole in the ground, with steps leading down to an archway – the entrance to a tunnel, heading in the direction of the river?  An escape route for aristocrats during the French Revolution?  A secret passage to the house across the road, where the mistress might have been installed?

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Unfortunately the flash on my camera was not powerful enough to illuminate very much, and the torches we had did not shine very far either.  The light switch close by would not have been much use even if there had been electricity in the house!

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So the mystery remains!  Perhaps whoever buys the house will be able to solve it?  I do hope so!!

P.S.  Annie, my trusted proof-reader, has advanced a theory about the rooms without fireplaces in this half of the house: they might have been bedrooms and thus not needed any heating.  They might also have been used for servants or storage or…

Get on your soap box

… or perhaps the title of this post should read, “Get in your soap box”?  May 14th was Ascension Day, and in France that day is a public holiday, and thus the perfect occasion for Saint-Chinian to host a soap box race, for the first time ever.  “But how would you race a soap-box?” I can just hear someone asking.  In France, home-made go karts are called Caisses a Savon, because at one time they would have been made from old soap crates.  These days a Caisse a Savon can take all kinds of shapes – follow this link for a look at the amazing variety and shapes there are!

Poster

Ascension Day is always on a Thursday, and so the market was taking place that morning in the main square of the village, just next to the finishing line for the race.  The organisers of the race had been hard at work since before dawn.  During the morning, rehearsals were taking place, so the participants could get a feel for the hillside!  The official starting time for the races was set for 2pm and it started promptly!  There were five heats altogether, with a little break after the third heat.  I went a little ahead of time, to get a good look at the various vehicles. :)  As you can see, a great deal of work and imagination had gone into the making of each vehicle:

For the first race I positioned myself near the chicane at the lower end of Avenue de Villespassans – I figured the cars would have to slow down a little and that they would be easier to photograph.

First down the hill was a group of three-wheeled bikes – the drivers did all kinds of crazy manoeuvres, such as going through the chicane backwards and more!

Then came the cars:

It appeared that one of the little cars must have gone too fast – it had what looked like flames and smoke coming out the back!!  On closer inspection, it was “only” red smoke – what fun!! :D

The last contestant of the first race had a wonderful vehicle, made with a cement mixer and a wheelbarrow, amongst other components.  Unfortunately, it came unstuck at that chicane.  Somehow it got entangled with one of the straw bales – the wheels got rather badly damaged, and it had to limp down the hill to the finishing line. :(

For the next race, all the Caisses had to get back up the hill to the starting point.  Nothing simpler: the various vehicles got hitched to one another and towed up the hill – what a laugh!!

For the second race I took up position on the hairpin bend, halfway up the road to the windmill.  A professional looking cameraman stood there, filming the race for the relay on the big screen near the finishing line.  Here’s what the screen looked like.  I didn’t take a picture of the cameraman! :)

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From my position at the hairpin bend, I got a good look at some of the vehicles and their drivers!

Take a close look at the rear end of the “bull” car!  The shopping cart can’t have been very comfortable to sit in, but it looked such fun. I absolutely adored the idea of the sardine can on wheels, and check out the two guys in the Super Mario car with the GoPro helmet cam – their video has been uploaded to YouTube here.

The bicycles came down the hill last, in this race; you can see how they are all over the place! :)

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The atmosphere was wonderful, and there were many spectators along the “race track”, encouraging and applauding the contestants.  A few of the market stall holders had stayed on for the afternoon, so there was food and drink to be had.  It was a great day, finished off with a concert in the evening.  To be repeated again in 2016 – see you there??

And to finish off, here is another video of the day from YouTube:

Call of the wild

Last Sunday I went for a trip down memory lane.  About 20 years ago, whilst going for a walk along the canal from the pretty village of Le Somail, I came across a little restaurant on the banks of the Canal du Midi.  It must have been at about the same time of year as now. The restaurant was called La Cascade, after the water which cascaded through an overflow sluice in the canal right next to the terrace of the restaurant.  The terrace looked very inviting, and so I stopped for a drink or an ice cream, or maybe both.  The owners were very friendly and chatty, and I returned there many times for meals and celebrations.  Sadly the restaurant closed down a good many years ago, but the memories remain!

When I arrived at Le Somail I was surprised to see many cars parked everywhere.  Yes, it was wonderful weather, and it was Sunday, but why would there be so many people visiting?  The answer appeared soon enough – the village was hosting a gigantic vide grenier (flea market)!!  There were stalls on both sides of the canal, and lots of people browsing.  The pictures below are taken from the bridge across the canal – you can probably see just how far the stalls stretch into the distance.

Vide Grenier in Le Somail

Vide Grenier in Le Somail

 

View from the bridge in Le Somail

View from the bridge in Le Somail

I was headed in the direction of the big barge in the picture above.  Once I had made my way through the milling crowds and reached the towpath, the peace and quiet of the canal descended.  The plane trees here had not escaped the fungal disease, and for the first several hundred meters of my walk there was no shade.  Boats were moored along the opposite bank to where I was walking – the little cruiser has definitely seen better days!!

Submerged boat on the Canal du Midi near Les Somail

Submerged boat on the Canal du Midi

Yellow irises were flowering along the banks for most of the length of my walk:

Yellow Irises along the banks of the Canal du Midi

Yellow Irises along the banks of the Canal du Midi

I’m not sure what the flower below is called – any suggestions?

Unknown flower on the banks of the Canal du Midi

Unknown flower on the banks of the Canal du Midi

This beautiful butterfly sat still just long enough for me to get a picture:

Butterfly on a thistle flower

Butterfly on a thistle flower

The nightingales were singing away, and in the distance there was a cuckoo calling.  I took a brief video for you – make sure you turn on the speakers!  E-mail subscribers, please go to the website to view the video.

Along the way I came across this mother with her children – what a wonderful sight!  I counted a total of nine chicks!!

Mother duck and her chicks

Mother duck and her chicks

When I eventually reached what had been “La Cascade”, I was not surprised to see that it had changed – not beyond recognition, but it had lost the rustic charm it had once had.  It appears that the building is now used as a private house.  I hope that whoever lives in it now, is enjoying it as much as I enjoyed it when I visited all those many years ago.

On my way back to Le Somail I took this picture – any ideas of what it could be?

Mystery picture - answers  in the comments section please

Mystery picture – answers in the comments section please

There are many wonderful walks along the Canal du Midi, and this was definitely one of them!

Walk along the Canal du Midi

Walk along the Canal du Midi

 

Not’s Pots

You may have read the post about my visit to Castelnaudary a couple of weeks ago – if not, you can find it here.  One of the friends who came to Castelnaudary with me is a potter.  For years I had been wanting to visit a rather mythical pottery not far from Castelnaudary, so that day was the day!!  After our lovely lunch, we left Castelnaudary in the direction of Mas-Saintes-Puelles, a small village west of Castelnaudary.  We crossed over the Canal du Midi, then we crossed under the A61 motorway, and finally we arrived in Mas-Saintes Puelles.  We had come to visit Poterie Not Freres, but except for the village I had no address.  The pottery is rather well-known: as we arrived in the village we saw a signpost for the pottery, followed by a second one a little further down the road.  The signs put us on a road which left the village, and went, seemingly, into the middle of nowhere.  We crossed under the motorway again, and then over some railway tracks.  Our excitement grew when we spotted a fairly squat and sturdy brick chimney in the distance – we were on the right road after all!!  Finally we arrived at Poterie Not Freres!  The pottery is right by the Canal du Midi and very close to a lock.

Our arrival was not long after the end of the lunch break, and except for one other couple we were the only ones there.  To step inside the workshop was to step back in time – a time when there were no plastic containers or non-stick pans, and when people would use their pottery dishes every day.

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Behind that open door lies a room which is dominated by the enormous wood fired kiln, which has a capacity of 40 cubic metres!  Just that morning, the kiln had been emptied, after cooling down for three weeks.  It would have been wonderful to see all the pots being taken out!  In the picture below you can just see the doorway into the kiln and the hood, hanging down in the centre of the pictures, is above the fire pit.

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All around us, pots were stacked up to dry.

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These were all garden pots, more or less ready to be loaded into the kiln for the last firing before the summer.  It takes great skill to load such a wood fired kiln – a large part of the success of the entire operation depends on it.  The kiln is fired for 36 hours using only wood, to reach a temperature of over 1000 degrees.  The fire-box is then walled up and the kiln left to cool.  Here is what the pots look like once they are finished:

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The garden pots only form a small part of the output though. All in all, the pottery produces around 500 different models of pots, and 80% of the production consists of cassoles, the traditional dish in which cassoulet is cooked, and from which the name cassoulet derives.  Here’s a look at some of the wares for sale:

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The finished garden pots are impressively stacked outside.  The visitor season had not yet started at the time of our visit, so the pots were stacked high.  By the end of the summer most of the pots will have been sold.

I was particularly intrigued by this pot, which had holes in it and a lid on top.  It took a little while before the penny dropped.

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It’s a snail pot!  Of course, the snail on it was a give-away! :)  The snails are collected and put in the pot.  The lid stops the snails from escaping and they have air while they purge, before being cooked.  They are supposed to be delicious…

Back inside there were pots everywhere.  In a corner were some old-fashioned money boxes, the kind which have to be smashed to get at the stash!  I like that idea!! ;)

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Eventually we got to the workroom with the potters’ wheels, where the action was just about to begin.  The pottery by the Canal du Midi at Mas-Saintes-Puelles was started by the Perrutel family in the 19th century.  In 1947 Emile Not took over the pottery in partnership with his brother-in-law, Francois Gleizes.  Emile Not’s two sons started to work in the pottery when they were old enough, and today the third generation is also working at the wheels.  The work area has changed very little over time.  There are four wheels, each with a window in front of it.

Clay is brought in on a sack cart – each block weighing 20 kilos.  With the help of a wire, the block is sliced into smaller pieces, and then the clay is turned on the wheel into whatever shape the potter is making.  I took a few videos for you to watch – probably easier than trying to explain the process (e-mail subscribers, please visit the website to view the videos):

I have also found two videos in French, which give a good idea of the whole manufacturing process.  The second video shows the firing of the large wood fired kiln:

The big kiln is used almost exclusively for the garden pots; for the other items there are two gas fired kilns, which are fired on alternate days.  This is hard, physical work, and whilst some of the work is the same day in day out, no two pots are ever identical.

The clay is prepared in the yard behind the workshops.  The fact that there is a clay seam just outside the door, must have determined the location of the pottery.  The clay extracted here is of a beige colour;  a red clay is extracted at another quarry at Issels, not far away.  The clay is left to dry on a concrete slab in the yard, and once dry it is broken up with steel rollers. before being milled to a fine powder.  The clay powder is then mixed in various proportions with grog, depending on what kind of pots are being made.

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This basic clay mix is then put into a machine which is definitely from the early 20th century.

Great big teeth work away at the clay inside the machine, mixing and kneading it, to make it supple and pliable.  Great big lumps of it drop from the mixer into the next machine, a pug mill, which compacts the clay and removes as much air as possible.  The pug mill extrudes the clay in a long block, which is then cut with a wire cutter.  The resulting 20 kilo blocks are loaded into a wheelbarrow and transported to the store-room next door.  This process happens every other day, and thousands of kilos of clay are prepared this way each year.  Here are two more videos for you:

The pottery produced by Poterie Not Freres has a very honest, down-to-earth feel to it.  There is nothing fancy whatsoever about the pots.  You could call it rustic, coarse or even crude, but it has a goodness that will improve with use and age.  I was tempted by many things, but in the end I came away with a small, round, yellow gratin dish, which is delightful to use.

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I leave you with the opening times of the pottery.  You should visit this place if you have even the slightest interest in potteryl!  Be warned though, it is very tempting to come away with more than you can take home :)!!

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