Bonne année !

Bonne annee - vineyard sculpture

Found in a vineyard of Domaine de Païssels, near Saint-Chinian

Bonne année, meilleurs vœux, et surtout la santé !  This year, our traditional exchanges of new year’s wishes won’t be accompanied by the obligatory kisses, but the wishes won’t be any less cordial.  As much as Christmas is a family affair, new year’s wishes are exchanged with practically everyone, family, neighbours, shopkeepers, you name it.  People in France send their cards in the new year, rather than at Christmas and it is deemed to be a no-no to wish anyone a happy new year before January 1st!  At the end of January, it’s all over – the new year is no longer new, and everyone is glad to be done with the wishes!  🙂

The current pandemic has caused a lot of hardship and heartache all over the world, but with the availability of the vaccines there is hope that our lives will become easier once more.  I’m looking forward to meeting up with friends and family, hugs, handshakes, kisses, concerts, theatre visits, restaurant meals and some travelling – but only if it’s safe to do so!!

At the start of 2021 we have 365 days ahead of us! 365 days to fill with love and hope, 365 days to make our dreams become reality, 365 days to make a difference, 365 days for re-connecting with friends and family,  365 days to make the world a kinder place!  

What will you do with your 365 days?

 

Celebrate the season!

What a year 2020 has been – a roller coaster of lockdowns, quarantines, travel restrictions and more!! It’s kept us all on our toes and watching the development was never dull, there was always something new. It’s been a tough year for many of us on so many levels, work-wise, financially, personally, and we’re not out of the woods yet!

For me 2020 has been a year of learning:

  • I learnt how to get by without handshakes, hugs or kisses
  • I learnt to take nothing and no one for granted
  • I learnt how to smile with my eyes when wearing a face mask
  • I learnt that Zoom-ing, Skype-ing, Facetime-ing and WhatsApp-ing are great ways to keep in touch with friends and family
  • I learnt to do more with less
  • I learnt a few new skills, such as sewing face masks
  • I learnt that vegan food can be totally delicious and satisfying

What I didn’t learn was a musical instrument or another foreign language. I’ve not yet joined a gym or taken up running, but perhaps that’s for next year?? 😉

I have a few New Year’s resolutions in mind: one of them is that I want to start writing blog posts on a regular basis again, probably not every week but perhaps every other weeek? So, watch this space!!

In the meantime, I’d like to wish you an enjoyable festive season – take care of yourselves and above all, stay healthy!!

Look forward to catching up with you next year!!

Smile!  😀

You will have read by now that the population of France has been confined to their homes since noon last Tuesday.  Extreme measures in order to stop the spread of the Coronavirus!  President Macron announced a 15 day period in which people are to stay indoors, and I have a feeling that this may be extended.  We’ll see how effective it will be, and how people are going to be able to live with this perceived loss of liberty.  Personally, I am not particularly bothered.  I have everything I need at home, and plenty of small projects to finish, books to read, etc.  I’ll have time to telephone friends and family, write e-mails, and catch up with all kinds of things.  I might even be able to start work again on my long-shelved cook book project!!  Now, wouldn’t that be something??  🙂

People will be allowed to leave their homes to go to work if they cannot work remotely, or are working for one of several essential services (electricity, water, medical, food, etc.), to go shopping for essential supplies, to visit their doctor or pharmacy, for imperative family visits (childcare or care of elderly relatives), and for physical exercise or dog walking, the last two are to be done in strict isolation.  The food shops will remain open, and no doubt the shelves will eventually be re-stocked with pasta, rice AND toilet paper!! 😀

It will certainly be challenging for people who live in France’s big cities or areas where population density is high.  In Saint-Chinian we should be OK – people are pretty well spaced apart to begin with, and if contact is limited so should be the spread of the virus.

Last Tuesday morning, as I took a quick walk around my garden, my eye was caught by the blooms on my tree peony.  Seeing the sparkling water drops on the gorgeous blooms brought a smile to my face!  I cut several stems to bring home with me, so I could admire them for a few days.  I hope you’ll enjoy them too!

So, it might be au revoir for a little while.  Rest assured, I’ll write again as soon as inspiration strikes or whenever I feel I have something worth telling you about!  Until then, stay well and safe, and smile! 🙂

Keeping track

It might come as a surprise to you to know that there once was a railway station in Saint-Chinian!  I’d known about the railway for a long time – there is an Avenue de la Gare in Saint-Chinian after all.  But it wasn’t until a reader sent me a link to Roger Farnworth’s blog that I got the full picture.  The post below is based on the information I’ve been able to find on Roger’s blog as well as on some other French sites.  The pictures are mostly from Roger’s site.  I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to Roger for allowing me to use his content, and to Paul for sending me the link to Roger’s blog in the first place!!

During the boom years of the railway in the 19th century, the Compagnie du Midi was running the mainline trains, serving all the big towns in the area and linking to Paris via Beziers and Bedarieux.  In 1865, the Herault Department decided to create a network of local trains.  The Compagnie de l’Herault was brought into being that same year and the first line, from Montpellier to Palavas, was inaugurated in 1872!

The line from Beziers to Saint-Chinian was commissioned in three stages:  from Beziers to Cazouls-les-Beziers in 1876, from Cazouls-les-Beziers to Cessenon in 1877, and from Cessenon to Saint-Chinian in 1887!  The 10 year delay was a result of major financial difficulties of the Compagnie de l’Herault.

Below is a map of the finished railway line from Beziers to Saint-Chinian:

The aerial image below shows the site of the railway station in Saint-Chinian in 1953.

Passenger traffic on the line stopped a year later, in 1954.  The railway line carried on with goods traffic until 1968, when the stretch from Cazouls-les-Beziers to Saint-Chinian was closed for good.

Here is a very recent picture of the same area as above:

The former station building is still there, indicated by the label “Pays Haut Languedoc et Vignobles”.  The rest of the station buildings and the yard have all been replaced by a housing development.

Here are some shots of what the railway terminus in Saint-Chinian looked like:

Here’s a modern image of the old station building:

And here’s a view of the station looking towards the town:

The building with the turrets that is towards the left hand side of the postcard was the station hotel, if my sources are correct.  It’s still there – you’ll be able to see it in the picture below:

If this has piqued your interest, do visit Roger’s blog – it’s full of interesting information!!  The former railway trackbed from Pierrerue to Cessenon has been converted into a greenway, which was opened only last year.  It’s perfect for cycling or walking, and there may well be a blog post about that in the not too distant future! 🙂

The big picture

There are big pictures all over the place – murals that cover entire sides of buildings.  I’ve often heard them called muriels – have you heard them called that too??  In French, murals are often called trompe l’oeil, literally translated as “deceive the eye”.  Some of the murals in the following pictures are incredibly convincing and live up to their trompe l’oeil name!!

The first one is in Lodeve, and it is a very good example of a trompe l’oeil, as it blends real with fake – can you tell which windows are real and which are not?

The following mural is in Montpellier – the walls are pretty much flat, but the painting’s perspective makes it look incredibly 3D!The next mural is in Capestang, just right around the corner from the restaurant La Galiniere.

Beziers has a good number of murals – here is the oldest that I know of:

There appears to be a theme to the more recently painted murals in Beziers: famous artists and their works!

Here is L’Arlesienne by Georges Bizet:

Dejanire by Camille Saint-Saens:

Le Depit Amoureux by Moliere:

Jean Moulin, a native of Beziers and a hero of the Resistance, opened an art gallery in Nice as a cover for his resistance activities.  The following mural commemorates Jean Moulin and his gallery:

The mural in the last picture of this post is on a newly created square in Beziers.  The mural hides a series of what I imagine are run-down houses awaiting renovation – a pretty neat idea!

This was to be my last article of 2019, but somehow it never got posted and ended up in my drafts folder!  Since I wrote this post, Saint-Chinian has unveiled its own trompe l’oeil. It’s not quite finished yet, so I’ll post a picture of it when it is.

Red all over

As a result of our wetter-than-usual spring, we’ve had the most amazing display of wildflowers this year.  Poppies have been truly exceptional!  One field in particular, just by the roundabout in Cabezac, was simply extraordinary, to the point where I made a special trip just to take pictures to share with you!!

Papaver rhoeas is the latin name of the common poppy, also called field poppy, Flanders poppy or red poppy.  It grows particularly well in recently disturbed soil, and hence it’s association with the churned up WWI battlefields of northern France.  In Cabezac, the field had been ploughed, perhaps late last year or earlier this year, in preparation for a cereal crop or some such.  If any seeds had been sown then, they had had no chance against the poppies – I saw no evidence of a struggling crop.

The field was so spectacularly red that many people stopped their cars by the side of the road and hopped out to take a picture or two.  The snails on the post didn’t seem to be particularly fussed about the poppies or the passers-by.

I walked around the edge of the field, careful not to step on any poppies!  I found this beautiful thistle which looks wonderful against the red background, don’t you agree?

There were also some marguerites:

Some of the visitors walked right into the middle of the field, perhaps thinking of Claude Monet’s Coquelicots (Poppy Field) form 1873, which shows a lady with a parasol and a child walking through a field.  It’s a painting which has been reproduced countless times – I’m sure you’ve seen it somewhere!  The original hangs in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.

Nobody carried a parasol the day I took the pictures, but there were many mobile phones in evidence!! 🙂

I’ve teased you long enough with my descriptions – here, finally, is the field in all its glory:

Something to think about: a single poppy plant can produce up to 400 flowers during its life cycle!  If only some of the poppy flowers in the field produce seeds, there is a good chance that there will be another amazing display before too long.

And another thing to remember: poppy seeds can stay dormant for a very long time, until the soil is disturbed once more…