When I left you last week, I’d gotten to the point were we started to get hungry. We’d spotted a restaurant at the start of our walk, and that’s where we headed now. Le Petit Sommelier is a couple of doors down from the tourist office, and has a lovely terrace out the front on Place de la Republique. Unfortunately, the weather was not right, so we had a cosy table indoors. The choice of dishes looked good and on their midday menu they had options for two our three courses.
The four of us had four different starters: thinly sliced mountain ham, terrine of goats cheese, salad with herring and potatoes, prawn and avocado cocktail. We all enjoyed our choice and waited for the main course!
For main course there was rumpsteak with pepper sauce, lamb tagine, duck leg with orange sauce and cod fillet with chorizo. Again we all very much enjoyed our choices and there were no leftovers!! After all that wonderful food only two of us managed to have a little dessert (ice cream and pannacotta), but neither was very photogenic, so you’ll have to imagine those two. Service was friendly and quietly efficient and the bill for the four of us came to 82 EUR including drinks.
After all that food we still had a little time before our visit to the Savonneries, so we went for another little walk around Lodeve, and found more “treasures”, amongst which a shop selling all sorts of Polish foods – unfortunately closed for lunch, and an English Library. The turbaned fountain head was at the back of a house, glimpsed through an open front door.
Finally it was time to head off to the Savonneries – I’d been before and thought I’d remembered where it was, but ended up asking at a supermarket petrol station. The lady explained that it was just behind the supermarket (which hadn’t been built when I last visited), and to leave the car in the car park and walk round. Our guided visit was booked for 3.30pm and we started off with a film explaining the role of the Mobilier National which is both a holding collection of works of art, furniture and carpets and tapestries belonging to the French state, as well as number of specialised workshops, of which the Savonneries are part. The Mobilier National furnishes all French Embassies as well as the “palaces” of the French government, and their stocks are built on the former royal collections, with each successive government adding new works. The website for the Mobilier National is only in French but gives you a good idea of the scale and scope! Time for some pictures:
After the film our guide took us to the exhibition area, where several finished carpets were on display. One thing I must mention is that nothing here is for sale. The entire output of the workshop belongs to the state and goes into the collection of the Mobilier National, except for the rare pieces which might be given as gifts of state. Savonnerie carpets are velour pile carpets, with the thread being knotted around the warp and looped at the front. Once a row of knots is finished a linen thread is woven in, which forms the fabric and consolidates the structure of the carpet, and the loops are then cut to form the velour. Depending on the size and pattern, one carpet can take up to 10 years to complete! At that rate you do however have several people working on it at the same time, so in reality it only takes two people five years – oh the patience!!
Each carpet is a work of art, both in the design and the execution. Generally the Mobilier National commissions the design from artists, who then work very closely with the weavers to translate their design into a finished carpet. Currently there are some very beautiful modern carpets on the looms in Lodeve, and new techniques are constantly explored, such as the raised discs for the “lobster” carpet.
Traditional Savonnerie patterns are often very involved and have a high knot per square centimetre ratio, in order to bring out the complicated detail. On the carpet below over 50 different colour yarns are used, and the detail and finesse of the work is staggering. It’s been worked on for three years, and will be on the loom for about another three years.
With another recent carpet the weavers were challenged to translate the design of Julian Gardair into reality – not an easy task by all accounts, but the result is spectacular. You can see the design and work in progress here. The final photograph is a of Savonnerie carpet to a traditional design, in this case two torches. Not my favourite, but still very impressive!
In my garden this last week the grapes were flowering – the blossoms are so insignificant you can hardly see them. On the same plant further along the vine some bunches had flowered a little earlier and the little grapes were developing well already. The little furry things are kiwis, which have also set well this year, and the dahlias have started flowering also. I always think of them as autumn flowers, but in St Chinian they usually start blooming at the beginning of summer. The tomato plants continue to shoot up, and this week the Linden (lime) trees are in full bloom – I adore their heady perfume, which wafts around the village! And lastly the raspberries have started ripening – I hope I’m not going to make you jealous when I tell you that I’ll have some for breakfast most mornings until the end of the season.