Saturday, August 23, 2014

Toulouse Plages provide taste of summer

A view of the Ferris wheel at Toulouse Plages from across la Garonne.
Acknowledging that the weather we've had in south west France this summer would make our California family and friends envious, I still feel compelled to complain ... just a little. August isn't even over and we already must close our windows at night because the mornings are so chilly. It's rained a bit nearly every day, usually when Ken and I are on a walk. And it's been challenging to jump in the Eymet pool on Monday mornings for aquagym class, (although our très mignon teacher warms my friends and I up pretty quickly). Oh, pauvre nous!

I took a solo trip to Toulouse last week and in search of a bit of summertime, had to visit the riverside attraction Toulouse Plages. Similar to Paris, each summer the city of Toulouse sets us a mock beach (sans sand), complete with lounge chairs, a pirate's cove, snack bar and, best of all, a huge Ferris wheel.

On this particular Monday afternoon, there is no line for the ride, and before I know it I am enjoying a bird's eye view of la Ville Rose (the Pink City).

Splendid view of the Pink City

Pont St-Pierre and pirate's cove from the
Ferris wheel at Toulouse Plages

Looking up

Pirate's cove at Toulouse Plages

Click here to read another blog I write, Lot of Livin', on AngloINFO Dordogne.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Wondrous weavings: A visit to Aubusson

We have been enchanted with our forays into the Massif Central. Recently were took a three-day trip to the northeastern corner of the region: not nearly enough time to exhaust its many delights. A reader of mine suggested that I visit her neighborhood: the lovely city of Aubusson, located nearly in the center of France in le département de la Creuse in the Limousin region.

Until I received Karin’s note, I had never heard of Aubusson, and now it is a destination that I’m likely to visit again. This charming city is France’s capitale de la tapisserie. Its designation as an UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity site honors Aubusson’s five centuries of tapestry making.

Here's a view of Aubusson from la Tour de l'Horloge

Weavers, refugees from Flanders, arrived in Aubusson around 1580 and brought their craft with them. The industry thrived until around the time of the French Revolution, or more specifically, when wallpaper became fashionable. In the 1930s, modern artists including Salvador Dali, Alexander Calder, Georges Braque, Jean Cocteau, Raoul Dufy and Pablo Picasso, revived tapestry-making by incorporating the technique into their art.

Visitors who are seeking the secrets of tapestry-making will find several venues. La Maison Du Tapissier is located just above the tourist information office. A free exhibit at the Hôtel de Ville showcases the work of Marc Vaugelade through the end of August; be sure to pop upstairs to the salon du mariage to see (and sit on) the tapestry upholstered-chairs. Several factories in town offer tours of their tapestry-making enterprises.

Aubusson’s Hôtel de Ville is hosting a free exhibit of Marc Vaudlade
tapestries through Aug. 2014.
We checked out the Marc Vaugelade exhibit at Aubusson’s Hôtel de Ville.
This tapestry by artist Marc Vaugelade was on display in Aubusson.

La salon du mariage can be found at Aubusson’s Hôtel de Ville.

The Musée de la Tapisserie currently houses a signficant portion of Aubusson’s tapestries. Here, visitors can comfortably stroll among myriad tapestries from the 17th through 21st centuries. Exhibition space was tripled after my visit when the new cité de la tapisserie opened in 2015.

A loom is on display at Musée de la Tapisserie, Aubusson.

And here's the other side of the loom pictured above at Aubusson's Musée de la Tapisserie.

This pretty tapestry is on display at Musée de la Tapisserie in Aubusson.
This is one of many tapestries on display at Aubusson's Musée de la Tapisserie.

Aubusson's Musée de la Tapisserie is a beautiful setting for its tapestries.
For more information about Musée de la Tapisserie, click here.

There’s more to the lovely petite ville of Aubusson than tapestry. There are no shortage of sites to see on our after-lunch promenade. At least a half-dozen gallery workshops welcome visitors. Catch your breath on the Pont de la Terrade before hiking up to La Tour de l’Horloge, an ancient fortification, where you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views. More views await at the nearby ruins of an 11th century château, considered to be a remarkable medieval castle before it was destroyed in 1632.

Climb to la Tour de l’Horloge for a great view of Aubusson.

The vestiges of a medieval château look down upon in Aubusson

We enjoyed a delightful walk along the Creuse river in Aubusson

C’est moi, on le Pont de la Terrade.

For more on Aubusson tourism, click here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Prunes please

Sometime between mid-August and mid-September, prunes will be harvested in the Lot-et-Garonne, and I can’t think of a better time of year to visit the Musée du Pruneau. This attraction has been on my to-do list for two years and I seized the opportunity to visit last month when we had some visitors.

Poster on display at Musée du Pruneau

I’m a sucker for museums that include food production. As a kid I loved visiting the Utica Club brewery and the Hershey’s chocolate factory (before the lucious-smelling factory changed into the sanitized Hershey’s Chocolate World Attraction).

The Musée du Pruneau is deliciously low-tech. After a short orientation, our foursome is ushered to our first stop, a large room containing all sorts of prune-drying ovens. The piped-in commentary is in French, but we have been provided hefty English translations. We are encouraged to touch some of the displays in this and the next room, where our pre-recorded guide tells us the story of prune production. 

Display at Musée du Pruneau

We also peruse displays of prune packages and farm equipment. Several of the displays are life-size diorahmas with mannequins demonstrating skills like prune sorting and packaging.

Display at Musée du Pruneau

Drying baskets on display at Musée du Pruneau

We freely wander through the production facility that is used today. Well, not actually “today” since “today” there’s just one worker who is doing some sort of maintenance.Visit during the harvest, and this room will surely be a hub of activity.

Equipment on display at Musée du Pruneau

Display at Musée du Pruneau

Next, our party is taken to a small theater where a nicely-produced film with English sub-titles shows how prunes are grown and harvested, and how all those prune treats are created. The low-key sales pitch has been successful and when we get to the boutique, we are eager to buy some confiseries pruneau to take home.

Boutique at Musée du Pruneau

Items for sale at Musée du Pruneau

Musée du Pruneau is located in Granges-sur-Lot and is open every day throughout the year. A corn maze is open July through September. For more information visit