Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Quelque chose cette semaine (Something this week) part 3

In which I share a short snippet each week throughout 2015

WEEK #39 (24-30 sept)

I hurt my ankle when I fell off a curb. 'Nuff said.

Je me suis foulé la cheville quand je suis tombé sur un trottoir.

WEEK #38 (17-23 sept)

We travel to Madrid with an overnight stop in San Sebastián. While ma belle-mère plays in an international Pickleball tournament, we see the sights. Especially notable is an amazing dinner with Miriam, a friend we met at the English immersion program last spring, and her husband. Juan-Luis takes us on a hair-raising spin through Madrid before dinner, where we spot this kind sign on city hall.

Palacio de las Comunicaciones in Madrid

WEEK #37 (10-16 sept)

Ma belle-mère's second week in France includes her first trip to Paris. Two out of three days are crystal-clear. The third day we receive a dose of the famous Paris pluie, which provides us an excuse to linger in a cafè for a few hours before we catch our train. We pack a whole lot of memories into notre brève visite. 

Arlene admires the view from the steps of Sacré Cœur

WEEK #36 (3-9 sept)

It's easy to pick a highlight for this past week. Ma belle-mère arrives for a visit: her first trip to France. After a good night's sleep, we head to the Eymet market where she sips café allongé avec son cher fils.

WEEK #35 (27 aout - 2 sept)

Mon amie Viviane and I attended a concert at Église de Lugagnac, an ancient converted church on a hilltop near Saint-Eutrope-de-Born. The performers, Maxime and Krystel Barthélémy, sang French standards during their cabaret style 90-minute set (including two encores). I found out afterwards that Maxime is a famous composer/lyricist who penned many of the songs. I also found out later the couple was married (I thought it was a father/daughter duo). Si sublime!

Composer Maxime Barthélémy and his wife Krystal
perform French standards.

WEEK #34 (20-26 aout)

To celebrate T-Rex's birthday and to entertain our student staying with us to improve his English, we visited Grottes de Lastournelle. Our guide was kind enough to provide a fascinating bilingual tour deep below the surface of the earth.

Grottes de Lastournelle

WEEK #33 (13-19 aout)

We invited our neighbors for aperos: a retired headmaster, his wife and adult son, who are from Picardy and live here in the summers. Usually these French cocktail hours last for .... well ... an hour, and they stayed nearly two (un succès!). We had an enlightening conversation about French politics. They aren't very optimistic about France's future and suspect that the radical right Front National party may continue its rise. Ce qu'une pensée terrifiante! 

Un tableau préparé pour des amis.

WEEK #32 (6-12 aout)

A busy week with house guests, but we did have time for a few bike rides. At one point I felt surrounded by fields of corn. Le maïs is high and almost ready for la récolte. So much corn, but corn-on-the-cob is a rarity here in France, at least the tender sweet type that has been engineered in the U.S. perhaps due to France's restrictions on GMOs. Je peux vivre avec ça.

WEEK #31 (30 juillet - 5 aout)

Crazy weather this week (hot, cold, rain, hot again), but it was perfect for Bastid'art, the annual arts fest that takes place in Miramont. We rode our bikes there on Saturday and returned again on Sunday (twice!). A lack of funding threatened the event's cancellation, which would have been a shame. We particularly enjoyed the band Sugar Bones -- probably the best live music we've heard in France.

Ken catches the eye of Matteo Galbursera,
a comedic performer from Italy, at Bastid'art 2015.

WEEK #30 (23-29 juillet)

We didn't get around to planting vegetables this year. Luckily we have plenty of markets and farms at which we can buy fresh produce. Ken uses soil from our compost in our planter boxes and we were surprised to find a tomato plant in one, a squash in another ... both are "volunteers" from the compost soil. Hope no one pilfers them before harvest.

WEEK #29 (16-22 juillet)

I took this selfie at the summer exhibition, Plus que parfaits...Corps augmentés en scène at the Grand-Théâtre in Bordeaux. Our opera house tour was in French so much was confusing; but I'm sifting through my notes and photos, doing some research and plan to write about it for an upcoming blog post on AngloInfo. (If you've never seen my Lot of Livin' blog, click here.)   

WEEK #28 (9-15 juillet)

Hoping to finally learn how to use my camera to its fullest, I took an excellent photography workshop this week led by Canadian expat Ian Cook. He helped to bring back some of the knowledge that was hiding in the recesses of my brain. I tried out some nouvelles techniques during our village's annual Comice Agricole, where I snapped this photo of une jolie jeune fille enjoying un saut sur le trampoline.

WEEK #27 (2-8 juillet)

Why would I post a picture of a credit card as a highlight of the past week? After three years of complaining and begging, our credit card company FINALLY bent the rules and sent us our new cards containing THE CHIP. (Cap One was in the process of converting and said we'd likely get the new cards by the end of the year anyway, but enough was enough and I refused to hang up until they agreed to send them.) The chip allows us to shop in the many stores which no longer accept non-chip credit cards. We don't have to carry a lot of cash, and we're back to earning points for purchases. We can buy train tickets, too. Best of all: We can now get gasoline anytime: lunchtime, nights and even Sundays, because we no longer have to strategically fill up when an attendant is on duty to take our cash. Ah, the sweet thrill that comes when an American company enters the 21st century.

I've been publishing quelque chose chaque semaine (something each week). See Part 2 here.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Makin’ paper: A visit to Moulin de la Rouzique

Couze-et-St-Front is a village that was particularly well-suited to being a hub of paper manufacturing beginning in the Middle Ages. Paper mills need the flowing water of a river in order to operate. The ph levels of the pure water of the Couze river offered the perfect ingredient; it is said that paper made here could last 500 years. The Couze flows into the Dordogne river, providing easy transport to to Bordeaux and then on to the Netherlands, where most of the Couze paper ended up.
A building on the grounds of Moulin de la Rouzique

Coza (an early name for the village) boasted eight working mills in 1530 and 13 in the 17th century, making it one of France’s largest paper-producing towns. In the 20th century, the mills closed and now only two remain: The Larroque water mills still produce some hand-made paper, and the Moulin de la Rouzique is an écono-musée du papier (an eco-museum). Our recent visit to Rouizique offers a lesson in the history of paper-making, instruction in the process and even a chance to make our own paper.

An antique hand-cart at Moulin de la Rouzique
Our visit starts in a large parking area containing picnic tables along the river bank. We cross a small bridge and come to the museum where we buy our tickets in the gift shop. We are told the tour will be in French and are given a printed English translation. As it turns out, our guide is happy to provide a bilingual tour. We have arrived just after lunch and our small group includes the three of us (including a teenager), a family of four including two children around 6-10 years old, and another family of three. (At the end of our tour, we notice the next group is much larger, and we are grateful we arrived early). I mention the demographics of our group because as it turns out, Moulin de la Rouzique is a terrific place for people of all ages to visit.

Looking for fish in the River Couze at Moulin de la Rouzique
Paper manufactured in the Couze mills came from rags rather than trees. After a brief introduction, our group heads to the rag-sorting room. Fabrics were made of natural fibers from plants and so were well-suited to being recycled into paper. After being sorted and having all fasteners removed, the rags were cut into small pieces called petassous (an Occitan word) and soaked for several weeks. For a few hundred years, these rags were crushed into pulp by a machine operated by a water wheel, but it wasn’t very efficient and eventually it was replaced by a machine invented in Holland, which is logically called the Dutch machine.

The ancient rag-pressing machine at Moulin de la Rouzique
We head outside to take a close look at the wheels and then inside to the part of the mill that contains the moulding machine and large (1000-litre) vats where paper pulp is soaked. Next stop is the paper-drying part of the operation. Here we learn why the paper-making industry of Couze is so closely tied to the Netherlands. Any guesses?

Water wheels, new and old, at Moulin de la Rouzique

The modern paper press at Moulin de la Rouzique

The vat at Moulin de la Rouzique holds the paper pulp
and 1000 litres of water.

In the 17th century, the Netherlands became the European center of book printing providing the natural link between the mills along the River Couze and Holland.

Our tour guide demonstrates how to turn pulp into paper at Moulin de la Rouzique.

An ancient press at Moulin de la Rouzique
Now that we’ve heard all about paper-making and seen the process up close, it’s time to get our hands wet. We are ushered into a studio where we are allowed to press our own sheets out of paper pulp, some containing sprinkles or spices, and design our own watermarks. Our guide gathers our soggy sheets and, with a little help from the younger members of our group, presses the sheets, which we can then take home.

A guest tries his hand at paper-making at Moulin de la Rouzique.

Spices add some spice to the paper pulp.

The paper-making studio at Moulin de la Rouzique

Pressing the paper made by guests at Moulin de la Rouzique

Moulin de la Rouzique, locacted in Couze-et-St-Front (24) near Lalinde in the Dordogne department, is open daily (closed Saturday except in the summer) 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. April through October. For information, call or visit The mill has some special events planned for les Journees du Patrimoine, Sept. 19-20. 

Adjusting the water wheel in the Hydrouzique Parc at Moulin de la Rouzique