Saturday, January 31, 2015

Into the woods

After a harrowing drive up, I didn't walk too far down this trail

We live across the highway (N88) from a large forest called "Les Palanges." Even when the girls were younger, though, we seldom drove up there to take walks, although there are many lovely trails.

Last Sunday, the sun came out and melted away the slight snowfall we had had the day before. Roads in our village were dry and clear, and I thought it might be fun to toodle over into the Palanges -- just a few miles away -- and see what the snow situation was.

The snow cover was underwhelming

Without a thought to what the roads might be like, I drove down from our house in Gages-le-Haut, crossed the highway, and blithely headed up the "route d'Agen," a back road that goes up and over part of the Palanges forest and into another village -- Agen, obviously enough if you understand French road names.

Within minutes, all traces of sun were hidden by the trees, and I found myself driving on sheer compact snow and ice, with no choice but to move upward and onwards.

My husband had just told me my snow tires were still fine. I would soon find out.

I grit my teeth, kept up my speed as if nothing were wrong, and made it to the visitor-friendly parking area at the top of the road without a slip.


I had started this adventure a bit late

I poked around a bit and decided I would need to come back here soon, perhaps with my husband because, icy roads notwithstanding, the Palanges have always been a bit scary to me. 

Peace and quiet -- and no ice -- on the drive back

Needless to say, I took the sunnier option for driving back, heading down towards Agen rather than testing my tires again.

One of these days, I'm sure my explorations will get me into trouble -- but fortunately, last Sunday was not that day. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Further explorations: L'Eglise de St. Martin de Limouze

L'Eglise de St. Martin de Limouze, a gem of a church about 5 miles from Rodez

My wanderings are accumulating, and I will certainly need to be including more photos if I ever want to "catch up."

To pick up somewhat of a story line, these are all photos from the unforgettable day of January 7, 2014, when I went out exploring in what seemed like the most peaceful of worlds, and came back to work to a chilling reminder that even France is not that peaceful.

When I visited the site, there was a man parked in the church parking lot, seemingly doing nothing. Perhaps he was glued to his radio. 

No public entrance at random hours

Blissfully unaware of what was going on in the world, my main concern was whether this church just might be open.

No such luck, as is the case with most small churches in Aveyron these days. 

This must be a tourist site, however...

The edifice seems to be on a tourist route and ready to greet visitors in several languages, but January must not be the right time.

I'm ashamed to say I don't know what this is...
(PS: I do now -- see comments!)

So I contented myself with a walk around the grounds, and taking a look at the church from all sides and all angles.

The light was lovely that day...

The church is referenced on the official regional historical register website, and some photos of the interior are shown there.

This is a place I will go back to.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

TJ Tuesday -- Finding color amid the drab

Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau

I'm not all that sorry to say I fell off the NaBloPoMo bandwagon. Because what I can say is that posting to this blog for 13 days straight was a major accomplishment after 4 years of very sketchy blogging here

So I am back to the rhythm that has worked for me since picking up again in November: a short TJ Tuesday or Travel Tuesday, plus one (hopefully) longer post at some point during the week, most likely over the weekend when I have time to sit down and think about it.

So this Tuesday features another photo by my husband. I'm not sure where he took it, but it would appear to be somewhere not that far from Rodez. 

As you can see, some hillsides around here can be on the drab side. 

But I love the way the corn brightens up this photo.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Where were you when....?

As dramatic events unfolded in France, I was quietly eating a sandwich here

I haven't blogged about New Year's Resolutions, but one is to take advantage of the time I can (sometimes) take off work at lunch to do some exploration of areas close to my job in Rodez.

I acted on this resolution on the fateful day of January 7th. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, I hadn't checked any breaking news before leaving my office -- I seldom do -- and I had slipped out of the building quickly to hit the open road.

My colleagues who went home for lunch that day spent their break glued to the TV; those who ate at work, glued to their cell phones or office computers.

I was off exploring somewhere between Druelle and Balsac, eating a sandwich in the non-descript hamlet of Capelle, oblivious to the turmoil unfolding.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

This all seems so long ago...

Approaching Anglars

When you follow the signs to Anglars, a hamlet that is part of the village of Bertholène, you can quickly tell that there is going to be something special about it.

L'Eglise d'Anglars/ The Anglars Church

The tiny community is home to a glowing 15th century church, with unusually bright stone for the area. One can almost imagine it in Provence. 

Yes, two weeks later, I am still writing about my New Year's Day exploration of Bertholène, a village only a few miles east of my house, and its surroundings. 

It all seems so long ago. I was buoyed by the sun, the thought of a new year, and memories of the lovely New Year's Eve party spent with friends.  

The next time I went out exploring was on January 7th, during my lunch hour. I had slipped out of work a bit after 12 without running into any colleagues, and enjoyed a peaceful, sunny break in an area I didn't know whatsoever. 

When I got back to my office at about 1:30, I checked the news.

Things haven't really been the same since.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Travel Tuesday: Geel, Belgium

The market square, Geel, Belgium

Geel, Belgium, is an unassuming town in the Kempen district of Flanders. But I have a special relationship with it, as I am responsible for an Erasmus partnership with its university, Thomas More Kempen.

I have been there three times, and last spring, I was lucky enough to do a week of guest teaching there. The weather was excellent (as always when I go there!) and I took up the school's offer of a bike for the week to get back and forth from my hotel. What fun that was!

Geel market place statue

The market square has a striking statue, but I had some trouble finding information about the work on Internet. I ended up getting "informed" through an article about it on the American Conservative website, of all places. 

Apparently the statue would have something to do with "family values." 

Whatever. This definitely bears further research, but not tonight.

A peaceful park

I can't get enough of Flanders, and hope to return many times. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Plowing through NaBloPoMo

When I was blogging here from 2005-2010, I participated in several NaBloPoMo challenges.

Without any fanfare, I decided to try out the challenge again. I thought it might be a good impetus for working on my blog, which it has been. 

I also thought it would be a good way to make new blogging contacts, which has been less successful. A lot of the fault goes to me on that. I haven't taken the time to go through the list of every participant, find all of the blogs that interest me, comment on them until the writers comment back, and so forth.

I also haven't been writing about the month's theme, "habit" -- although I like it -- nor following any prompts. I know none of this is "required" for the challenge, but I do think exploring the theme could be a way to be more involved. 

But then again, this blog already has a theme...

A lot has changed about NaBloPoMo in 7 years, and at some point in the month, when I'm not quite so exhausted from a long day of work, I might just write about that!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Rodez marches against terrorism

The crowd assembles on the Place d'Armes

My husband and I were determined to participate in the "Marche Républicaine" in Rodez today. Although it was announced as a "silent gathering," it turned out to be a march around the city, under sunny skies and through biting glacial winds.

"De Damas à Paris, le terrorisme, c'est le même"

On the Place d'Armes, we waited near this quiet yet visible group reminding us that "from Damas to Paris, terrorism is the same thing." 

Nobody I was with was able to recognize their flag, which I have now identified: Kurdistan, or at least Southern Kurdistan, not a country but a roughly-defined region where Kurds are the majority population, and have often been victims of violence.

They made a highly relevant point. While the recent acts in France are appalling and merit strong condemnation, we mustn't forget that most terrorist acts do not take place in Western nations.

Just yesterday, a "girl-bomber," estimated to be 10 years old, killed 19 people in a market in Nigeria by penetrating the area, her own body covered with explosives. 

That act of terrorism will be quickly forgotten as the press covers the march in Paris.

The first wave leaves Place d'Armes

Unthinkable violent acts take place pretty much daily all over the world: a sobering, even depressing, a thought that I had trouble kicking while waiting for the march to start.

As the march ends: a ray of light; a ray of hope

Yet, in Rodez, a town of 25,000 in la France Profonde, 17,000 people left their quiet Sunday routines to show their support for peace and tolerance.

The experience left me invigorated and hopeful.

May the terrible Charlie Hebdo/Montrouge/Hyper Kacher attacks in France pave the way for an enhanced awareness of the ravages of terrorism all over the world.

Friday, January 09, 2015

A More Peaceful Paris

Paris without a care on its mind: January 16 2008

After work today, I went through my photos and found one that I had taken in Paris during another, more peaceful, month of January.

This evening in France, many of us are experiencing an uncomfortable mix of relief and renewed mourning, as reports say 4 more innocent people died in today's hostage taking at Porte de Vincennes.  (As I write, numbers in the English-speaking press are conflicting, but the French press is quite clear that it is 4, plus the Montrouge killer.)

It has crossed my mind that what happened there, had it been an isolated incident, would have been treated as a huge and terrifying news story in and of itself, rather than just what is, hopefully, "The End."