Ragtag Tuesday: Rugged rocks

We both had an affair on holiday. It was a delight while it lasted, and when it ended, as it had to, there were no hard feelings. We’d like to do it again.

We both fell in love with the Corrèze in the Limousin. As far as the eye could see there were majestic rolling hills: forested, green, largely uninhabited other than by the occasional herd of Limousin cattle. Settlements were well-ordered and charming towns and villages, often demonstrating a history dating back to the Middle Ages and beyond. Of course we were smitten.

Then we continued on to our old stamping ground in the Ariège. Not all of this département is actually in the Pyrenees, but the mountains are always visible. And as soon as we saw them again, we knew our affair was over.

The foothills of the Pyrenees – the Plantaurel – from our friends’ house in Laroque.

The Pyrenees tug at our hearts like no other landscape. The gentle foothills are given added character by the backdrop of the mountains. We used to watch for the first flurries of snow on the peaks, maybe in September, while we were still in t-shirts.

When we lived in Laroque, this was our view from our roof terrace, and my daily joy as I hung out the washing there.

Anyone living in the Ariège could name the peaks, count them as their friends – Le pic de Saint-Barthélemy, le Pic des Trois Seigneurs, Montségur. Locals would tell you, every spring, exactly how little snow should remain on the high slopes before you could plant your spuds and beans. They would be the ones to relish the mountains in every way. They’d grab their snowshoes as the snow deepened to enjoy a silent walk in the crisp, cold empty landscape.

No snowshoes here. Just a rugged, snowy walk near Montaillou.

They’d know where to look for alpine strawberries in summer, and have secret places that they wouldn’t tell their closest friends about where they’d gather mushrooms in autumn.

They loved the rugged beauty of the mountains as we did, from the majesty of the snow-covered peaks, to the riot of wild daffodils, then gentians in spring, to the muted soft green palette of the hillsides at dusk on a summer’s evening, to the rich russets and golds of the autumn woodland.

I can’t visit the mountains though without being aware they demand our respect. They’re mighty, rugged and visually stunning. As we gaze at lines of rock, crumpled in geological eras long past, as we look at tumbled boulders lining the valley floor, or delicate but dangerous sheets of scree, they remind us that, compared with them, we are here on earth for a very short space of time. They have witnessed civilisations and religions rise and fall, harboured refugees from war and conflict, provided impenetrable barriers to would-be conquerors and generally put us in our place. It’s this combination of love and respect for them that draws me and moors me to them. Mere hills and plains simply can’t compete.

Today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt is ‘Rugged’.

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Ragtag Tuesday: Crepuscule in Corrèze

As we say goodbye to Corrèze for now, it seems fitting that the Ragtag word for today is ‘crepuscule.  It means twilight, and I always thought of it as an evening word.  But it can mean dawn as well.  So was this photo, taken from Sharon and Andrew’s house, and home to us for a week, taken in the morning or the evening?  What’s your guess?

 

A scrapbook from the Corrèze

I was going to write a final post from the town, the region where we have been so happy this week, just taking life s-l-o-w-l-y.  I’ve decided though to let a few pictures do the talking.  Landcapes, townscapes, doors…. whatever took my eye, in no particular order.  Best come and visit for yourselves, I think.

 

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It takes a village to raise a loaf

A poster like this is irresistible:

A spot of history, a spot of lunch, a new village to explore …. had to be done.

Orliac-de-Bar is only a few miles from here.  Like so many others in the area, it has a little building, the village oven, built once upon a time to bake the loaves of those villagers who had no oven of their own.  These days, when everybody uses the boulangerie or a bread-making machine, they’re generally dusted down and used only on high days and holidays

We arrived as the oven was getting going.  As visitors from afar, the organisers seized on us, anxious to show off their little bit of village history.  A couple of men  thrust bundle after bundle of brushwood into the glowing maw of the oven.  When the oven was judged to be hot enough, the woody embers were swept out, and the oven allowed to cool – just a little.

Our new friends popped an ear of wheat into a wooden clasp and introduce it into the heat.  It singed.  Nope.  The oven was still too hot.  The wheat should be burnished gold, not burnt.  Try again soon…..

 

Eventually the oven was pronounced to be not too hot, not too cold, but just right.  A small team of villagers  jammed pizzas (that well known French country delicacy?) and apple tarts  into the oven to be baked.

An oven filled with good things.

Twenty minutes later we were sitting down at long refectory tables arranged in the village square, doing what the French do best: sharing food, wine and conversation.  No photos.  I was too busy enjoying myself, and never gave it a thought.

Pizz and apple tart.

The village also had an exhibition of aspects of its history.  Here are some photos of a not-so-long-departed way of life.  I think they need no explanation.

 

And here are our new-found friends, waving us off after a day well spent.

Goodbye, Orliac-de-Bar!

Back at home, we had a fine solid Orliac-baked loaf to accompany our cheese and salad.

Click on any photo to view full size, and see the captions.

Corrèze: our home for the week

Corrèze.  It’s a town in the Département de la Corrèze.  With a name like that, you’d think it would be Chief Town.   But no, that’s Tulle, a city just down the road.  Corrèze has fewer than 1200 inhabitants and is reached up a winding forest-flanked road with no dual carriageway in sight.  It’s the River Corrèze, flowing through the edge of the town that gives it, and the département,  its name .

It’s one of dozens of beautiful and ancient towns and villages in the region, but it hasn’t made the A Team.  It’s not been designated one of the most lovely villages in France, and I hope it’s grateful for that.  The ones that have, like Collonges-la-Rouge are tourist meccas.  Doing a spot of DIY or trying to relax in your garden if you live there must be a real pain, with rubber-neckers down every street and alleyway throughout the summer.

Though it is popular with tourists, it’s not a must-see destination.  And yet just look at its historic town centre.

It’s been around since the 9th century, but it really started to grow when it became one of the convenient stopping places for pilgrims on their way through the Limousin to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  The Auberge opposite Sharon and Andrew’s house still offers dormitory accommodation to pilgrims.

The town was largely neglected by the big events in history, though the English burned it down in the 100 years war.  The French Revolution passed it by, but sadly not the First World War.  The town never really recovered from losing 100 of its young men.  Its war memorial makes for affecting reading, recording the deaths of two, three, even four young men from the same families.

Part of the memorial to the fallen of WW1.

Just enjoy a few pictures from the old historic centre of this town, which has supplied all our needs all week without our needing to travel further than the country paths surrounding it.  There’s far more I could show you. It’s a thoroughly civilised place to be.

In which a fellow-blogger invites us to the Corrèze

Blogging has been an enriching experience for me.  It’s made me write, observe, record the moment with my camera.  It’s brought me a whole community of blogging ‘friends’ (you know who you are: I love the contact I have with you).  And some of those virtual friends have become real friends.  There’s Kathryn, who with her husband, has a holiday home in the village near where we lived in France: we’ve seen them both at home and away.  There’s Ros, who once contacted me to tell me she enjoyed my posts: she’s been a good friend for several years now.

And there’s Sharon.  She started to follow me when we moved to France, because it was her dream too.  We’ve returned to England.  She and Andrew moved to France just under a year ago, to Corrèze in the Limousin, but we’d already met a couple of times before this.  We followed their progress in their new life through their blog, and recently, she announced they needed help.  They had to go away for a week or so without their dog Mortimer. Dog sitter required.  We applied.  We got the job.  And here we are.

Corrèze has seduced us completely.  Here’s the view of the town from their garden.

Corrèze, as seen from Sharon and Andrew’s garden

I’ll want to share our discovery of this place, settled since the 9th century alongside the River Corrèze.  But for now, come with us on our walk with Mortimer on this misty moisty morning (it was 30 degrees yesterday – but that was yesterday) through the quiet countryside.  The conditions prevent my showing the gently rising and falling hillsides, thickly forested, with meadows between for the Limousin cattle, so important in the area’s economy.  But it’s lovely: relaxing and restorative. Corrèze and its history tomorrow!

This place is an oasis of peace and tranquility.  Let’s enter it into the RDP Daily Challenge: oasis.