Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween 2015 . . . . . . . .

I'm hoping any 'trick or treaters' who stop by the cottage
 this evening look as cute as these little darlings! 
I have to admit I enjoy seeing their own 
sweet faces rather than scary masks!!!

Halloween inspired window display at H&M
 when I made a quick stop at the mall yesterday.

Have a fun evening in your neighborhood -
the candy bowl is overflowing here. . .can you
 believe Bob bought all the sweet treats he enjoys!
 I don't see a single KIT-KAT bar for me.
 Oh well, I really don't need to be 
eating the leftovers anyway - BOO!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

les petits chats de France. . . . . . . .

This is just a little post for all my cat loving blog friends. . . . and you are
I too love cats but no longer have one of my own.
When traveling I always try to get pix of the local cats to share 
with you - these are some of the delightful French kitties
I found in towns and villages. . . . . . 

. . . . . and even on the streets of Paris!

Of course France is known for its food, fish being extremely popular despite the 
huge amount of meat and poultry consumed.
So, with amazing markets everywhere it's quite predictable that French
cats are well fed with bounty from the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and
the English Channel, all lapping the French shores!

Do you have a fish-loving cat?  Do you prepare gourmet fresh seafood meals
 for your favorite feline - or open a can?

Monday, October 26, 2015

. . . . in the footsteps of Van Gogh

You may recall how excited I was knowing I would visit the village of
 Auvers-sur-Oise and the Auberge Ravoux, Vincent van Gogh's last 'home' for
 three months prior to his death. I did a brief post earlier whilst still in France,
 and am following up today with a few more photos and more
 of the sad story of an amazing artist who died far too early.

Bob, outside the inn on a beautiful early October morning. 
I so wish we could have eaten lunch there that day - however the 
guided tour was structured so that we could take in other
 important sites pertinent to Van Gogh's stay in this charming village.

Later in the afternoon we were heading to Versailles, then our ship
 was returning to Paris in the evening. . . . .an extremely busy day.

Note how the facade of the Auberge Ravoux still appears exactly as it did
 in the year Van Gogh lived there - only the trees on the sidewalk seem
 to be missing.

I climbed the small wooden staircase to where, in the attic of the auberge,
 a single skylight lets a few rays of sunshine into room No. 5 where Vincent
 lived and died a couple of days later from his injury.
 Out of sheer superstition, this garret, referred to as the "suicide room",
 has never been rented out again since 1890.
In this well-preserved site, this tiny empty room, one can relate
 to the painter's lifestyle during those last months.

I would truly love to return here, perhaps on a Spring afternoon for luncheon, or
 in the cool of an Autumn evening for a French dinner with delicious vegetables
 from the market next door, and a full-bodied French red wine.
 Dining at the Auberge Ravoux, at a wooden table tucked behind the embroidered
 curtains, where Vincent often had his supper, paying not with money which
 he never had, but with yet another painting he had done perhaps that same day.
 Yes, a return visit is now near the top of my wish list.

I was able to purchase the red and white kitchen towel during this recent visit - shown
 here with my much-loved old copy of the cookbook/story/history of the Auberge Ravoux.

Following the visit to the inn, we strolled through the many alleyways of the village, 
viewing flower-filled gardens behind old stone walls and iron gates, and the
 Auvers village church made famous in Van Gogh's painting.

The local Mairie (town hall) is depicted in a lovely Van Gogh painting,
 La Mairie d'Auvers - the building, as in most French villages, not changing at all
 over the years.

Later we walked up gentle sloping lanes to the fields above the village.
It was here that Vincent was able to continue painting plein air - his brother Theo
assisting financially so he could purchase the necessary artist's supplies he required. 

A copy of the painting displayed above is at the entrance to the wheat field where
 Vincent was shot in the abdomen. There are now conflicting reports as to whether it was
 an accidental shooting by local boys rather than suicide, though most people believe
 it was the latter due to his depressive state of mind over many years, and his final
 words on his deathbed. As we walked through the field, the crows were there
 as in the painting, flying off as we passed. 
Vincent painted many views of the fields around Auvers that July prior to his death,
 telling Theo. . . . . . 
"Auvers is really gravely beautiful. it's the heart of the countryside, distinctive and picturesque" - May 21, 1890.

Further along we came to the cemetery. . . . . . . .  

. . . . . . .where the painting La Pluie - actually titled Landscape at Auvers in the Rain -
was displayed near the entrance gate.

 A typical old French grave decorated with ceramic flowers.

Vincent's brother Theo is buried next to him in the Auvers cemetery - he died
 the following year, aged 33, just six months after Vincent who was 37.  
The headstones are very plain compared to many in this cemetery - covered
 in ivy and wildflowers, requiring some pruning, but really quite beautiful 
in their simplicity.

Postcards of Van Gogh paintings, including one of several self portraits,
 purchased in Auvers-sur-Oise market.

My visit here will always be recalled as time well spent in a very special part
 of the French countryside, not far from Paris, colorful, historic and, as always,
 full of beauty.

Thanks so much for all the kind birthday wishes - I really appreciate them.
this morning I decided to work on this post - doing something 
I enjoy and sharing another story from the recent trip.
After all it's my BIRTHDAY and I can do what I want, right?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Living the French village life. . . . . . . .

This is the medieval village in the Languedoc region where my brother,
 his wife, and my niece have lived for many years. My niece recently
graduated from Glasgow University in Scotland and is now working for a 
well known international company in England. . . . . . I know she must miss
the quiet French village life, at least a little bit.

Caunes is within the medieval area of the Aude Pays Cathare - just 20 mins. 
from Carcassonne, the largest walled city in Europe. An hour south and you 
hit the Mediterranean beaches, and a beautiful 2 hour train trip brings views of the
 Pyrenees mountains, the coastline, and then you arrive in Spain, which we did at
 the end of our trip. I'll have lots to share from Barcelona later.

My family's house is gorgeous, and the garden produces much bounty in the way
 of vegetables which my SIL preserves to stock her large pantry. My brother is 
now quite the farmer I must say, and his wife a really wonderful cook.
These pix were taken two weeks ago and as you can see the tomatoes were still 
coming in and the onions being dug. One evening John dug
 potatoes an hour before preparing dinner - you can imagine the fresh flavor!

As you can see, the weather continued to hold after we left the river boat in 
Provence and headed to Caunes for a few days. After all the wonderful meals
Alison prepared in her beautiful kitchen, and sampling many great wines chosen
 by John, we headed into the vineyards, les Montagnes Noire (the Black Mountains)
 in the distance, and walked for several miles each day. . . . . . you can guess why!

Some views from around the village where a small population of approx. 1400 live
 the true French life. They are surrounded by acres of vineyards, now in their
 Autumn colors following the recent harvest.
Bob and I walked often up and down the narrow streets to the village ramparts,
 checking all the places we'd seen on previous visits, but which remain of great interest.

Also located nearby the village is the great red marble quarry which has supplied
 beautiful stone to build some of France's most amazing landmarks, such as the
 Palace of Versailles.

An annual red marble carving contest in the village produces amazing statues - Bob
 here with a huge bull.

The 8th century Benedictine Abbey, across from the house,
 provides a lovely view from the upper garden level where there is a pool
and many exotic shrubs - even the Morning Glories were still blooming.

Yes, the entrance to the garden from the lane does have have one of 
those wonderful, so European, Fatima's hand door knockers - and I can't begin to
 tell you how many photos I've taken of French doors sporting these knockers all
 around the country on this trip! 

Happy weekend to all my dear readers. We remain so busy here trying to catch
 up with everything after such an extended trip.
 We are also celebrating Birthdays - granddaughter Jasmin turns 19 tomorrow,
 and yours truly will welcome yet another 'golden year' as I do my best to blow out
 seventy two candles on Monday - well hopefully nobody arrives with a cake with
 quite that many - I do want to make seventy three and many, many more!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Faraway Places - Coming Home. . . . . . . .

Vibrant Barcelona!

The pond at Eastgate Park, Raleigh, on my quick walk yesterday.

It will never cease to amaze, this hefting of a giant aircraft into the blue above,
 crossing cities, countryside, mountain ranges, oceans. . . . . . . . transporting us to
 places often very unlike our home.
Fortunately these recent journeys went without any hitches - planes, boats, trains,
taxis all moved us safely and comfortably through two amazing European countries.

Being back has brought a plethora of stuff to do - ordinary life was on hold as it
 always is when you travel far and for a lengthy time. Now we need to get the proverbial
 ducks in a row, organize ourselves, our home, the garden, the season's necessities, life!

I'll be back here soon - I have much to share from three and a half weeks in beautiful
 France and Spain.