25 January 2010

Restoring an 18th Century French Farmhouse

France is the perfect place for creative types- for people who are able to look at an old, dilapidated farmhouse or ruins and see its potential. It is truly miraculous what people can create out of what seems like a heap of junk due to years of neglect and misuse.
Just over 30 minutes outside the center of industrial Toulon lies endless stretches of fields,
with great, old farmhouses plopped down amongst the now hibernating crops.

We took a drive out to visit our friends Jill and John- who purchased one of these old farmhouses with the intent of creating a paradise...and they are well on their way.
The name of the house is La Peyrardiere, dating back to the 1790's.
Their property has 17 olive trees, which they usually harvest, take to a co-op,
and then wait for a few months to receive the olive oil.
Imagine floating on your back in the pool with this view!

This outdoor oven is going to be perfect for pizzas in the summer...mm mmmmm

Neighbors in the distance- not too close, not too far.
The pinkish and green of the house is very similar to John and Jill's place.

They have a spectalar view of the mountains from their windows.
The vineyard is owned by another farmer, but it fits right in.

The kitchen, wood-burning stove and all, was the only thing already completed when they bought the house- and man is it lively!
Jill is very knowledgeable about copper, and shops the markets and
second-hand stores for good finds. They compliment the yellow setup nicely.

The pigeonnier(pigeonry) sits just to the side of the house,
along this massive circular design of flagstones.

Apparently it was used as a place for wheat farmers to gather and have
wheat-threshing parties. Only one house in an area would have this stone work since
it was expensive and covers a large area.
Before Jill and John moved in, the back door to the house opened onto dirt.
They put in the this beautiful porch with a roof themselves and now have a nice area for grilling.
(And yes, it still kind of opens up onto dirt but that's only because they're in the process of landscaping!)

The house is just amazing. They are still very much in the process and are actually living,
with their 1-year-old twin girls, in only two rooms upstairs...but it's getting there.

Kudos! Jill and John-the house is looking great.
I can't wait to see it when it's all finished.

24 January 2010

Sur Le Pont d'Avignon

Who likes children's songs? You may know the town of Avignon from a 15th
century French song sung about one of the town's old bridges. It is now a song that most French children know quite well. This is only the chorus, but see if you're familiar with it:

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L'on y danse, l'on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L'on y danse tous en rond

On the bridge of Avignon
We all dance there, we all dance there
On the bridge of Avignon
We all dance there in a circle

The official name of the bridge is Pont St-Bénézet, but because of the song, it is better known
as Pont d'Avignon. Built in the 12th century, the bridge spanned the width of
the Rhône River until a major flood in 1668 caused all but 4 of the original 22 arches to fall.

The Chapel of Saint Nicholas remains intact on top of the bridge,
where Rhône boatmen would stop and worship their patron saint- St Nicholas.
Driving up across a modern bridge towards Avignon, you really get the
feel of a Medieval city, guarded by a thick, stone wall. The weather wasn't perfect,
but it added a very mystical feel to our approach.

Note the grand entryway in the background.
There are 39 huge towers total along the wall, all looking like little castles in themselves.

The 14th century wall has been very well preserved and restored.

The Rhône River passes right by the city. The wide, calm waters are perfect for barges,
smaller boats and crew practice.

Outside the walls of the city.

The many small, twisting side streets were quiet. And since it was quite chilly out,
this guy knew window gazing from his warm apartment sounded just right.

We had a bit of snow- a little late for Christmas, but still a very welcome thrill.

Place d'Horloge is the main square in Avignon, with many restaurants,
the city hall, opera house and toddling children. The medieval clock tower overlooks the square.

Of course, the sales in France are still goin' strong, and people have yet to tire of shopping. Well...except for this guy..."Screw it, gimme a drink."

The construction of this enormous Gothic building, Palais des Papes, began in 1316, after Avignon came under the rule of the popes. The Palace was home to many popes up until
the French Revolution. Heavily raided during the war, there is very little original art left inside.

The Chapelle de Saint-Michel et Tous les Saints was built between 1369 and 1378
in the middle of a cemetery for the poor....hmmm.

We were back at the Palais des Papes at the end of the day just
in time to hear a marching band perform.

People appeared from every direction, emerging from the tiny, narrow passageways
and gathering 'round to hear the energetic tunes.

We took our leave of Avignon with a last
glance at the famous Pont under a cloudy but wondrous sunrise.

. . . .

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L'on y danse, l'on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L'on y danse tous en rond