Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Trip to the Cascades de Roquefort

We went out for a little journey yesterday and happened by the Cascades de Roquefort.  We made the detour because we had remembered them from some tourist brochure we had seen.  What we expected to see is along the lines of what you see below.

A geological curiosity natural

Over thirty meters in height, the cascade phenomenon produced a rare and very fragile: a tufa. A geological curiosity natural, or tufa waterfall is formed petrifying tuff, limestone powder and friable, white to beige. Water sources of Turasse being particularly limestone, tuff deposited on mosses and pieces of wood in the form of a crust. the disappearance of the plant debris by fermentation gives in part the rock porous texture reminiscent of a sponge.

Attention, careful not to step on these courses extremely fragile but the paths which bypass.

Waterfalls throughout the seasons:
In autumn and spring (when rainfall and snowmelt), this succession of cascades is a magnificent spectacle.
In winter, the frozen waterfalls are worth a look.
In summer, they do not leak, but the site and its exuberant vegetation worth the trip. 

Well, it's a little convoluted having been poorly translated into English, but what we learn is that it's limestone which is soluble in water, you are not supposed to walk on it due to how fragile it is and it's quite a spectacle, a natural curiosity.

And what we found was this.  The cascades don't "leak" during protracted dry spells, they are still made of limestone and kids don't pay any attention to the literature and walk all over the fragile "courses".

Live and Learn

We are very used to sitting down at a restaurant in the U.S. and without asking if they take credit cards, order and consume.  This can be a bad habit in France.  Last year we found out the hard way, some restaurants only accept "Paiement Cheque our Especes" meaning in cash or by check.

We ran into trouble again yesterday in Foix.  Luckily, yesterday, the bank was just around the corner.

Cool Mileposts, Er...... Kilometer Markers

We came upon these wonderful kilometer markers yesterday on our drive over to Foix. Nowhere in France have we seen anything like this.  They have four sides each slightly different and pointing different directions and with different distances.  Very cool.  Michelin and a few other outfits must have sponsored these posts.  Michelin got this particular side.

With a Little Help From Our Friends

Our friends Nigel and Barbara heard through the grapevine that we were looking for transportation this summer.  We had told a few folks we were looking for a car to rent or buy and we expected to spend our first few weeks here, driving around in a rental car and looking at "beaters".    They offered to let us use "Lily of Laguna" for the next several weeks, free of charge except that I must buy them a pint of beer when I see them next.  Well, folks, that's generous beyond words and I express my thanks to them for this kind offer.

There is one small hitch, however.  I needed to customize myself to driving a car with right hand drive.  In the photo you can see the steering wheel is situated where it's not supposed to be.  Some sort of strange mix up must have occurred at he Renault factory. 

It's not as hard to drive as you might expect.  Soon enough one gets used to steering from the passenger seat.  The clutch and gas pedal and brake are all in their proper places, thank you  very much.  But the gearshift lever is on the wrong side, by that I mean it's not attached to the door where I can use my right arm and hand to shift.  The transmission is in the center of the vehicle, just like the American and French cars you are used to, but the driver is sitting on the other side.  I am getting used to being ambidextrous, but it requires a certain amount of thought and planning.  I'm taking it slow, driving on country roads, not venturing into the big cities, getting use to the whole idea.

We do enjoy driving around pretending to be British, and the French trapped behind me and waiting in line to pass, are cursing the English, not us Yankees.  We wave and shout "Cheerio" and "Bloody good, old boy" just to keep up appearances.  To Nigel and Barbara, we say "Frightfully kind of you, old chap".

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


When I was a kid, a very young kid, one of my first books was Piccolo by Bettina.  Just Bettina, no idea whether it was a first or last name.  But when you are only four or five years old, that is the least of your worries when the fate of Piccolo was at hand. The action-packed plot about this donkey family centered (as you might have guessed) on Piccolo, the son.  He is discovered by a Hollywood agent, lured into becoming a movie star in Italy---of all places!  Spoiler alert:  he is reunited with his family back in the USA after a successful movie career.
So, it is with great joy that I am apparently once again crossing paths with my childhood pal, this time at the formal gardens of the Chateau in Leran.  OK, so he's not the real Piccolo, but he sure evokes alot of memories.  Every time Fergus and I walk by, he comes running up to his fenceline begging for attention.


The Things I See at the Market

We've been back in France for a little over a week and not much has happened.  We've been trying to recover from the long five day drive from Montrose to Montreal, jet lag and then the heat and humidity here.  We had planned to go to the Mirepoix market last Monday, but we just didn't have enough energy to make it happen.  This week, we were there bright and early.  As usual, I noticed things.
 For instance, a little dog sitting on the top shelf of a vendor.  I don't know what the story is.  Did he jump up there himself, or was he placed up there to keep him out of trouble?   Whatever, he's a cute little bugger.

I saw this mannequin just shortly after seeing the little dog.  It had a surprising appearance, somewhat like Margaret Thatcher.  Upon closer inspection I realized that I was looking at the backside of the mannequin, with the sun shining through from the other side.  I was looking at the concave side of the object, the unfinished plastic side.

Here is what it looked like from the front with chipped paint and 50's like countenance.  Tres belle, from both sides. 

Notice the chalkboard menu placed outside the restaurant, where soon customers will have lunch outside in the fresh air and sunshine.  Tucked away in the corner is a little handwritten sign advertising their willingness to attempt to speak English.  Truth in advertising.  No "English Spoken Here" or "We Are Snooty, Speak French".  It looked like a wonderful place.  The owner unlocked the door as I was standing there taking the photos.  He had armed himself with bagloads of fresh produce from the teeming market outside his door.  We must try it soon.
And of course, someone brings a goat to the market, why I don't know.