Monday, 13 October 2014

The Charente International Rally at Angouleme.

The "Circuit des Remparts" is a day of classic car races held around the old town streets in Angouleme on a Sunday in late September, as part of an annual three day event celebrating the automobile. Cars come from the UK and other European countries as well as France.

It is preceded by a ‘Concours d’Elegance’ (classic cars shown and judged for their condition) on the Friday night, followed on  Saturday by the Charente International Rally. The exact rally route is only released a couple of days before the event, but generally consists of two loops, morning and afternoon, around the beautiful surrounding countryside, stopping for lunch this year at the chateau at Chalais, south of Angouleme, before making their way back to the town in late afternoon. We went to watch them returning to the Champ de Mars, a large central square in the town centre. We had thought about going to the Sunday races, but as we were leaving for Paris on Monday morning (more photos to follow), we decided against it!  Sorry, more photos than my usual posts, but I did not want to split this up.

The finish ramp in the Champ de Mars, waiting for the cars to arrive, and before the crowds got there!

Angouleme wall paintings

and more;  There are many cartoons and trompe l'oeil painted on blank walls around the city, which enliven the environment. Angouleme has become the centre of the comic strip industry since the early 70's, when a group of enthusiasts held an exhibition celebrating the "bande dessinee", as comic strips are named here. The town has no connection with the art at all, except that once it was renowned for the production of paper! The exhibition, held every year, became bigger and bigger and it continues to flourish.

A view of city spires and townscape, while waiting for the cars to arrive.

 Alpine Renault, probably from the late 60's - one of many in the event.

Alvis - a fine British coach-built car,  once made in Coventry. This one from the 60's. Car production ceased in 1967, but attempts have recently been made to revive the marque.

A Bentley, a Continental probably....

and the unmistakable swooping back!

Peugeot 402 Special Sport Roadster, one of only 53 built in 1938. If genuine, it's worth hundreds of thousands of Euro!!!....

with another uniquely shaped back.

No rally would be complete in France without a 2CV!

A somewhat unusual Citroen 11 Limousine, a huge car.

 Citroen DS

and a Citroen Light 15, front wheel drive and well ahead of its time!

 Matra Bonnet Djet

An unknown MG model!

Porsche 911E

'Rochdale Olympic';the bodies were mainly fibreglass and the cars manufactured at Rochdale near Manchester in the UK, hence the name!

Lotus Elise,not sure which variant!

Fiat 500

Renault 750

Triumph TR3

Also see my daily diary HERE

See also My Life Before Charente (updated 16 October 2014) 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Computer dramas and random photos taken while in Paris two weeks ago

Firstly may I say thank you for all the comments on the last post!  I much appreciate them all. 

September was a difficult month in the absence of my laptop, which abruptly expired! With only my Nexus tablet to work with, I tried to do one post on my photodiary  while in Paris, but gave up in despair.  It copes  with simple photos, but if you try to add captions, it becomes more than difficult, especially with the small screen.   We never did track down the problem with my old laptop, but thankfully the hard drive was unaffected, so I was able to transfer all my files to a new laptop. Because I wanted a qwerty keyboard and a French guarantee, the purchase took longer than I expected. I am now trying to master all the new programmes loaded on it!

These are mostly random shots taken in Paris, where the architecture took my eye as we were passing.  Many I have no identification for, but I thought nevertheless they would be of interest, particularly for those of you who have not visited the city. I will in time get through the approximately 600 (!) photos I took, and do some more specific posts.

We were fascinated by the lighting under the elevated section of the Metro subway line which crosses the river Seine at the Pont de Bir-Hakeim on the west side of Paris.

and the elaborately carved stonework of the architecture close by

in the Square Alboni. The stairs visible in the background lead to the roadway which crosses the river underneath the rail line.

Another view of the quiet suburb of Passy

Map of Square Alboni, 75016 Paris, France
The location map shows how the bridge affords a good view of the Eiffel tower, just across the river.

Loved this ornate doorway - no 51 somewhere!

Optician's sign at Rue du Pas de la Mule in the 4th arrondissement (suburb) , not far from the Bastille, where the troubles of the French Revolution began in Paris.

Seafood extravagantly displayed, and priced accordingly!

Trees growing in crevices in the stonework!

The green patina on copper covering to a roof dome.

More intricate stonework -those French craftsmen of old!!!!

Boulevard Pasteur; lots of work going on here restoring the old viaduct which carries the overhead metro line.  In the distance, you can see the gold adorned turret on Les Invalides.

An interesting doorway in Rue Monge.

There is a great selection of door knobs and knockers in Paris!

Intricate cast iron Juliet balcony balustrades.

My photodiary  site is pretty much up to date,  so for those of  you who may be interested see HERE.

I have every intention of returning to My Life Before Charente, hopefully in the not too distant future, but time always seems to be at a minimum!

Friday, 5 September 2014

Laundry and the lavoir at Massignac.

The view of Massignac taken from Lac Mas Chaban, a giant artificial lake just down the road.  For posts on Massignac see HERE and HERE.  Not sure why I missed out the lavoir when I posted these!

Lavoirs in France were first constructed around 1870. Before that, the village ladies had to go to the river (if there was one) or find a local spring or pond where they could wash their clothes. The process was aided by the use of large stones and timber frames. They were women's territory! Here, information and news were circulated; reputations were made and unmade and arguments were sometimes settled by fights with wooden clothes beaters, with the losing participant usually ending up in the water!

 A close up of the wash boards. See two on the side of the lavoir and two hung up on a roof beam. I wonder how long the clothes used to last with this scrubbing!

Piped water supply to the lavoir.

I would guess this bench is placed here in memory of one of the local people who was associated in some way with this lavoir. Perhaps in later life he used to sit and contemplate in this quiet, peaceful and pretty spot?

I should have taken a separate close up of the plaque on the bench, but only when I went through the photos did I realise my mistake! This is an electronic enlargement! Francois would have lived 83 years, through a great deal of the 20th century and all the change that brought!

At the back of the church garden.

There is a framed display hung under the lavoir's roof, informing visitors of stories and anecdotes of life at that time. The shots above and below, from September 2001, show local ladies re-creating the scene.

According to one anecdote, laundry washing at "grand houses", which possessed a lot of linen, was done twice a year, in spring and autumn  and the process wasn't a small affair! The calendar and state of the moon were taken into account and some luck was needed for drying! 

The washing procedure (called the  Budjedo) took place over two days and I'm summarising the French description of quite a complex process! I'd be glad to know if you have heard of this  activity! In the early morning of the first day, the "couleuse" (a woman skilled in this type of washing) arrived to supervise. Water was heated, over a wood fire, in a giant clay pot (a budjadier) with a cast iron overflow; a sack of wood ash being put in the bottom before the laundry was added to the very hot water. Cold water was added slowly to the pot all day while the laundry soaked. Water flowing from the overflow had always to be very hot, hence the skill required of adding wood to the fire as necessary to achieve this! 

Early on the second day, the ladies came to take their washing out of the budjadier, transporting it home in wheelbarrows reserved for the process (see photo!). They washed the laundry again with Marseilles soap, using river or other clear water and rinsed and dried it. Thankfully, it's all much easier now!

My thanks to Nigel for translating the writing from the framed display, and for writing most of this post for me.   Also for the use of his computer as mine is completely dead at the moment.  If I am slow on answering comments please note that my computer has not yet been fixed!!  (If it can be fixed!)

Monday, 11 August 2014

A walk down memory lane.

The local tourism organisations have recently laid out a new circular rambling trail through wood and farmland near the tiny hamlet of Le Chatelars, commemorating and dedicated to the memory of the World War 2 Resistance group members who were brought up in and/or operated in the immediate area. The French Resistance is often called the Maquis, named after brushwood landscape common throughout France.

The walk is not too long and can be covered in an hour and a half or so, but at each of the seven points along the way, one is reminded of the important events of 1943-45 which took place in the surrounding countryside. To be able to walk in the footsteps of these brave Frenchmen and Frenchwomen, remembering their sacrifices, is a most rewarding way of spending time on a sunny Charente summer day!

The welcome sign at the start of the walk. It shows the area, the route, the insignia of the local group (named Bir Hacheim after the North African desert battle) who started the organised resistance  against Nazi occupation in September 1943, and photos of the group's three founders. Firstly, Helene Nebout (known as "Chef Luc") is still alive and living locally. In the centre, Andre Chabanne, the commander and to the right, Guy Pascaud.

Close to the welcome sign is another, identifying the ruins of an ancient priory  probably built in the 10th century. The Resistance fighters built a platform high in one of the priory's towers, in order to observe the activities of the occupying troops in the nearby town of Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure.

See more about the abbey HERE

A direction arrow at a junction of pathways.

Not too far off the path and guided by arrows, you find the "gourbi" - a foxhole, deep in the woods, where resistance members would have gathered. Many were young men escaping the S.T.O - compulsory transportation to Germany as forced labour. 

The hideout has obviously seen better days, but I hope you can imagine a timber roof structure covered with clay tiles! The sign above includes a sketch of what the entrance may have looked like.

The village (pronounced "Plam-bo)was where the Resistance had their fuel depot. After refuelling here on the night of 5 February 1944, a Resistance patrol was caught in a German ambush at Saint Mary, another village, a few miles away. Maxence Simon, a 17 year old Resistance member, out on patrol for the first time, was killed in a two hour gun battle.

The village of Plaimbost along the route.

Andre Chabanne was brought up by his grandfather in this nearby village, after being orphaned in the Great War. He went to school locally and in 1939, joined the French Army. Captured in 1942 and sent to Germany, he escaped, but was recaptured. Six months later, he escaped again and went to Paris. Knowing that the Gestapo were watching him, he returned to the countryside and rejoined the Resistance, later founding and commanding the Bir Hacheim group. His code name was "Blanqui". He survived the war, but died in 1963, killed, I understand, in a car accident.

Reprisals -supplied with information from the French Milice about the Resistance, a German motorised division surrounded the town of Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure on 22 March 1944 and the Gestapo arrested 150 people. Many were later released, but Guy Pascaud, with others, was deported to Germany.

 A grassy lane along the route

The main activity of Bir Hacheim was sabotaging of the vital railway line between Limoges and Angouleme. In June 1944, they attacked the German command post at La Rochefoucauld, a nearby small town. In all, their disruptive and harrying tactics forced the Nazis to divert important troops to the Charente area from the Normandy battlefront.

Put in place in 1940, this artificial border was created between the area of France occupied by the Nazis, generally to the North, and the "free zone" or "Vichy France", generally in the South, controlled by the French "Milice" (Police), who were  collaborating with the invaders. Identity cards had to be produced to the guards at crossing points and the Line caused great disruption in the everyday lives of French people living near the border.

You can see more about the Resistance Memorial HERE 

Stone plaque at the foot of a cedar tree planted in 1978 in Le Chatelars to commemorate the activities of the Maquis Bir Hacheim.

See also My Life Before Charente (updated 9 March - I will catch up in winter!)
and my daily blog