Meilleurs vœux pour l’an 2018 à tous mes lecteurs. I will still be writing 2017 on cheques until the end of February. Have you made New Year’s Resolutions? I find those lofty aspirations are all too easily broken. However, the SF and I are having a dry January, as we did last year. We feel better, sleep better, but Mon Dieu! is it miserable. So, to distract myself, I will tell you some of the top things I plan to do this year. Look out for them on the blog later on.
Even after 20 years here, there are places we haven’t seen. However, I always maintain that if you live in a place for long enough, daily life takes over and you are no longer the starry-eyed tourist you were on arrival. Still, imagine how dull life would be if you felt you had done it all.
Truffle Market at Lalbenque
This has been on the bucket list forever. I have visited the tiny truffle market at Limogne, but not the biggest one in the region, which is held at Lalbenque every Tuesday, December to mid-March.
The Black Diamond of Quercy has become even rarer in recent years, owing to a number of factors, including drought at critical times. This year may buck the trend, as it’s been wet but not very cold. The Boxing Day market saw a total of 144 kg of truffles sold, many of them destined for sought-after Parisian tables.
This brings me neatly to the next item. I would love to do a cookery course, but have never had the opportunity. The Restaurant Les Sens in Puylaroque, a few km south of Lalbenque runs cookery courses during and outside the truffle season. They used to run them at l’Oustal del Barry in Najac, but I think they have stopped. Something to look into further once the January régime is just a memory.
Montpezat de Quercy tapestries
People keep telling us we must visit the restored tapestries at Montpezat. This medieval village sits atop a hill between Caussade and Cahors. In the early 13th century, its inhabitants converted to Catharism. Presumably, this didn’t last long, since the large collégiale was built in the 14th century by a Cardinal closely linked to the Avignon Popes.
The church contains a set of Flemish tapestries commemorating the life of Saint-Martin. These have recently been restored to their former glory. It’s time we visited Montpezat again.
The préfecture of Aveyron is only a 90-minute drive away, but we have not visited properly for more than 20 years. It’s around 600 m above sea level and is swept by icy winds in winter, so this is one for more clement weather.
In medieval times, Rodez was divided between the Counts of Armagnac and the Bishops of Rodez, with a wall separating the two sectors. A Fool and His Money by Ann Wroe is a fascinating account of 14th-century Rodez, seen through the eyes of its inhabitants.
The 13th-century cathedral of Notre-Dame fell down at one point and had to be rebuilt, so it’s now quite a mish-mash of architectural styles. The bell-tower is the highest “flat” bell-tower (i.e. without a spire) in France. And I can’t wait to see the vulgar figures carved underneath the pews, as mentioned by Thirza Vallois in her book Aveyron: A Bridge to Arcadia.
There’s also the Musée Fenaille, an archaeological museum with a collection of menhirs and the Musée Soulages, dedicated to the abstract artist Pierre Soulages, who was born in Rodez.
Musee Zadkine in Les Arques
The Russian-born sculptor Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967) lived in Caylus, our local village, for a while. He sculpted the extraordinary Christ on the Cross in the church from a single piece of wood. From Caylus, he and his wife moved to Les Arques in the Lot, where he continued his work, although he had to escape to the U.S. in 1940 for the duration of WWII, being of Jewish origins. Les Arques now has a museum dedicated to him.
Let’s see how much of this I actually achieve.
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