Showing posts with label Dauphiné. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dauphiné. Show all posts

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gamone lies within Natura 2000

This morning, I received an official letter from a fellow-citizen reminding me that my property at Gamone is located within one of the ecological zones defined in the context of a European chart, Natura 2000.

The following map indicates, in dark green, all the Natura 2000 zones (26 in all) in the Rhône-Alpes region, which includes many prestigious landscapes and extraordinary sites.

[Click to enlarge]

Our tiny local zone, in the middle of the map, has an exotic official label: Prairies of wild orchids, tufa deposits and Gorges of the Bourne. Here is the exact location of the zone that includes Gamone:

[Click to enlarge]

It's funny to learn that you're living in the middle of some kind of ecological museum. Normally, after next week's meeting in the municipal hall at Choranche, I'll know more about the down-to-earth implications of this affair. In any case, I'm such a profound admirer of my magnificent adoptive abode that I could hardly love and respect it any more than I do already. I even get around to thinking that the situation might be reversed. Maybe this wild and glorious land should have a little bit more respect for an awkward but intrepid old Antipodean such as me, living dangerously at times, who will never conquer its challenges, master its mysteries, nor fully behold its beauty.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ancient house for sale

In the region where I live, one of the most interesting places is the charming medieval village of Saint-Antoine l'Abbaye.

In the Middle Ages, a knight returned here with a treasure from Constantinople: the relics of the 4th-century Egyptian hermit Saint Anthony, who is generally considered as the inventor of monasticism. The bones of a major saint, in those days, were immensely valuable, since their presence in a place could attract hordes of pilgrims: a permanent source of prosperity. In the village that now bears the saint's name, a great church was erected to house the relics.

Recently, I was contacted by a female friend of a friend who asked me whether I would be prepared to build a website aimed at selling her ancient house in this village, whose façade is seen here:

I believe that the kind of individuals interested in purchasing such an exceptional place (maybe from outside France) would necessarily be enthusiasts of history and ancient buildings. So, I put a certain accent on that aspect of the situation in the website that I've just completed... which you can visit by clicking on the above image.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Back home from Brittany

The return journey in the TGV, with Sophia stretched out on the floor at my feet, was very comfortable. In France, the train is certainly a great way to get around. The only problem, for me, is that the gentle movement tends to put me to sleep, so I don't get through as much reading (of Dawkins, of course) as I would like to. Besides, as soon as the train gets down to the Burgundy region, I can't resist the simple pleasure of watching the glorious rural landscapes glide past the train windows, as if I were scrutinizing a TV travelogue. France is truly a beautiful country, and I remain enthralled by its splendors.

During this pleasant trip to Christine's place, it became clearer than ever to me that each of us is living in an ideal location: Christine in Brittany, and me in the Dauphiné. Each of us appreciates the other's home place, and admires its many charms, while realizing that it would surely be an error for either of us to try to live in the other's region. For me, Brittany is quaint, sturdy in a stony style, and ultra-folkloric. The people there appear to live on an island, and take pride in being Breton prior to being French.

The villages are often pretty in a quiet old-fashioned way, but many of them strike me as granite graveyards built around a gray church. Insofar as I have no time for archaic attitudes towards the dead, I find cemeteries both stupid and ugly. Once upon a time, I liked to crawl around in certain graveyards in the hope of discovering genealogical data... but written archives are infinitely more effective in that domain. Above all, I persist in considering that fragments of a decaying corpse, such as we might find them in a cemetery, bear no relationship whatsoever, "spiritual" or otherwise, to the deceased... whose soul resides henceforth in an ethereal territory that we might designate as InformationLand. Cemeteries are vulgar and uninteresting junkyards for mindless and anonymous DNA. Human society would lose almost nothing if all our cemeteries were to be plowed under and sowed with crops. Meanwhile, our dead are elsewhere...

Christine, who owns and lives in an ancient presbytery, possesses detailed documents on Gommenec'h priests, including a martyr who was struck down by silly revolutionaries. But this morning, while leaving the village, I was amused to discover that Christine hadn't yet stumbled upon the tombstone, fixed to the wall of the local church, of a 19th-century Gommenec'h priest who died at the age of 30. Who was this young fellow? As I said, words are lovelier and more effective than stones... even though the latter can be moving.

I agree with Christine that my beloved Dauphiné is a rude country, whose inhabitants often reside in ramshackle abodes. My analysis of the situation is as follows. Dauphiné residents live in the shadow of mountains, which are surely the most permanent entities on the surface of the planet. A Breton might build his home in stone as a reaction against the ephemeral waves and windy mists of the sea, whereas a Dauphiné peasant would look silly if he attempted to construct an artificial fragment of an eternal mountain. So, our Dauphiné artifacts are primarily simple shelters from the elements, bivouacs, not monuments. At an adjacent level, I would be tempted to suggest that Brittany may not even think in the same way as the Dauphiné... but that's an enormous subject, which I cannot approach within such a superficial context as my Antipodes blog.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Charming little town called Chatte

My favorite Leclerc shopping center is located on the municipal territory of a tiny town called Chatte (meaning a female cat in French), alongside St-Marcellin.

At first sight, Chatte appears to be a village, but the visitor soon discovers that it has all the trappings of a little town... such as a post office, for example, on a corner of a small square with a republican fountain with a tricolor-waving Marianne.

The town hall is currently decked out in German and Italian flags, because Chatte is twinned with towns in these two countries. Yesterday, the town received a bus load of Italian visitors. On the narrow pavements of Chatte, there's no room to swing a female cat, so I had to step onto the equally narrow road (where automobiles travel at twice the legal speed) whenever I ran into tourists.

It was sunny in Chatte, and the leafy trees around the church provided shade for bikers at lunch. As for the church, in spite of the influx of visitors, it remained shut.

Chatte was the abode of a future Catholic saint, who lived in a charming stone house across from the church.


The plaque informs us that Pierre-Julien Eymard [1811-1868] was the local priest for three years. [Click the portrait to visit a rich website concerning Eymard's ecclesiastic achievements.]




At the center of the town, a café is called, appropriately enough, the Café du Centre. A nearby place is marked hotel/restaurant, but I'm not sure whether it's operational. The only major tourist attraction at Chatte is a small park with a collection of model railways... but I've never been motivated enough to go there.

A tiny stream meanders gently through Chatte, past stone-walled yards of fruit trees and drooping wisteria. It surely has a source and a name, but I ignore these details.

Nearby, the imposing façade of a former spinning mill evokes an epoch, long before our modern age of outsourcing and globalization, when the villages and small towns of France hummed with industrial activity.

Up on a hill above the township, a nondescript stone building is referred to, by local people, as le vieux château [the old castle].

From this vantage point, the view extends across the rich plain alongside the Isère, with fields of walnut trees and colza, to the nearby Vercors mountain range [where my Gamone homeplace is located].

The town might appear to be somewhat drowsy, but it is actually quite a prosperous and progressive little community, with modern facilities such as this media library for young people.

Last but not least [in fact, the main reason why I've been drawn recently to Chatte], behind this children's playground on the central square of the town, there's an excellent service in physical education, equipped to take care of prostatectomy patients.

Christine and I once knew a lady who, whenever she traveled through French villages, would immediately search for the boutique of the local photographer who handles weddings, because she claimed that there's no better way of understanding the culture and general mentality of a community than to see how they get themselves photographed at marriages. Personally, whenever I discover a relatively out-of-the-way place such as the tiny town of Chatte, I'm always intrigued to know whether certain interesting individuals might have grown up there, because I take pleasure in trying to imagine how the environment might have modeled them, as it were, for their future prowess. This is a relatively straightforward exercise in the case of famous residents of a great city such as Paris, but one has to adopt a more subtle approach when you attempt to decide what influences might have been exerted upon adolescents in a place such as Chatte, motivating their later adventures and achievements.

Two local heroes are represented by bronze busts in alcoves in the façade of the town hall.


To the left of the main portal, we find an effigy of Clément Adrien Vincendon-Dumoulin [1811-1856], a hydrographer [map-maker] who sailed to Antarctica on the Astrolabe with Dumont d'Urville during the period 1837-1840. It's amusing to imagine a young man from Chatte in the following antipodean predicament:


In an identical alcove to the right of the portal, a bust depicts Alexandre Collenot [1902-1936]:

He was a daring aviation mechanic who flew constantly with the great pioneer Jean Mermoz before disappearing from the face of the Earth somewhere between Brazil and Senegal.

All in all, I like to think of Chatte, both past and present, as a typical small country town, with a little bit of everything. In saying this, however, I'm aware that the place I've just been describing, through a series of images and terse descriptions, exists primarily as a virtual entity in my head. To get to know the true town, you would have to stroll around there for an hour or so on a sunny afternoon, as I did yesterday.