Showing posts with label French geography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label French geography. Show all posts

Monday, March 22, 2010

First rural residence

Not long after our return from Sydney in 1968, Christine and I decided to rent a small house out in the country, in a commune named Houdan, 43 km west of Versailles. This morning, I was thrilled to discover that the neighborhood in which we lived, named Mocsouris, can be seen through Google Maps. Here's the setting as you leave Houdan on the road towards Gambais:

[Click to enlarge.]

This is a view from the street of the actual house that we rented:

I remember above all that it was a terribly chilly house. The water in our radiators was heated by a coal-fueled stove, which I had to stoke up every evening, and the thermal efficiency of this archaic system was not far above zero.

I traveled daily to my work in Paris by train. After six months or so of this rural existence, we decided to get back to civilization. So, we bought an old flat right in the middle of Paris, in the rue Rambuteau. But I retain fond memories of that brief stay out in the country, near the main highway between Paris and Brittany.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Neighboring department and village

As soon as I leave Choranche and drive to the south, I move from the Isère department into the Drôme. The first village, just over the border, is Sainte-Eulalie, whose simple church looks down on nearby Pont-en-Royans, on the opposite side of the River Vernaison.

At first sight, it looks like an old construction of Romanesque style. In fact, it's a relatively modern church, completed in 1859. Opposite the church, there's a municipal laundry trough, whose non-stop gushing fountain receives water from a vigorous mountain spring.

With its elegant roof of flat scallop-shaped tiles, the wash house looks as if it's straight out of the Middle Ages. The fountain, trough and cylindrical columns may well date from the early 20th century, when local folk really washed their clothes in public. As for the timber-framed tiled roof, it took about a week to construct, and it's exactly a fortnight old. I was able to follow the work with interest whenever I drove past on my way to the small supermarket at Saint-Jean-en-Royans.

Village records are much more ancient than the church and the public wash house, since Sainte-Eulalie was first mentioned in 1086.

Ever since Napoléon, France has been divided into about a hundred geographical and administrative areas known as départements. When you drive over the border between one department and the next, it's a little like changing states. For example, although Sainte-Eulalie is no more than a couple of kilometers below Gamone, I have the impression that I've left the Alps and moved into southern France. Today, if I'm somewhat nostalgic about this notion of departments, it's because a brilliant intellectual named Jacques Attali has just published a white paper, for Sarkozy, suggesting that this old-fashioned breakdown should be abolished.