Thursday, March 30, 2006

Time of the Signs

Notaires have an important and prestigious position in French society. More like British solicitors than American notaries public, they deal with personal legal issues, such as inheritances, and also serve as real estate agents. The organisation of this group of signs outside a local village seems inopportune at best.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Blog Number 100!

A little over three months ago, I started La France Profonde and a second blog, Cuisine Quotidienne. I didn't realize at the time that bloggers were statistics freaks who calculate the number of comments and celebrate blog birthdays. That penchant suits me well, so here I am today celebrating my 100th post: 50 for La France Profonde and 50 for Cuisine Quotidienne.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Wine Sediments

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am writing for the food blog network Well Fed. Yesterday I had a piece about the Languedoc wine crisis published in the wine portion of the site, Wine Sediments. Click on by!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

More Unrest

France is bracing for major demonstrations against the First Employment Contract (Contrat Première Embauche) on Tuesday. I was surprised to see reference to a travel advisory for British citizens on the BBC yesterday. The unrest is getting quite a bit of coverage in the British and American press, and journalists are quick to compare the situation to September's riots in the suburbs. During the latter incidents, my friends and family were worried about my safety, which struck me funny because here in Aveyron, there was no violence whatsoever.

This time around, there have been demonstrations in Rodez, and Tuesday's should be the biggest of all. But don't let the press coverage worry you stateside -- I feel very safe here!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

There Ought to Be a Law

I wonder how much money people make by renting out their wall for des panneaux publicitaires.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Bits and Pieces

When I moved South from the Touraine region, I really noticed a difference in how tidy -- or untidy -- farms and yards were. I prefer the joyful messes of the South!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Fixer-Upper Anyone?

When it comes to houses, the French are big fixer-uppers. Most projects last about ten years longer than any American would tolerate, though. I have often noticed this run-down dwelling perched above the Aveyron river, and I wonder if the incipient "grands travaux" will be to renovate the house, or to build office buildings in front of it.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Something About the Light

The skies and light in France often provide fascinating views and contrasts. I don't know if there is a scientific reason for France to have more vivid light than elsewhere, but this seems to be the case. At any rate, I have often heard visitors say "there's something about the light here..."

Yesterday, clouds from east and west competed with the sun. In the same neighborhood, some of the houses were under a dark grey cover and others, in full sunlight. The conflicting signals bathed the Palanges range in a fuzzy yellow haze.

Friday, March 17, 2006

"No Need to Go Far Away to Study!"

In an article in yesterday's Midi Libre, various Montpellier University officials expounded on how French public universities were tightening their relationships with companies. This sign in my village, boasting the merits of studying locally rather than going away to Paris, leads me to think the higher education system is learning some advertising techniques on the way.

It is quite surprising in France to see one public university sponsoring comparative advertsing "against" another one!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Growers and Grocers

I am now writing for an Internet site: Growers and Grocers. It's part of a new food blog network called Well Fed. I'll be covering food production and distribution issues, mainly from a European standpoint. Click by and take a look!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Over Our Heads

Rooves are a big issue in France. Laws restrict the type of roof that can be put on a house; the builders must respect "le style local" in material and, more surprisingly, slant. In our part of the French countryside, slate dominates , and to some reinforces the area's chilly reputation. In the Southern part of Aveyron, around Millau, red tile is prevalent.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Social Unrest

Once again, the French are taking to the streets. This time it's in opposition to Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's "First Employment Contract", a system which would give employers more flexibility in firing young employees. Proponents of the contract argue that it will boost employment and make it easier for young people to get a first job. Opponents claim the system will lead to dreaded précarité, or job insecurity.

Major demonstrations have taken place all over the country, with Toulouse being one of the hotbeds of unrest. Here in la France Profonde, Rodez has seen its share of protests.

Reform attempts often topple French governments. De Villepin is vowing to steer the course; we'll see if he succeeds.

Monday, March 13, 2006

France Looks Like This Too -- But Not For Long

For years, Rodez's trade fairs and exhibitions have been held in the "Hall Charles". Not for long, though. Big plans are afoot to transform this part of town; the above exhibition hall will be torn down soon and the new area will include a museum featuring contemporary artist Pierre Soulages and a multiplex cinema. Knowing the dynamic city government's flair for grands projets, I'm sure it will be a spiffy place.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Will It Ever End?

The view from my living room window, 8:30 am, March the 11th 2006.
I've been talking a lot about our long winter, I know, I know! Will it ever end?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The only problem is the weather...

Today you get the dull, grey photo. And a typical local conversation:

Salut, ça va?

Oui ça va, et toi?

Ouais, il n'y a que le temps qui ne va pas!

Talking about the weather may seem banal, but it's a big subject of conversation in the countryside. Really big. I confess to being quite interested in the weather and how it dominates small talk here. If chatting about the weather were taboo in France, what could possibly replace it?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Pour quand le printemps?

A fellow blogger just pointed out that spring has sprung in Toulouse. Here in Aveyron, I am still scraping ice off of my car every morning, and if it isn't raining, it's snowing...

Locals often boast that "Rodez has as many sunny days as Biarritz," but on a chilly, grey day like today it's hard to believe.

No photo. You'll have to take my word for it.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Notre-Dame de Rodez

I see it every time I go to Rodez. Sometimes I am awestruck; once in a while I barely notice it. But when I do take a close look, I always notice something new. Rodez's cathedral, built between 1277 and the end of the 16th century, never ceases to fascinate me.

It has a name: Notre-Dame de Rodez. But the locals rarely if ever call it by this name; they simply refer to it as "la Cathédrale."

Like so many things about the Aveyron, I find it underrated. Tourists flock to Albi's cathedral, but not so often to our Notre-Dame.

Come take a closer look on Tom Smith's photo site.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Learning to Love Rodez

Aveyron is all about country living, and its administrative capital, Rodez, is much maligned. College students say there's nothing to do: "C'est pas vivant." New residents from other areas of France sometimes complain that it's difficult to fit in, and arrivals from big cities regret the supposed lack of cultural activity. Long-time Ruthénois moan about the traffic jams and parking problems, although these are laughably few compared to Toulouse or Montpellier. Some point out unfortunate architectural contrasts (see photo above!)

I must admit that Rodez takes a little getting used to, but I usually defend it against the above criticisms. I can see why college students find it dull, but adults will get out of it what they put into it.

For tourists, the place won't knock your socks off like Arles or Albi. My French Michelin guide gives it only one star: intéressant. Not worth a separate trip (three stars) nor even a detour (two stars.)

I would beg to differ. The town has a quiet, staid beauty that I have learned to love, and it's a fascinating place for any tourist who wants to get off the beaten track. You'll be hearing more about it in this blog.

Friday, March 03, 2006

I Told You So!

In an early January post, I suggested that Ségolène Royal was on the road to the French presidency. The British press is picking up on the story, as you can see from this article in today's Guardian. Here in la France Profonde, politics tend to be a taboo topic, so I don't have much of a feel for what my neighbors, or even friends, think of her. But on the national level, she intrigues.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Time of the Signs

It's easy enough to take picture-perfect photos in la France Profonde. But a few meters later, this is what you often see.